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Spring Top!

May 5, 2011

(Do all of my titles include exclamation marks? I feel like a startling number do. Note to self: Tone down exuberance).

So! This week I actually had a little time to dust off the sewing machine and spend time making some stuff. Thing one on my list was a green top. I’d originally picked up the jersey and the pattern back in February, intending to make a shirt that would match the green in this skirt. But vacations and traveling and life got in my way and I didn’t manage to actually make the darn thing until this week. But it’s made now, and I LOVE it!

One word of warning – while I did START with a pattern this time, I deviated from it quite a bit in the finished product. I’ll detail the changes I made here in case anyone wants to try to reproduce what I did.

Lets dive in!

First, I started with Simplicity pattern 2364. I thought the wrapped shoulders on the shirt were kind of fun – made a plain t-shirt seem more interesting.

Now, one of the biggest thing I’ve learned from my Design It Yourself Clothes book is how important it is to make a muslin. It honestly never occurred to me to make a muslin for a pattern I bought before – after all, these people are pros, right? They KNOW how to make patterns. I, on the other hand…well, it’s a more iterative process. But I thought I’d try it with this pattern, mostly because my upper body measurements tend to be kind of out of whack with each other, and I am SO glad I did. I cut out the pieces out of a striped fabric I had and knocked together a muslin.

Since it was just a muslin, I didn’t bother serging off the seams, and I didn’t hem or press anything – it literally took me about 1/2 hour to get the shirt put together. It was quick, but as a word of warning – not serging the seams definitely meant that there was additional bulk in the finished product, so take that into account when evaluating your muslin.

That’s the first pass. And….ehhhh. It’s okay. There were a number of things I wasn’t thrilled with but as a starting point…okay. The main thing I wanted to make sure of was that the shirt fit nicely across the shoulders and through the armholes – and that part was fine, so I was fairly sure that the pattern size was right.

Before making the shirt for real, I made a list of the things I wanted to adjust.

One of my biggest complaints about the first pass at the shirt was how much material there was in that neck piece, and how far down the side of the shirt it extended – it just felt awkward and bunchy to me. I eyeballed roughly how much I wanted to remove from the width of the neck piece. Then I folded my pattern piece in half, along the center line, and then folded the crease over the amount that I’d eyeballed (maybe an inch and a half) and taped it down.

When I opened the piece up again, I had a narrower version of the same pattern piece, with the symmetry preserved.

For those keeping score at home, you might be thinking “Wait….you folded over the crease the amount that you’d eyeballed even though it was folded in half??” The answer is yes, because when you sew the shirt together, that piece IS folded in half – so the amount that I’d eyeballed was from a folded piece. Make sense?

The other things I wasn’t in love with all seemed like things I could adjust after the shirt was together – things like length, width of the body seemed a little loose, the cowly thing at the top seemed a little too…big? Open? Something? Regardless, they weren’t things I wanted to adjust at the pattern level…so onward!

I went ahead and made the shirt. Before I hemmed the bottom I tried it on and figured out how much I wanted it brought in on the sides, and sewed the new side seams. I decided I wanted the shirt shorter than the pattern called for (seriously…it was REALLY long) – so I shortened it some.

(Please take a minute to admire my crappy self-portrait in the mirror. Awesome.)

I was really happy with the adjustment to the neck piece – the flow of the shirt felt much more natural to me that way, and once the body and length were adjusted I was pretty happy….almost.

My two remaining issues were the cowl neck and the sleeves. The neckline was just way too open. I would have felt like every time I moved I was giving away the farm. I think if you made the shirt out of a tissue jersey or something it might have draped nicely…but I was using a pretty thin 4-way stretch fabric that should have been okay, so I’m really not sure.

I tried pulling the neckline tight and tacking it to the shoulder pieces (you can see it pinned that way in the picture above), which was okay but not ideal. I couldn’t think what else to try so I turned my attention to the sleeves.

I’m not sure if the feed dogs on my machine are just too tight, or what it is…but hemming knits like that ALWAYS seem to pull the hems out of shape, particularly on the smaller circles (i.e. a sleeve). I can sometimes get away with hemming the sleeve pieces first and then sewing the underarm seam in order to keep in neater, but that didn’t work in this case…and sure enough I ended up with sleeves that were just too wide and strange looking. UNHAPPY.

Until I had a flash of brilliance, threw some elastic thread in the bobbin and sewed two lines of elastic around the bottom of the sleeves. AWESOME.

And the awesome from that prompted my husband to say “Why don’t you do that across the top too?” So I added four lines of elastic thread across the top piece (easy, since the ends were hidden by the shoulder wraps) and it brought in the cowl PERFECTLY.

And now, I am in love with the shirt and would like to make several more. Fantastic!

Grab the pattern and give this a go – it’s so much fun!

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Misty permalink
    May 5, 2011 3:17 pm

    I love this shirt. I found your site by looking up this pattern on Flickr. This will be my first time working w/ knits and your pics and tips will really help.

    • May 5, 2011 3:51 pm

      Hey that’s great!! Let me know if you want more detail about what I did – I kind of outlined it in the post, but if you want any more specific help on any of it then drop me a line!

  2. May 5, 2011 9:45 pm

    So cute! Love it! Knowing me, I would have left it longer… 😉 But I really love it, the elastic thread was a stroke of genius.

    • May 9, 2011 6:46 am

      I know I know….but honestly, it was too long – the proportion of the shirt was way out of whack. I could maybe have left it a little longer than I did but really like how it turned out.

  3. Angela Quesnel permalink
    May 14, 2011 10:39 am

    I like your final version of the shirt way better than the original and I love the colour! Great job!

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