Since the beginning of the year, I have been on a self-imposed fabric and pattern budget, so when the new Vogues came out a couple weeks ago, I allowed myself only one pattern from the new season and 8793 was it. I can always use more tops, and this one screamed, "Pick me! Pick me! I am fun to make!"
In my last post I mentioned that I recently counted thirteen Teagarden Ts that I have made in the last couple of years. The only downside of the Teagarden is that it is cut from a single, large, awkward pattern piece (not counting the gusset) and it leaves behind sizable scraps. I keep a dedicated bag where I put scraps appropriate for tees: mostly rayon/lycra, cotton/lycra, and poly/lycra varieties. My original intention was to use these scraps to make underwear, but, so far, that hasn't happened.
I now have enough scraps to make underwear for my daughter's entire high school.
I decided it was time to make another collaged T, similar to the asymmetric Au Bonheur tee I made last November, but using the new Vogue pattern.
From the Au Bonheur pattern I borrowed the asymmetric hem and the idea of CF and CB seams. Cutting the front and back in half vertically allowed me to play with a larger number of scraps from the scrap bag. From the Vogue pattern, I was eager to try the double collar, embellished with a zipper edging.
On Super Bowl Sunday, I altered the pattern and played with the scraps. I also ordered some lightweight, molded, separating zippers from Zipperstop. I ordered a few extra because I plan to make this again. It's certainly possible to leave off the zipper edging, but I think that the body it imparts to the collar is part of its charm.
Note that the pattern calls for, and you want, a lightweight, molded, separating zipper. I used the YKK brand, which is a superior zipper. You want a zipper with a malleable tape, small synthetic (nylon?) teeth, and a very long length (hence the suggestion of using a separating zipper). You want it to add body to the collar, but not be too stiff or creased or have teeth that will be uncomfortable against the neck. One side of the zipper is sewn to the curved edge of the upper collar and the other side is sewn to the curved edge of the lower collar. Zipperstop carries the YKK brand, as does Britex. JoAnns does not.
Usually my orders from Zipperstop arrive in a couple of days. Alas, this order was held up in the U.S. mail; after waiting five days, I ended up visiting Britex to pick up a few zippers. I didn't mind too much, as I also needed to restock some thread and elastic.
Since I couldn't finish the first top, because it awaited a zipper, I started a second. For the first top, I ended up using three black/cream fabrics. I spent quite awhile auditioning fabrics; for example, I tried to add in some wild poly fabric, but it just wouldn't play nice with the other fabrics - mostly because its white background didn't work with the cream in the ikat-style print, but also the textures didn't gel.
For the second top, I used four fabrics in wilder colors. I chose the fabrics more quickly for this top.
Materials for Top #1:
- Solid black rayon/lycra from Fabrix. (Sleeves and back sides of both collars.)
- Black and cream ikat-style rayon/lycra print from Fabrix. (Right front, right back, left cuff, and larger collar.)
- Black w/ white polka dot cotton/lycra print from Marcy Tilton. (Left front, left back, right cuff, and smaller collar.) This fabric is beefier than the other fabrics, but it worked ok.
- 28" YKK lightweight molded separating zipper in black from Britex.
- Dritz Wonder Tape.
- Wild stripe rayon/lycra print from Fabric Mart. (Right front - stripe horizontal, left back - stripe vertical, larger collar - stripe on the bias.)
- Green/black rayon/lycra print from Fabric Mart. (Left front, back, larger collar - backside.)
- Solid green 14oz rayon/lycra from Emma One Sock. (Smaller collar - front and back, right sleeve.)
- Black rayon/lycra from Fabrix. (Left sleeve.)
- 28" YKK lightweight molded separating zipper in dark green from Britex.
- Dritz Wonder Tape.
I constructed this similar to the Au Bonheur top. Here is the construction order:
- Serged the center fronts, center backs, and hems to neaten them, as they are otherwise raw.
- Overlaid the center fronts (with the shorter one on top) and topstitched them together. Did the same for the back, also with the shorter one on top.
- Sewed the shoulder seams.
- Constructed and inserted the collars. I used Dritz Wash Away Wonder Tape to secure the zippers to the wiggly knit fabric. This worked quite well and made it possible to top stitch the collars with minimal problems. (More about that in the Tips and Techniques section.)
- A note about the zippers: When I bought a 28" zipper, as instructed by the pattern, I found it was too short. For the first top, I centered the zipper tape and this did not work well. When you fold the collar so that it overlaps, the layer in front looks bad with the zipper teeth abruptly ending too early. I salvaged the first top by sewing in a tiny strip of zipper teeth to complete the line. Not ideal, but ok as long as no one studies it closely. For the second collar, I offset the zipper so that it was correctly placed on one side. The other side, which didn't have enough zipper teeth, is hidden when the front edges of the collar are overlapped.
- Sewed the sleeves in flat.
- Sewed the underarm/side seams.
- Constructed and attached the cuffs. Note that I omitted the cuffs for the second, more colorful top.
Tips and Techniques:
I wanted to share some tips and techniques for sewing on flimsy knit fabrics that work for me. I know many folks are intimidated by sewing knits, but I literally can not imagine limiting my sewing to wovens. I wear knits far more than I wear wovens and I find them, for the most part, easy to sew. Here are a few tips I used for sewing these tops.
By the way, I own a serger, but do not use it for construction - I use it to finish seams and edges. I sew knits with a sewing machine. I do not own a coverstitch machine. YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary).
- I used the Dritz Wonder Tape, instead of pins, to secure the zipper to the collar. This product seems identical to Collins Wonder Tape - I have both and, other than the packaging, they seem to be the same. Here is how I used it:
- Place a strip of the Wonder Tape along the straight edge of the collar, and remove the paper backing, exposing the stickiness.
- Lay the zipper tape down, teeth pointed away from the straight edge.
- Place another strip of the Wonder Tape along the zipper tape. Remove the paper backing.
- Carefully lay the straight edge of the collar lining so that the straight edges match up. Gently, but firmly, finger press the little zipper sandwich together.
- Proceed with the pattern instructions.
- Once the collar has been turned right side out, and the zipper foot is on your machine, edge-stitch close to the fabric edge. Every half inch or so, I lift the presser foot and gently nudge the top layer of fabric back so that it won't create ripples. I am basically acting as a human walking foot. After the first row of top-stitching, I do a second row, about 1/4" away from the first row of top-stitching. Again, lift the presser foot very frequently (every half inch or so) and smooth the fabric back so that it doesn't distort or ripple.
- I also did lots of basting on the neckline edges of both collars. I basted the neckline edge of each collar separately. I pinned them together along the neckline edge. I overlapped the collars as they would be on the shirt. For the first shirt, I interleaved the collars, so the left side of the upper collar overlapped the right side and then the left side of the under collar overlapped the right side. For the second one, I treated the collars as one unit, so the left side of both collars overlapped the right side of both collars. For the record, I didn't like this effect as well. Once the collars were situated as they would be on the collar, I basted the neckline edge again, going through all layers.
- The first two times I sewed the collars to the neckline, I used the typical trick of placing the edge with more ease, in this case the neckline, on the bottom against the feed dogs. This technique usually works great, but did not in this case. I think it was due to the tendency of the fabrics to "stick" to each other and not to glide through the feed dogs. No matter how careful I was, I would end up with many little pleats on the neckline that I had to rip out as best as possible and re-sew, with not very satisfactory results.
I finally tried a different approach. The third time I attached the collar to the neckline, I put the collar sandwich against the feed dogs and put the neckline on top, against the presser foot. I had to sew carefully, lifting the presser foot frequently and smoothing the fabric, to avoid any ripples. The result was perfect.
- When I've sewn a seam, if it is rippled, I iron it flat, with steam, before ironing it open. This almost always removes, or at least minimizes, the ripples.
- I sometimes use Steam A Seam II Lite to hem knits, but, to be honest, I prefer the result of a hand sewn hem. The SAS II Lite leaves stiffness in the hem that I don't like. My hand sewn hems are soft and malleable. The sleeves of both tops were sewn by hand. This is probably where it would be nice to have a coverstitch machine. :)
I did have one major "oops" as I was sewing the second, more colorful top. When I constructed the collar for this top, it went together better than the first top. However, I made a careless mistake when attaching the collar to the neckline.
I sewed the collar in backwards, so that the CF of the collar was at the CB of the top.
It took me awhile to figure this out, because I was busy removing little neckline pleats and trying not to destroy the fabric in the process. When I realized my mistake, I knew that there was no way I could rip the entire neckline seam out. It's almost impossible to rip a seam out of these flimsy rayon knit fabrics. One tends to shred the fabric because the thread really embeds itself into the fabric with lots of tiny stitches.
So, I very quickly (before I could think too hard) cut the collar off the top, sacrificing the seam allowances of the collars and the neckline. I had to re-baste the neckline layers of the collar. The neckline was now larger, so I overlapped the collar a lesser amount and sewed it back on with a 1/4" seam allowance.
When you look at the photos, if the neckline of the second, more colorful, top looks larger, or the collars look narrower, this is why. My solution worked pretty well and saved the top from being a disaster.
These tops were so much fun to make! Playing with the scraps was really enjoyable. The fabrics I used are quite droopy. I think if you omit the zipper edging from the collar, the resulting collar would be quite droopy. With the zipper, the Dritz Wonder Tape (two layers embedded in the seam), and the double row of top-stitching - the collar has a lot of body, almost as if it were wired. I really like this effect.
I will say that I like the first top better. I spent more time auditioning the fabrics for that one. If I'd taken more time, I would have switched up the fabrics in the second top. I also prefer the collar of the first top, which is made as the pattern is designed.
You know the worst part of this? The worst part is that my big bag of fabric scraps looks exactly the same. Not one bit smaller. On my next Teagarden project, I may have to move the scraps into a leaf sized garbage bag.