Scruffalicious tops: sewing knits again

The wait is over, time to show you some of the successful knit tops I sewed for my uber casual holiday. I thought as you’d seen them already in action I would bundle them all into one post. Considering I sewed them all within two days of each other it makes sense.

In chronological order I’ll start with the nautical striped tops, made using two lengths of stripey fabric just waiting for this opportunity to be mobilised, one capped sleeve t-shirt & another 3/4 sleeve Breton shirt. For both of these I used patterns from Sew U Home Stretch, the Built by Wendy book, which if you remember I am particular fond of, it’s my bible for sewing knits & I have made a number of tops & also a dress so far.

It’s a great book to explain sewing with knit fabric, using both overlockers & regular machines. The patterns, as with all BBW books, are provided as basic blocks that you then get shown how to alter to create the various styles. This feels like real pattern drafting & is a great way to develop confidence at making alterations from existing patterns.

So, with the two lengths of stripey fabric & my desire for some low key sailor style, I followed the instructions for this top here, but drew a round scoop neck. I tried SO hard to match the stripes on the side seams & succeeded. However, cap sleeves & matching stripes of sleeve heads – is this really possible? After some head scratching & mental gymnastics I decided it was not for me anyway.

At least each sleeve was identical with its stripe placement. That’s all I felt I could do. Originally I used a strip of self fabric to hem the sleeves a la Renfrew, however, it wasn’t the look I was after, so had to unpick (twin needled-hemming) & re-hem more simply – I overlocked the raw edge then narrow hemmed with my twin needle. I should really have stitched a but further away from the edge as the hem want to poke out on the outside after washing.. I wished I’d bound the neck with a single stripe also, but wasn’t going to fuss with that anymore than I had already.

The second from the BBW stable was a Breton top.

Now, I like a Breton top having worn to death two genuine articles over my adult life. The prospect of making one out of this dark stripe which was rather yummy quality was pretty exciting. The diagram in the book fit the bill & away I cut, following the directions for alterations & making sure stripes matched. Maybe I should have done a bit of in-progress trying on, or measuring before cutting, but I didn’t. It was therefore a surprise to me that the sleeves were wider & shorter than the picture suggested.

I know I can replace them if it matters that much to me, but I am not going to. It’s just not perhaps the Breton top that I’d imagined. It is however practical & has been worn lots, so I’m not really complaining. As well as being prepared for the sleeves, next time however I wouldn’t cut quite such a wide neck …

Finally I’ll join the ranks of the many happy downloaders of Zoe’s free (yes, free!) strappy vest pattern. To say that this is a quick & easy make would be too obvious. I need to say that I succeeded in making three of these in 2.5 hours: cutting out all three took 30 minutes before we went out for a curry; sewing them up & adding the elastic took me no more than two hours (you may recall that my eyes popped open on the morning of my holiday at 5.30am & I sprung into action, completing these late additions to my handmade holiday wardrobe by 7.30 am. I reckon I could have shaved a good 10 minutes off this time if I had used my machines at their usual full pelt & not been mindful of Gary still sleeping!). I used an old t-shirt (which has become nightwear) to test out my elastic sewing skills – this first time was not perfect in terms of tension of the elastic & I’m glad I had a trial vest to gain experience on.

Zoe’s instructions are really clear & I liked the way that flat elastic was stitched onto the tops – a zig zag stitch was used, however you don’t see it if your thread is the same colour as the elastic. It’s a really nice finish, seen below – the zig zag is only visible on the inside.

The second & third vests were made using jersey I got from Manchester recently: red & turquoise.

The different qualities of these jerseys though was interesting – the turquoise appeared to be super stretchy & I had to be careful in not stretching it out of shape as I attached the elastic. The end result though was worth it. I used black undie elastic for the red & cream with scallops for the turquoise.

Both have been worn & I feel more will be on the way. Not only is it great as a summer top, but it will be long enough for being worn as a warming layer in the winter. My inner granny has already clocked that it’ll be nice & long to tuck into even low rise trousers & keep your lower back nice & snug! I’d recommend this pattern, such a useful practical make. Thank you Zoe, I’m a fan 🙂

43 thoughts on “Scruffalicious tops: sewing knits again

  1. Jane

    I’m VERY impressed with your knit summer wardrobe Winnie, every single piece looks liks something I’d snap up in a second in a shop, especially that first red and white striped T shirt. The zig zag stitch on the camisoles looks really professional too, fantastic work! The colours you’ve chosen really complement your lovely sailor tan! X

  2. Debbie

    I have just caught up with your holiday wardrobe extravaganza. The tops look soooo good. Love the photos too,. I agree about the worth of the Home Stretch book. Oddly my stripey breton top from that book also has a too big neck and I have been thinking how to alter it. Not come up with any solution yet. 🙂

  3. Sølvi

    Love your summer sewing. The knit tops looks lovely, and I must say I really love the with and length of that Breton top, even if it wasn´t what you were going for. Very cool! 🙂

  4. Roobeedoo

    I see a post like this and I wonder why anyone goes to the shops anymore! You inspire confidence to just GET SEWING! And probably to invest in the Built by Wendy books too!

    1. scruffybadgertime Post author

      I hadn’t looked at it that way Roo! Thank you…I guess I’m so switched off from buying rtw clothing now, that I automatically turn to the sewing machine….bbw books really are amongst my faves in terms of inspirational reading….

  5. didyoumakethat

    I NEED that book! Thank you so much for featuring it, Scruffy. It may help me conquer knit fabrics. All of your makes are super lovely. I bet they get worn until they drop to pieces.

    1. scruffybadgertime Post author

      I found this a book I loved reading, it really helped me to understand what I was contending with before I embarked on sewing jerseys… Hopefully you’ll find it inspiring too

  6. Sam

    Lovely! I’m tempted by that book, as I love both the striped tops you made. I don’t like to wear vests with such thin straps, otherwise I’d be tempted by them too!

  7. Amanda

    Beautiful job on all accounts! Your mastery of knits is impressive – you make it look so easy! Love ALL four of these tops, they look beautiful on you! 🙂

  8. LinB

    The only time I pay much attention to pattern notches is for matching plaids and stripes. If you can line up the sleeve notches to the armsceye notches on the bodice, that’s about as much matching as you’ll get across the bodice to the sleeve. Anything at the sleeve cap is iffy, depending on how much fabric you have to manipulate, if there are pleats or gathers, etc. Matching across the top of the shoulder is another area that haute couture insists must match to a thread’s width, but which I find I care little or nothing about. I so love these basic shapes and jolly stripes on you. In the U.S., Sept. 19 is “Talk Like a Pirate Day.” I think it should also be “Dress Like a Pirate Day.”

    1. scruffybadgertime Post author

      I could do ” dress like a pirate”!! Sounds fun!
      Thank you for your thoughts on matching arm scye with sleeve cap….I really wasn’t sure if it was possible…or just me!

  9. sigrid

    Scrufftastical indeed. I love a striped top, but have despaired of ever finding the right fabric. And I agree, I ‘m not sure how to match a cap sleeve. I do love those Sew Wendy books, but I also wonder how close the finished products will be to the drawing, as they don’t seem to have tested each and every design. Thanks so much for being a pattern tester!

  10. Phil

    Hi, I tried to comment on your holiday wardrobe post but my iPad wouldn’t let me:( so I’m going to be a rebel and do it here: Thank you! I find packing really difficult and take more for a weekend than you do for a week (and of course don’t wear most of it!). I do always take a waterproof though!:) Your colour co-ordination seemed to work really well so I am going to give that a try. Btw my favourite outfit of yours was red trousers & spotty top, just a little different & elegant for holiday wear. Although I agree your stripey tops were very successful & I always think look smart no matter where you are.

    1. scruffybadgertime Post author

      Oh, Phil, your comments both worked, sorry you have been having problems. If you look they are showing, but thank you so much for your tenacity in leaving me your thoughts…really agree ,with you!

  11. Erin

    I know what you mean about the boatneck BBW top – my sleeves came out super wide too! I trimmed, repinned the stripes along the edge and reserged the side seams a couple times before I decided good enough. Each time I was paranoid I’d screw up and my stripes would end up being off! Gave up on the little buttons at the neck since it was too wide as well. Still cute and stripey, but even trying it on midway couldn’t have done anything to save that neck. Love your version!

    1. scruffybadgertime Post author

      That’s three of us then with the wide neck! At least… Well done you for going over the sleeves lots of times until you got what you are after…I’m not so good at retracing my steps….

  12. Christine

    Fantastic tops and it looks like you had some sun as well. I have never really sewn with knits but if I go back to sewing some day I think I will have to be very brave and try.

  13. Zoe

    To echo all these other commenters, all your tops look fabulous and so damned wearable! Thanks very much for linking to my pattern and I’m thrilled you enjoyed using is. I totally agree, vest tops need to be long enough to tuck into even the lowest of hipster jeans/trousers! I always wear these under my outfits when it’s chilly.


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  18. Zoe

    Hiya lovely lady, hope you are well! I’m in the process of writing a blog post about using unwanted T-shirts with my free patterns. I’d like to use one of your images and quote you, with full credit and lots of links of course! If you’d prefer I didn’t please let me know ASAP and I’ll of course remove them as quick as a flash.

    Thanks! Zoe xxx


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