Stripey Renfrew, or, how to make an easy pattern hard

Because I seem to be committed to avoiding all Sewaholic sewalongs entirely, I ignored my freshly cut out Minarou jacket and decided to put together the Renfrew top instead. Easy, quick project, right? Ha ha, not when you’re sewing after midnight! First lesson learned: more sewing mistakes happen when you’re tired. I would say my rate of use of the seam ripper on this project was roughly three times as high as usual. Example of stupid mistake: after moving the needle position to more easily topstitch the neckline, I forgot to move it back before sewing the sleeves on, which resulted in a too-big seam allowance. Rip! Second lesson in complicating an easy project: fun design ideas are not always worth having to ignore the pattern directions for. I’d had a contrast stripe neckband/cuff idea in my head ever since awesome, awesome Mondo made this look on his first season of Project Runway (I still want that skirt fabric too), and when the Renfrew top pattern came out I thought, perfect! It’s got cuffs already! And I could do contrast stripes on the bottom too! Well, it ended up okay ultimately, but it turns out those grainline markings are there for a reason…

(Sidebar: you may not be able to tell from this picture that it was taken during the 30 mph winds we had yesterday, and I hope you can’t tell from the picture that my nose is all red from blowing it constantly, since I seem to have suddenly developed just the end of a cold [you know, the really unpleasant part] this weekend.)

First off, this is clearly a good pattern. I had some trouble with it, all of which was certainly my fault, and which I will outline here so you can just make a top and not have an ordeal instead… I started by cutting a size 6 at top and bottom, blending out to an 8 in the waist, to follow my measurements on the chart. But the top is a little small across the shoulders, so I probably should have cut an 8 on top too. I maybe have broader shoulders than Tasia, or at least than the shape she’s drafting for. I don’t generally find my shoulders are too broad for the size for my bust measurement on the big 5 patterns, so it’s just something I’ll remember about Sewaholic (unfortunately I’ve already cut my Minarou, so I’ll probably take a smaller seam allowance in the shoulder area when I sew it). I also prefer my shirts a little longer than this, so I’ll add an inch or two next time. The fit at the hip would be fine if I hadn’t so blatantly ignored the grainline marking to cut the hem band with the stripes going the opposite direction. It fits, but without the extra stretch it’s a little tight. The less-stretch on the cuffs is fine (and the sleeve overall fits great), but the off-graininess gave me the most trouble on the neckline. The first time I put in the neckband, I was tired and in a hurry (after midnight!), so I got an uneven gathered look around the front. So I tore it out and tried again, more carefully, and got it to go in okay. It was sticking out kind of funny, but I topstitched around it anyway to see if that would help. Nope:

That neckband was just sticking straight out in front. I can only assume this was an unforseen grainline issue, and I was almost ready to give up on the idea of contrast stripes at the neckline, tear it out and cut a new, on grain neckband, when it occurred to me that maybe I could turn the neckband down and stitch it in place, like a binding.

Aha! Not perfect, but wearable (those gathers mostly disappear when it’s worn). And design concept preserved! Of course, it did mean that this simple top took me five late nights and a bit of Monday afternoon to finish… so much for an easy diversion. Oh well. I will definitely make more Renfrews in the future – but I solemnly swear to follow all the grain lines!

My full pattern review is here.

  1. I like that design concept a lot!

  2. Valerie said:

    Cute top. I like all the contrasting bands.

  3. It looks awesome from here and I can’t tell that anything is too tight or gathered looking. I really like the play on stripes you achieved. And this pretty much describes ALL of my sewing progress – or lack of – in the past few months. Sew a seam, rip it out… Too bad I find sewing so addictive or I would certainly give it up!

  4. Amy said:

    Well, it looks lovely regardless of how challenging it mIght have been. I just love this pattern!

  5. Molly said:

    New visitor here (I came to look at your V8511 – one of the best versions I’ve seen!) and stuck around to read some more. The stripey fabric caught my eye in your new year post and I thought “Oh my, what will you do with that?!” Now I see it as your t-shirt, it looks great! From the finished result, you’d never know you had all those sewing/fitting issues, I especially love the change in stripe directions. Great use of pattern and fabric.

  6. Ooh, your Renfrew definitely caught my eye (and made me follow you over here from the Sewaholic Flickr group)! What a shame to hear about the fitting issues and all the unpicking. The off-grain stripes that gave you so much trouble really make the top look wonderful, if it’s any consolation!

    Really interesting to hear about your experience with the pattern’s shoulder with. I usually have to adjust for narrow shoulders, and on the Renfrew I didn’t have to. I thought I was imagining it, but maybe the pattern really is a bit scant there. Huh!

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