This week’s challenge is to “Show some love” to an item in our closets that we don’t wear as much as we could. To do this we were to sew 2 different pieces that can separately coordinate with the unworn item. My answers to this challenge are this floral sheath dress and geometric hem tunic.
My unloved item is this tan knitted Cabi bolero jacket. I picked it up in a consignment store when I was pregnant with my 3rd son. At the time, I thought I’d wear it often due to the fact that bolero jackets by nature don’t approach my then expanding tummy. I loved the flower embellishment, and the tan color is just about my perfect neutral color.
In practice, I never could figure out how to wear this jacket. Every dress I tried to pair it with resulted in a really boring color combination or created an odd silhouette. I also tried pairing it with knit tops. Most of my knit tops have 3/4-length sleeves. Somehow, the combination of a cap sleeve and ¾ length sleeve ended up visually shortening my already short arms. The end result was awkward. Still, I’ve always hung onto this jacket, in hopes that I’d figure out how to wear it another time. My style solutions are this geometric hem tunic and floral sheath dress.
Geometric Hem Tunic
A couple of years ago, I bought a ready to wear tunic. It features this really cool seaming in the front and back that flare out into a geometric hem. I love the lines of this top, but it is at least 4 sizes too big for me and not a good color on me. It’s always been my goal to modify my TNT t-shirt pattern into something very much like this tunic.
To do this, I traced off a fresh copy of my t-shirt pattern (which is Jalie 2921 minus the v-neck and scarf collar, plus the scoop neck of an Ottobre t-shirt). Then, I set my t-shirt pattern over the tunic and traced off the style lines. The tunic was meant for someone with a larger body circumference, but also someone much taller than me. At 5’2.5”, tunics are always a little tricky; they’re usually too long, and I can wear them as dresses.
To get the style lines in a better place for me, I raised the points where the seams intersected. I looked at the points where the lines crossed and hit the side seams proportionally to the length of the original tunic then transferred that to my own proportionally shorter pattern. I also took in the waist considerably. Trying to fit my waist without losing the draping, flared side seams was a bit of a challenge. In the end, I came up with side seams that kept the effect of the original tunic without leaving me swimming in fabric.
I took the majority fabric for this top from a RTW striped cotton/rayon/spandex t-shirt. The weight of this knit is great for a fall/winter tee. Since I had limited yardage to work with, I chose two other knits to coordinate with the stripe: a tan cotton poly jersey, and a peachy pink stretch lace. Mixing knits is one of my favorite things in making t-shirts. One tip for mixing knits is to make sure that the knits are of similar weight and stretch. This way the knits will sew together easily, and you’ll get smooth, pucker-free seams.
The lace sections are underlined with the tan jersey. First, I cut out the pattern pieces from the tan jersey. After that, I overlaid the jersey pieces with the lace and hand basted around the perimeter of the pieces. Then cut lace edges even with the jersey and treat the two fabrics as one.
Lace is also added over the left sleeve. When I had sewn the front to the back as well as the sleeve seams, I noted the height where the lace from the bottom front would hit the sleeve horizontally when the t-shirt was finished. Then I made a quick pattern piece by modifying my sleeve pattern so that it continues the seam line on the lace. I like how the lace has a different look when backed with the stripe vs. the jersey.
I played around with the stripes a little bit by cutting the neck binding on the bias. The striped section on the back also runs vertically. This stripe knit has 4-way stretch, so I knew that turning it as I pleased would not affect the fit because of the additional stretch.
To construct the top, I used my sewing machine and a zigzag stitch to finish. I usually serge all of my knit tops, but with the lace, I wanted a more delicate finish.
I’m really happy with how the bolero works with the long sleeve. Also, because the colors of the bolero are actually in the colors of the knit top, I think they harmonize really well together.
Floral Sheath Dress
For my second coordinate, I chose Ottobre 2-2009-17. It’s a lined sheath dress. I chose this pattern because the floral print does not get broken up by any horizontal seams on the front or back.
For this dress, I used nice midweight cotton batik I had in my stash. The full lining is brown tricot. This pattern has 4 neckline pleats which I secured with invisible hand stitches. There’s so many darts on this pattern! Between the lining, facing, and the fashion fabric, there’s 20 darts to sew!
At the outset, I have to mention that I’m petite. I’m not only shorter than average, but my frame is quite narrow. Typically, I avoid a lot of alterations by grading down the neck and shoulders of all patterns at least one size to a size 32 in European patterns and various sizes in other patterns. I also have to shorten hems and sleeves. These two alterations I do immediately, without question, but sometimes I encounter a more challenging fit problem. Though this is a simple dress in theory, the sleeveless armhole took me a long time to get right.
I’m short proportionally between my shoulder and my bust, so sleeveless armholes always have too much circumference. The end result is that the armholes dip down too low and my bra shows. Not exactly a classy look, and it’s really uncomfortable.
I didn’t have time this week to make a muslin for this dress as I would normally to check the armhole. Instead, I found myself reverse-engineering the fit to get what I needed. Ultimately, I think I ended up with a better fit than the times I’ve tried to conquer sleeveless armholes.
Making a smaller armhole after cutting
To make the armhole smaller (which in turn raises the armhole to an appropriate level), I took out 2″ from the bottom of the armhole, tapering down to zero 3.25″ below into the side seam. There was a little excess fabric in the bust, so I could confidently take out what I needed in the side seam without ending up with an unwearable dress.
The back armhole also was gaping a little, so I pinned out 5/8″ from the back armhole edge. Not wanting to have a visible dart in the back armhole, I rotated this excess out into the shoulder seam. The excess taken out tapers to zero at the back shoulder’s neck edge.
Usually I do horizontal folds out of the front and back and the sleeve if I need to “petite” a pattern, but this raises the neckline. Since the neckline depth was already at a height I liked, I was glad to have discovered an armhole alteration that not only doesn’t affect the neckline, but one that I could change after the fact. There’s some pieces of RTW in my closet that I’m totally pulling out and fixing with these alterations!
The pattern did not have any pockets, so I added 2 single welt pockets on the front.
I also added a vent in the back so that I could walk around with ease.
I really like how the color of the bolero picks up the browns in the floral print. Silhouette-wise, I think the jacket and the dress work really well together too. Though it’s a sleeveless dress, this will be a good transition piece for me into fall. Our falls tend to stay warm for a long time. I can always add a layering tee under the dress for an extra bit of warmth if needed.
I loved making both of these garments! Now I have 2 pieces to combine with a jacket I’ve always wanted to wear!
You can check out the other participants’ entries and vote for my dress and top at the Fabric Mart blog.
When the trench coat challenge this week for the a couple of things ran through my mind. First, I thought about how much I love making jackets, then about how much work a jacket is, but mostly that I wasn’t expecting to make another trench coat so soon after my Jeanius Trench. The upside is that I could start work immediately because my pattern had already been fitted and cut before. An applique trench coat was in the works!
Vintage Vera Applique Trench Coat
One of the things that Fabric Mart wanted to see in the trench coats this week was our personal style. My own style is a bit eclectic. As a sewist, I love modern Euro patterns with lots of detail, but I also love embellishment techniques. I grew up going to antique stores with my Mom. We always called it (and still do) treasure hunting. Because of her I have a serious appreciation for lace, other vintage textiles and accessories.
As an adult, I’ve become a collector of vintage table linens kind of for a really specific reason. I’m a serious baker, and I often make strudel for my very German family. I’m the 5th generation of strudel makers in my family, and one thing you need to make strudel is a proper tablecloth to stretch the dough out on. One thing I noticed is that vintage tablecloths hold the flour better because of their slightly looser weaves. Vintage tablecloth = better strudel–who knew? Once I started collecting tablecloths, napkins soon followed. I love the bright colors and funky prints of old table linens. My Mom jokes that she often wears prints that look like wallpaper. And I’m guilty quite literally of wearing the tablecloth.
One of my favorite linens designers is Vera Neumann. She was a gifted painter who had the smart business sense to put her paintings on household linens and scarves and tablecloths en masse to make a decent living as an artist. I love her sense of color and her bold illustrative mid century style. If I see Vera, I snatch it up! I had always intended to use these particular Vera linen napkins in a garment, but I didn’t really know exactly how to do so.
When it came to the challenge, it became clear that I’d add the flowers from the napkins to my trench coat. This trench coat represents my love for super detailed sewing and vintage linens. It’s pretty much exactly what I wanted to sew.
Click here to vote for your favorite sweater knit garment from this week’s challenge.
This week’s Fabricista Fashion Challenge is “Same fabric, different look.” My fellow participants and I were given 3 yards of this very cool sweater knit fabric to create a garment with our own unique spin. I decided to take the theme literally and used the fabric itself to create two different looks in this velvet trimmed cardigan and flat piping skirt.
One of the cool things about sweater knits is that they often have a totally different look on the right side vs. the wrong side of the fabric. On this particular sweater knit, the effect was pretty striking. The bold, saturated colors on the right side of the fabric became softer, muted tones with a distinctly heathered texture on the reverse side. I was so taken by the wrong side of the fabric that I had to find a way to incorporate it.
Flat piping knit skirt
This particular sweater knit has a lot of good bounce and drape to it, courtesy of the lycra and polyester. I knew it would make a great skirt with a lot of swirl factor. I chose Ottobre 5-2014-10. It’s a 6-gored skirt with cut-on godets that flare out considerably at the bottom to create a beautifully voluminous hem. You get the effect of a gathered skirt without all of the bulk at the waistband.
For the gores, I used the reverse side of the fabric. In between each set of panels, I inserted some flat piping I made from 1″ strips of the right side of the sweater knit. The strips were pressed in half lengthwise. Because this knit has so much body, it wasn’t necessary to add cording to make the piping. The piping adds a nice bit of contrast and highlights the vertical lines of the seaming.
The skirt is lined with brown nylon tricot. The tricot makes the skirt hang nicely without the bother of wearing a fussy slip that’s constantly shifting. The tricot also helps fight the fall/winter static that is so common in my dry cold climate.
I really love the swish factor of this skirt. I don’t think I’ve sewn a sweater knit that was so easy to work with or had such a nice weight to it. This is just the kind of skirt I love to wear with boots and tights in fall.
Velvet Trimmed Cardigan
For my second piece, I made a velvet trimmed cardigan using Ottobre 5-2012-6. This hooded cardigan pattern seemed another good choice to show both sides of the sweater knit.
The hood uses the wrong side of the fabric facing out. I liked the softer shades of the wrong side around my face, and they looked nice against the brown ponte I used for the hood’s lining. The pattern doesn’t call for a lining, but hoods are simple enough to line. Cut the lining 1/4″ from the hem line fold of the hood (7/8″ shorter at the crown of the hood on this pattern). After I pressed the hood’s hem, I sewed the hood lining to the raw edge of the hem from the wrong side. After pressing, I understitched the lining so that it would lay nicely without rolling towards the outside. Then the right side of the lining is flipped to cover the wrong side of the hood. The hood is cleanly finished and hangs better now than an unlined hood.
The pattern called for the hood to be finished with a velvet ribbon at the neck. This not only covers the seam allowances, but it helps stabilize the sweater knit. Sweater knits sometimes stretch out of shape, so it’s always a good idea to stabilize them. On a regular set-in sleeve type pattern, you can stabilize the knits by adding a strip of clear elastic to the shoulders. In a raglan sleeve, where the shoulder hits somewhere IN the sleeve, you need another solution to keep the knit from growing as you’re sewing and wearing it. The velvet ribbon does the perfect job of keeping the knit from stretching.
Hems and velvet trim
To highlight the contrast between the right and the wrong side of the fabric, I pressed up the hems towards the right side of the cardigan. I wanted to use more of the velvet ribbon as a decorative element on the cardigan. The raw edge of the hems is covered with the ribbon. The ribbon sits so that about 1/2 of the width sits covering the hem and the other 1/2 goes into the body of the cardigan. I used the same trim on the sleeves too.
The front corners of the cardigan and the ribbon have mitered corners. If you’re looking for a good tutorial on mitering corners, there’s a good one here from the Colette Patterns blog.
The buttons are vintage pale pink with gold backs from my stash.
I love putting zippered welt pockets in my garments. They’re very secure and add a great decorative element to any garment. I sewed regular zippered welt pockets from the right side using the help of Sandra Betzina’s method from this video.
I lined patch pockets and basted them in place at the top of each zipper. From the right side, I topstitched each pocket bag into place by following my basting lines around the entire pocket.
Sweater knit tips
Interface your hems
Adding a little interfacing to the hems on a sweater knit adds some nice weight. It also helps you press a perfect hem, which might be hard to do on some more synthetic fibers. SewKeysE tape from Emma Seabrooke is my favorite for hems. Just press it to the wrong side of your hem. Next, press along the edge where the top of the tape hits the rest of the garment. Now your hem is ready for stitching. If you’re working with a more sheer knit or one with an open weave, you can use a strip of your sweater knit as a layer of its own interfacing.
Practice your seam finishes
For sweater knits, sewing and finishing a seam at the same time with a serger, might not be the best option. Sweater knits are bulkier and often have more open weaves than regular jersey type knits, so they can stretch and grow in the serger, leaving you with a distorted seam.
To combat this problem, first sew the seams with a stretch needle and then finish the seams. You can use your serger to finish the seam, do a double stitched seam, or you can press the seams open and stitch them flat with tiny hand stitches. I did this kind of finish on the inside of the cardigan because part of the seams shows on the hem. The open seams lay completely flat, and it’s easy to bury your hand stitches in the loft of the knit.
Whatever seam finish you choose, practice with some scraps of the knit to help you decide. Practicing can also help you determine if you have an unruly knit that might need some extra TLC.
Choose the right needle
When you have the right needle, sewing sweater knits is easy. For most sweater knits, I like using a 75/11 stretch needle. Ballpoint or universal needles are some more options. My machine prefers the stretch needles for knits in general, but especially ones with lycra. If you’re working with a more stable sweater knit, a universal needle works great. Practice on those scraps before you start sewing your garment to avoid headaches later in your project!
Check out Fabric Mart’s blog for all of the other entries and vote for me!
If you haven’t heard already, I’m a competitor for the Fabric Mart Fabricista Fashion Challenge!
The contestants in the Fabricista Fashion Challenge have been announced! The first challenge goes live on Friday, stay tuned! While you’re at it, congratulate these amazing seamstresses in making it into the challenge! #Fabricista #fabricmart #fabricistafabricmart #sewing #challenge #fashionchallenge
I’m so honored to be sewing with such a talented crew of ladies, and I love Fabric Mart! Every piece of fabric I’ve ever ordered from them was 1st rate quality, lovely to work with, and a great price. Some of the things I’ve sewn up from their fabric are in the pantheon of my favorite garments such as:
and these Jalie 3022 yoga pants from peach ponte (in my favorite rayon/poly/lycra combo).
So without further ado, here’s this week’s challenge:
This week’s challenge is called, “Same Fabric, Different Look.”
|This fabric is a polyester/lycra blend sweater knit. It is a large geometric print, printed on a heathered gray sweater knit fabric. It is 58/60″ wide. Perfect deep colors and weight for fall! I’ll add to the description that this fabric has a beautiful weight to it with good recovery and drape. It’s a little bouncy in that swirly flowing kind of way.|
Each contestant received 3 yards of the same sweater knit print. Use this fabric to create any garment for yourself, that is flattering, fun and perfect for fall. I get a lot of requests from customers asking how to use sweater knits and this is your chance to show them what to do! Along with making the garment, give the readers at least 3 tips on working/sewing with sweater knits. The tips can be very simple (good for beginners) and/or more complex for more advanced sewers. You could end up saying similar things, but I’m sure you will each have unique insight into sewing with sweater knits, whether you come up with them during the sewing process or through research you did online. If you find info online, please give credit to the place you found it. (Everyone deserves credit!)
Prizes: Winner of this challenge will receive 3 patterns of their choice from our hand-picked pattern collection of Independent Pattern Designers.
Readers can play along too with the challenge:
This week’s challenge is a tough one for you to sew along with since you do not have the fabric. But we aren’t going to leave you in the dust! Your challenge is to make a garment from any sweater knit.