Making a shell top

Did you see the Great British Sewing Bee this year? It was a really good watch and many of the patterns they made I wanted to sew myself. The first challenge they kicked of the show with was a shell top. The shell top is a great pattern to showcase a favourite fabric. It’s also perfect for all-year round by itself for spring/summer or layered up for autumn and winter!

About the pattern and fabric:

Making a shell top
The top has a very gentle shirt-tail hem for a subtle detail. It’s a pull-on style with just a keyhole opening at the back. There is no fiddling with buttonholes or fancy closures, so win win!


With beginners in mind, I chose Liesl + Co’s Breezy Blouse. This easy-to-sew and easy-to-wear pull-on, loose-fitting, sleeve-less blouse has a cute keyhole back opening, side panels to provide a contrast fabric option, darts for shaping, and separate pattern pieces for A/B, C, and D cups to enhance fit – hurray easy fitting! This sewing pattern eliminates side seams for a fun and unusual take on a slightly boxy top. It has a gentle shaped hem and bias facings at the neck and arms.

This pattern is great as a stash-buster for those of us that keep every last scrap of that sacred fabric – or is that just me? The shell top uses just a small amount of fabric, and the contrast-fabric side panel allows you to adjust the shape to your body and preferences while also minimising the amount of main fabric you need.

The top works best with drapey woven fabrics such as silk, loosely woven cottons, double gauze, linen, rayon, and crepe. You can pair two different fabrics for the front/back and side panels for a totally unique top.

I have been eyeing up the Art Gallery Cotton rayon for ages now and finally took the plunge to sew with it. I selected the Floret Sunkissed Rayon from the Blush Fabric collection designed By Dana Willard. To find your nearest stockist of the fabric in the UK – click here and to find a shop that stocks the Breezy Blouse from Liesl + co – click here

You will also need a coordinating thread, one 3/8in (1cm) button and lightweight fusible interfacing. The instructions are quite clear. I like the references to online tutorials as well if you get stuck and it saves paper too. I’m team trace, so to preserve my patterns I traced it out using swedish pattern paper. And of course, my Sewing Assistant wanted to assist!

Here are my tips for sewing darts:

Use a pin to mark the dart point when still attached to the paper pattern piece. Then carefully lift up the piece and mark fabric on both wrong sides of the fabric. I use tailor’s chalk to draw my lines and marking on the fabric.

I used my ¼in foot to use as a guide to keep my sewing line straight. Then to finish the dart, don’t back stitch, leave long tails and tie a knot by hand.

I decided to use the turned under hem option on the keyhole facing and it looks pretty smart. Of course, I couldn’t resist a good pick me up label by Little Rosy Cheeks.

I really like the tip of sewing a line of stitching all round the hem. And then pressing to the line of stitching and turning the hem over so it’s enclosed. This makes it all nice and neat inside!

How I made the thread chain:

The only thing I couldn’t get my round was making the thread chain. It took me several attempts to get it right. Instead, I cut six pieces of thread approximately 5in (12cm) long). Set my machine to zigzag stitch at 4 wide and 1 long. Keeping the threads taught with your hand, I stitched across the threads. Make sure the zigzag stitch covers all the strands. Here is the finished result. Knot each end and sewed it to the inside of my top and my label hides the stitching.

Here is the freshly sewn breezy blouse on Doriss my mannequin and moi modelling the top. I personally don’t like a top to be too boxy on me as it doesn’t do me any favours. However I really like the fit of this top and went for size 10, D cup and graded out gently from the bust dart to a 14 at the hem.

Hope you have enjoyed my little tips on darts and making your own thread chains with ease! Happy Sewing

Sally x

To find more tips and techniques, visit our Learn to Sew page – click here

To find your nearest Uk stockist of the fabric and