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Sew a Drop-shoulder Overlay Top with an asymmetrical hem

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The overlay top is an additional layer of fabric that you can convert with simple stitches to a sheer layer over your body or clothing. It can be made of lace or any lightweight material that can drape over a base layer of clothing you have on underneath..
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Fabric choices for sewing the top

The overlay top is adaptable to various styles and occasions. You will be making it with thin drapey fabrics like stretch lace, chiffon, georgette, crepe, embroidered net or organza. A casual overlay top made of crepe, georgette, or lace can be worn with jeans, shorts, or short skirts. Make it in a more substantial fabric, like soft silk and You can wear it as formal wear over tailored pants –  making it ideal for formal events where a touch of individuality is appreciated. As this can be used as a layering, choice of fabric and the color used should complement the color and fabric underneath.

Related posts: List of thin fabrics you can use to sew this top.; Different types of tops with names

What do you need to know to sew the top?

The best thing about sewing this top is that it is made of just 4 seams to sew and 4 edges to bind. And the worst thing ? It is made of thin fabrics that are a pain to sew. If you want to further decorate your top it is more sewing – like adding a trim along the edges, such as scalloped lace, delicate beading, or even a fringe.

Pattern for the drop shoulder overlay top

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When marking the neckline, I have not mentioned the depth of the neckline on the pattern above, as it is a personal choice. You can mark it 2 inches and above for the front neckline and 1 inch and above for the back.

Step 1. Cut out the front and bodice pieces.

Cut 2, 36 inches long fabric pieces. Keep them together, right sides to the outside. Fold them by the middle and mark the pattern given above. Cut them out.
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Open them up. Keep the two pieces together.
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Step 2. Cut out the bottom hem in an asymmetrical shape.

This is done by cutting off 9 inches from one side in a diagonal cut. (Please ensure that both the front and back bodice are kept right sides to the outside and the sides are all aligned as you cut – this is important to get the sides the same length)
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You can change and experiment with the asymmetry to suit your aesthetics.

Step 3. Bind the neckline

Cut out bias binding strips to bind the neckline – 1-inch strip would be enough. As I am sewing with a very thin fabric which is synthetic in nature, I thought it would be wise to use a very thin cotton fabric to bind the neckline. Sewing with this thin fabric is tricky enough with a wide seam, but with this thin binding, it will be a nightmare.

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Fold the edge of the bias strip 1/4 inches, to the inside and sew in place.
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Keep the top bodice rightside up. Place the strip wrong side up on the neckline edge of the bodice. Sew this strip to the neckline. Refer the picture below. Clip the seam allowance, so that when you turn the binding to the back it will turn smoothly.
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Turn the binding tape to the back and sew with machine or hand stitch with almost invisible stitches.
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Step 4. Join the shoulders

After binding, you have to join the shoulder seams. For thin fabrics, you will need to finish the edges – the edges frays super fast and furious. Either serge the edges or sew a french seam. Sewing a french seam will enlcose the cut edges and you will not see the frayed edges through the sheer fabrics. French seam is sewn opposite in principle to how a plain seam is sewn.

How to sew the french seam

For a French seam, you start with the fabric wrong sides together (unlike rightsides together for regular pain seams). Align the edges of the fabric pieces that you wish to join, ensuring they are perfectly matched. Pin the fabric to hold it in place.

Sew a straight stitch along the edge of the fabric with a 1/4 inch seam allowance. (Remember the fabric pieces are wrong sides together). Trim the 1/4 inch seam allowance to about 1/8 inch.

Now, Fold the fabric along the seam line so that the right sides of the fabric are now facing each other, encasing the trimmed seam allowance, inside the fold. Press the fold well.

Sew another straight stitch, 3/8 inch (1 cm) from the fold. As you stitch, ensure that the original seam and cut edges of the fabric pieces are encased within this new seam.
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Step 5. Sew the sleeve hem

You can bind the sleeve edge with another binding tape – needn’t be bias cut.
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Step 6. Hem the  bottom edge of the top

As you hem, I have one very important sewing advice – thin fabrics can unravel easily, so as soon as you see thread pieces sticking out, trim. Otherwise, they will soon peek out  of seams.
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Step 7. Sew the side seams

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You can make a french seam here as well – for the side seams.
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Sewing with thin fabrics is somewhat challenging. Who am I kidding, it is very very challenging. The worst things are wavy seams and binding, seam breaking and holes and snags at the touch of something sharp – even an uneven nail edge can be classified as something sharp when dealing with thin fabrics.

Use pattern weights instead of pins to hold the pattern in place, as pins can leave holes. Holes, once made is difficult to mend on thin fabrics.

Use a sharp, fine needle (size 60/8, 70/10, or 80/12) to prevent snagging or large holes. When binding, do not use the same thin fabric- use a thin lightweight cotton cut on the bias. Some thin fabrics strech a little, causing the seam to break when you so much as straighten the seam. My remedy is to stretch the fabric a little as I sew. Even then, you may experience puckering – try lowering the tension of the stitches a little bit. And make the stitches long. If you find binding challenging just make rolled edges along the hem. Use a roller foot for this.

Related posts: What to look out for when sewing with very thin fabrics

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Author: Sarina Tariq
Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.
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