So, here is the sewing update I promised! I finished all three of these shirts months ago, but I haven’t got around to photographing and putting this post together until just recently. The snow you see here has all melted away, in fact it’s almost warm enough to wear just one shirt outside! Well, some days yes and some days no.
After I finished my fabulous purple pants, I was ready for a faster and easier/less fitted project, and also getting desperate for some long sleeve knit shirts of any kind in my wardrobe. I had one looser, comfy knit top in cotton with a little lycra, definitely on its way out, but I liked the fit and decided to copy it. It also helped that I found two big pieces of cotton knit fabric in the stash I share with my mom.
I made this grey version first, and was overall pretty pleased, the fit isn’t totally perfect, but it’s, um, a knit shirt! Since it was something I needed, I started wearing it right away and it’s lovely to have a soft new long-sleeve top. It went together like lightning, no edge finishing, some double needle stitching for the hems and it was done. And I thought it was close enough to what I was going for to try in silk.
I bought this silk knit fabric at Promenade Fabrics in New Orleans. That store is such a treat to explore, it’s full of the loveliest wools, linen, ribbons, it’s very NOLA in that it’s unusual, but high quality. There aren’t rows of the same thing next to each other in different colors, I swear each bolt I looked at was totally unique, so naturally I had to dig through as many as possible (which was a lot, since luckily I had all morning). I knew I wanted to make more long sleeve tops, and I was hoping to find some wool knit, which I didn’t really, but I did find this rather amazing silk, knit in two layers, shiny inside, heathery soft and slightly fuzzy outside. “Where did you find THIS?” the owner’s son asked when I went to have it cut. Score!
So, having tried out the pattern, and curious to see the differences, I got out the silk. Only three problems; one, it raveled! I guess I’ve been spoiled in a way by stable cotton knits, you can imagine my horror when I pulled on one edge and tiny runs immediately started down the fabric, as the two layers peeled apart! Fortunately, if I zigzagged the edge it seemed to hold everything in place, even when I tugged on it, so I decided to play it safe and overcast all the edges of all the pieces, before sewing them together.
The second problem wasn’t really a problem, more like me being thorough/not having enough knowledge of silk knits to dive right in – I just took a lot of time making samples. Since this fabric is incredibly slinky, plus stretchy, I knew that it would be easy for the seams to come out either baggier or tighter than the rest of the fabric, which would make my finished shirt look decidedly amateur. So yeah, I made a LOT of samples. I definitely recommend making as many test seams as it takes, especially if you are working with an unfamiliar fabric! I decided to tag all these with a little bit of muslin so I could write down what I changed. I think the most interesting thing I learned was that by increasing the stitch length, I could get the seam to pull the fabric in a little more, shortening the seam. The colored stitching is my first, just to make sure the silk would not get runs as I washed it (by hand). See how the other edge goes from stretched out to pulled in? I also found that some stitches worked well on one layer, but not as well on two. Eventually I settled on using a mock-serger stitch to overcast around the pieces and sew seams, and a regular zigzag for topstitching. Although I have to admit that I decided matched seams and a total lack of skipped stitches were too much to ask for in this project, overall I’m really pleased, the seams neither draw in nor pooch out, which is exactly what I wanted to achieve.
Oh, the third problem? I totally didn’t have enough fabric. This seems to be a theme of mine lately . . . I ended up cutting the sleeves in three pieces each. Eight more edges to finish, four more seams, but the first thing that Bryan said when he saw it was, “I like the sleeve seams!” Still, next time I’ll try to remember to just get two yards, having enough for full sleeves and a matching tank top is NOT a bad thing.
When I first finished it I couldn’t decide if it was worth all the extra effort for the fancy fabric. But, the more I’ve worn this top, the more I’ve been bummed when it’s in the wash. It has the kind of drape that makes wrinkles disappear or just look elegant, it feels divine on my skin, and it looks like something just a little special. In short, I’ll be hunting around more fabric stores for unusual silk knits.
While I was at it, I decided to make one more shirt from stash fabric, and play with the fit a little. I narrowed the back around the waist, and flared it out again over my hips, to try for a little less puddle of fabric at the back high hip area. It did help some, but I’m left wondering if I need a center back seam to make a big difference, and if so, wouldn’t princess lines work better and look better? Or should I just reserve this pattern for slinky fabrics – this one is decidedly not. It’s a lovely color-grown cotton, but the fabric has very little recovery from being stretched, meaning it tends to hang a little bit loose, and it’s kind of thick. I made a few more samples before sewing it, mainly to try for a stitch that wouldn’t stretch out the seams. I like this shirt and I’ll definitely keep wearing it, but it’s not a perfect match of pattern and fabric.
Since I was playing with different fabrics, I thought it would be fun to show the tops with a similar contrast in pants. They’re the same pattern (another one I copied from an existing thrifted garment) of no-side-seam drawstring pants. The green pair are a textured cotton, I wear them to yoga a lot, and sometimes to lounge around in. The blue pair (which aren’t quite as electric blue in real life) are wool crepe – the result of a time when I really needed some new pants, hadn’t fit regular ones well enough yet, and had some lovely wool just hanging out in my stash. I’ve worn them teaching a lot, and to swing and tango dancing, and they’re great for travel, but I would definitely not wear them to yoga! Again, I think it’s the drape and the body of the fabric that makes them look so much more elegant.
Next up for sewing: summer stuff! Especially a dress, for Me Made May ’13 . . .