I’ve been spending a lot of time working on clothing lately. A couple of tops for me (a Wiksten Tova and a Renfrew Tee), pajamas for the boy, and two new pajama pants for the girl. I’ve also got a leotard and bathrobe for Alexis on the blocks, and lots of fabric for more shirts for myself. If only I still had the motivation to get through that stack!
But today I’m going to tell you about my favorite piece so far. I’ve made a couple of Tova tops before out of quilting cotton. One of them I really like (and actually wear) but both are bit tight in the shoulders and underarms. The one I like less is really really tight despite my letting it out by nearly 3/8 inch all around. But I think if I went up a size, the rest of the shirt would just drown me. So even though I real like the pattern, I put it away for a while. Then I saw this top on pinterest. (You can see some of my other fashion — if you can call it that! — inspiration here.)
That version is actually the dress from the pattern, but I just loved the clean comfortable lines of it. It goes wonderfully with jeans. Perfect for work. So I went in search of a pretty gray wool and was determined to figure out how to broaden the back/shoulders of the pattern. Instead, I came home with a gray knit. The pattern is NOT made for knit fabrics. Which I knew, and I blatantly ignored my brain when it told me that I was nuts.
Of course that meant that I had lots of trouble sewing this shirt up. First of all, this is the first knit I’ve used that flat out wouldn’t work with a ball point needle. Skipped stitches galore! After some research (and rethreading and cursing and searching for a new machine and more rethreading and cursing), I found what I needed. On Black friday (of all days!) I headed to the local Hancock to buy ONE package of micro point needles. I had to wait in line for over 45 minutes for that little package of needles that cost me all of $2… but I was determined!
Once home, the difference was amazing. The clunk clunk clunking the machine had made before was minimized. (The serger still sounded like a train wreck, but at least it wasn’t skipping, too.) So what was going on that this magic thin needle helped? Turns out sometimes knits like this one don’t allow the needle to punch all the way through, which means the bobbin thread isn’t caught and thus skipped stitches. Have you ever had trouble pinning a certain fabric? Yeah, that’s the same issue. (Solved that one by getting these awesome pins from clover recommended by Sunni at A Fashionable Stitch.) BTW, I also read that you can solve this problem by putting a piece of waxed paper or tear out interfacing underneath the seam you are sewing to support the fabric so that it won’t stretch, but these were some long seams and I didn’t want to deal with tearing and moving paper all the way down.
I’d originally cut the pattern as the dress as my inspiration photo showed, but it was SO long, so I ended up cutting it off at the original hemline for the “top” version.
I also made a few changes to the pattern on the fly. First of all, I basted everything by hand before sewing it at the machine. (You can see my lovely red basting stitches in the sleeve photo above.) Also, you can imagine, top stitching through multiple layers of a thick (already persnickety) knit is no picnic, so after sewing the placket and collar, I decided to install the sleeve cuffs differently. I only folded the cuff, matched it to the edge of the sleeve and serged around it. I skipped all the quilt-binding style sewing and top stitching and I couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome.
On the hem, I simply serged around the bottom, and then planned on using a twin needle to sew it down. But, alas, the micro point twin needle did NOT alleviate the skipped stitches problem, and in the end (after several false starts and unpicking), I just sewed two lines of regular straight stitching. They aren’t perfect, but close enough. Lastly, the placket is much more floppy than it is when made from a woven, so I ended up needing to tack it closed about 2 inches up from the bottom.
This shirt is SO comfortable and isn’t tight through the shoulders at all. It’s my favorite shirt at the moment and I’ve been searching for another great knit so I can have another one!