For a long time I’ve realised that knits are my nemesis and I have wanted to change this. I thought that perhaps a extended practice with these fabrics might cure me. But buying knits via the internet can be a hit and miss affair. Often it is difficult to tell the weight and the drape without handling the fabric. Anyway, imagine my delight when I entered Fashion Fabrics a few weeks ago and found that they had a fantastic selection of fine viscose-lycra knits which draped deliciously. I immediately bought a few metres in different colours – a lime green, a beige and a burgundy. I pondered possible makes and I’ve now sewn the first two of my t-shirts.
The first garment I made was a fairly straight-forward t-shirt. I’ll model that one another day; it’s a bit chilly today. For the second make, I chose a pattern that would show off the drape of the fabric. The blurb describes K4028 as pullover tops with extended shoulder seams. Version A has a cowl collar and short sleeves. Version B has a draped collar and long sleeves.
Although it doesn’t say this is possible on the pattern, the two front pieces of the top are interchangeable (i.e. the circumference of the short sleeves are the same – I measured this), therefore it is possible to make the two designs either with short or long sleeves. I decided to make View A, the cowl collar version, but with long sleeves.
I don’t as a general rule tend to buy paper patterns, unless it is picked up at a charity shop. I’ve never sewn a Kwik Sew pattern before. I’m not sure why that is, perhaps I just never found a pattern that inspired me before. So, I was quite surprised by the quality of the paper in the pattern; it definitely didn’t feel as flimsy as the usual paper in modern patterns. Actually it felt more like my vintage patterns in this respect, consequently it was a pleasure to trace it according to my size (which is what I usually do).
I did make one adjustment up-front on the pattern. Based on my experiences with RTW clothes, I find that low cut tops tend to be waaaaay too low cut, so I did a quick measurement on the top front and decided to raise the cleavage by about two inches. It seems I wasn’t the only person to do this, the Mahogany stylist found this too. I then whizzed the top up on my overlocker. It was very easy to put together. Apparently, Kwik Sew pattern are renowned for their instructions and I will agree that they were easy to follow, with very decent drawings. As suggested, I used strips of stretch interfacing on the shoulder seams. After standing in front of the mirror, I concluded that the arms were a little floppy. I skimmed an extra couple of centimetres off their width. Next, figured out the ideal length for the sleeves and body. I kept these quite long intentionally. They are certainly longer than on the pattern envelope, where the top finishes at hip level, but I like the idea of a cosy tunic length top.
At first, I must admit I was quite proud of my make. It certainly looks like one of my more successful knit garments, but when I stopped just wearing it in front of the mirror and actually wore it for a full day, I started to get worried about that cowl collar. It still seems a bit too low cut and revealing for my liking. I think I can see why I made the error with this. When the top sits as it is supposed to, it looks fine. But in everyday life we move (well of course we do!) and that neck aperture is wide and the cowl just slips further forward than I had originally thought would be acceptable. This all made me ponder. I looked at the model on the envelope. I think the cowl looks in a similar place on her as it does on me. But, is my neck unduly thin? Thinner than the model’s neck? Or is it that the model simply doesn’t move, unlike real people?
If the neck hole was smaller, I reckon the cowl would stay in place better. The seam at the back of the cowl, where it attaches to the body of the top does seem to sit a bit low too. Perhaps if the back of the cowl was closer to the neck the cowl wouldn’t shift forward when I lean over. You can see how deep it is at the back in the photo below. Actually the back view looks super cool. Is there any otehr way I could stop the collar flopping forward? Deep sigh, perhaps I should have anticipated all the problems with the cowl.
The other thing I am worried about is the sheer weight of the cowl. Will this induce stretching in the neck hole? I really hope not! Is this likely? I can’t say in my experience I have come across t-shirts stretching from the shoulder, even if they don’t have any extra support there, so perhaps it will be fine. Do other patterns recommend perhaps some clear elastic here, for support?
The next problem that I can see with the top, and it is pretty obvious on the photos, is the thinness of the fabric. Sorry, about this folks, but I’m suffering from that thin fabric, cold day problem. Yep, there are two prominent points of interest showing…you know what I mean! If I’m going to wear this I seriously need to think about layering, to make it more respectable. I’m not sure what would look best – perhaps a camisole underneath (similar to how the other version of the pattern is modelled, see below), or a long floppy cardigan on top. Neither of which I have…..
The final disappointment, came today, after I’ve been wearing my top for a second day. Pilling, that bobbling effect that you can sometimes get on fabric. The pilling appears to be at the hip, perhaps where the fabric rubs against my coat. I’m gutted, I hope that the pilling is just localised and doesn’t get worse. After all, I have bought three lots of this fabric and I haven’t made the third top.
As I’m typing this up, I’m feeling sad about the whole experience and I still feel thwarted in my efforts to get to grip with sewing knits. It does seem that every time I sew with a knit fabric, I’m confronted with more variables that throw me off course. However, the top itself is actually comfortable to wear (bar the frequent adjustments to stop flashing too much flesh). I think I would definitely nail the fit of this top next time I make it, so that is probably the only plus from this fiasco. But, what fabric should I use? I don’t want to use more of this fabric if it is just going to pill. Is it possible to figure out what fabric is likely to pill and avoid it? I have a couple of viscose-lycra knits that are thicker and they don’t suffer from this. Likewise a bamboo viscose t-shirt doesn’t suffer from this problem. Perhaps I could purchase some more of that. I just have to put this all down to experience, persevere with the third knit garment I’m going to sew and then choose a woven fabric for my next garment to get over the disappointment!
April 16, 2017 at 9:39 pm
I think it looks great (just need a T Shirt Bra), such a shame about the pilling. I think it’s just one of those things. I’ve had cheap and not so cheap fabric pill, but find the more I spend it is less likely to. This fabric looks like it would make a great Oslo Cardi from the seam work magazine, and if that’s worn as a top layer it might not rub on anything and pill. Keep persevering and keep yer chin up! 🙂
April 16, 2017 at 9:47 pm
Thanks you’ve cheered me up. Sometimes we just have bad sewing days. I will look up t-shirt bras – aren’t they the soft cup ones? Perhaps I could make one? Does the Oslo work well with thin knits? I’ve tended to see it made up with heavier fabrics. Oh no, I just given myself two more things on the to do list…..
April 16, 2017 at 9:53 pm
Mine was a thin knit but did have some drape, there’s also lekala 4119 which is a quick make – it’s a cowl neck. I made it with and without the band and I wrote a post about getting a nice finish on the neck line. Not sure if you could make the t shirt bra, the cups are normally moulded. But I’ve not ventured into bra making yet so I don’t know what supplies are out there.
April 17, 2017 at 7:05 am
The doubts you have about the stretching of the cowl are most likely down to the fabric. Some knits are very fluid, and seem to go on stretching. I made a long sleeve cowl top in a jersey in 2012 which is still going strong, but the jersey was a quite firm cotton. I’ve bought other jerseys which stretch forever. The successful one was in an expensive (for cotton jersey) fabric.
April 17, 2017 at 4:51 pm
You’re right. I think I shall keep an eye on that cowl. So far it hasn’t stretched so there may be hope. Yep, I definitely need to buy more expensive fabric for this sort of make. Still, I guess I’ve made my toile… so it wasn’t all wasted.
April 17, 2017 at 5:56 pm
You could maybe save the rest of the fabric for other toiles so it wouldn’t be wasted?
I know how you must feel. I made a beautifully fitting dress (having made a toile) and just couldn’t wear it. I liked the toile better! I can laugh now but I was devastated at the time…
April 19, 2017 at 12:22 am
A pretty camisole underneath would probably be the best solution – it looks kind of necessary, too, judging by the pic from the pattern cover. That cowl has slipped pretty low on the model!
April 20, 2017 at 4:19 pm
The stretch is due to the fabric, I agree. Viscose is heavy and will stretch out if not pre-stretched. It’s like pre-shrinking but in the opposite direction. 🙂 Just hang your fabric from a hanger for a few days, then cut it. You will find your next garment to keep shape better!
April 21, 2017 at 10:12 am
Good idea. Thanks for the tip – actually I left the last piece of viscose jersey I bought hanging while I’ve been away this week – should be just right on my return! You’re right about viscose being heavy – |I have noticed that my viscose t-shirts seem to be heavier than anything RTW I’ve bought.
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April 30, 2017 at 5:24 pm
Just a tip about nip showage: you can buy little silicone slightly sticky…hmmm…’covers’ for this situation, then you don’t have to worry about whether you have a tshirt bra. I think I got mine at target. They don’t show through, just cover up lightly. Very handy. Can’t remember what they are actually called, but they were in the bra section, along with fashion tape. There are also stickon disposable versions, but the silicone ones can be used over and over, just rinse off when they get less sticky.
May 1, 2017 at 9:45 pm
I’ll have to look out for those. Do they stick to you or the clothing?
May 2, 2017 at 4:58 pm
Hi, it was so good to read your blog. I am branching out into knits too and am having some successes and some not so good like you. Some jersey seems much stretchier and more difficult to sew with. I also found that one of the labels in my coat was rubbing and causing pilling so I cut it off. Then I bought a T-shirt bra at my local supermarket for photos on cold days.
I will look out enthusiastically for your me made me posts.
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