Thursday, March 7, 2013

Knit banded waist top with cuffs

I've discovered something about myself.  I'm much better at live-blogging my projects than writing about them after they are finished.  There's something anti-climactic about rehashing a sewing project once I've already had the sigh of relief that comes with completion.  I find that if I leave the page open WHILE sewing, all of the clever little comments that come to me throughout the process actually make it into the post.  So with that introduction adding all kinds of pressure to be witty, let's see how I do as I live-blog this shirt project!

I actually started it last night with the cutting.  Well, I suppose it actually started about a week ago when I found some knits that I loved while browsing the Half Yard Cuts section on the Girl Charlee website (specializing in knits).  A half yard isn't enough to make a women's top ordinarily (well, not the kind that I would wear, anyway), so I bought a plain gray jersey to coordinate with this coral stripe that I fell in love with.  And while I wasn't totally sure what I would do with it, I had been ruminating on it while waiting for the fabrics to arrive.

Which brings me to last night.  I finally decided that I would use the gray for some extended cuffs and a wide waistband IF I could get an entire bodice and a set of sleeves out of the striped half yard.  I managed it, JUST.  This is what I had left over:

I used a couple of shirts I already owned to determine what shape to cut out--one for the neckline/bodice, and another for the sleeves.  Don't forget about seam allowance!

Now, this isn't going to be a full tutorial, but I will make some notes about my process in case you want to give it a whirl.

It's just occurring to me why I don't live-blog a project more often.  This could be a total fail.  Something I wouldn't have taken the time to blog about at all.  In which case all of this live blogging might be a total waste of time.  Well, let's call it a learning experience.  Don't worry--if the shirt doesn't turn out, I'll edit the post to let you know BEFORE you start taking all of my advice.

Here are the pieces I cut out:

From the stripes:
Bodice front and bodice back (I made them as long as I could with the 1/2 yard of fabric that I had)
2 sleeves (3/4 length, wider than average for some gathering

From the gray jersey:
Wide waistband (figure out how much length you need to add to the bodice to make your shirt long enough for your taste, then double it and add seam allowance)
2 wide cuffs (again, double the width you want your finished cuff to be)
1 narrow strip for binding the neckline (long enough to go all the way around your neckline with a few extra inches for safety, and about 2 inches wide)

(I started sewing the bodice together before taking this picture--make sure you have wrong sides together and sew the side and shoulder seams.)

Next sew up your sleeves, right sides together, from the armpit to the wrist.  The opening will line up with the armhole in the bodice.

Now, once you set in a sleeve a few times this will make perfect sense, but it is awkward to explain.  I was trying to find a tutorial that explains it better than I do to link to, but it seems that, um, I've been doing it wrong.  All of the other tutorials say to leave your side seams on the bodice open, attach your sleeves starting with the shoulder, then sew all the way down the arm and the side of the bodice in one fell swoop.  Here's a tutorial from Melly Sews on how to do it that way.  Feel free to ignore the explanation of how I did it below, I can't remember who the heck told me to do it that way in the first place but I may be changing things up from now on!

Leave your bodice inside-out.  Turn the sleeves right-side out, then slip one inside the shirt wrist-first so that the raw edges at the arm opening line up with the raw edges at the armhole in the bodice.  Line up the sleeve seam with the underarm seam and pin the sleeve in place, then sew.  The openings might not line up exactly, but you can stretch the knit slightly to match them as closely as possible.  Repeat for the other side.

One sleeve is tucked and pinned into place

Normally at this point I would be sewing a zig-zag stitch next to my seams for some extra stability.  I'm skipping that step this time because...dum dum dum...I have decided that it is ridiculous that I have put off learning to use my serger for so long.  I inherited it from my grandma and got it all fixed up OVER A YEAR AGO but I've been totally afraid of it.  But today is the day, my friends.  I am going to tackle the serger.  And if I am at a loss, there is a really sweet sewing store around the corner from my house that has open sewing for $5 an hour on Sundays and maybe they can help me.  But the goal is SELF SUFFICIENCY.  I will conquer the serger TODAY!  My point is, I will come back and serge those seams when I'm done if all goes well. (Edited to add--I have not gone back and serged the inside seam allowances yet.  I may do it later, or just zig zag 'em if I get lazy.)

After your sleeves are in, this is a good time to try on your top.  If you need to take it in a bit, go for it.  If it's too small, might be out of luck.  Seam rippers and thin knits are not really best of friends.  Maybe you have a skinny friend who would like a new shirt?  My own sleeves came out a bit more snug than I would have liked, but they were as wide as I could get them with the amount of fabric I had, so that's life.  I can still squeeze my arm in there.

Since my neckline is wide enough to slip over my head without stretch, I am using this binding method from Omi Creates instead of serging (still putting off that damn machine over here).  I just started at one shoulder seam, leaving a little extra flap to join them together at the end, since mine is in one piece instead of two.

Flaps to sew together once the binding is attached

For attaching the bands and cuffs, I used this tutorial from Make it Love it, except that I'm going to serge instead of sew to make sure it's nice and stretchy.  And, you know, to prove to myself that I can.

I'll kind of sum up, so you don't have to jump over to the other tutorial if you don't want to:  To make the cuffs and waistband, fold your fabric in half right-sides together (make sure you've got the stretch going ACROSS, not up and down--particularly easy to make a mistake on the cuffs).  Pin each into a tube just slightly narrower than the openings.

You can barely see my pins, but they are just barely inside the edges of the sleeves and bodice.

Fold the tubes in half, right side out, so that the top and bottom raw edges line up.  Make sure your shirt is right side out, then slip the waistband tube upside down onto the bottom of the shirt so that all three raw edges are lined up (two on the waistband, one on the shirt).

Now is not the time to skip the pins (HILARY.)  This fabric will slip, stretch, and roll, so before you attach those bands you NEED to pin.  Lots.

Waistband.  Prepped for serging

This is where I paused to figure out the very minimum about my serger so that I could attach these bands.  I practiced a little on a scrap of t-shirt fabric and then off I went.

It's just you and me now, Serger.
I started with the waistband and then attached the cuffs the same way.

OK.  So.  I did it.  The stitches are a little weird, and I was playing with the tension as described in the manual, but couldn't get it just right, and some stitches seem to be skipped.  The nice thing is that the cuffs and waistband really do stretch, which is what I wanted.  It was scary, because the seam allowance was being cut off as I sewed, so not a lot of room for error!  I'm sure there's a way to turn that off but I haven't gotten that far yet.  I'm still going to visit the sewing open house to see if the lovely ladies there have any in-person advice for me.

Pretty sure it's not supposed to look like that.

One thing I will definitely do in the future is serge the cuffs on BEFORE I sew the sleeves closed.  I was so scared I would cut something that shouldn't be cut as the serger was making its way around the little cuffs!  It sews SO fast.

I'm taking this on as a learning experience.  I'm not sure that I'll make many knit shirts for myself, because I'm just not sure of the value.  I mean, when I can get this knit shirt from Old Navy for $4.18, why should I try to make my  own?

One of the shirts I used to cut out my pattern
I got a good deal on fabric and I still spent $6 (knits are expensive, you guys!), and several hours of my time (the entire 2.5 hrs I have to myself while both kids are at school, although a good portion of that was spent blogging, and, you know, learning how to use a serger), and the shirt isn't anything spectacular--I like it, but nobody's going to think I paid $100 for it at Anthropologie.  As a matter of fact, it looks fairly similar to that $4 Old Navy shirt.  BUT, it was worth it because this was the project on which I forced myself to tackle my fear of the serger.  Which represents my larger fear of failure in general.  So, you know, growth.

And now, what you've all been waiting for--how did it turn out?

Well, pretty great, actually!

That is probably how I'll usually wear it, but because of the stretchy waistband and cuffs, you can also fold the cuffs over or blouse the top out a bit more, like so:

Essential for my stay-at-home mom wardrobe.

It's funny, I really like the way the proportions came out, even though it's just what I was able to squeak out of a 1/2 yard of the main fabric.  It's good to know that it is possible to come up with a women's top using remnants that doesn't look like extra fabric is plonked on there because you ran out.

And just so I'm covering my bases, the coral stripe (which is very soft but pretty thin; I need a cami under this top) is called a cotton blend jersey knit fabric, and the grey, which is slightly thicker, very stretchy, and soft, is called a cotton lycra knit fabric.  Both came from Girl Charlee.  Oh, and this post is not endorsed in any way--I wasn't paid, I bought these fabrics, Girl Charlee didn't ask me to write this or anything.  I just thought you'd want to know, since I have had a hard time finding cute knits for cheap!


  1. I love girl charlee. And cute top!

  2. Very nice job! I like your shirt better than the one from Old Navy - especially the band around the bottom and sleeve. Lovely!


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