One of my main sewing aims this year has been to develop my skills and confidence when it comes to working with knits. I'm happy to say, despite a somewhat mixed start, I've been really delighted with my last couple of knit garments. I've made a handful of Sewaholic's Renfrew Top over the last six months or so but as yet have not got around to sharing them with you guys. I thought it might be a good idea to group them all into one post as I made them all at various points on my knit sewing journey and there's quite a mixture of results!
I gave myself a good challenge with this first one, not only choosing the most difficult neckline option with the tricky point to sew but also using a stripe! The one thing I am actually pleased about with this is the stripe matching! It was fairly straight forward as both colours are a nice wide stripe. I cut everything out on the flat and when pinning the side seams I used a pin at the top and bottom of each stripe to make sure everything lined up. I made this right back in March and at the time wasn't sure what to do about matching the sleeves so just made no attempt at it at all! Now I know what I'm looking to match up.
|I'll explain the awful state of the holes in that seam in a moment...|
For all three of these tops I cut exactly the same size (the Sewaholic size 6). I sometimes cut a size 4 with Sewaholic but I like my t-shirts to have quite a relaxed fit. Looking at the second and third versions that come next can you believe that I cut exactly the same size?! I like relaxed but this is just way too big! Because it's so oversized it hangs and drags under the bust in a not very flattering way. Part of the reason this happened was because it was constructed entirely on my overlocker. I'm getting better at accuracy when it comes to the width of seam allowances with the overlocker but I'm no where near as accurate as on my machine. At the point of making this I was worried about cutting off too much and making the top too small so erred far too much on the side of caution and my seam allowances were much too narrow and this added up to make the t-shirt far too big all over.
The other aspect of the sizing issue is the quality of the jersey. This was one of the very first knits I bought when I had no idea about what to look for in a good jersey. This particular fabric I picked up for super cheap on Goldhawk Road and is very fine and synthetic feeling. It doesn't have a particularly nice drape, which I can recognise now I've worked with other knits which so, and the grey stripes are crisper than the white. Plus it has pretty appalling recovery and has really stretched out even though I've barely worn it. At the seams the fabric itself has started to tear away from the stitching and fall apart. As this was one of the first projects I made on my overlocker I thought it was something to do with not having the tension settings right. However I haven't had this problem with any other knit projects, so I've come to the conclusion it is the fault of the cheap fabric! Still I'm glad I started off with something cheap and cheerful which I've learnt a lot from.
The second version I also constructed almost entirely on my overlocker but I got a better fit through the body by being more careful about using the correct seam allowance. Plus the jersey hasn't stretched out of shape! This is the same fabric I used for my Coppelia Cardigan which I still love, it's lovely and soft to wear. On this version I omitted the hem band and chose instead to turn it up once and use a twin needle to finish. I'm fairly short and I think the intended length of the Renfrew is longer than my personal preference for t-shirts so loosing length wasn't a problem. I'm much happier with the length on this one and it has actually had some wear unlike the first!
While it is a vast improvement on the first t-shirt the issues I have with this one are the bands to finish the sleeves (they make them too long and tight to the arm for me personally) and the width of the neckband. It's come out a wider than in the Sewaholic promotional versions, again down to my lack of accuracy and nervousness about trimming too much off on the overlocker! Because of the extra width it doesn't sit nice and flat against the body despite topstitching the seam allowance down.
I briefly tried to use the twin needle on my first version but it was having absolutely none of that nasty jersey! I didn't have a particularly good time with the twin needle on this one either, some stitches were being skipped no matter what settings I fiddled with or how slow I sewed. I did eventually manage to achieve a finish I was fairly happy with but it's created a bit of a ridge between the lines of stitching. is this to do with the tension or purely the width of space between the needles do you think? At this point in time I wasn't the twin needle's biggest fan!
However...I had much better results with the twin needle on my third version which I only made last week and at the moment holds the title of my best knit project yet! I used the same method for matching the stripes and check out this lovely smooth twin-needled neckline!
Something clicked with the twin needle and this project. I wasn't doing anything particularly differently to my first few projects, I was fiddling with the same settings, but perhaps my handling of knit fabrics has improved. I used a viscose jersey from A-One fabrics on Goldhawk Road for this one (I used less than a metre at 150cm wide and as far as I can remember it was £4.50/m) and it pressed, sewed and wears SO much better than the jerseys for my first two. I think the quality of the knit had some kind of impact on how well the twin needle worked, has anyone else found this? Soon after I had another good twin needle experience with my Bronte Top for which I used a lovely bamboo knit which seems to back this up. I know twin needles have a reputation for being unexplainably temperamental but I'm wondering if there's a kind of rule as to what fabrics they respond best to?
As you may notice I made a couple more changes to how I constructed this final t-shirt and now think I've pinned down my ideal t-shirt pattern when it comes to style, fit and construction. I omitted both the bands for the hem and cuffs on this version, turned and pressed the raw edge up twice by half and inch each time and then used the twin needle to stitch in place. I much prefer the shortened sleeves.
I constructed this t-shirt using a narrow zig zag stitch on my machine rather than ploughing straight in with the overlocker. It's turned out so much more accurate than the other versions and the seams are actually a lot neater and appear stronger. I finished all the seams on my overlocker, trimming them down as much as I dared, as I just like the professional finish it gives. Sewing it up on my machine made such a huge difference to how the neckline turned out too. I used a 6/8" seam allowance here (more than recommended by the pattern) to achieve a nice and skinny band which I really like. I'll definitely be using the combination of sewing seams by machine and then finishing on the overlocker in future.
This pattern is a great starting point for sewing knit garments; partly because it's a great, simple and classic shape to begin with and includes a variety of necklines and sleeve lengths. Also the instructions, as with all Sewaholic patterns I've tried so far, are thorough and clear. Included are useful techniques for working with knits such as adding twill tape to the shoulder seams to strengthen and stabilise which I did on all three of these. I've learnt a lot from making this pattern three times and will definitely be making it again. I live in jeans and comfortable tops for work so this is just the kind of basic my wardrobe needs. As winter has well and truly arrived here in London now I think I need to try the cowl neck and three-quarter length sleeves in a cosy stable knit next!