Dec 22, 2012

two renfrews and some thoughts on sewing with knits

Until recently, I was too scared to bother much with knit fabric.  In fact, I stuck to quilting cotton for the most part, and that works great for little girl dresses.  When I decided that I wanted to learn to sew a bit for myself, I realized that I had to branch out.  I'm still making plenty of bad fabric choices, but I am learning along the way, and that's what really counts, right?

The Renfrew top is probably the most perfect t-shirt pattern ever.  There are three necklines and three sleeve lengths to choose from, so it can work year round.  I bought this one a few months ago and immediately went to work on my first top.  It didn't make the blog back then because I felt like it didn't turn out all that awesome, although I still wore it a few times.  The more I wore it though, the more I didn't really like it, but I refuse to be defeated.  After a close inspect, I realized that I made a few bad decisions with my first Renfrew, so I made another one, and I WIN.

Renfrew #1:
Yeah, I do look a little strange.  I was probably talking about how annoyed I was with that shirt.

Mistake #1: My first mistake was due to my own ignorance and laziness.  I didn't research anything about shoulder stabilizers, nor did I go to a fabric store and look for stabilizers.  I dug around in my box of notions and came up with bias tape.  Bias tape is a bad idea.  I should have known that...bias tape is meant to stretch.  And it will not keep shoulder seams from stretching (see shoulder slippage in the picture above).

Mistake #2: I didn't have any dark purple thread in my stash, so I used light purple.  I also used a zigzag stitch to sew my seams, which is what most people recommend to allow the seam to stretch a bit.  Light purple thread plus a zigzag stitch equals visible stitches and all around ickiness.

That is just bad.

Mistake #3: I chose a really cheap, awful knit.  You can see in the picture above that it is already pilling up, and I haven't worn this shirt that much.  The fabric stretches as it is worn so that by the end of the day, I was swimming in this shirt.  And, it is thin and clingy, which meant that it created a post-two-babies belly pooch...which, obviously, isn't there normally...(*cough*cough*ahem

The fabric was the major culprit for this failed Renfrew.  I didn't really know what I should look for at first, so I just picked out a few different knits to experiment with.  That solid purple didn't work, but I also bought a thicker, more stable pink and purple houndstooth that worked beautifully as an Oliver and S Sailboat Top for Cara:

This top has gotten a ton of wear, and it has held up really well.  I used a zigzag stitch for the seams on this one too, and none of the stitches showed on the outside.

Seam success!

Anyway, lessons learned.  For my new top, I bought a bright pink cotton pique knit that had a lot more weight and stability.  I also bought matching thread and stay tape for the shoulder seams.  And look at the awesomeness of Renfrew #2:

The heavier fabric works better with the cowl collar too--it stands on its own just a bit without being floppy. I decided to try out a regular straight stitch for the seams this time, and I think it works fine.  

smooth shoulder seam--no stitches peeking through this time!

yay Renfrew!


  1. Lovely! I have definitely learned that not all knits are created equal. The cheap ones are definitely not worth the cheap price. It's better to spend a little more money and buy a higher quality knit.

  2. Beautiful! I agree quality and weight are really important! x

  3. Absolutely!
    I am a knit newby but good quality knit makes a huge difference.
    Super cute top.

  4. Since I am probably the worst sewer in the world... This is awsome.,.

  5. Oh my gosh, so awesome! I need to work up the courage to attempt some clothes for myself. The most I've ever done is alter my own clothing to be shorter/less baggy, etc. Way to go!

  6. Such a great job Jessica! I so wish I could make my own clothes.

  7. This looks great-I'd suggest using lightning stitch ('L'shaped instead of 'V'-it is invisible but a pain to rip through if you mess up) on the seams and stretch stitch (V) on the hems.

  8. love it! Also love the tiny Cara shirt. Maybe after I lose a few more pounds I will attempt sewing myself something. Right now, I am embarrassed at the required yardage. Sigh.

  9. love it! Also love the tiny Cara shirt. Maybe after I lose a few more pounds I will attempt sewing myself something. Right now, I am embarrassed at the required yardage. Sigh.


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