A quick make for summer – The GBSB Sleeveless shell top

In order to boost my selection of summer tops, I have made the Sleeveless shell top from the most recent Great British Sewing Bee book – ‘Fashion with fabric’ by Claire-Louise Hardie.


I was after a fairly straight forward project that I could fit in amongst a couple of other things I had on the go at the time And this fitted the bill perfectly.

An extract of the pattern has also recently been featured in a special 2 part Sewing Bee supplement in the Daily Telegraph and also the June 2015 issue of Sew Home & Style, so plenty of opportunities to get your hands on this lovely pattern.

The top reminds me of the sleeveless top the contestants in Series 2 had to make in the first episode (I think!) which Heather nailed impressively (again from memory!). I remember the part where they had to turn the facing through by sliding the back pieces through to the right side, and how they were helping each other out when in a pickle, which was very sweet. One difference here is that there is an option on this pattern to make the back piece longer which is a nice feature especially if a little coverage of the ‘derrière’ is needed!

The fabric I used was a cotton from John Lewis which I bought it with a pretty summer top in mind. I love the repeating pattern against the fresh white/cream background. It is from a Free Spirit collection called Riddles and Rhymes.


Here it is in the first outside shot of my blog!!…


I cut a size 8 from the pattern. My bust measurement was 35cm which was bang on the size 8 which was a little risky but I’m so fed up with taking in garments when they turn out too big that I thought it was worth the risk!

The Sew

The sew is straightforward enough for those with some sewing experience and would be ideal for a beginner’s first garment. The neck and arm holes are finished with facings, there are 2 bust darts and the back is fastened with a button and loop (no zips!!!! Yippee!). There is always room for improvement no matter what your experience is though. I had to re-do one of the darts a couple of times – I just couldn’t get it to lie smooth enough at the point of the dart so had to make sure the last few stitches were done right on the fold. This took a couple of attempts to get right but is so worth doing to avoid ‘pointy’ bits where they are definitely not welcome!!



The fit

Overall I think I got the right size. It is nice and fitted around the waist which I like, whilst there is enough ease for day to day casual wear.  As you can see from the next picture, the fabric is gaping a bit across the shoulder blades. The pattern advises you to sew the centre back seam up from the hem to the bottom of the facing. When I was testing the fit prior to doing this, I felt like it might be a little tight across the bust if I went all the way up to the bottom of the facing so I stopped little short of this. I think this may account for the gaping. I plan to try sewing up to the facing as I think the end fit will be fine and hopefully sort that issue out. Unless that is, anyone else has any suggestions as to what I need to alter next time? I am soon to be investing in an adjustable dress form so am hoping that I will be able to assess and adjust the fit across my back easier than it is now!




Well I will definitely be repeating this make for the summer due to it’s simplicity and versatility. In the Fashion with Fabric book there is an alternative version (a ‘hack’) with a button-up back which looks lovely. Maybe another version like this in a different fabric first in order to perfect the fit across the shoulders!

Has anyone else made this top yet? Would love to see your version if so!

Until next time, Happy Sewing! 

Lorna x


  1. Maxine
    June 10, 2015

    It looks great I love the fabric.

    • Lorna
      June 10, 2015

      Thanks Maxine! It is designed by Tina Givens for Free Spirit. The collection is called Riddles and Rhymes and is described as a collection for children. This one comes in a blue colour way too and the rest of the collection has some really gorgeous and unusual prints with fairies and animals on. Something for everyone!

  2. Anneli
    June 10, 2015

    Lovely! Love the fabric choice and very good fit… wouldn’t worry about the back too much – you’ll never see it!

    • Lorna
      June 10, 2015

      Ha! Very true and will almost certainly be covered by a cardi if the weather carries on like this! Thanks for the comment!

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