Dartless Knit Top Block Take 2

As I was saying, I’ve been messing with my Knit Top Block again. I was trying to get dartless to work so I can make Breton tops and hopefully have stripes that match well across seams. Bust darts just seem like they would get in the way.

So let’s cut to the chase & show you the result. No point getting into the nitty gritty if this turns out duds right? :-)

Mug Shots

Well I’m pretty happy with the result. The front armscye needs tweaking. But overall this muslin turned out quite wearable. So here’s how I got from A to B…

The Nitty Gritty

sps_top_2-SLPattern Voodoooing

Remember my last attempt at Dartless Knit Top by distributing the bust ease into multiple places (like I did for the woven Tunic Block)? Well, I slept on it and thought maybe the problem is that there isn’t a smooth way to hide the excess without the darts. So maybe I should go the other way: Instead of having excess length at the seams to ease in, maybe I should make the seam lines the finished lengths I want and use the fabric stretch to accommodate the girls. So how do I go about this?

Firstly I decide to use the 0-ease Stable Knit Top Block as the starting point for a couple of reasons…

  • I reckon that this process will probably result in a reduction in the front bust width. If I start with the 12% reduction of the Stretchy Knit Top Block then I might be asking the fabric to stretch too much. By starting with 0% reduction I hoped I could stay within the overall 12% reduction limit for a good fit without much unsightly distortion.
  • I decided that even for stretchy fabrics I would prefer a skimming rather than a tight silhouette. Fact is even I have Michelin Man rolls with a standard bra on, especially in the back. Until I find foundation garments that smooth the silhouette without choking me I would rather not draw attention to my rolls.

Next it took me 3 attempts to get to B.

  1. I first tried Maria Denmark’s old Knit dartless FBA approach of taping up the dart, smooching the bust mound, then attempting to trace the outline.But the method adds width at the CF hem while reducing the bust width more than my max 12% target. So I abandon this approach. (Just found out that she had updated her approach to removing the dart for a knit top. It seems simpler. But I haven’t tested it and there is no result photo, so it’s hard to tell how well it works.)
  2. My second attempt used the Seam alteration method from Fitting & Pattern Alteration. Yeah yeah it’s meant for altering ill-fitting patterns to fit, not to alter a good-fitting pattern to do something else. But nothing ventured nothing gained! I wanted to know if it’s even possible to re-shape my seam lines as I planned. It did sort of worked. But because I had used flimsy tissue paper for this exercise, the resulting pattern was a bit distorted and not usable.
  3. So my final attempt was to redo attempt 2 without all those distorted hanging chads. This time I used the Pivot/Slide alteration method from Fitting & Pattern Alteration, but pivoted at more points rather than just at corners. It worked. And I manage to get the front & back side seams to be the same length vertically as well (rather than just at the seam line) for stripe matching.

For the sleeve, I also redid the bit below the bicep so that it’s symmetrical (rather than leaving it tilting towards the front to accommodate the way my arms hang). This was necessary for stripe matching across the sleeve seam. I reckon the stretch fabric would be accommodating enough for my twisted arms.

Les Tweaks

I then muslined this with my least favorite strippy knit. This is Viscose/Cotton/5% Lycra Stripe Jersey from Tissu Fabrics with 50%H/35%V stretch. It’s OK, but not as soft as the Bamboo stripe jerseys I got from B&J Fabrics. So no tears if this experiment didn’t work out.

Much to my delight the muslin was pretty good right off the bat. The only thing needing adjustment was how the sleeve hang:

  1. the stripe in the sleeve caps were tilting up towards the back;
  2. the whole armholes were tilting towards the back as if my posture was too erect.

For A I decided to adjust the pitch and live with mis-matched seam intersection at the arm pit. I think this is the less of the two evils because it’s less visible. It does mean that I can’t sew the sleeves in the flat – I’d have to set the sleeve in after sleeve seams & side seams have been sewn.

For B since the muslin was already cut with 1/2″ seam allowance I could only increase the cross-back & decrease the cross-front by 1/4″. So the wearable muslin shown above is the result. The back armsyce seems OK now. The front I think could do with further reduction in cross-front, with the removed amount added to the corresponding area of the sleeve cap. And that is what I’m doing for my final Dartless Fitted Knit Top Block.

Caveats

Next up, deriving & testing a Raglan Sleeve version and a Semi-Fitted version. I will also need to test this pattern again in other stretch fabrics in case I was just lucky with this fabric choice. I’ve noticed that the cotton/rayon + spandex knits I’ve used for Breton Tops have generally been better at molding to my shape than the pure synthetic knits. So I’m fairly optimistic that this Block will work as master pattern for my Breton Top collection. But whether it works as a general Dartless Knit Top Block is yet to be proven.

Also, the size of my bust dart in my Darted Knit Top Block is approx. 20° in angle & I’m a pseudo-D-cup. So if you have a larger bust this approach might not work well for you – you may still be better off retaining a bust dart of some sort.

Follow-up on 2015 Wadder no.1

Thanks for all your compliments on the beach cover-up that didn’t quite work! It’s amazing how a beautiful fabric can make one fall in love with a garment warts and all isn’t it?

Although I haven’t fixed it yet I now have a plan.

  • As I hardly ever go on beachy holidays, I’m going to turn this beach cover-up into a dress/tunic that I can wear in London. I’ll have to add to the length. The pieces loped off the sleeves should come in handy now.
  • To make the dress/tunic more hardy I’m going to sew up the armpit-airing underarm – sleeve inner hem. The design worked for the sturdier fabric of the top that inspired this cover-up. But with more delicate fabrics the risk of sticking my head & arms into the wrong holes and tearing the fabric is too great. Once the holes are closed up there’ll be less chance of this happening.
  • As extra insurance, and to make this translucent fabric more city-friendly, I’ll underline it with a georgette, which might also make the dress more drapy and silhouette elongating.

I’m in no hurry though as it’s still chilly in London.

Instead I’m working on classy replacement Breton Ts that I can wear at home & work. The Burda 2010-02-112 I made a few years ago is well worn and grubby. Her sister Burda 2010-02-122 had already been donated because the neck opening was too big to stay on my shoulders. So I’ve been messing with Dartless T Block again and making a wearable muslin in a less prized stripy knit. I should finish the muslin today & hopefully be able share the experiment findings soon. I’m cautiously optimistic that this one will turn out well! :-)

First Wadder of the Year

So far this year I have sewn 0 item from my SWAP. Typical isn’t it? Straight after the Jungle January fever another exciting detour presented itself – an unexpected escape to balmy Jamaica. I thought I was sensible opting to air my underused summer dresses instead of cramming in last-minute Holiday SWAP. But I have little to wear as a beach cover-up. Enter the H&M scarf I had bought not so long ago precisely for this purpose. It shot straight to the front of the queue.

Style Shots

No mug shots this time because this is probably going straight back into the ReFashion pile.

Fabric & Notions Used

The Design & Pattern

This is one of those refashion challenges where you make it up as you go. So there isn’t a proper pattern. My initial idea was a simple kaftan. First up is checking pattern placement…

1-dsgn-pattern-placement

  • I first tried folding in half with the fold on the shoulder line. This made the pattern look like those Indonesian monster masks which I found too distracting. So that’s a NG.
  • I then tried folding on the bias. I liked the pattern placement. But I noticed the scarf isn’t perfectly square, so it makes the garment look lopsided. So again NG.
  • Lastly I tried folding in half again, but with the fold as the hem and the scarf border at the shoulder line. I like that the border adds interest at the shoulder and the pattern balance it out acting as big stretch of border print. The placement also make the pattern look like a potted flower or a dancing person. So happy days.

Once the pattern placement was decided, I pin-fitted. Unfortunately it looked frumpier on me than on Q because I have arms and she doesn’t. The silhouette becomes wider, which make the length appear shorter. So I decided to lop off the bottom portion of the sleeve area and use the same approach as I did on my altered RTW kimono top. The shorter sleeves shift the emphasis to the bodice area to create a stronger vertical silhouette.

Construction Notes

2-sew-details

  • As the fabric frayed badly & shifted easily, I spray-starched & stablized like crazy before I even cut.
  • The sewing was then fairly straight-forward: French seam for side seams & to join the bottom of the sleeves fronts to backs. Then hand-rolled hems for the bodice bottom and top of side seams & inside / underarm edge of sleeves. At the top the front & back are joined at shoulder, elbow, & wrist only. Then the starch & stablizer was washed out.

The Verdict

The top actually doesn’t look too bad. But look isn’t everything is it?

After one wear part of my side seam was already falling apart! I think I might have trimmed the seam allowance too aggressively for this fray-loving fabric. (Thank goodness for those dinky hotel sewing kit!) The whole thing just felt too delicate to wear on a relaxing holiday, especially when  sun-screened skin & sea-laddened air made everything feel so sticky. I was constantly worried that I’d rip the seams. Or the underarm slit when I put the top on or take it off. I may have slit this a tad too far – the sleeves felt like hanging chads, ready to detach at any time. What a bummer.

The print is too lovely though. So for now the top is going into the Re-Fashion pile.

Twin needle light bulb moment

You know how twin needle is supposed to mimic cover stitch & give you stretchy hem with just a sewing machine? Well I’ve never managed to get it to work. Not only do mine come out with an ugly ridge between the two rows of stitches they were never stretchy enough either.

But with my failed mock ribbing experiment came an eureka moment for my twin needle stitching. The Threads article on mock ribbing showed examples of how changing tension affects the twin needle stitching. Loose tension makes the ridge go away. Now I’m sure I’ve tried this before but ruled it out because it also make the zigzag of the bobbin thread disappear. But this time I had left long starting & ending thread tails, & stretched the sample afterward to see how much it’ll stretch. The thread tails got pulled in & gave me a bit more zigzag in the bobbin thread. Best of all the sample then stretched as much as the fabric would stretch!

2-sew-details-twin-needle-eureka

Now I’m not sure if this is how you’re suppose to sew it. The loose tension & bobbin thread that pulls easily worry me a bit. Would it be strong enough? But I reckon that as long as I secure the ends this properly stretchy hem surely must hold better than less stretchy ones that pop. Maybe it’s like willow in the wind – wimpy looking but in fact holds up better for going with the flow?

Anyway, I’ve tried it on the Crouching Batwing Hidden Python top. To make stretching in the bobbin thread easier I sewed the hem in two halves leaving  thread tails at both side seams. Maybe one day I’ll feel deserving of a serger with cover stitch (separate machine is not an option in my cramped home). For now I’ll give this new trick a few more chance to prove itself. What about you? What’s your favorite way to sew a stretchy hem?

Designer Love Child Wannabe Python peplum top

With pretension to be the Love Child of Vivienne Westwood & COMME des GARÇONS it’s no wonder this last snake was a Diva from the very start. After the first few seams it all became a blur. So forgive me for just jutting down what I remember & not making much sense.

Style Shots & Mug Shots

WORN WITH: 1-3 Burda 2011-08-121 skirt; 4 Altered drindl skirt; 5 TopShop skirt.

The Design & Pattern

So here are the inspirations…


I’ve always loved Vivienne Westwood’s adaptation of historical costumes & traditional tailoring with a twist of punk. I had this top bookmarked in a book on VW I own for ages. I thought the drape might be a great way to feature the New World Snake. Forgive my ignorance about the different types of corset…Is this 18th century corset style? Anyway, I was hoping it’ll give me some cleavage along with ever enticing cowl drape. Sleeveless wouldn’t be so practical for me since I’m a tropical baby. And waist length again would leave too much cold inducing belly airing. So I decided to add this side peplum detail from my early love – Comme des Garcons S/S 1987 collection. I had attempted a Wannabe before (shown by the sketch, the very wearable result long lost in the move across the Pond). I like how the peplum emphasizes the waist where it’s most visible – at the sides when viewed from the front/back. And I like the extra kinks of drape on either side of the center panels.

For the pattern, I adapted the instruction in Waisted Efforts: An Illustrated Guide to Corset Making for a 1690 style corset. The reviews for the book on Amazon weren’t great. But I bought the book in a bookshop way before Amazon. And I’m glad I did. I like the fact that it’s written for theatrical costume designer / patternmaker & focuses on pattern-drafting. I like that while it covers historical info it’s practical, taking into account that actors need to be comfortable enough to move & perform. And that actors come in different sizes & shapes. So creating a custom “French Block” (looks exactly the same as a Moulage!) is key. The patterns are derived from the “French Block” so again customized. I don’t think French Block is the same as sloper drafting taught in fashion schools as one reviewer said because most sloper instructions include wearing ease and seem to be drafted for standard (ie idealized) shapes. The French Block shown is skin tight and designed to fit all shapes & sizes – eg there was one showing rounded upper back adjustment. The inclusion of the French Block also makes these gridded patterns different from those found in other historical costume pattern books I’ve seen. Those give only one size. Here if you put in the effort you can figure out how to draft your own custom fit patterns based on your French Block rather than just scale up the gridded pattern. And the heavily punctuated, phrasy style of writing does not bother me at all. In fact, I find it much easier to understand than very very long sentences with no punctuation marks. Different strokes I guess.

Block Used:

My Kenneth King Moulage of couse!

Design Changes Made

I think this is a case of pictures worth a thousand words. So have a couple!

Fabric & Notions Used

Construction Notes

Sorry, following are really just notes for myself & not intended as proper sewing instruction for you guys. The construction order for this was rather complicated to figure out.  So if I don’t write down what I do remember it’ll be a royal pain to recreate something like this again. If they happen to be useful to you too that’s great. The usual pressing, grading, neat seam finishing along the way applies if you want to try it yourself!

  1. Shell:
    1. Stabilize CB with interfacing. Sew CB invisible zipper, then CB seam above zipper.
    2. Sew & top-stitch Inner Front Princess seams, Back Princess seams.
    3. Sew Sleeve & Cuff Underarm seams, then Cuff right side to Sleeve wrong side. Turn cuff out & tack/stitch in the ditch at Underarm seam.
    4. Stabilize Front & Back necklines, Back shoulder seams with interfacing and/or Vilene bias tape.
  2. Lining: Overlock Inner Front Princess seams, Back Princess seams, CB seam above zipper.
  3. Back Neckline: Sew Back Neck Facing lower edge to Lining, then Facing-Lining neckline to Shell neckline right side together. Understitch SA to Facing-Lining.
  4. Front Neckline: Sew Feature Panel cowl facing edge right side to Lining right side to Shell wrong side, stretching cowl facing edge to match neckline especially at curves near bust. Understitch SA to Facing-Lining.
  5. Feature Panel: Turn Feature Panel out over the Shell Front. Baste Feature Panel shoulder pleats. Vertically ruch/gather Feature Panel between bust & waist on both princess seams. Baste Feature Panel to Shell at shoulder, armscye, outer front princess seams.
  6. Shoulder Seams: Sew continuous seam from Shell armscye edge to Lining armscye edge.
  7. Outer Front Princess Seams: Sew & top-stitch Shell Front to Side, overlock Lining Front to Side.
  8. Peplum: Baste Peplum to Shell right sides together, aligning Peplum upper edge corners with Front/Back Panels hemlines. The Peplum goes up the side of of Front Panel, then across the bottom of the Side Panel, then down the side of the Back Panel.
  9. Bagging Lining: Baste Lining to Shell right sides together from CB hemline, along the Peplum basting, across CF hemline, along the other Peplum basting, & finally the other half of the CB hemline – only CB zipper length is left open.

    Be careful not to baste the wrong way like I did initially! Test by turning the garment right side out. The wrong way looks enticingly tidy wrong side out, but is impossible to turn right side out! Go with the weirdly twisted right way. Sew along basting. Turn right side out. Top-stitch Side Panel waistline seam to CB hemline.

  10. Armscye: Overlock Sleeve to bodice armscye (Shell & Lining).
  11. Finishing up: Slip-stitch Lining CB to zipper tape. Understich CF & CB hem by hand (pick-stitch) to keep Lining from peaking out. All done!

The Verdict

What I like:

  • The cowl! I like the asymmetry. It looks more natural. I like that there’s a fair bit of drape, but from the side it doesn’t give me a middle heavy look, and the attachment to the fitted lining keeps it from exposing too much!
  • The peplum! Especially how it disguise my droopy bum by breaking up that long stretch of hollow small of the back.

What didn’t quite work:

  • The corset idea didn’t really work. The stretchy fabrics undid all the good work! (But makes the top much more comfortable to wear!) So no heaving bosom this time. Any cleavage will have to come from additional shapewear & chicken fillets beneath.
  • The top feels a bit too short. I can only wear it with high waisted skirts & pants if I don’t want to catch a cold. I think the negative ease might have caused the top to contract vertically while stretching side-ways. I still haven’t gotten my head around stretch fabric tension lines, hence this oversight. I think next time I will make it 0 ease (rather than negative ease) and/or add a tad more length.

Overall though I think it’s a good effort and a pretty top. So much more could have gone wrong! But taking the time to baste & try on saved my bacon even if it meant Ms Diva missed the Jungle January Party. I’ve been let off only after Photoshopping her into a lush Jungle with her her own pet snake. Phew.