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Sewing Garments with Knit Fabrics - Tunic Top

The Babydoll and the Surplice Dress

I'm on a roll sewing with knits now, so I'm looking to try a heavier knit next.  I ordered a couple of Jersey knits from the Minerva Crafts clearance sale, which will serve as muslins and you never know, they might even be wearable!

Royal Blue & Black Tweed loop back Sweatshirt polyester Jersey

Turquoise and White check Double Jersey polyester

The next question is what to make with them.  There are some interesting Indie patterns around for knits, including Tilly's Coco, Jenna's Jorna and Amanda's Lady Skater. 

Coco can be a top or a dress, with a boatneck or a wide funnel roll neck and full length or 3/4 length sleeves, with or without turnback cuffs.  I like the mini dress (and the pockets), but not the boatneck.  I've seen something similar I could try.

The Jorna is a sleeveless tank dress and can be made top, jumper or dress length.  It has an all-in-one lining which finishes the neck and armhole edges without any binding or bias tape which sounds appealing.  Definitely a summer dress though, no sleeves.  No pockets.

The Lady Skater has a fitted bodice, scooped banded neckline, a curved flared knee-length skirt, and options for trimmed cap sleeves, banded three quarter length or full length sleeves.  I've read loads of good reviews for this.  I am considering making it up with full-length sleeves in some red stretch velour, with white marabou trim, as a Mother Christmas outfit!  I think it would look great, so that might be a project for later in the year.

However what I've decided to to try is another project from Sew U Home Stretch, the 'Mini Me'. This is where Wendy shows you how to draft a mini dress by altering the pattern for the crew neck tee. I like the square neckline, turned-back cuffs, the shape, and of course the pockets.  It's similar to the Coco, without the boatneck!  I've decided to use the Turquise check double jersey for this; the design will be both a help and a hindrance when it comes to lining things up! 

I'm tracing the large size onto Swedish Tracing Paper, then making the alterations as per Wendy's instructions, so my original tissue is unchanged.  The only thing I want to do differently is to have full-length sleeves. It took me several tries to get the sleeve the length and shape I was looking for, as you can see from the bits I had to tack on!

So now I have all the pattern pieces cut out (and I have remembered to pre-wash my fabric this time!). This pattern calls for stretch fusible interfacing for the facings.  This was new to me but I got some from Sew Essential.  I used a press cloth and steam and it went on okay.  I basted it together and tried it on.  Disaster!  The square neckline is far too wide for me and almost falls off my shoulders.  Maybe I stretched it? Or maybe I cut it out wrong somehow?  I tried various things (steaming, adding interfacing, sticking a piece in) but just got more and more depressed, then gave up and went to bed feeling miserable.  

The next day I re-drafted the pattern piece with a new narrower, scooped neckline.  I put it on the cut fabric and moved it down until the new neckline fit on, making the whole thing shorter and wider.  Once again I cut it out and basted it together.  It fits!  Hooray! So I cut out the new facings, but after my previous stretching concerns, I took the precaution of adding clear elastic to the neckline first, before adding the facing, just to be absolutely sure.  It looks fine, and with the topstitching actually looks rather good... just not cute and square.  Sigh.

I knew the sleeves were okay having already basted and tried them, so once they were in the next job was making the pockets.  There is no pattern piece, so I drafted mine at 5 1/2" by 7".  You fold down an inch and topstitch.  I basted just inside my sewing line to give me a folding line.  I cut little triangles of Lite Steam-ASeam 2 to hold my mitred corners, then cut some in half lengthways so I had 1/4" strips to hold the seam allowances in place and keep it neat.  (My non-stick Honey Bee Scissors are great for this sort of thing, I was so lucky to get a pair in the U.K.)

I had to re-position them higher as the tunic was shorter now.  I chose to use the tricot stitch to apply the pockets as it sealed up the raw edges inside as well as being both decorative and stretchy.  I liked the turned back cuffs on the sleeves, but worried they would not stay put, so I did a stitch-in-the ditch along the seam to hold them in place.  Now they can only sag on the other side!

It's not creased, that's a shadow as the sun was shining when I took this! The final job was the hem, which I had already overlocked, ready to turn up a scant 1/4" and topstitch. But then I looked at my strip of spare fabric, and I wondered if I could put a mock hem band on the bottom to re-attach the length I had lost?  I decided to give it a try.  

First I matched up the horizontal stripes and cut a front and back, joined them, then pinned and basted them to the hem.  Then I measured to make sure the vertical checks were the same size. I carefully unpicked any bits that didn't match up and corrected them. When I was happy it was right, I stitched it on.  I turned up 1/2" on the raw edge and pressed it, then turned it up 3" as per the original instructions, using some more Lite Steam-A-Seam 2, pressed and top-stitched it.  Here is my finished hem band from the outside.

Here it is on the inside.  I impressed myself with the top-stitching!  I measured and stuck some tape on my machine to give me a guideline to follow, and it worked.  The double thickness gives the hem a bit more weight, so it hangs better, and it's all neatly finished.

I now felt the cuffs were the 'odd-man-out' for not having any top-stitching, so I went back and added it.  Now I know they can't sag down!  That's it, all done, time to see how I look in it.

I am a hands in my pockets sort of girl. To be honest, although the neckline looks nice, it's still quite wide on me. I've put notes on the pattern; the neckline is 1" too wide, the pockets should be bigger (and lower), the tunic could be longer.

The hem band shows, but pardon me for patting myself on the back for doing a good job matching it up!  I'm twisted here, trying to see if the camera has taken the picture yet! The turquoise check has grown on me, but I'm not a great fan of polyester against my skin. It's one of those synthetics that are warm when you are warm, and cold when you are cold, but it's okay as an overshirt.  I'm wearing it now with a t-shirt underneath.  

I notice now that my sleeve should have been stitched in a bit more, as some of the overlocking stitches show under the arm.  But considering how depressed and despairing I'd felt about it, I am really pleased with how it turned out, and I do have a wearable muslin!

Which just goes to show, in the immortal words of Captain Nesmith, sometimes it pays to "Never give up. Never surrender!"

Patternmaking for Knits: Essential Slopers

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Comment by Karen on February 27, 2015 at 11:30am

Hi Katie - I can wear it without a t-shirt, but I'm not keen on the feel of the fabric against my skin as it's rather syntheticy and nylonesque!

Comment by Karen on February 27, 2015 at 11:26am

Hi Mary - yes, I'm new to sewing with knits but I am enjoying the experience.  I am more of a tunic top and jeans person than a dress or skirt nowadays, and I NEED pockets!

Comment by katie on February 26, 2015 at 10:43pm

If you decide to wear it with out the T-Shirt you could add lingerie straps to the shoulder seams, to prevent them from slipping.

Comment by mary on February 26, 2015 at 7:58pm
Thanks you gave me some ideas on finishing the tunic I am making. I just love sewing with knits
Comment by Karen on February 26, 2015 at 5:50pm

Thanks Carol, I've ordered some more stretch jersey to play with as I'm enjoying it so much!

Comment by Carol Skilling on February 26, 2015 at 4:42pm

Very nice job

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