Megan Nielsen's Banksia

Late last year, before blog (BB), I was the extremely lucky recipient of a mega prize giveaway from the lovely Megan Nielsen, a wonderful Australian independent pattern designer. It was the first birthday of the launch of her patterns, and she had some wonderful prizes, including a pattern of your choice. It must have been in October, because I had been stalking the Banksia sew-along, living vicariously until November, when I could buy the pattern - because I had committed to 'Buy Nothing New' month in October. When the opportunity came up to win it I thought it was the ultimate loop hole! So I entered, with the Banksia as my first choice, and the Darling Ranges dress or the Kelly skirt as my second choice (I'd recently made my Wiksten tulip skirt which I was a bit meh about and had wished I'd seen the Kelly pattern first). Now that very kind lady not only sent me the Banksia when I won, but also the Darling Ranges and Kelly pattern, AND some fabric, buttons, labels and bias binding. And a bag! It was simply the BEST prize pack a sewist could want. Ever.

It's taken me until now to make the Banksia - I really wanted to get my skills up before attempting it, and I had found the cutest fine cotton from Spotlight that I thought would suit the pattern perfectly - it has the sweetest 70's Liberty-esque vibe. Most reviews of the pattern have been very positive so I had high hopes that it would fit me well straight up - an expectation I am beginning to learn is a bit unrealistic!

Initially all was going well - I made a size small based on my upper bust measurements, and using my stunt double I was able to see the bust dart was pretty much spot on when I traced the pattern off - however I didn't take the time to really check out the back fit. I squeezed this out of 1.5m of fabric by using a slightly different pattern layout - cutting both bodice pieces on the same fold meant I wasted minimal width and was able to get the collar and sleeves out easily enough.

I took great care to stay stitch both the neckline AND the neckline of the collar as I have noticed many makes of this top where the collar doesn't meet up with the placket, and figured some people might have had some stretching going on - it actually doesn't say in the notes to stay stitch but being a veteran of 4 Colette patterns now, which all recommend stay stitching curved edges, I thought it wise to do so. My collar went in well - some very slight puckering at centre back which really isn't visible with the big collar and a good firm press, and I bound it in some lovely vintage coordinating bias I had in my stash. I went with the more challenging placket insertion, which was very straightforward with the excellent instructions and the sewalong archive. My only comment on this was that next time I will probably use tearaway interfacing when basting the placket guidelines because my machine tends to gather a bit too much with a basting stitch, especially when there is just one layer of fabric. I frenched the shoulder and side seams to keep it pretty inside.

I was a little surprised by the sleeves - there were no notches or guides to help align them into the armscye, I suppose because the sleeve is drafted to be symmetrical. It eased in easily enough, but I was a bit gutted by the fit - for some reason (which I hadn't noticed before adding the sleeves) I had a lot of excess fabric at the back of my shoulder, and the sleeve didn't suit me at all. I fiddled around with different ease distribution with the second sleeve thinking it was my skills, but the pattern just doesn't suit my shoulders and upper back. And I forgot to check for a sway-back adjustment. But thats my mistake!

And I discovered (deja vu) that once I had added the sleeves my typical diagonal drag lines from armpit to bust line had appeared (similar to my issue with the Peony, my New Look 6000 muslin, and my Laurels:
Hard to see, but diagonal pull lines definitely there! Sigh. 

I've really struggled to find the answer on the interwebs but I think that I'm going to have to try a full bust adjustment (FBA). Probably too much information, but I am a C cup, and most commercial patterns are drafted for a B (although I think a lot of the independent companies are more aimed at C cups). The slash and spread method may not work for me though, as it adds significant width at the waist line, whilst I need more room up in that area between the armscye and the sleeve. But I did happen upon a tutorial by the delightfully named Professor Pincushion, on the McCalls website that uses a tilt and pivot method, that only adds room to the area around the armpit and upper side of the bodice just below the armscye - the very area that I seem to need a smidge more room in! It has a very good video with clear step-by-step instructions and doesn't cut the pattern up at all.

From the Professor Pincushion website
The other conclusion I have come to with this top is that I really need to work out some sort of bodice/sleeve sloper or block. I don't have the skills or assistance to make one from scratch, but I was thinking that I could experiment with the Laurel pattern, which ALMOST fits me perfectly, and try the above FBA adjustment on it, or try and make a basic bodice block from my New Look 6000 pattern. The third option is a purchased predrafted basic block - I have found a PDF on the Laura Marsh website, for about $5AUD! I've not been able to find much out about her patterns so any info would be very appreciated. So that is my plan B if I can't tinker with the patterns I already own.  Then I can use the wonderful collar/neckline/placket from the Banksia and transplant it onto a bodice that does fit me - I'm gutted the Banksia wasn't perfect on me - I had grand plans to make a long sleeved version for winter - I have some lovely lightweight wool blend crepe that would make a gorgeous long sleeved blouse. I think the way Megan has designed the neckline, plus the endless options for variation, is just great - I love the giant collar, but she also has some options to tone it down to be a little more subtle too (and there is a variation for a knit version - hopefully I have that one coming soon!).

So thats to be my first sewing project when back from NYC - I'm determined to perfect myself a fitted blouse/bodice sloper!

Anyhoo...... Back to the Banskia - I ended up taking off the sleeves, and binding them with bias to finish them off. You can still see the excess fabric bunching up there (the bit revealing my bra strap) before the bias was added.

I also finished the hemline curved, to add a little extra detail - I just used the shape of the Wiksten tank pattern to get a nice curve, and did a small double hem. I've read in a couple of places the trick to a nice curved hem is to sew a row of basting stitches at a long length at the point of the first fold, use it as an ironing guide and to slightly ease the fabric in, and then fold and press an equal distance then sew - works a treat. I was tempted to taper in the waist a little too to add some shaping, but left it for the moment. 

I really like the curved hem, but it is cute tucked in too - these jeans are a bit low for a decent tuck, but with something high waisted it works too:

Finally for the button holes, I tried a trick I found on the Threads website. I used some soluble plastic stabiliser to sew the buttonholes and this stopped my machine sucking the fabric into the feed dogs - it worked perfectly. My machine has a 4-step button hole function, and can be a little temperamental at times - so any tip or technique that makes a stuff up less likely is gold!


  1. How's da Sunny Boy? We want Sunny Boy!

  2. Oh poor Sunny, he's been a but neglected lately what with saving up our $ for NYC! He's looking super stylish tho, I'll get some more pics up soon. He's beyond awesome!

  3. Too bad the fit on this one didn't quite work. It's all about getting to know our bodies perfectly I guess and then never changing size at all! Haha. I think it turned out pretty well in the end.

  4. Thanks Megan! I'm pleased with it as a first attempt! I'm so pleased to learn how to do the placket!


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