Better than Basic Black Tee

Do you ever make up a sewing pattern in a knit even though it’s meant for woven, non-stretch fabrics? I have started to notice that I have a habit of doing that! (Here’s one example of where I did that in the past.) It has worked well for me, which must be why I keep doing it, but I find it’s a substitute that is best suited for certain types of knits and certain types of patterns. These are the guidelines that I generally follow:

  • Patterns: Most patterns can be adapted to work with a knit fabric, but I would not try to make a pattern that needs a lot of structure from a knit fabric. Also, you may need to make the pattern in a different, probably smaller, size than you normally would because you need less ease with knits.
  • Fabrics: I gravitate towards using medium to heavy weight knits, such as ponte and double knits, because they more closely mimic the way woven fabrics hold their shape.
  • Adaptations: It’s important to do a little advance planning when you decide to use a different fabric than what’s recommended. Often, it’s possible to leave off closures like zippers. Or it might be necessary to use a different type of interfacing or seam finishes than the pattern instructions recommend. It’s a good idea to test these things out first.

Here’s a recent project where making the switch from woven to knit fabric worked beautifully.

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When I bought this black knit off the remnant table, I wasn’t sure what it would become, but I think I picked a good style for the drape and weight of this fabric. The pattern is Simplicity 1879, view B, from the Lisette collection. (If you’ve ever seen the Oliver & S pattern line design by Liesl Gibson, you should check out this line of patterns from Simplicity. I want to make them all!) I did have to shorten the sleeves because I was short on fabric, but other than that I made no changes. I made my usual size and followed all the instructions, which were well written. I love how the neckline yoke and the sleeves connect to the bodice. It’s very flattering.

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Design/Pattern: Simplicity 1879, view B

Materials: black mystery knit, black bias tape, matching thread

Techniques:

  • serged seams
  • gathered bodice
  • double-stitched hems
  • raglan sleeves

Alterations/Changes: shortened the sleeve length

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I’ve called this top “better than basic” because it’s just as comfortable and simple to throw on with anything as a black t-shirt is, but it’s got a more unique style. It goes great with jeans for an everyday, casual look or with a skirt and scarf for a more dressed up look. I’ve wanted to wear this top immediately after it’s been washed, which is a good sign it fits perfectly into my wardrobe. I’m looking forward to coming up with great outfits centered around this new black tee.

Striped Linen Laurel

I finished this top one month ago exactly and I’m just getting around to talking about it. That may tell you a little bit about how this past month has been. The good news is that I’ve worn this top at least four or five times since I made it, which means it’s a keeper! It coordinates well with my existing wardrobe and is something different than a generic solid colored crew neck knit tee shirt. I needed a little variety in that department.

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As I mentioned, I was very excited by Colette Patterns’ new Laurel blouse and dress pattern and planned to make two versions immediately. Based on my measurements I was between a size 2 and a size 4. Since this shirt version was my wearable muslin I decided to make a straight size 4 and go from there. I am pleased with how it fits in this fabric. I think that this linen fabric calls for a more relaxed fit and I also wanted to be sure it was easy to pull on since it doesn’t have any closures. 

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Design/Pattern: Colette Patterns Laurel, version 4 (blouse)

Materials: striped linen (This fabric has a great story, if I may share. I bought it for about $4 a yard from a table at my local fabric store that had a wide variety of fabrics for summer clothing. Just today I was back in the fabric store and I noticed this fabric in a new location, with the other linen fabrics, and the price had been changed to $14.99 a yard. I am certain I wouldn’t have chosen this fabric at that price, so I’m really glad I got it when I did!)

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Techniques:

  • seam allowances were folded under and stitched down (It was my first time trying this and I don’t think it was worth it. If I were to use this fabric again, I would just use a zig-zag or overcast stitch.)
  • darts
  • self-fabric bias tape finish on the neckline
  • under/edgestitched the self-fabric bias tape to strengthen it (I am not sure what to call it, but this is what I did: Stitched bias tape to neckline, pressed seam allowances towards bias tape, stitched through bias tape and seam allowances close to seamline. Since the bias tape is turned to the outside of the shirt, this stitching is visible along the top edge of the shirt.)
  • selvedges used as the bottom edge of the shirt and sleeves

Alterations/Changes: The only change I made was to the cutting layout. The fabric was vertically striped, but I wanted my shirt to be horizontally striped. To achieve this, I simply cut my pieces with the lower edges along the selvedge. I then used the attractive selvedge as the “hem” of the shirt and sleeves. This also made the process of matching the stripes hassle-free.

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I already know that this shirt works with my wardrobe, so I am pleased with how this project turned out. I don’t have many woven tops, but I may have to change that since I like this shirt so much. The only thing I am not entirely pleased with is how the seams are finished. I may go back and re-do these at some point because the fabric still wants to fray, and since there isn’t a proper hem I sometimes get visible strings hanging down. It’s not a big deal, but it might bug me over time. For now though, I am just happy to report that Laurel may be my newest tried-and-true pattern. I’ll let you know how the dress version turned out soon.  

Basic But Beautiful Tank Top

I often feel more excitement about tackling more complex or unique projects, but there is something very satisfying about making a beautiful basic item. That was the case with this tank top. It is such a simple item with only two pattern pieces, but that meant I was able to put my sewing efforts into perfecting the construction. I started with a pattern that I knew would fit perfectly (a shift pattern block that I’ve used as the base for many projects), chose a lovely fabric (a navy rayon challis on sale for about $3 a yard at my local Hancock’s), and used the best techniques that I know to construct a staple piece that I’m excited to add to my wardrobe.

Design/Pattern: my basic shift pattern block, taken from Built by Wendy Dresses, shortened and widened a smidge

Materials: 1 yard of navy rayon challis, bias tape made from the leftovers

Techniques:

  • bust darts
  • French seams
  • applying bias tape finishes to arm & neck openings

Alterations/Changes:

  • shortened dress pattern to hip length
  • brought the neckline down about one inch
  • widened about 1 inch at the hem, tapering up to the waist

I wanted to wear this top immediately after I had it hemmed, which is always a good sign. This tank top, although very simple, deserves an A. It’s going to do its job very nicely. It looks good on its own with shorts, jeans or a skirt, but it also layers nicely under sweaters and jackets. If that doesn’t make it a perfect basic, I don’t know what would. The color will also coordinate well with my recent navy blue kick.

Lavender Pintucks Top

Have you ever made something that looked good, but just wasn’t right? It could have been something you sewed, cooked, wrote… This top, unfortunately, fits into that category for me. It looks good with the neat pintucks and notched neckline, but it just isn’t right for me. The fabric isn’t what I was hoping for (I bought it online, which always involves a bit of risk.), and I struggled to decide on a design that suited a fabric that I just wasn’t excited about using.

I modified a pattern I’ve used twice before with very good results, Simplicity 2365, so I don’t blame the unsatisfactory result on the pattern. My disappointment with the top is mainly due to the fabric I chose. It is a rayon/poly blend, and I was expecting something much more drape-y and smooth. Instead, this fabric is rough, stiff and frays like crazy. It’s honestly just an uncomfortable feeling fabric. I don’t really do uncomfortable very well, when it comes to clothing. The pintucks are beautiful though.

Design/Pattern: Simplicity 2365, modified at the sleeve/shoulder

Materials: rayon/poly blend

Techniques:

  • pintucks
  • serged seam allowances (before putting everything together, to prevent further fraying)
  • bias tape (to finish the neckline)

Alterations/Changes: I widened the pattern at the shoulder and tapered to meet the seam line at the sides to create a sort of loose cap “sleeve”.

Unfortunately, I cannot give this garment a very high grade. Maybe a C-. I finished this top over a week ago and still haven’t worn it. Usually, I go out of my way to wear a new creation as soon as possible. I just don’t know what to put it with and don’t feel comfortable in it. It was meant to be part of my Transition Wardrobe, but it doesn’t pair that well with the dress, skirt or t-shirt I’ve already made. Maybe it will go well under the last piece (still a work in progress), the wool Chanel-style jacket? Maybe I’ll be able to wear it over a long sleeve t-shirt and leggings in cooler weather? Or maybe it’s just a wadder?

Simple White Tee

This week is Spring Break, so I’m taking advantage of my free time by catching up on my 2012 Transition Wardrobe. I’ve talked a little bit about my color palette and inspiration and I’ve posted about the first finished project. My second completed garment is a very simple t-shirt with kimono sleeves. It’s just a basic wardrobe piece, but it will help to complete other outfits I’m planning.

I drafted the simple pattern myself by simply tracing a sweater with a similar shape. It might now be my go-to t-shirt pattern because it was such a snap to make. There are no sleeves to worry about attaching and the neckline is finished with a narrow facing on the inside. I know it’s not typical to see a facing used on a knit t-shirt, but I have a couple that are finished with a facing that I really like. I mimicked this style because I like the finished look and I thought it would be an easy method. I was right on both counts.

Design/Pattern: My own design, based on a store-bought sweater

Materials: White cotton/bamboo knit, knit fusible interfacing.

 

Techniques:

  • Serged side and shoulder seams
  • Faced neckline
  • Zig-zag stitched hems

Alterations/Changes: (for next time)

  • Widen sleeves just a bit

It’s hard to get too excited about a simple, white tee, but I’m happy with the result. I’m going to give this shirt a B. It completely met my expectations, but it’s nothing special on its own. I don’t think this necessarily diminishes its value though. The real prize here is the new pattern I’ve drafted that will get a lot of use now that I have a serger to use.

Simple Sleep Set

When I was younger I never used to worry about whether what I wore to bed matched. Now, strangely, I do seem to care. Or at least I can use that as an excuse to make cute, matching pajama sets. This set was super simple to whip up and it’s comfy to boot.

(Note: I was a little nervous to put pictures of myself in my pajamas online, but I think these are pretty modest pajamas. I don’t want anyone creepy lurking around here. I’m going to trust that my wonderful readers are not the creepy type.)

I don’t have a whole lot to say about this project. It gave me something to do while I try to avoid doing work to get ready for the school year as long as I can. I’ll use this set a lot, I’m sure, because it’s comfortable and cool. The other good thing about this set is that if you are admiring it and wishing you had one too, you can have one too. Both of the patterns were free online.

Design/Pattern: The bottoms are Colette Patterns Mini Madeleine Bloomers (free pattern here, profiled by me here, listed in the sewing directory here). The top is based on the Super Simple Nightie tutorial from Sew Mama Sew (tutorial here, profiled by me here, listed in the sewing directory here).

Materials:

  • less than 1 yard of black lightweight woven cotton (it could be lawn, voile or batiste, but the label didn’t specify)
  • black thread
  • an old pink T-shirt that I didn’t wear any more
  • elastic thread (for shirring)
Techniques:
  • French seams
  • Shirring with elastic thread
Alterations/Changes:
  • Instead of using elastic and ribbon in the waistband and leg openings of the bloomers, I used elastic thread in the bobbin to shirr the edges. I did this to simplify the pattern a bit and use materials that I already had on hand.
  • I made the main part of the tank top by cutting off the bottom of an old T-shirt instead of using a gathered rectangle of fabric. I also made an overlapped, slanted band around the chest. The overlap allows a little more freedom of movement.
Grade: This project required a minimal amount of effort and resulted in a comfortable, adorable sleep set, so I give this project a B+. It’s above average in the construction, but I wasn’t challenged either. I guess I’m saving up my desire to be challenged until I finally get fabric for my husband’s jacket so I can get started. (I’m still waiting for fabric swatches to arrive.)

Licorice Sorbetto


I took my own advice and finally made myself a little top from the free Sorbetto Top pattern from Colette Patterns. I did make a couple minor tweaks to the pattern, but overall this was another quick, easy project to complete. I picked up some lightweight black cotton from the remnant section of Vogue Fabrics about a month back. At the time it was a back-up fabric for the Black Tulip Dress. I knew that if I didn’t use it for that I would have no problem finding an appropriate use for it. And I did.

A basic black top is a wardrobe staple that I was in need of. I wanted a piece that I could wear on its own or layer under a cardigan when it cools off. The Sorbetto Top is perfect for this because it has the little pleat detail on the front to make it cute enough on its own, but it’s not so embellished that it’s hard to layer. The one thing I changed about the pleat is that I didn’t stitch it all the way from neckline to navel. I stopped level with the bust darts to give the top a more A-line shape. The other change I had to make was a fitting change. When I finished it up I found that the armholes were too snug to be comfortable and caused the shirt to pull and pucker. I simply trimmed off the bias binding and sewed new on. This made the shoulder straps narrower, but not too much. And it fixed the pulling I was getting before.

Design/Pattern: Colette Patterns Sorbetto Top with a minor modification of the center front pleat

Materials:

  • approximately 1 yard of black lightweight woven cotton (it could be lawn, voile or batiste, but the label didn’t specify)
  • black thread
Techniques:
  • making and applying bias binding
  • pleat
  • bust darts
  • narrow hem
  • French seams
Grade: This is a hard one to grade. There is nothing wrong with it, but there’s also not a lot to get excited about (except for the fact that the pattern was free). I guess I give it a B+. It’s a basic top that I’ll wear plenty, and a versatile basic is always a good thing to have. The construction of it is very neat and polished too. (Funny story–I didn’t notice for about an hour that I put it on inside out after I had tried on a dress in a dressing room while I was out shopping.)