Adventures in sweater knits: Vogue 8634 and Jalie 2682

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.

Vogue 8634And, 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.

Jalie 2682This 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.

My full reviews on Pattern Review can be found here (Vogue) and here (Jalie).

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!

  1. Becky said:

    Well, I think your gray top is very flattering. It’s a shame you don’t like it more. I have this pattern and have not used it yet, although I like every top I see made with it. I have not sewn with sweater knits, but I think it is because they just don’t appeal to me in general. The ones that do are out of my price range. I think both of these tops are very cute, but you are like me, you like what you like, and if they are not what you want, then it’s not something to get excited about. It’s nice to see you back! I missed you.

  2. I like the gray one – super flattering! The hot pink is a beautiful color on you. Maybe try going down a size if you ever make it again. I made this same pattern in a sweater knit and do not remember having issues with it. Your fabric would be more cozy if you bought a wool sweater knit. Polyester sweater knit is good for nothing, IMO. Too hot for the summer and too cold for the winter.

  3. Oh yes, that Jalie neck construction is just magic!!! I modified the pattern to remove the empire line and applied the technique using two whole front pieces…works just as wonderfully!, Though the finished top ends up with a centre seam down the front. I made several in a soft cotton jersey rib – theyre my most frequently worn pull-over tops!

  4. lisa g said:

    i think both tops look really nice, that jalie construction (while i can’t totally visualize it…) sounds pretty cool! the extra armpit/boob fabric pooling i also have had a problem with. for me it seems to be a combination of two things– even though i’m 5’8″ i frequently do a petite adjustment up top (just take a horizontal tuck all the way around about 1/3 of the way up the armscye), and having a slight forward shoulder (which means i need less width across the front, and more width across the back). just a few thoughts, not sure if any of this applies to you!

  5. I think both of these turned out pretty nice, though the grey is definitely my fave of the two. 🙂 I wonder if you’d like a sweater knit in a natural fiber better? I found one with a low polyester content once and liked it a lot better than the all poly ones that I see all over the place.

    As for the fitting…..(Note: I’m not a fitting expert!) It seems to me that you maybe need to do a “petite” adjustment between your shoulders and your bust on that Vogue pattern, as well as maybe going down a size (in the front especially) it’s just too wide for you. And I’d say that on the Jalie you just need to narrow up the shoulders some. Do you feel that you have narrow shoulders or are short between your shoulders/bust (i.e. do you really have to shorten bra straps?)

  6. Maybe because it’s the middle of the week, but I’m just having the hardest time visualizing this construction method! It sounds intriguing, though. I agree that sweater knits (especially the ones from Michael Levine Loft!) can be deceiving because of all the holes that air can get through, so even though they’re “thick” I always end up feeling cold. I’m thinking that for the fabric pooling issue (which is no worse than what I get in RTW shirts, so I didn’t notice it at first), maybe shortening it across the the front where the armscye is? As in fold some height out so that the less-curvy armscye part is shorter, if that makes sense.

  7. Myra said:

    I made that Vogue pattern a whirl back and did not like the results either! Albeit, I do like these sweaters on you and agree with Cation Designs that you basically see the same in RTW!

  8. I love the gray top – I’m adding that pattern to my list. I also made the Vogue one and while I like it and wear it, the neckline is super weird. It’s so wide! Also. the cowl falls so low that I have to wear a camisole or you can see down to my belly button when I bend over! The top is so comfy but I end up wearing it more around the house.

  9. grtescp said:

    love the grey top too… I think I will be checking out that pattern, even with your health warning about the instructions!

  10. aleah said:

    Thanks everyone for the fitting suggestions – I think I probably do need to shorten a bit across the front between bustline and shoulder, since I’ve been thinking I do probably have a forward shoulder (too much biking, mayhaps?) and need to start making that adjustment too… it would never have occurred to me to shorten a bodice above the bust, but it makes so much sense!

  11. I know you’re not totally happy with them, but they both look great to me! The Vogue top is a really great colour on you. I actually made that pattern up, and it was a total fail – I got the sizing totally wrong. I think the fit is pretty close on you.

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