Kwik Sew 3242: My Summer T-Shirt

Since I last posted at the end of May, my plan for summer sewing has been to create several simple TNT patterns for short sleeved or sleeveless summer tops. I always have a shortage of casual tops that I think fit me nicely. Knit tops also ought to be fast and easy to make, especially since I now have both a serger and a coverstitch machine.

k3242

KS3242 as seen through a dusty mirror.

That has not kept me from working at a glacial pace, however. The photo above is the final version of the t-shirt I was tissue fitting in my last post. I found pin-fitting helpful; looking at how the tissues fit on my dress form convinced me that I needed more width at the hip, so instead of grading from XS at the shoulder to S at the bust to M at the hip, I went right ahead and graded to L at the hip.

It was the right choice. The top definitely hangs better on me with more room at the hem. I actually think that is the biggest benefit I got from sewing my own tee: I have tiny, narrow shoulders, so nothing that I buy in stores that fits me at the top fits well at the bottom, leading me to sport some kind of wicked wrinkles no matter what I wear.

The first version I sewed, however, was still too wide at the neckline. I made a second version, taking an inch out of the center front and back at the neckline (tutorial linked below).

I took a long time on this top not because it was difficult, but because I paused each step along the way to figure out what was causing the “problems” I was seeing. It wasn’t clear to me what was a pattern shortcoming, what was a fitting problem, and what was wonky technique (like attaching a neck band wrong).

I am pleased with the result I got, and I learned a great deal. Here is my review:

Pattern Description:
Handkerchief pull-on skirt with yoke and elastic waist for soft, lightweight woven fabrics. Pullover knit top for stretch knits.

Pattern Sizing:
XS-S-M-L-XL

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
Somewhat. I modified the pattern and added bands, but the general shape was the same.

Were the instructions easy to follow?
I didn’t follow the directions except to look at the suggested order of assembly. It is a very straightforward top, only two pieces plus bands.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
The pattern is extremely simple. I like the wide, scoop neck, which I find flattering. It isn’t boxy, especially once I had graded to my proper measurements, which means that it is more flattering than many tshirts I’ve owned.

Fabric Used:
Heavy cotton knit with 25% stretch across the grain.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
I traced XS around the neck and into the armscye, grading to a S to the waist, then out to a M at the hip. The first version I made was still too big at the neck/shoulder, so I used this tutorial. Looking back, I think I took about an inch out of the front and also from the back, which is more than the tutorial recommends. Whoops. No harm done, though, I think. I straightened the grain lines. The second version of the top fits much better and does not gape at the neck.

Instead of following the pattern’s directions, I added bands at the neck and armholes. The bands give the top a more casual look than the pattern envelope shows, I think. The shoulder seams are curved, meaning that the top should sit right at the edge of the shoulder. It does fit that way on me, but the addition of bands means there is a bit of extra width that stands out from my body.

If I sewed it again, I would add an inch or two to the hem to give a bit more leeway to adjust the length. I felt like the top hit me in the perfect spot . . . before I hemmed it.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
Yes, I would sew this top again. It is simple enough to make in a couple hours and fits me better than many store-bought tops. I suspect that a pattern with separate sleeves would look a little nicer, however. Or perhaps I should consider following the directions on this one, making it without the bands!

Conclusion:
A super-simple top that gave me a good fit.

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Kwik Sew 3740 – Finally!

Kwik Sew 3740

 

Pattern Description: 
Close-fitting knit tops with a scoop neckline. View A has a cowl collar and full-length sleeves. View B is sleeveless with self-fabric bindings to finish the neckline and armholes. I made View A.

Pattern Sizing:
XS-S-M-L-XL. I made an S. Since I tend to have narrow shoulders, I considered doing an XS. However, the small is quite fitted and it’s probably good I didn’t go smaller. The shoulders are a smidgen wide on me, however.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
Yes, very much so, though I think the neckline looks lower on my shorter, less-busty frame than it looks on the model.

Were the instructions easy to follow?
The instructions were super-easy to follow. This was my first ever knit top and I put it together on my serger and sewing machine in one afternoon with no mistakes.

I do think that, considering how elementary the pattern is and how likely it is that beginner sewists will make it that Kwik Sew could have explained how you pin together the shoulder and sleeve pieces. I can imagine other beginners being a bit thrown because the two pieces have concave and convex curves.

The drawing in the instructions shows the pieces laid side-by-side, which is quite clear about how the pieces fit together. But I believe that to match the sleeve and shoulder pieces with right sides together (so that you can serge the seam on the inside rather than the outside of the top), you actually have to lay the sleeve over the collar (with the wrist pointing towards the other shoulder.

One thing I did differently than the instructions was reinforcing the neckline. The pattern calls for you to put some fusible interfacing on the front shoulder pieces only. I was worried that my very-stretchy knit would get out of shape or droop with it’s own weight unless I gave it a bit more support. Therefore, I fused interfacing to both shoulders and around the neckline, front and back. There’s no way for me to know whether this will help prevent the neckline from drooping . . . but even as it is, the neckline is low enough that I would not welcome sagging.

A note: at one point in assembling this top, it becomes difficult to differentiate the upper collar and the lower collar, because you have both right-sides facing out when you attach the cowl to the neckline. If you put the wrong piece “facing up” then you will have a visible seam, so it’s important to get this right. I made sure to place a safety pin through the upper collar piece so that I could quickly confirm that I had the right side up when I pinned the cowl onto the top. I wonder if some of the other reviewers who report a visible seam on the finished top may have accidentally attached the cowl upside-down.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
Likes:
– Quick, easy, fits me fairly well out of the package with no alterations. I’m willing to wear it in public.

Dislikes:
– None.

Kwik Sew 3740

Fabric Used:
I used an extremely light weight (synthetic) jersey knit. It is machine-washable, and I think it is rayon. It is so light and stretchy that it might have made a good, drapey dress.

Since it is so light, the cowl lies flat to my body. If you want your cowl to stand up like on the pattern envelope, you should use a heavier knit.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
None. Looking at the fit, I might narrow the shoulders ever so slightly. I’d also raise the neckline a bit, if I could figure out how to adjust the cowl pieces . . . as it is, the top looks a bit more formal/night-on-the-town than I had intended.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
Yes, absolutely. I can see myself making multiples of this top, and doing variations on the views (For example, a sleeveless version of View A).

I also think that this could be lengthened into a very nice, simple knit dress.

Conclusion:
Finally, a pattern that worked for me right away. Until I made this, I was getting very frustrated with fit issues. This and KwikSew 3115 are my best-yet projects.

Review: First Top – Simplicity 8523

Simplicity 8523

Pattern Description:

A collection of pullover woven t-shirts, sleeveless or with sleeves, with neckline variations: jewel, scoop, square, and v-neck. The jewel-neck tops come with a separate back-piece (center seam + a short zipper at the top).

Pattern Sizing:

8-10-12. I made View F. The tissue points out that the top has 11″ of ease at the waistline. Because of that huge amount of ease, I cut my first muslin at a size 8 from top to bottom. That didn’t work, because the pattern does not have 11″ of ease at the hip. It is almost straight up and down. For my second muslin, I graded out from size 8 at the waistline to size 12 at the hem, but the top was still too narrow at the hip for my figure.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?

Yes and no. The shirt is the same, but the drawings on the envelope use model poses (hands on hips or leaning to one side) and careful shading to make the top look less boxy. The line-drawings on the back give a more accurate rendition of the shape of the garment. The front of my finished garment is pictured above. Here are the side and back views.

Were the instructions easy to follow?

I had no problems with the instructions. They were very clear, and this is the first top I’ve sewn (first neckline, first armholes, first facings for either of those).

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?

I like the idea of the pattern–it’s a versatile, basic top. However, it is far too boxy to be flattering or to feel right on me. I feel like I’m wearing scrubs when I put it on!

Fabric Used:

A burgundy-and-purple, large-starburst-patterned cotton from Jo-Ann. The cotton is very soft (not stiff like quilting cotton) and therefore has a nicer drape than the cotton I used for my muslins. I think the soft drape was important. The final shirt skimmed my body better than the muslins.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:

I worked hard to get a good fit on this, making 2.5 muslins and consulting at length with others on PR (thank you so much!). I never got a result I was happy with. You can read about my attempts to make this top in detail here: (The Saga of) Simplicity 8523.

Alterations included:

  • redrafting the pattern because I’d cut the smallest size for the muslin!
  • grading from a size 8 to size 12 between the waistline and hem
  • lowering the waistline by 1 1/4″
  • raising the hemline by 2″ (if I were to sew this again, I would only remove 1″ below the waistline)
  • a swayback adjustment using this tutorial, which I do not recommend. In the end, it distorted the shoulder and neckline, meaning I had to . . .
  • draft a new back neck facing

Although the adjustments improved the fit, it didn’t get me to “flattering.” I suspect that the wrinkles I struggled to eliminate came from the top being too tight at the hip, even after I graded out to the largest size in the envelope.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?

I learned a lot from trying to make Simplicity 8523 fit my body, but I would not sew it again. It isn’t flattering enough to make it a TNT or wardrobe basic. The top is very loose and boxy (again, 11″ of ease at the waist!), yet it isn’t accommodating to people who have large hips in proportion to their bust. I have a small bust (32A) plus a 10″ difference between my waist and my hips. Even adding all the extra width at the hipline that the pattern allowed wasn’t enough.

If I ever were to sew this again, I would use the alternate back with the center seam and zipper so that I could pinch out some of the extra fabric in the back.

I would recommend this pattern as a simple-to-sew, basic top for those who like a loose fit or whose measurements at the bust are not very different than then their measurements at the hip. However, I want to note that the necklines on Simplicity 8523 are quite high–higher than is in style right now (2013).

Conclusion:

Simplicity 8523 was a good learning tool, but not a good fit for me. I do think other reviewers are right that this is a good top to “showcase” an interesting print.

In the future, I will be looking for a woven-t-shirt pattern that is better suited to my body. New Look 6356 appears to be an updated version of Simplicity 8523, but with a taper into the waist and out to the hips built in. It also has the center-back seam and zipper and lower, more current necklines. I think that for many body types, the New Look version of these basic woven tops will work better.

By Jove! Saga of Simplicity 8523 (Part III)

Muslin #2.5: Swayback Alteration Accomplished!

I was going to give up. I really was going to.

I could not find a set of swayback alteration instructions that did not warp my pattern in unacceptable ways.

Then, luckysweetheart at Pattern Review sent me a link to a different method of doing swayback adjustments on a shirt or bodice.

This is the first explanation I found (even after searching online and flipping through all my sewing books) that  dealt with how to do the swayback adjustment on a top without distorting the rest of the pattern (skewing the center back line and pulling in the hip).

So, I did my first “slash and slide” style pattern adjustment. Since disaster did not strike, I cut out a new back, applied my seam ripper to the old muslin, pressed to my hearts content, and attached the new back.

Et voila!

That is a big change from this. And it still fits over my head!

As my friends on Pattern Review are pointing out, there is good in knowing when to stop fitting, too, and I think that this is that point. Maybe, maybe, I will try to add in that extra inch of length below the waistline so I can hem  to this height. But maybe that isn’t worth it. Perhaps, instead, I should experiment with doing a very narrow hem.

The bottom line is, thanks to the swayback tutorial and everyone’s advice and help, I have finally reached the point where–assuming the facings work–I could live with this shirt as it is currently fitted. I suspect there are better patterns for me out there (and believe you me, I’ll be looking for them: patterns that have center-back seams, patterns that have more curve and shaping).

I am sure that anyone who is reading this is getting sick of this pattern and this shirt. Never fear–the end is near. Just a little more muslin-ing, and I can move on to the real deal:

This drapey, soft cotton fabric is what I’ve been working towards.

Pretty, isn’t it? Cross your fingers . . .

The Saga of Simplicity 8523 (Part II)

"Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!"

“Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!”

This is a little too much for a basic, boxy top. I think this nice lady is mocking me.

All the time I’ve been in Virginia, I’ve been looking forward to getting home to NYC and getting back to Muslin #2 of my Simplicty V-Neck (8523 – View F: Blogged about here and here). In the first post, I showed off my inner-draftswoman by tracing the pattern that I’d already cut (ill-considered on my part) on the smallest line, in order that I might add to the hips, lower the waist, then lift the hem below the new waistline without losing my beautiful, new, hip-accommodating hemline. All I had to do–so I thought–was to put in a nice sway-back adjustment to take care of the extra fabric pooling at my back, and I’d be smooth-sailing towards an (admittedly baggy for my tastes) first top.

Maybe I shouldn’t have been so eager to return to this project. First, I’ll show you the fruits of my initial labor (dropping the waistline and then raising the hem after tapering from a size 8 at the waist to a size 12 at the hemline). It was promising:

Muslin #2: Front

Muslin #2: Side

Muslin #2: Back

Unfortunately, there was still an excess of fabric in the back (though much improved from the first version). I’ve tried pinning in a swayback adjustments several ways. At first, I took out larger pinches of fabric because the top is just so saggy. Then I read that swayback adjustments should be more than 1/4″ pinches, so I tried that:

1″ tuck taken 1″ above waistline.

1″ tuck taken 1.5″ above waistline.

1/4″ tuck 1 1/2″ above waistline.

Yes, pinning this fabric out smooths the back noticably–even when it’s just a 1/2″ pinned out. But when I try to put these adjustments onto the pattern piece, it distorts the grading I did to a achieve a larger hip size.The new hem actually becomes concave.

Concave. After all the work I put into making the hip wider.

At this point, I’m wondering whether this isn’t just a terrible, terrible pattern for me. Either that, or there is an undiagnosed fitting problem other thank my long waist and swayback that is making this muslin look so awful.

I’m tempted to call this whole project (and pattern) a wadder. The hard thing about being a beginner is not knowing what is a “user error” and what is just a misfire.

Any thoughts? Am I missing a simple fitting issue, or is this just a terrible pattern for me?

The Saga of Simplicity 8523 (Part I)

Simplicity 8523

Simplicity.

Such a lovely word. And–coincidentally–the brand-name for my first two successful sewing projects, both skirts. Now that I feel more comfortable with my very basic sewing skills, I felt ready to try sewing a very simple top. I’d picked up Simplicity 8523 at Daytona Trimming, which has a dusty selection of 80s and 90s patterns, 5 for $10. When I got home and checked the reviews for this pattern, I was pleased to see that it is generally well-liked as a simple “wardrobe-builder.”

I have a list of styles from head to toe that flatter me, and among those styles are square and v-necks. Therefore, I picked View F, the sleeveless, zipperless top. I figured that sewing a top with facings in the neckline and around the arms was enough in terms of adding new skills.

Besides, hubby and I are saving money by not using the air conditioning for as long as possible, so it is hot in our apartment. In such temperatures, sleeveless is ideal.

This top goes together easily. However, it has proven more difficult than expected to fit. The pattern has darts in front, but from there it drops straight down to the hemline. Because of my triangle-shape and the fact that the top had 11″ of ease at the 28″ waist (and my hips are 38″ right now), I cut out a size 8, figuring I’d just hem the top so that it hit me above the widest part of my hips.

Bad idea. Here is a what I ended up with for my first muslin:

Muslin 1: Front

Muslin 1: Back

Muslin 1: Side

Now we can say it in unison: “Ugh!”

Lots of discussion ensued on Pattern Review’s forums, which included compliments for the neckline and arm-scythes and more suggestions than I could possibly follow for how to fix the bags and lumps.

From those comments, I learned the following things:

  • Despite the 11″ of ease, I really did need to grade out from the size 8 around the bust to the size 12 around the hemline (using a french curve to draw a gentle concave line).
  • I have a long torso and will probably have to adjust that by adding tissue on every pattern. Then, I’ll have to fold the pattern up below the waistline to take out some of that extra length.
  • I also have a swayback, and pinning that extra fabric out of the center back (even pinning, and without fixing the above problems) makes a big difference in how the muslin looks:

Back: Swayback Adjustment Pinned

Side: Swayback Adjustment Pinned

These images convinced me of three things:

  • It’s time to start swimming again–look at those rounded shoulders!
  • I should never, ever cut pattern tissue. I’ll be tracing from now on, especially if I have any doubt about whether I might need to grade to a larger size somewhere.
  • I don’t like shirts with a lot of ease, even if they are simple to make.

The posters on Pattern Review convinced me of a few things, too:

  • That this isn’t nearly as dreadful as I thought. I shouldn’t be such a perfectionist! (ie. there is a such thing as “good enough.”)
  • I can learn a lot from making something very basic.
  • Sharing my experiences with others can help everyone learn.

Since making this muslin, I’ve spent hours tracing the original pattern, using another, uncut pattern piece to add the wider, size 12 hip and curving it into the size 8 waistline. I’ll detail the process of Muslin #2 in an upcoming post.

Sometimes even the most simple projects aren’t simple after all.