Sunday, September 8, 2013

Road Testing the Coverstitch Machine - Butterick 5954

This pattern came out in the recent batch of Butterick patterns, on August 23rd. I liked this top very much, but I knew I'd have to customize it a bit for my aesthetic. I particularly liked views C and D, which feature an overlapped front that is attached only at the shoulder.

Another reason this was a great pattern to use is, with that long hem, it gave me a great chance to use my new coverstitch machine!

I haven't been sewing a lot of knits of late, but I have quite a healthy stash of knit fabrics, so it was easy to grab this red and black stripe knit. I can't remember where I purchased this fabric, as it was more than a year ago, but it was (I think) at the brick and mortar Harts Fabrics in Santa Cruz. Maybe. It also might have been Stone Mountain and Daughter.

This fabric features textural stripes in addition to the color stripes. Some stripes are created with a rib knit. And then, sprinkled over the entire fabric are small (seemingly) randomly placed tucks. This texture makes it a bit difficult to hem evenly, as the ribbed stripes cause the plain knit stripes to "blouse" out. I like textured fabrics and this has a great texture, but also present a bit of a challenge.

The pattern features a huge swing hem, which begins just below the bust. The swing emanates from the side seams and the back seam - there is no swing at center front, which is good, because it would otherwise have a maternity effect. You can see what I mean by looking at the pattern pieces:



I removed all of the swing. My bust is bigger than my hips, so a straight column is enough swing for me.

The top is designed to be close-fitted at the bust. A medium (the size I sewed up) is designed for a 34"-36" bust. The finished top measures 35-1/2" at the bust, so this is designed to have (close to) zero ease. My bust is 40" and my upper bust is 36" - I always choose a pattern size based on my upper bust measurement and then I alter from there. I like my knit tops to gently hug the bust, so I like negative ease. This knit is quite stretchy, so the only FBA I did was to add 1" to the vertical at the bust line. (I really could have skipped it, since the hemline is uneven, but I do like putting a little extra fabric at the bust to go up and over the fullness.

(For more information on this subject, see my posts on FBAs in Knits - Advice for the Uber Busty and Vertical Only FBA.)

Here are the pattern pieces after my alterations. (Yes, I should have used a dry iron on these to flatten them out).

Front, with 1" vertical-only FBA


Other alterations:

Besides removing the swing hem and doing a vertical-only FBA, I made a few other modifications:

  • When sewing up the top, I removed 1" from the waist at the side seams, tapering to the bust and hips, for a total reduction of 4" at the waist. I like a bit of shaping in my columns. ;)
  • Since I removed the shaping from CB, I cut the back piece on the fold.
  • This is a droopy knit fabric. (I love Margy's explanation of droopy vs drapey.) I did not want a limp, lifeless collar, which can be a Sad Thing, so I used a technique that Marcy Tilton introduced in a pattern she released several years back, Vogue 8582. The pattern piece for the cowl is rather generous and looks like this:
    To construct, you first sew the side seams together to form a tube.

    You then fold the collar, wrong sides together, so that the CF mark on the top layer meets the CF mark on the bottom layer, and the seam allowance (S/A) on the top layer meets the S/A on the bottom layer. (Sorry if this is as clear as mud, but if you've ever made a cowl neck, or a turtleneck, it's quite straightforward.)

    What I did differently was to introduce a twist. So, after folding the collar so that the upper CF mark met the lower CF mark, I then moved the top mark over by 3". You then continue to pin the edges together so that there is a 3" offset between the layers. This introduces a twist in the collar. It gives the collar a bit more body and causes it to lay nicely on the neck, especially in a limp fabric. Here is what the collar looked like after it was pinned:
  • I also wanted to cut the collar so that the stripes were vertical. The conventional way to cut it (and the way the pattern layout suggests) would have put the stripes on the horizontal. This would be nice, too, but wasn't what I wanted.
  • I did not narrow the shoulder, which suggests that they might be on the narrow side. I would have narrowed them by 1/2" or so, but I forgot that to do this, I should also narrow the shoulder on the side of the front that has the drape. In the end, I decided it was fine, but it's something to think about. (I usually narrow the shoulders in the construction phase, but this would have been easiest to do at the pattern stage.)
  • Finally, if I had followed the suggested layout for cutting, it would have placed the stripe horizontally on the sleeves. I definitely didn't want to continue the horizontal line on the sleeves, which would have the effect of making me look wider, so I cut them with the stripe going vertically up and down the sleeve. If I had cut them the suggested way, I could have made full length sleeves, but I only had enough fabric for 3/4 length sleeves (from view A) in the vertical direction. I wanted 3/4 length sleeves anyway, so I didn't mind.

The Hem:

The entire hem is sewn in one fell swoop (from shoulder to shoulder) and it's quite long. As I mentioned, this fabric is rather challenging to hem evenly, with it's different knitted textures, but the coverstitch machine handled it like a champ! I didn't even have to change the black thread to another color. ;)

Thanks, again, Susanne!!

Closeup of collar and coverstitched hems.


I like this top! We've had some wonderfully warm San Francisco weather the last few days (usually September is one of the very nicest months in SF) but today cooled off a tad, so I decided to wear my new top. I met up with my eldest daughter and we went to church. I can tell you that this top holds up well to active dancing, clapping, and drumming. It did not open up to display the goods. Later, when I was walking outside, a gust of wind caught the flap and just a tiny triangle of belly showed, but it wasn't bad. If you are concerned, you can tack it, or pin it, but I don't think I will bother.