Sewing the Best & Most Indie Top Ever


The Port Elizabeth Top wins the prize for “funkiest pattern” that made the cut for my free patterns post.  The pattern is available here.  This pattern is so indie it looks like it may have been drawn by hand.  It doesn’t look like mainstream (lamestream?*) patterns.  It doesn’t even have seam allowances.  But the result is awesome.  I love this top.  Here’s why.

(*I don’t actually have an opinion one way or another as to whether mainstream patterns are lame or not lame.)

Style-wise, I was drawn to the Port Elizabeth pattern because it looks similar to this funky polka-dot (polka-blotch?) ready-to-wear top, which is one of my favorite possessions.  Not just my favorite shirt, but one of my all-time favorite things.  I’m not sure if this statement is hyperbolic. I really love this top.


My love for this top is one of the reasons I wanted to take up garment sewing.  I like its design and its fabric.  Finding fabric this right might take some time, but the Port Elizabeth pattern is great for making this style of top.

I’ve made this pattern twice so far. (UPDATE: now I’ve made this pattern 3 times.)

This is my first attempt at the Port Elizabeth top
This is my second attempt at the Port Elizabeth top

This is my third attempt.



The first time I made this top, I used this very drapey printed cotton (I do not know the brand but got it at Mood Fabrics).  It is the slipperiest fabric I’ve encountered — it’s hard to cut and sew because it’s always trying to get away.


The second time I made this top, I used a lightweight linen-cotton blend fabric that I got at Purl Soho.  According to the receipt, the brand is “Robert Kaufman” and the name of the fabric is “handkerchief linen cotton blend” in black. It’s easier to sew, but it unravels a lot.


The green printed cotton shirt hangs better than the linen-cotton version (although I like both fabrics for this pattern).

For the latest and greatest (third) top, I used a Liberty cotton. The exact type of fabric is not clear to me, but I really like it.


This pattern is dartless and has no closures.  The instructions recommend making the pattern based on the wearer’s bust size, which I did for the first round, but the second top is a smaller size and fits way better through the shoulders and is not too tight at the bust.  The first version of the top in the larger size and green print has a wide neck (it can be worn as an off-the-shoulder top), but the bias tape neckline lays pretty flat.


I also narrowed the neckline altogether in addition to making a smaller size for the second (and third) top, as pictured below.

I changed the shoulder widths to make sure the front and back end up being the same width so the front and back match and fit together, as pictured below.

Also, I lengthened the pattern overall.  I would recommend that anyone making this top consider adding length.  I added about three inches in the end.


Final Thoughts

I plan to make this pattern again, like immediately.  I really like the fit and the style and that this top looks really good even though I am a beginner.  Its construction is simple as there is no separate sleeve piece — it is way easier than making a set-in sleeve (this top is easier than version 3 of the Collette Sorbetto, for example). The cit sleeve looks cooler than a plain old set-in sleeve, too. So simple and lovely.

Also, check out this dog snoozing at the fabric store.

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