Sewing with sweatery knits is often full of surprises and sometimes takes a bit of creative thinking. So is the story of this Tabula Rasa Knit Tee that I made last week. The fabric really did present some challenges, but the finished product is going to fill a big hole in my wardrobe.
First, let’s talk about the fabric. It is a beautiful buttery yellow silk knit I ordered from Sawyer Brook Fabrics. I bought one yard of the cabled knit and one and a half yards of the coordinating pointelle knit. When they arrived, I immediately took them to my scarf drawer to see if the color matched two of my favorite vintage scarves. Every year when the seasons change I see these scarves in the drawer and think, “Why can’t I find a top that is the right color, weight (not too heavy or hot) and fit?” Luckily, the color was perfect. Now the challenge is to design the perfect top to complement the scarves.
Second, the fabric had to be washable. I wanted to wear it for Thanksgiving and other fall gatherings where I would need to be both hostess and kitchen maid. The fabric care instructions were described as “cold wash gentle, lay flat to dry”. I serge finished the raw edges of the lovely yardage, which created a bit of a bumpy mess, and prewashed it in cold water on the knit/gentle cycle of my washer. Then I reshaped it and dried it flat as directed. I think it got a bit wider and a bit shorter in the washing and drying, but I had bought enough to accommodate a little shrinkage. Before cutting, I tumbled it in the dryer with cool air and steamed the fabric as flat and uniform as possible.
We have become used to knit fabrics with a little spandex which makes designing with knits easy. This lovely sweater knit had no return stretch. So, how best to design and make a Tabula Rasa Tee that meets my Thanksgiving requirements using these two fabrics to their best potential? These questions arose in my mind:
- Where should I place each fabric? It would be best if most of the seams are hidden under the dense, more stable cabled knit.
- How do I make a sleeve that will stay up when pushed or rolled back during kitchen duty?
- How can I design the top so the hip and hem area can easily be adjusted if the fabric stretches out of shape with wear or in the process of construction?
After a couple days of thought, I made a plan of action that seemed to address each question:
- Cut the front, sides and back from the cable knit so the darts and seams are hidden inside. Use the pointelle for the sleeves, hem finish and neckband.
- Add some fullness to the poinetelle sleeve so it will drape gracefully and finish it with a cuff of the cable fabric. Insert wide elastic into the cuff to provide the stretch needed to wear the cuff gracefully at the wrist or pulled up for kitchen duty.
- Add a border of pointelle to each section of the body before constructing the sweater tee. The border will be turned up to form a hem finish after the top is constructed. This will make alterations easier, if they are necessary. I can simply release the topstitching anchoring the hem, take in the seams that need to be adjusted, and restitch the adjusted hem.
Fuse a strip of very soft fusible tricot to the unstable edge of each poinetelle border and serge finish it before constructing the top and topstitching the hem to the cable knit side of the Tee.
These decisions meant I needed to do a bit of sleeve pattern work. I copied my sleeve pattern from my Tabula Rasa Knit pattern and added 2” of width to the sleeve to create the soft look I wanted. This extra width was gathered up between the notches so it fit into the body of the sweater. I used the selvage of the cable knit to make the finished 1¼” wide cuff. (The cuff was cut to match the width of the sleeve and it was 3¼” deep.)
I used the hem edge of the front, back and side pattern pieces to cut the 3¼” wide hem borders. I fused one long edge of each border section with a 1/2” strip of interfacing and serge finished it before stitching the unfinished edge to its corresponding sweater piece. These seams were pressed toward the cabled body before following the Tabula Rasa Knit Tee instructions to construct the top.
It turned out quite well. I now have a soft, cozy looking, washable top with full but functional sleeves. It is comfortable and drapes softly over my bumps and curves. Now I just have to decide which scarf to wear for my family’s Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday, Nov. 30. I’ll try to remember to post a photo on Facebook so you can see how it looks.
What knit challenges have you solved creatively? Have you made something new to wear for your family’s holiday get together?
Happy Sewing. RAE