Eight weeks ago I had a double mastectomy because I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I’m not telling you this to shock you or for your sympathy, after all this is a sewing blog. I’m sharing this so you will know the true reason behind my choice of projects these past few months, and the months upcoming. But before I jump into sewing, I want to say that my prognosis is excellent, and I have the good fortune of not requiring any post treatments such as chemo therapy or radiation.
However, I am currently “under reconstruction.” My breasts are temporarily oddly shaped and uneven. That is why I am choosing tops and dress patterns that are loose and gathered above the chest. One week after surgery, I started to think about all the hot weather that is to come, looked through all my patterns, and choose The Kiomi Top from Lotta Jansdotter’s book, Everyday Style, as my first recovery make.
I thought this pattern would make up nicely in a quilting weight cotton fabric as I desired an opaque, more substantial weight fabric rather than a voile or lawn cotton which is my usual preference for a top or blouse. I ordered two fabrics from my favorite online store, Hawthorne Threads. (As much I prefer buying fabric in person, I think it’s awesome to purchase fabric online when you have drains attached to you, can’t drive yet, and really don’t want to leave the house.) I chose two fabrics – Iza Pearl Designs, Blush & Bloom collection, Floral Stripe in Aqua, $9.95 per yard, and Leah Duncan, Lore collection, Olympus in Navy, $12.95 per yard. I bought 1 3/4 yards of each.
After studying the photos of the Kiomi in the book, I decided I would prefer less flair for this semi-cropped top. Lotta Jansdotter looks taller and thinner than me, so she can pull off a more extreme A-line. I took out eight inches of width at the bottom of the top. I did this by cutting two slashes on both the front and back patterns pieces and overlapping the openings by an inch at the bottom. I found the width to be perfect and was very happy I made this adjustment.
LET’S BE HONEST:
1. The size range in this book is XS to XL. I made a Medium (bust 36 – 37 1/2) and it fit fine even though my bust size falls closer to the Small measurements.
2. I had an issue with the neckline on this pattern. With my first top, I followed the instructions to pull the neckline gathers to 3 1/2″ for the size Medium before sewing on the bias tape. This was too much gathering. It caused the neckline to be pulled into a kind of soft “V” shape and also pulled armholes towards the chest area. I studied all the photo examples in the book, and none of the necklines looked like mine which leads me to believe the measurements in the book were not adequately “tested.” For my second top, I pulled the gathers to 5″. I found this to be a much more acceptable result and looked more like the rounded necklines in the book.
Left: Gathers are 3 1/2″. Right: The gathers are 5″.
3. I had an issue with the instructions for the neckline bias tape. You are given a pattern for 2″ bias tape and instructions to iron it down the middle and then in on both sides 1/2″. This of course creates a 1/2″ bias tape which is to be used on both the neckline and arm holes. Looking at all the photos in the book and the illustrations on instruction page, the neckline bias binding is clearly wider than the armhole binding. In a couple of the photos the neckline binding looks like it could be as wide as 1″. There are no instructions that differentiate the binding widths of neckline and armholes. I like the way the wider neckline binding looks, so of course I made adjustments on my own to achieve that. However, small details are what make a simple design such as the Kiomi unique, and I think the creators of the book owe their followers instructions and patterns pieces which will enable them to create exactly what they see in the photos.
4. Despite my complaints above, I love actually these two tops and have already worn them both several times. They serve the purpose that was intended for them – in the hot weather, they hide my not so perfect chest AND I still feel cute.
5. This is my third project from Everyday Style by Lotta Jansdotter. I have a post on the Esme Tunic here. I also made the Owyn Pants. I haven’t done a post about them, but you can see photos of them in this post.
I am especially grateful right now that I can sew. I am able to create clothes that I feel great in post-surgery. What about you, when have you felt grateful that you can sew?
How brave of you to share such a personal journey. I wish you a speedy recovery and more sewing adventures. I’ve enjoyed looking at your projects by reading your archives.
Thank you for your kind words, Tammy. I’m glad you have enjoyed other posts.
Firstly “brava”to you for what you are going through and your attitude towards it, inspiring. Secondly I love this top pattern and your makes. It’s a really cute cut, love your hacks. And great fabric choice.
Thank you, Naomi. I appreciate your encouraging and positive feedback!
I love the look for a hot summer. I also love your great attitude!
Pretty tops. Its good that you adjusted the tops to suit you. I love Lotta’s book and have made 2 pairs of Owyn Pants (one of my favourite patterns). Sewing is a great therapy and will help with the healing process.
Thank you, Caroline. I really like my Owyn pants too, especially that they are flat in front! I plan to make more when the weather is cooler.
I like the tops both in your version, and in the original. I feel grateful all the time about being able to sew, and to have found my way back to it after decades away. Being able to express oneself in any creative way is important, I think. I’m glad it’s helping you look good at this difficult time, and feel good. All the best in your healing.
I didn’t sew garments for myself for about 2 decades, and like you am so glad for the creative options that are possible. Thanks for your supportive comments!
Thank you for your post. I wish you a speedy recovery, and know that sewing provides both the mental satisfaction, as well as a way to connect with friends. I am grateful that sewing has brought me friendship when I moved the day I retired to a new province, 1400 away from friends and family. Your tops are very cute, and I appreciate the way you have analyzed the pattern directions and shared them.
I, too, have found it fun to find new sewing friends, even on different hemispheres!
Wishing you all the best with your recovery! I love your tops, and appreciate your thoughtful review. I’ve made the Owyn pants and am looking forward to making the Kiomi top soon.
If you do the Kiomi top unaltered, I will be interested to know how you like the width. Thanks for your good wishes!
A positive outlook on life will get you through this. I was diagonised with breast cancer in October 2014, had surgery within a couple of weeks then radiation in January 2015. Now I have leukaemia but that wont bet me either. I have got back into sewing and love reading all the blogs from around the world. It keeps me inspired. Wishing you well for a speedy recovery from Christchurch New Zealand.
I am glad to hear that you have beat breast cancer also, but I am sorry to hear you how have leukaemia. I am sending you best wishes from California for your complete recovery. And, yes, it is wonderful that we can connect worldwide about all our passion for sewing!
Love your tops and good luck my dear. I am 15 year breast cancer survivor and had lumpectomy, chemo, and radiation. It was a rough road, but the important thing is I am fine now (as you will be!)
Thank you for your words of encouragement. I love hearing success stories!
I always tell others that. Not for the attention, but when it was all new to me I realized that’s what I needed to hear. Success stories. You will be telling one too!
Thoughtful analysis, and great sewing result! Bless you in your recovery.
I’m sure your positive approach will aid your recovery. Good luck. Yes, it’s good that you can sew. Your changes made the tops work but I agree that the instructions and pattern should have been better.
As you know, I’m NOT a seamstress yet I find your posts strangely compelling. I love your editorial voice, your asides, your acquired wisdom, your JOURNEY. That’s all any good writing is, taking the reader on a journey. Oh, and nice tops!! ❤
I know I’m a good seamstress, but I have never felt in any way, shape or form that I am a good writer. So I truly appreciate the compliments coming from a REAL writer, that my writing is doing what it’s supposed to do!
I am sorry about your situation. I have cancer too, its my second go round with it now. I have stopped sewing for some reason but miss it. I do have to have chemo so I have a port in my chest which makes alot of tops a little hard to wear-even lower cut tops drag down with the tubes. I’d love to make this top for the off days! I wish you a speedy and full recovery!
I just read your latest post, and I hope that you are 100% cured on your second go around with cancer. My best wishes for your full recovery. I hope you will start sewing again!
Thank you! I am tempted to get some sewing done for sure but have to finish a quilt fist. Much prefer clothing. Stay well yourself!
Wonderful tops. You look great! I’m so impressed with how you change the patterns. So smart!
You are an inspiration! I love your attitude and your tops look fantastic!
I’ve been thinking about you. Your courage and creativity impressed me. I’ve had a few health setbacks – nothing as frightening or serious as yours – just broken bones and related surgeries. But I do understand a little how you can use creativity to get your energy back… help you get through tough times. Anyway, I’ve thought of a pattern for you! You might want to look at Vogue 1179. It’s a super quick make, and requires a stretchy fabric, which I imagine would feel great right now. I’ve made it twice and am about to make it again. If you scroll back on my blog, you’ll find it on May 7, 2014 and again later that month. Both were before I had a serger. It will be even easier to make now!
Thank you! JoAnn’s is having a Vogue pattern sale TODAY, and I went this morning and bought it! It wasn’t in the current book, but I still found it in the drawer. I love your maxi version in your post. I also looked at google images, and yours in orange/yellow/purple is certainly a stand out!
I can’t wait to see what you make of it! I’m sure it will be super 🙂
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I wandered here hoping for a review of the Owyn Pant. I selfishly wish to read what you have to say about it some day soon. Wondering about shot cotton as a possible fabric — can’t find anyone who has made a project with it.
I am preparing to be out of commission with health issues (not as profound as yours, but profound for me) and can appreciate the concept of clothing designed to make you feel comfortable through the recovery process. Sending healing thoughts.
Thank you for your helpful site!
I probably won’t do a post on the Owyn Pants but I can tell you it’s a great pattern. At first I thought the crotch was short in the back of the pants but after wearing them I decided they were fine. I like the way they are flat in front (no elastic). I’m afraid I don’t know what “shot” cotton is. I’m glad you find my site helpful.
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I’ve also been trying out patterns from Lotta Jansdotter Everyday Style and have also been pleasantly surprised by how well each is drafted. I love your versions! Sewing helped me through my cancer experience too. Creating cute clothes as my body changed, both during and after treatment, was and still is such a lift. And during treatment when I was too tired to sew, browsing sewing blogs, discovering new indie patterns, and of course, online fabric shopping kept me going. Wishing you well in health and sewing! So glad to have discovered your blog.
Thanks for reaching out with your comment. Yes, sewing has been a great thing for me the last four months and it’s great to hear it helped you through your journey, too. I also wish you continued good health and happy sewing!
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Thank you so much for posting this. I admire your strength of character and your sewing posts have helped me immensely. I discovered your blog randomly but your tips re: the Kiomi top have saved the day for me. I made the same alterations and am now loving the top. Thank you 🙂
Thanks for letting me know that my alterations also worked for you! I have reached for both tops time and time again all summer. I’m not sure I would have if they had the original dramatic flair.
First I hope this comment finds you well and that you are in good health and spirits. Thank you for this post; I have just finished my first Kiomi top and I wish I had read your post first 🙂
I made my Kiomi top in a size S. I chose a quilting cotton and you’re right; the flare is way too big, especially at the front. I ended up taking the sides in but it would have been better to start with the right dimensions. I suspect that with a lighter, more flowing fabric, the dimensions in the book would work well, but for anything with a little stiffness, the width needs to be reduced.
I hadn’t noticed the difference in bias tape width on the photos 🙂 I like also the wider bias for the neckline, so next time I will make adjustments, and also in general will pay more attention to the photos!
I am not tall but I find the top a little short, so I’d add a bit of length as well.
Finally I also agree with your comments re. instructions. I haven’t been sewing for long, and although the design itself is simple, the instructions are somewhat on the light side for beginners.
Overall even though I’d call my first attempt a moderate success, I think it’s a nice top, and I will make it again with the appropriate adjustments, and adapted to the fabric weight and drape. And thanks so much again for sharing your experiences, I am going to read up on the Esme tunic now!
I’m so glad you found my post helpful!
Thank you so much for this post! I read it when I made my first kiomi a couple of years ago, and found it again when I was ready to make another. My first make was an amatuerish hack that turned out well, but I hope to use your (much better) method to remove the ease from my next top and get even better results. The info about gathering at the top was also really helpful.