Feats of sewing: the Wiksten Tova shirt

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Pattern: Wiksten Tova
Fabric: Nani Iro "Melody Sketch" (100% cotton double gauze) by Naomi Ito for Kokka Japan

Finished Wiksten Tova

A while back, I was hit with this sudden urge to sew - I know, that's nothing new. But what was new was that I really wanted to sew clothing! If I've sewed clothing before, the last time would have been before I moved to Vancouver, so 15+ years ago. I've sewed a fair bit since then, but mostly things like bags or pillow cases... this was a whole new challenge.

There is a fantastic fabric shop in Vancouver, Spool of Thread (incidentally I got a hard copy of the pattern there, but you can also get a digital version online), and between that and a fabric haul from Bolt from our last trip to Portland, I've got a great selection of garment worthy fabrics ready to be turned into one-of-a-kind pretties. I started with a dress from Simple Modern Sewing. It turned out okay - I'm not sure the fabric went great with the pattern, and it was also difficult fabric to finish without a serger. But since then, I managed to buy a used serger and get it running - this was what I believe made this project a success in the end. I didn't realize how challenging double gauze would be to work with, and if I hadn't had the serger set up to reinforce all the seams and help with the finishing, this could have turned out to be a bit of a nightmare!

Instead, it turned out wonderfully!:

Finished Wiksten Tova


The Wiksten Tova pattern is indeed challenging - it took me quite a while to complete, and I learned a lot of new techniques while making it. But despite being complicated and a challenge, I didn't actually find most of it hard to do. It was my first time making gathers, sewing a placket, and adding inset sleeves, and yet it all went pretty smoothly. The only parts that were a bit tricky was the corners of the front placket - I ended up hand sewing parts of it. It was a bit of a feat to get it all attached evenly, and this part of the shirt is the reason I'll be very gentle washing it, so it doesn't pull apart (especially because of the double gauze being such a loose weave). Other than that, I had a bit of a tricky time with the collar, but that was partly because I misread the instructions the first time round and had to redo it. In the end, it worked out pretty well.

Sleeve cuff

Shoulder and sleeve

Prepping the pattern also took a long time between tracing it onto the Swedish tracing paper and cutting and marking all the pattern pieces. That said, I think it helped with making the final product very nicely pieced and finished, so it was worth the extra work. I'm not sure how much quicker I'd be doing a subsequent Tova, but this really is a special shirt, so I feel okay having invested some time in it.

Placket - basting to prep for gathers

All in all, this was an enjoyable pattern to tackle, and now I feel like I'll be able to handle most patterns that come my way! I love the finished shirt to bits. The only flaw fit-wise is that there's a touch of tightness around the upper arm/shoulder/back if I pull my shoulders forward - it'd be bye-bye to the shirt if I were to say... play tennis in it. That said, I have a store bought shirt that is a similar style, and it is a very comparable fit, so I don't think it's much the fault of the pattern, but rather the style of the shirt.

I'm also super glad I chose the fabric I did - despite it making the project slightly more challenging, I think it really makes this a shirt that's wearable year round - so light and airy in the summer, and easy to layer in the winter.

First shirt: success!

Finished Wiksten Tova

If you're making a Tova and get stuck, feel free to post any questions in the comments and I'll see if I can help!



That looks awesome! One of my biggest regrets of my childhood was not paying attention when my mom tried to teach me how to sew because I was going through one of those phases of "If mom does it, it's got to be uncool" because man, do I wish I knew how to do it now!

I have just finished my first Tova top. I was wondering what size you sewed up? I'm 5'4" and cut out a size small, but am wondering if I should size up to a medium, particularly for layering in winter.

Hi Jeneta - 

I'm pretty sure I made an XS - the sizing is perfect all around except for the tightness at the back of the shoulders/sleeve attachment. If I make another, I'd probably add a touch of width across the back, and I'm sure that'd do the trick! Hope that helps. :)

Hi again Ariane,

Reading this post reminded me of how I need to get back to my art form which is teaching dance and yoga to kids. I think that a large part of the stress that I have taken on is due to not doing what I am most passionate about. I loved reading about how deeply you engaged with your sewing project, and how rewarding it was to do. This gives me more food for thought : how do I stop getting in my own way with my vocation? I live in a place where manifesting opportunities to do my work are very hard to come by. Yet this has been a year of finally connecting with what is making me unwell, which is obviously a first step. Everything else follows from that.

Thanks again for a wonderful blog.


This was about a year and a half ago already, and I can't overstate how much of a difference doing what I actually love has made. Honestly I probably never would have started pursuing it if my life hadn't been totally derailed by chronic illness. And it seems unrealistic to pursue for so many reasons. But it makes me happy - and it gives me something to focus on aside from how crappy I feel most of the time. If I'd only realized this back before my health got so bad, I wonder whether things would have been different...alas, life!

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