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!