When one of my lovely new sponsors offers me the choice of sewing up any fabric from their site which includes a huge range of prints, stripes and colours of knit fabric you may think my choice to use a charcoal grey cotton spandex knit slightly odd...maybe even boring! But I had a vision in my head for this project which I could not be swayed from and I'm pleased to say it turned out just as I had hoped. It seems that I do indeed take after my Mum and am a grey kinda girl. Thanks Girl Charlee for making my grey marl dreams come true!
I've been after a good turtleneck pattern for some time and had been eyeing up the Papercut Patterns Rise & Fall Turtlenecks but neither variation had quite the classic slightly sixties vibe I was after. I sat down one evening to have a good browse through Style Arc's PDF patterns on Etsy and low and behold they have about three! It was hard to choose between them as Style Arc don't provide photos of sewn up and modelled samples of many of their patterns and from an illustration it's hard to accurately assess differences in the cut and fit. I eventually went with the Debra Zebra Top; what swung my choice was the lack of a seam around the neck. I'm not a huge fan of having wearing anything high and tight around my neck but like the style so really wanted to finally make myself a turtleneck I felt comfortable in. Removing the neckline seam reduces bulk and irritation in that area and really does make it more comfortable so it gets a big thumbs up from me! The neck is constructed simply by folding the end back inside and securing at the side seams.
The fabric is this Heather Charcoal Grey Cotton Spandex Knit which has a decent amount of stretch in all directions. Although I feel confident sewing with knit fabrics now I feel my knowledge of the properties of them could still be improved upon. I continue to feel a bit clueless about stretch percentages, weights, drapes and fibre content so when ordering online it's always a bit of a mystery to me about what is actually going to arrive! This luckily turned out exactly as I had hoped and was the perfect match for this style and pattern. It's a snuggly soft cotton knit which has a great weight for tops like this as it doesn't cling. I'll be honest and say I have heard mixed reviews about the quality of Girl Charlee fabrics (which is actually why I took them up on their offer of trying some fabric out) but in this case he fabric seems top quality, really durable and has been washing and wearing well. The 5% spandex content gives it great recovery and none of that shine/turning slightly sheer when it is stretched over the body. The high cotton content means it's quite a stable knit that doesn't slip about as you sew and I didn't worry about it getting stretched out of shape.
One thing I really liked about the Girl Charlee site is that all the important information you need to consider when buying knit fabric is laid out really clearly; the weight, spandex/lycra content and stretch percentage. I almost always prefer to buy fabric in person rather than online as I think being able to touch the fabric and assess the weight and drape is key. However, after this experience I'm starting to think that perhaps in the case of knits it's easier to match fabric to your project online as things like lycra content that you can't feel with your hand are spelt out plain and simple. It's definitely something I'll consider. EDIT Mark from Girl Charlee has also just informed me that they do provide a swatch service through their contact form here, which makes it even easier!
This was my first time using a Style Arc pattern but from reading about them on other blogs I vaguely knew what to expect. I had no problems at all with the pattern itself (it's a great little design and an enjoyable and quick project) but had the same quibbles with some of the other aspects as many other bloggers. My first being the biggest; that each size is provided as a separate pattern. When buying a PDF you can buy a bundle of three sizes but each size prints separately so grading between sizes involves printing more than one copy of the pattern. Also if the sizes you want to grade between are not in the same bundle you'd need to buy two. EDIT An anonymous reader has informed me that if you request a three separate sizes that are not already provided in one bundle Style Arc will create a listing for it on Etsy!
The instructions are even more brief than I expected but I actually quite liked that! Literally, 7 bullet points including cutting and the final press, no illustrations. If it was my first time sewing with knits I would have been slightly terrified by that but as it was it's such a standard construction and I've racked up a good few knit top projects it was totally fine. To be honest I tend to skim read instructions of patterns that I feel confident about now as I have worked out my preferred ways of doing things. But I will be wary of buying any Style Arc patterns which look like they have an unusual or complex construction method though as sometimes I need a bit more guidance.
The instructions may be brief but the pattern pieces themselves contain pretty much all the information you need for a simple garment like this. The notches are clear and seam allowances are all marked on the pattern pieces. It was really well drafted, every seam matched up neatly and as expected so there was no point when I felt confused. There are only three pattern pieces which is a lovely speedy treat. As I assembled my PDF pattern I was surprised to discover that the front and back pattern pieces are provided flat and whole, rather than half pieces which you are instructed to cut on the fold. I couldn't fathom the reason for this as I folded them to check that they were indeed symmetrical. It seems like a waste of paper, ink and assembly time to me.
I cut the size 8 and the fit sewn straight up was was actually lovely and close to the pattern illustration, However, I wanted a closer fit to tuck into sixties/seventies style mini skirts which I have been wearing to death with black tights this winter. I simply took it in 1/2" on the double down each side seam and right along the arms. These seams are actually sewn as one anyway after the sleeves have been set in flat so it was super easy to do. I probably should have just sized down initially as I had a feeling it wouldn't be as snug a style as I wanted but I erred on the side of caution as it was my first time using a Style Arc pattern. I am getting some wrinkles across the upper chest so I think I might leave a but more room across the bust next time. The only other adjustment I made was to take a whopping 3" off the length and I still think it looks a touch long!
Construction wise I adopted my favourite knit sewing techniques. I used a stretch needle and a narrow zig zag stitch on my machine for accurate assembly and then finished all the seams on my overlocker, stitching as close to the original stitching line as possible. It's really important to think about the stretch of your stitches around the turtle neck as that has to stretch a lot to get over your head. I finished the hems with a twin needle which worked really beautifully with this fabric. I had no problems with skipped stitches or weird tension. I also chose to stabilise the shoulder seams with some clear elastic. I've come to the conclusion that I prefer using this to twill tape or any other form of elastic as it is less bulky but still very strong.
I'll definitely be using both this fabric and pattern again; both really satisfying, straightforward and wearable!