Great British Sewing Bee: From Stitch to Style – Breton Top Pattern

Recently the Duchess of Cambridge toured Germany and of course her wardrobe was fabulous. It helps that she’s slender and tall and her clothes hang nicely. But not everything she wears is fancy; she has a penchant for Breton tops. Like the one that inspired me.


I posted the picture on Pattern Review and commented how much I liked the top, and someone mentioned that this is a Breton top and the pattern is in the book “From Stitch to Style” which is a Great British Sewing Bee book. And it was sitting on my bookshelf.

I decided this would be my next project, in spite of the fact that there are currently 3 blue and white striped tops in my closet.



The Breton Top from The Great British Sewing Bee From Stitch to Style sewing and pattern book by Wendy Gardiner.

The pattern is in the very large package of sheets included with the book. There are several patterns on each sheet so you have to follow the colours and lines to mark the correct pattern. This sounds daunting, but the patterns are well marked so tracing to Swedish Tracing Paper wasn’t the chore I expected. (Tip: trace with a pencil because a pen or sharpie can bleed through to the pattern sheet.) This was the second project I’ve sewn from this book, the first being the asymmetrical skirt last fall.

This pattern is also available in a free download from Hardy Grant Publishing  and it was also offered as a bonus piece with some U.K. sewing magazines.


For this project I made a trek out to one of the massive independent fabric shops in Atlanta (Fine Fabrics) and was completely overwhelmed by the fabrics available. (Lesson: Don’t go out there when you have time constraints!) I contemplated a lightweight jersey or an ITY but those fabrics show every bump and bubble. Instead I selected a medium weight ponte in steel grey with white stripe.


No real sizing adjustments. I cut a UK16 because I wanted a bit of ease and the size worked out perfectly. Sizing is generous. Finished garment measurements are included in the instructions.


This is a simple top with 6 pieces (front, back, 2 sleeves, front facing, back facing). No darts, no shaping, no interfacing, no closures. Seriously – a one-day project even for those who sew slowly.

I worked to match up the stripes where the front and back meet at the sides, and for this used coloured pencils to mark the placement of the strips on the pattern pieces. I specifically marked at the notches and intersection points because that’s where things would meet up and need to match.  One side matched perfectly, the other is off just a hair, but a guy commented how well the stripes lined up, which I took as a pretty big compliment. 😉


Be sure to mark the front and back pieces so you know which is which. 

Fronts and backs were marked with my erasable gel pen, and when marking I discovered a pull in the back. Damn. It doesn’t appear to be something that will cause a run, but still very disappointing. Later I discovered another run in one of the sleeves. Argh.

I am quite new to sewing knits. I used a new ballpoint needle and walking foot for all of the stitching. Stitching was the lightning bolt (stretch) stitch on my machine, increasing the length to 3 mm on areas with no stretch (vertical seams). The process for this top is very simple: Staystitch and apply cotton tape to the shoulders (in this case, clear elastic) to prevent stretching, stitch the shoulders, create and attach the neck facing, add the sleeves, stitch up the sides, and hem. (If you don’t have a lightning or stretch stitch, you can sew the seams with a narrow zig zag of .5mm wide x 1.6 or 1.8mm long.)

As with my last knit garment, I machine basted all of the seams first, then stitched. This fabric required no seam finishes whatsoever because the knit fabric won’t fray so all were simply trimmed close to the line of stitching

The top stitching along the neckline is about 1 1/8″ from the edge, so I drew the stitching line with my erasable gel pens before stitching. This really helped to keep things straight.

All was smooth sailing until I got to the hem. The hem has about a 1″ notch on the side seam, then you fold up 7 cm/ 2 3/4″ and stitch the hem. That made the top hit me in just the wrong place on my belly, so I unpicked the side notch stitching, closed up the notches and used a 5/8″ hem instead.  (Their method of completing the notches is pretty slick and I’ll definitely use it on another garment.)

The sleeves were much too long, and I had no intention of even having long sleeves so found a sweet spot and hacked them off to be 3/4 length. (Shortening the sleeves also took care of one of the fabric flaws.) Then I hemmed using a double stitch on the bottom hem, single on the sleeves.

Sometimes you’ve just got to use that washroom selfie to get the right picture!

Time Required

  • 45 minutes – Tracing and cutting pattern, cutting fabric
  • 2 hours – sewing


Great top and so easy! I would absolutely tell anyone new to sewing to try this pattern. Yes, it’s knit, but the lines are simple and there isn’t much to be stretched or eased so there are few opportunities for frustrations. This particular weight of fabric is also much easier to work with than a jersey or something lighter that will stretch or move around. I guess you’d say it’s a stable knit.

The instructions provided in the book were very good and clearly written with the beginning sewist in mind. There are plenty of clear photos and drawings, and sewing terms are explained well.

For this particular pattern there is an option to make a tee-shirt (just leave off the sleeves) or dress-length version (with side-seam pockets). A dress or tunic in a similar fabric is pretty appealing – especially with a pair of opaque tights for cooler weather.

Next time … I’ll sew faux button holes and buttons on at least one shoulder, make the top a bit longer so I can have the notches, and shorten the kimono sleeves so they hit higher on my upper arm. And after wearing and seeing photos, I wonder about doing an FBA …

Thank you for stopping by!

Great weight for holiday traveling!


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