Plan of Action (Top 001a)

If you are just starting out making your own patterns, it helps to first outline a Plan of Action rather than just diving in.  The plan of action consists of looking at the Flat and any specification and making notes about what needs to be done, such as:

  • determining many pattern pieces the design requires
  • listing the pattern pieces
  • making notes on what needs to be done for each pattern piece, or groups of pattern pieces (where relevant)
  • doing any necessary calculations (e.g. how much needs to be added onto each pattern piece at the hem area)

Basically, you want to make sure you study the design and have everything you need to do laid out so that you don't overlook or forget anything.   You then refer to these notes when creating the pattern pieces.

Having said all of the above... in this very basic top, there isn't much plan required, but there are a few things worth noting down.  (If this is the first pattern you have looked at on this website and you want to see patterns where a Plan of Action makes a lot more sense, see the  Plans of Action for the four Dresses - they will give you an idea of how useful this process is for a more complicated pattern).

Although you can make all these decisions on the fly while making the pattern; but this can lead to some oversights and mistakes.  Especially when you're starting out, it is a very good practice to get into.

How many pattern pieces?

There are only two pattern pieces; the Bodice Front and the Bodice Back.

  1. Bodice Front
  2. Bodice Back

top 001a pattern pieces

Notes/Plan of Action for creating Pattern Pieces

Note that although there are only two pattern piecees, the neckline and the armholes are finished off with bias tape.  With some commercial patterns they do provide a pattern piece for making bias tape.  I do NOT create a pattern piece and then pin that onto the fabric and cut it out.  I create as many strips of bias as I can from a square of fabric, then sew them together and cut them to the length required. (I often have a few strips left over; I can sometimes use these as contrast bias on another top). Although I'm not creating a pattern for the bias, I do need to consider them in this process; the width and how they affect the seam allowance.

Things I need to keep in mind, decisions I need to make before drafting the top:

  • I need to determine whether the neckline depth means there will be a gape dart which needs to be moved into the side seam dart.
  • How much do I want to add to the circumference at the hemline?  This top is A-line rather than square, but the hem (accordingly to my flat) isn't that wide....
  • I need to determine whether the bias tape will be on the outside - i.e. part of the top, or inside as purely a finish.  See the photo below to see what I mean; this decision will determine whether or not you will need add seam allowance to the neckline and armhole.  I need to check whether the self fabric is suitable - how much stretch is in a bias. If I use a different fabric, do I want it as a contrast on the outside, or just to finish off the seam on the inside?
  • I need to determine the width of the bias tape.

Image - Finishing off with Bias Binding

The top on the left has the bias tape on the inside only.  The top on the right has the bias tape as part of the garment.

bias finish


  • The neckline does not require countouring (for me!)
  • The bias tape will be made of the self fabric, showing on the outside and be 0.38inch | 1cm wide.  The seam allowance will also be 0.38 inch | 1cm, therefore the bias tape need to be (twice the width of the bias + twice the width of the seam allowance) = 1.57-inch | 4cm. (Having said that I usually cut my bias 2 inches | 5cm wide  and it ends up being a tiny bit wider... Given I'm making this for myself and these decisions are purely my own, it doesn't matter to me whether or not my shoulder width is a tiny fraction more than the original plan).
  • I will add at total of 4 inches | 10cm to the circumference at the hemline, distributed evenly between front and back.  This means 1 inch | 2.5cm each to the Front Bodice and the Back Bodice.

An example of how not thinking things through and not using a proper Plan of Action results in mistakes: 

This relates to Top-001d, but it shows why making your decisions beforehand in a Plan of Action, and referring to it helps.  With Top-001d, I  decided at the last minute to use a lining to finish off the armholes and neckline for Top-001d. Because I didn't refer to my notes, I ended up not thinking about the fact that I had not included seam allowance for the lining, since the bias tape on the outside doesn't require it.  I ended up with my shoulder width .75 inch | 2cm narrower than I had planned.  This made it much more difficult to turn it out to finish the top at the shoulders.

The shoulder width of this top was supposed to be 2 inches | 5.5 cm.  It ended up being 1.38 inches | 3.5cm.  If I had referred to my notes before deciding that I would use lining instead of bias tape to finish off the neckline and armhole, I would have either added seam allowance to the pattern, or stuck to the original plan.  The line of stitching that appears should not be there; I found turning the top through the shoulders to finish off sewing the lining too difficult and gave up in the end.  The narrower shoulders also mean that my bra strap shows.  I would have preferred it to be the planned width.


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