The Ballerina top by Jenny Hellström (aka my favourite t-shirt)

I’m just going to come right out and say it: this pattern is pretty close to t-shirt perfection. With practically every t-shirt pattern I’ve tried before, there’s always been something that I end up wanting to alter. The perfect t-shirt is something of a holy grail, and since I like different kinds of t-shirts for different outfits and occasions, I need more than one perfect pattern. Today I want to talk about the close-fitting kind with negative ease. You may recall that I’m not entirely comfortable with close-fitting clothes – I talked about it with my Simplicity summer challenge make and in my post on “The Power of Sewing” – so to feel good, really REALLY good, in a close-fitting top is no mean feat.

Enter the Ballerina top by Jenny Hellström. If you don’t already know of this Swedish designer, I highly recommend you visit her site: I love her designs, and although they are on the pricey side, they are a thing of beauty and also make perfect gifts (I was gifted this pattern and the Doctor’s Orders cardigan last Christmas). I love the cardigan too and perhaps I’ll get to talk about that another day, but today I want to focus on this top.

Photo from http://www.jennyhellstrom.se/

If you like multiple options in your patterns, then perhaps this isn’t the one for you – there is one design for the top, though there is a bodycon dress option too (I did try a toile of that but I refer you to my earlier statement about not feeling comfortable in very form-fitting clothes!) However, if you are a confident sewist, you could easily use this as a basis to alter sleeve length, neckline etc (though I think that neckline is pretty perfect as it is!)

I mean… let’s face it, the chances of me ever feeling like a ballerina are fairly slim. But this neckline is about as close as I get.

Neckline perfection

The construction of the top is exactly as you would expect: sew the shoulder seams, sew the neckband, attach the neckband, sew the sleeves, sew the side seams, hem. The instructions are written only, no illustrations, so absolute beginners may be put off but if you’ve ever made a t-shirt then you wouldn’t really need illustrations as there are no surprises. The only thing I added was to topstitch the neckband in place with my coverstitch machine, so that the seam didn’t flip upwards after washing.

As you might expect since I design patterns myself, I have a critical eye when it comes to the drafting of others. I prefer not to say when I find something to be badly drafted, but I will shout it from the rooftops if something is beautifully drafted. Get me a ladder and a megaphone, because THIS IS. I know how hard it is to get a simple design exactly right, and it irritates me when simple isn’t done well. You can’t say that of Jenny Hellström – this pattern is perfect. It clings without ruching up anywhere, the neckline is sublime, and the contours and shaping are spot-on. Plus the hem has a gentle curve – am I alone in disliking a straight line for a hem? – so the shaping is very flattering.

OK OK, it ruches up a tiny bit if you do twisty poses.

I love this top with jeans (in all these photos I’m wearing my denim jersey Eleonore jeans); I think it would also look lovely with a navy skirt or even a grey one, and am thinking of making a navy ponte Margarita to dress it up a little.

The only thing that might put you off Jenny’s patterns is the Burda magazine-style pattern sheet. Pattern pieces overlap and so you have to be careful when tracing, and seam allowances aren’t included so you have to add those. I won’t pretend that either of these things are desirable activities for me, but this top is SO worth it.

Running out of ways to photograph this. So let’s find a different spot to stand in while attempting to look natural.

Shall we talk about the fabric? This is one of the “Club Knits” from Utah-based retailer Raspberry Creek Fabrics, and is 95% cotton and 5% spandex. It’s from a collection they released a year ago so they don’t have this design any more, but it seems to be kind of a signature style of the company so there are variations on it still available. I haven’t been able to purchase frequently from this store as it’s in the US and so I can only order small amounts because of customs and taxes, but I’ve been really happy with the ones I have received. The jersey is lovely and stable – it may not have the buttery softness of, say, the Art Gallery Fabrics cotton jersey, but it has a weightier feel to it and it is a dream to sew as its slightly heavier composition means that it doesn’t curl at all at the edges. It’s a perfect fabric to use if you’re new to knits, or if you need to cleanse your palate after working with tricky fabrics for a few projects! There is a French terry option too, and I have also used that, but I prefer the cotton jersey (this is just personal taste).

To conclude: well, when you’ve exhausted words, say it in Emoji. This garment is 100% “heart eyes heart eyes love hearts smiley face” 😉

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18 thoughts on “The Ballerina top by Jenny Hellström (aka my favourite t-shirt)

  1. suzy roberts

    Great review Helen. I hadn´t heardof this company, but I shall be taking a look. xx

    Reply
    1. valentineandstitch Post author

      Thanks Suzy, I’m glad you think so. I came across these patterns almost by accident – a very happy accident! There are only 6 or 7 patterns in the range, and the two I have are my favourites but I suspect the others may make their way into my collection at some point! Hope you find something you like xx

      Reply
  2. Sew Sarah Smith

    I love the way you write! I also agree, that does look like the perfect tee! (By the way, how much fabric can you order from the states before taxes and import duties kick in?!) xxxx

    Reply
    1. valentineandstitch Post author

      Aw, thanks love! Glad you like the t-shirt and the post. About ordering from the US, the limit is £15. Anything beyond that, HMRC charges 20% customs on both the total value AND the postage costs. So you have to make small orders, but given that prices are lower in the US I can usually get up to 2 yards of fabric for the equivalent of £15. And most companies charge postage on weight, so a couple of yards is usually quite reasonable in terms of postage costs too! xxx

      Reply
  3. Maxine

    I haven’t heard of this pattern company before Helen so will take a look, this top fits you perfectly and the fabric looks lovely, almost designed just for you! That’s interesting re ordering from the States, it’s not something I’ve been brave enough to do but I am struggling to find a jersey fabric that’s a little different to make a hoody for my little boy, I shall have a reccie online 😁

    Reply
    1. valentineandstitch Post author

      Thanks Max! I really love all her designs. That’s funny what you say about the fabric, I thought it had my name on it too (though my daughter had other ideas! She now has a dress in this fabric to wear at Christmas!) Also check out Lillestoff for jersey fabric – I mentioned them before when you asked about my jacquard – I have an amazing octopus French terry for my son (though it has yet to become a garment) and they have some other cute things too. But they’re in Germany so you can order as much as you want and pay 12 or 13 euros for shipping. Need to head to your blog now and read about your Christmas dress!

      Reply
      1. Maxine

        The octopus fabric sounds fun, I’ve been on Lillestoff website, they do have some lovely fabrics, I probably need to up my fabric budget, I am a bit thrifty and do like a bargain!

        Reply
        1. valentineandstitch Post author

          Yes, they’re not cheap and they don’t seem to have sales, but I’ve never been disappointed wit the fabric. Sometimes you can find their older ranges on sale in the uk – try searching for lillestoff fabric uk and you might snag some! 👍

          Reply
  4. Sil

    Thank you for the review! Simple is the hardest to get right, I reckon. This looks beautiful and the way you finished the neckband is just perfect! So neat. It looks casually dressy, which is what I like wearing most of the time in real life!

    Reply
    1. valentineandstitch Post author

      Thanks Sil! I agree, there’s just nowhere to hide with simple. If anything is amiss it jumps out instantly, so I loooooove when simple = beautiful!! I have also enjoyed rediscovering this pattern and have a few more of these planned. Like you say, casual but can be dressy – and oh so comfy!

      Reply
  5. Diane G

    Simply beautiful…see what I did there?. It really is a lovely shape on you Helen. I can’t get over how neat that neck band is.

    All the ‘heart eyes’ for this one… 🙂

    Reply
    1. valentineandstitch Post author

      Hehe, I do see what you did there! And thank you, I’m happy you like it. I just adore the neckline. I made a few of these in viscose last year, but I’m loving how it looks in cotton and suspect there may be a few more to show soon!

      Reply
  6. Kelly

    I’m so glad you found your form fitting top match! It looks wonderful on you and I love how you’re experimenting with new backgrounds! 😄

    Reply
    1. valentineandstitch Post author

      Thanks Kelly! I love collecting my “matches” (good way to describe it!) so I have my “go-to” patterns! And I thought you might like the wall, it always reminds me of your pics! My favourite spot in our garden has featured in so many pics I thought it was time to move around a bit 😂

      Reply
      1. Kelly

        Always a good idea to have a collection of go-to patterns! 🙂 I most definitely like the wall! Lol It’s fun to experiment – I think I might try some different backgrounds too! 🙂

        Reply
  7. Sarah Liz

    It’s certainly a pretty t shirt, and you are right – a straight hem is not really a good idea, because we are actually curvy, so you need that slight curve and dip so that the hem looks softly straight instead of hard and slightly up at the centre. I am quite sure my words do not make sense! but the tummy lifts the hem, so a curved hem compensates for this! It’s good to have a go to pattern for a basic item like this, it makes it easy to make more when needed.

    Reply
    1. valentineandstitch Post author

      Thanks Sarah Liz, and your words make perfect sense – a straight line cutting across a curved body is never going to be the most flattering! And yes, I am already planning more of these, especially as it uses so little fabric. I don’t always want to wear a t-shirt this form-fitting, but it’s perfect for when I do.

      Reply

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