Making a 3-panel Top/Dress/Coat

me&3panel3ed

I recently posted photos and weaving details for a top I made myself on the Sewing for Weavers Facebook group and a member asked for the pattern.  So far as I know, this is an old traditional design that has a couple of advantages over a traditional 2-panel (front and back) or 4-panel (two fronts, two backs) design.  To weave it, the warp is narrower than for a 2-panel and slightly wider than for a 4-panel.  The former attribute means you can use a narrower loom.  I need a 28″ weaving width for a 2-panel top in most fabrics that shrink 10-15%, whereas I only need 18″ for 3 panels.  Given loom waste of a yard per warp, those 10″ less width saves me many yards of yarn!  That is important if using an expensive yarn, or one you have a limited amount of and can’t get more.  A 4-panel design is even less wide on the loom (14″ for me) but is another panel length longer.

To design a 3 panel top, measure the front width of a non-stretchy top that fits you well.  Double that number and divide by 3.  If you don’t have a top available, measure the bust/chest size, add at least 3″ for ease, and divide that number by 3.  The result is the finished width of each panel.  To that number you need to add shrinkage (minimum 10%, more for wool or unmercerized cotton) plus 1/2″ to 1″ take-up plus seam allowances.  Since your seams will be on selvedges, 3/8″-1/2″ is enough but there will be 2 seam allowances on each panel.  Determine how long you want the top to be, add shrinkage and take-up and a hem allowance for each panel. Set up the loom to reflect the total width and length needed.  If you want sleeves, add to the warp for those.

One panel will be the front and two will be the side/back pieces.  The latter will be seamed to each side of the front and then seamed together at the center back.  This is a great design to get fancy with the front piece (inlays, etc.) but weave quickly for the other two pieces.

3-panel top

I weave the front first, since I usually plan some kind of embellishment for it, then the other two pieces without embellishment.  Of course, you can plan something fancy all over!  Put a piece of waste yarn in a contrasting color to mark the end of each panel.  Remove from loom and secure ends, wet finish.  Pull out waste yarn, and machine stitch one each side of the gap.  Cut pieces apart and zigzag or serge ends.

Sew each side/back piece to the sides of the front.  Sew the center back seam.  For a crew neck, I fold a piece of paper in half length-wise and mark off an 8″ section.  Fold that in half.  On one side, draw a semi-circle from the 8″ mark on one side to a point 3-4″ down on the fold for the front neck patter, and on the other side to a point 1 1/2-2″ down for the back neck.  Cut along the semi-circles and unfold, making it a little more curved at the ends.  Below are photos of the front and back neck patterns on my top.

3paneltop4   3paneltop3

Machine stitch around the pattern, cut, and zigzag or serge edges.  Lay top on flat surface with center front and center back aligned at both neck and hem edges.  Pin along the fold at each side from the top down to the bottom of your armhole opening. (This depends on how thick your upper arms are and whether or not you will put in sleeves.  For a sleeveless top that will drop over the shoulders for a cap sleeve I allow 10″.  More if you have large arms or plan a set-in sleeve.)  Use tailor tacks, sewing marker, or pins to mark the line you need to cut.  Sew on either side of that line, cut the line, zigzag or serge.   Bar tack across the bottom of the cut.  Note that if the armhole is too small, you can always extend it by sewing down a bit further on each side.

Refer to the sketch above.  Turn the garment inside out, pin the shoulder seams from armhole to neck edge.  IMPORTANT!  Shoulders slant down from the neck to the shoulder joint.  Begin with a 1/2″ or 5/8″ seam allowance at the neck edge, then pin it down to about 1.5″ at the shoulder edge, so that your seam slants and you don’t get “wings” on your garment.

Finish all edges.  I usually narrow hem the neck edge and sleeves, and do a regular hem at the bottom.  In the example in the picture above, I turned under neck and sleeve edges, stitched, then used the darker weft yarn to crochet the edges.

A fun and easy garment with many possible variations!  E-mail me photos if you make one.

 

 

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