Great British Sewing Bee book – Shell top

Great British Sewing Bee book - Sleeveless Shell Top

Well… there’s no more Great British Sewing Bee. It was over so quickly! At least we have the book to keep us going. I really wanted to make something simple during the week and made the Sleeveless Shell Top from the book.

I used a floral cotton that I have a roll of. I got this from a vintage/second hand stall in Letchworth Garden City. The roll says it’s by Concord House and is called Country Florals. 100% cotton. I had about 20 metres of this in my stash.

I had a good go at making the top. The instructions were fairly simple. There are no zip fastenings (thank goodness, as judging by the skirt I made, zips are not my friends!). There is understitching and interfacing, which I hadn’t really done properly before. I’m proud of my understitching and how neat the neckline is.

Great British Sewing Bee book - Sleeveless Shell Top Pattern. Back.

What really lets it down for me was when I hemmed the bottom of the top. The instructions said to zig zag stitch then turn the hem up and topstitch into place. I did this… but somehow still managed to stretch the fabric out of shape. So it’s not perfect, but under a cardigan, nobody would know.

Great British Sewing Bee Book - Sleeveless Shell Top. Front.

Yikes. That’s more of a lettuce hem… I’ll definitely make it again in a different fabric. I’ll probably also make a size smaller and try a bust adjustment, as I don’t have much of a waist in this top.

So that’s my March make. I’ve got my shirt for January, skirt for february and top for March. I might end up making a second March garment. Already nosying through my pattern stash for ideas!

Something else worth mentioning is the fact that Simon has just found a carpet beetle in the spare/sewing room. We had a small issue with these horrible things a few months ago. If you buy any secondhand fabrics, wash them before storing them with anything else, as the previous home could have had carpet beetles and there could be eggs on your new purchase. It is possible for them to live in warehouses where fabric goods are stored. Keep your fabric stash in a sealed plastic tub, or anywhere well away from the floor, especially if it’s a natural animal fibre such as wool. And hoover. Constantly.

Carpet beetles will eat not only your carpet and any upholstery but also your stash. They will have hit the jackpot. So now my Sunday will be spend hoovering every nook and cranny and rewashing all of my stash. Fun, eh?

Have you made anything from the book yet? Share in the comments!

Update 18/04/2015: The pattern can be found on the same pattern sheet as the Shift Dress (which is on the reverse of the Leather Jacket and Mens Classic Tee sheet). Also, there are three centre back lines for the Shell top back piece. I used the line in the centre with the slight curve. This creates a back hemline lower than the front. You could use the innermost (towards the inside of the pattern piece) line to create an even hemline around the top. The outermost line is to create the Button Backed version of the top. You need the extra width to accommodate the button holes and to “overlap” the other side so it can button up. I hope this makes sense, but if you have any other questions, please ask! πŸ™‚

12 thoughts on “Great British Sewing Bee book – Shell top

    • Hi Anne, the pattern is on the same trace pattern as the Button Back Blouse, Silk Woven Tee, & Shift Dress. On the other side of the paper is the Leather Jacket and the Mens Classic T-shirt. Hope this helps! It took me FOREVER to find it too! πŸ™‚


  1. Have just got pattern pieces printed and am already stuck! On back shell top piece there are 3 lines at or near back centre, 2 almost parallel and 1 in between with a curve, with words CUTTING LINE adjacent. Please, what is each line for and where do I cut?
    P. – Wirral


    • Hi Polly, thanks for visiting the blog!

      I had the question when I was cutting the pieces out. The line in the centre with the slight curve at the bottom is the cut line, as I used it. There are two hems to choose from, an optional straight hemline or the curved, slightly dipped at the back hemline, as pictured in the book. So you could choose the innermost (closest to the inside of the pattern piece) for a top that is straight round the hem. For a curved hemline, you could choose the middle line, with the curve and the text “cutting line for sleeveless shell top”.

      The outermost line, which would make the back pieces wider, I believe is for the button backed version of the blouse, which is in the book just after the sleeveless shell top. The extra width will be folded back on itself to accomodate the buttonholes without changing the overall fit of the top.

      It’s worth mentioning that I could be wrong on this, as the book actually doesn’t explain the pattern pieces very well.

      I hope this makes sense. Let me know if not. πŸ™‚


      • Thanks Nikki, that’s really helpful. It was the third line that foxed me – never thought of a button through version. I’d need to be a contortionist to button up the back so think I’ll try the curved version.
        Re your problem with stretched hem, I find zigzag always tends to do that, and that it works best to iron under a very thin (say 1/4 inch) strip, then fold again about a 1/2 inch, so there is no raw edge.
        Will let you know how I get on with the top – it may be a while as life is v. busy at moment.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’m now part way through and have another question. I’ve done the under stitching at the neck, and have sewn the facing to the armholes. It seems like the same detail as the neck, but there’s no instruction to under stitch. Should I do it do you think, or would it mess up what follows?

        Liked by 1 person

      • I attached the armholes and neckline in the same way but only understitched the neckline. The armholes are less likely to warp out of shape, which is what the understitching on the neck is there to prevent. I hope this makes sense! πŸ™‚ x


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s