Sewing with Knits : The Sewaholic ‘Renfrew’ top – two versions!

Sewing jersey knit fabric

sewaholic_renfrew_v_neck_versionAs part of my ongoing mission to make clothes I’ll live in and with Winter closing in, my thoughts turned to knits. Two patterns were at the top of my ‘to do’ list; the Linden by Grainline and Sewaholic’s Renfrew. I decided to start with the Renfrew as it was more fitted; that and the fact I wanted to have another go at a V neck. If you’ve read my The Seamstress Tag Post you’ll know that my one and only attempt at sewing a V neck back in the annals of time was a total fail. It was time to conquer the V! Or, y’know, fail again and throw a hissy fit!

pattern_matching_pinning_sewingI went for this weighty Ponte Roma knit from Minerva (see here) with a stripe. A thin stripe, meaning I had to pay attention when cutting out to ensure that the pattern pieces were placed so the stripes would match up at the seams. I cut out on the single fold because even the tiniest amount of fabric shifting whilst cutting out would have thrown off the alignment. When it came to sewing, I pinned at every stripe and used my walking foot.

Renfrew neckband sewaholic

With regards the neckband, cuffs and waistband I also had to think about how I wanted to play with the stripes. I decided to match the cuffs and waistband to the lines of the corresponding sleeve and bodice pieces. With the neckband however I decided to cut this piece out so I would have a clearly delineated and contrasting single line showing. There’s a great post on this (here) which also covers sewing it in.

Sewing a v neck

The V neck isn’t 100% perfect, I reckon I’m a stitch or two out from a sharp V at the bottom. Honestly I contemplated faffing with it but decided to take it as a win over my previous attempt and left it at that. I’m glad I did.

The way the pattern has you finish off the sleeves and hem with cuffs and band is so simple; if you’re cautious of knits I reckon this pattern would be a good place to start. I sewed the whole thing up on my sewing machine using a ballpoint needle and a 1.5 wide X 2.2 length zigzag stitch at the seams. Even though it’s not strictly necessary to finish knit seams as they don’t fray, I went ahead and finished them on my overlocker. The neckband was topstitched with an even zigzag at 2.5 X 2.5.

The resulting top is a heavyweight champ. I’ve worn it out in zero degrees without a coat and survived to tell the tale!

The only pattern alterations I made were to adjust for my (lack of) height on this first version by taking out 2.5″ from the length of the bodice and 1.5″ from the sleeve after checking the pattern pieces against a RTW top I had. However, for my second version I decided I wanted something rather different, showing just how versatile this pattern is.

Renfrew top by Sewaholic sewing pattern review

Firstly, I wanted to see how it would look in a lighter weight knit with a lot more drape and stretch. I wanted it to feel oversized (without being!), cosy and luxurious and so I opted for this gorgeously soft fabric from a local supplier. I decided on the round neck, took nothing from the bodice length and only removed 1″ from the sleeve this time so that I could either hide my hands in them or have them pool slightly at the cuff. The only thing I would say is, if your knit has much more stretch than the pattern recommends consider reducing the length of the neckband a bit, or if your fabric is very very stretchy perhaps cutting this piece in the direction of least stretch would help do it’s job of holding the neckline to the body?

I adore this one. I feel like I’m wrapped up in a warm cloud of snuggly loveliness which, let’s face it, is what we want on cold dark dreary Winter days. Now I just need half a dozen more…there is a cowl neck version and perhaps a short sleeved version would be nice for when Spring rolls in but, for now, the Linden is calling!

Until next time!

Sew Sarah smith

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Sew Over It Anderson Blouse Pattern Review

sew over it Anderson blouse

Sew over it Anderson blouse sewing pattern review

I’ve got a whole bunch of Sew Over It patterns in my stash; a Christmas gift last year but none, prior to this make, that I’ve sewn up yet. I’d had my eye on this one for a while but it was a PDF pattern which put me off. The nanosecond it was released as a kit with a printed pattern I snapped it up.

So it was with excitement and, yes, some trepidation, that I embarked on this one. I love the way this blouse looks on Lisa Comfort and, of course, I’m all over the ‘Gillian Anderson’ inspiration behind it. However my major concern was, given the amount of ease and fabric involved, it would merely translate in a garment that swamped me – there’s no way I’m ‘willowy’ enough to wear it as drafted! Hence the trepidation. So, I embarked on a muslin, going down a size to account for the amount of ease, fabric and drape.

sew over it anderson blouse

Much as I’m always tempted to just ‘dive in’, making a muslin of a new pattern proved again to be a worthwhile step. With the partly-constructed blouse now in my hands, for example, the wording of the instructions stumped me momentarily in a couple of places, i.e. in relation to the grown on facings and neck binding.  To clarify, there’s nothing remotely complicated in terms of actual construction here – it’s a simple process – it’s just that I had to mentally re-word the instructions in those places. The black and white photographs weren’t always as demonstratively clear as I would have liked either. Or maybe I was just being a bit ‘slow on the uptake’ that day! I enjoyed the little bit of hand stitching involved (slip stitching the neck binding and cuffs down) as this always makes me slow down and constructively contemplative.

The whole thing came together reasonably quickly.  Draping the now finished muslin on my dummy I stepped away from it for a few days. Coming back to it I decided whilst at least wanting the option of wearing the blouse untucked, I didn’t want to incorporate the drawstring. Aiming to further reduce bulk in the area (I’m narrower in the hip) I also decided to remove a further 3″ or so from the circumference of the hem, by taking out approximately 1.5 cm from each side, as roughly demonstrated here:

Sew Over It Anderson Blouse

Whilst the quality and beautiful drape of the fabric supplied by Sew Over It in the kit undoubtedly further aided the hang of the hem without the drawstring, I decided that without it the hem needed ‘substantiating’ somehow as the fabric was just sooo floaty and fluid! Too floaty for my liking really. I initially sewed in transparent (swimwear) elastic within the hem allowance in an attempt to to do this and to also try and recreate the soft pulled-in ruche effect the drawstring would have brought to the hem, but without adding back the unwanted bulk. This was only marginally successful. I think it would have worked perfectly if I’d stretched the elastic out more as I sewed it in but I ended unpicking the whole thing, sewing a hem casing and simply inserting the least bulky elastic I had in my stash. And it works.

sew over it Anderson blouse

sew over it Anderson blouse

I’d do a few things differently if I sew this up again; I’d perhaps reinforce the sleeve cuffs with some very lightweight woven interfacing – I think I’d like a tad more rigidity there given how light the fabric is, to further emphasise the cut and pooling of the sleeves; a feature of the pattern I really like. As regards gaping at the front crossover, you will need to secure it here, as recommended in the pattern, with a couple of hand stitches to prevent it falling/blowing open, especially if you’re using such a lightweight drapy fabric. It will also help the folded facings stay turned to the inside. Next time, I’d use a slightly weightier fabric and cross it over further than the pattern suggests. If I’d drafted this pattern I would have had the front panels meeting the side seams, with the hem seam allowance sewed to the inside of the two front pieces, if you know what I mean, whilst shaped to still allow for the nicely draped cleavage.

sew over it Anderson blouse

In short, I am pleased with how it’s turned out. There are elements of the pattern I really like such as the gathers at the shoulder which create a beautiful drape across the chest yet the back neck and shoulders fit flush; I adore the cuffs, the pooling of the sleeve and the shoulder slope. However, that said, I don’t reach for it as often as I’d hoped; I find it such a faff having to press the grown-on facings just so in order for the blouse to hang properly in the wear. If you’re planning to make this and only wear it tucked in, I’d say go for it. However, I can’t 100% get behind the hem/drawstring finish.

Until next time…the awkward selfie!

Sarah x

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SewSarahSmith finished the Sew Over It Anderson Blouse