I’m still playing catch-up with posts (which is good since I have not sewn a stitch in over a week! – too crazy at work), so here’re two tops I whipped up before Christmas. I had never sewed with a sweater knit, so when I came across a couple pieces in the piles at Michael Levine Loft in LA I picked them up, thinking they’d make good cozy tops for my holiday travels to colder climes. I wasn’t sure about what patterns would pair well with sweater knits, but I theorised that tops without neckband finishing would be ideal, since sweater knits are not the most elastic of the knit fabrics and I didn’t want to mess about with neck bindings or bands.
To that end I started with Vogue 8634 for the thicker magenta piece. I’ve had this pattern for forever (purchased, obviously, because it features two of my favorite design elements: cowl neck and empire seam), but somehow I never managed to get it to the top of the queue. The cowl neck is my favorite solution to the I-can’t-bind-a-neckline-in-this-fabric dilemma, so it seemed a no-brainer.
And, well, it’s okay. I thought I would like this pattern more, given the legions of positive reviews on PR, but it just doesn’t quite work for me. The raglan sleeves, which are usually a feature I like, seem to slide off my shoulders somewhat, and the neckline seam where the cowl attaches hits wider than my bra straps, which seems a bit wide. I’ve got a bunch of fabric pooling between my armpit and my boob (any ideas why this is? It happens to me a fair bit. Is it a small bust thing? Wrong pattern size?) and the armsyces are rather low for my taste. The empire line serves no purpose, it’s just a design detail (and one I like, so I didn’t omit it as many folks have), but in this thickish fabric the topstitching just looks kinda amateurish. I’m not sure if a different size or some fitting or a different fabric would make me like the pattern more, but the whole point of this kind of pattern is to make a quick knit top without much futzing, so I don’t know that it’s worth the effort to find out. There are a thousand cowl neck top patterns out there (and I may actually own about 900 of them), so I’ll probably just move on.
For my second piece of sweater knit, not wanting to make another cowl, I cast about for a different no-neckband style pattern. Enter Jalie 2682, which I bought a long time ago when I had a coupon at PR and then promptly forgot about. Well, that is, I forgot it could be used to make a normal top, since I bought it to try my hand at making a bike jersey using the sleeveless, zippered neck option (I still hope to get to that this summer!). But when I pulled the pattern out again and really looked at it, I realised it would be perfect for a fabric that’s tricky to work with.
This pattern is frigging ingenious. When I finally deciphered the instructions (which are printed sideways in a corner of the pattern sheet, in small print, with all the diagrams separate from the text and labeled with numbers to correspond with the steps, which I hate), I totally fell in love with the construction method. Basically you cut two identical front pieces, lay them right sides together, stitch a line right down the middle, then fold it over (like a butterfly) and the line of stitching in the middle becomes the center seam and the fold the finished the neckline. Brilliant. Plus it goes together super fast. I so loved this pattern when I was assembling it, but sadly I liked it less once I put it on. Don’t get me wrong, I do think this top is a win, I’m just not as over the moon about it as I thought I would be. I wanted slash assumed that this top would end up a little dressier, but the pattern is kind of sporty to begin with, and with this fabric it turned out more casual than I’d've liked. Not helping matters is the fact that I had to finish the sleeves with cuffs since I wasn’t paying attention when I was cutting and the bottom of one sleeve got placed on an already-cut-out section of fabric… oops. I think I would like to revisit this pattern at some point, maybe in a drapey knit to see if the neckline behaves differently and if I can get it to look a little fancier. Meanwhile I’m going to see if I can incorporate this bodice construction into, like, everything I make ever. Mind. Blown.
But now some thoughts on sweater knits: I’m not sold, I have to say. The thicker fabric made both of these tops not look as dressy as I wanted, and while casual tops are fine, they should at least be cozy, which these tops aren’t really either! The looser knit of the fabric makes the shirts slightly drafty, unfortunately, and despite feeling thick and springy to the touch, when worn the fabrics are both thin enough to show every lump and bump (I had to scrap a whole set of photos taken with another pair of pants because the fly and beltloops were showing right through the shirts). So I’m glad I gave sweater knit a try, but I think I’ll be sticking to regular jersey and doubleknits in the future!