Don’t laugh, but this simple creation was originally inspired by an awesome Rei Kawakubo sweater from the 1980s. I’d post a picture but I haven’t been able to find one that’s definitely legal to use on a blog. I encourage you to click the link to see it! Anyway it’s black, knitted, very rectangular in shape, and has panels that weave over and under each other. I considered trying to knit something similar before sanity prevailed and I realised that what I actually wanted was a boxy black knit top with some interesting texture and no complicated knitting was required.
I came across this unusual sweater knit from Empress Mills while browsing their website. It’s loosely knitted in a wide rib pattern. And that seemed to go quite nicely with Burda 101B 06/2016, a simple kimono sleeved top designed to show off stripes.
Burda’s stripe placement is fine for striped fabric but mine has raised ribs which I think would look peculiar running parallel to the hem, so I put the horizontal ribs on the top half and the vertical ones on the bottom. Cutting it out was a challenge. I knew it would be obvious if the ribs weren’t perfectly aligned so I made full sized pattern pieces and cut it single layer instead of on the fold. That took up a lot of paper and space.
I went all the the place with sizing. The top half is cut in the largest size the pattern came in, and the lower body in my usual size. This was in order to get a bit more depth over the bust because on all the model photos the horizontal seam seems to be too high. I also didn’t add any length to the lower body when normally I would need at least 5cm. I wanted this to be fairly cropped. I wish I’d straightened the side seam. This is one of those patterns that can be a dress or a top depending on where you hem it, and so it’s got a bit of waist shaping for the dress version that the top doesn’t need.
The original pattern has a turned and stitched edge at the neckline but I made deep facings and blind hemmed them to the body to make sure they stay put.
This was a quick but not an easy project. The pattern is Burda 114A 11/2011, a fairly simple wrap over knit top. The pattern photo shows it made up in a very loose and drapey sweater knit; you can see it’s slightly transparent.
I got some fairly similar stuff from Croft Mill’s sale recently. It was an end of roll so there’s no more available. It’s a loosely knitted polyester sweater knit in various shades of grey, black, and white. It came with a warning that it was tricky to sew and they weren’t kidding! You can stretch it a long way and it doesn’t snap back. I spent a long while trying to get it arranged on grain and without tension before cutting, but one of my sleeves still ended up 10cm longer than the other, and the back hem edge was on a steep angle. This was particularly obvious because the fabric has a subtle striped effect. I took my shears and cut the extra fabric off freehand, following the stripes, to end up with two matching sleeves and a hem that is on grain. I think it’s worked surprisingly well considering how misshapen my first attempt was. I really should have cut the whole thing out single layer.
Most people who have made this recommended going down at least one size. I did size down but I also made my usual length additions and they weren’t needed. The sleeves are meant to be extra long anyway, but I think the body has come out much longer than on the model photo.
The neckline on the model photo is very low but most people who have made this have found it comes up much higher and more wearable, me included. I can arrange it to be lower but it naturally settles as you see it in the photos.
I constructed this mostly with a straight stitch on the sewing machine using a ball point needle and slightly lowered needle tension. I tried the overlocker on a few seams but it didn’t like the loosely knit fabric at all. The fabric caught around the loopers at one point and required some vicious hacking with scissors to free it. The overlocker seems to have survived the experience but I lost a bit of width from the top around the bust area (I regretted using only 1cm seam allowances) and after that I didn’t risk overlocking again. I left the remaining seam allowances raw and sewed the hems with a wide zigzag positioned to go over the raw edge of the hem allowance. Hopefully it will hold up. Knits generally don’t ravel but this one might be an exception.
I really like the finished top. I’ve seen a few versions of this in more stable knits and those looked pretty good too, so I might give it another go at some point. In a more stable knit this would be a great first knit project because there’s no neckband to deal with. I think I need a break after this particular version though; my next project is going to be made from nice well behaved denim.
This is another pattern repeat: the top from Vogue 8866, a wardrobe pattern now sadly out of print. (Grey top, blue top, sparkly dress from the same pattern). The envelope picture doesn’t do this one justice at all. But the technical drawing reveals interesting seamlines. I’ve lightened my photos slightly in the hope they’ll be visible there too.
It is made from some bargain black scuba knit I got from the Birmingham Rag Market. I constructed this almost entirely on a regular sewing machine with a straight stitch, using a size 90 stretch needle and lowering my thread tension slightly. Most of the seams are top stitched so don’t need to be super stretchy. The scuba doesn’t need any seam finishing either because it doesn’t fray.
I originally cut out the dress version of the pattern and added side seam pockets. But I got them in the wrong place – too low – and they wouldn’t sit flat. I couldn’t face redoing them and I knew I wouldn’t wear a dress with no pockets so I cut the whole thing off at the hip and made it into a top.
A more carefully planned change was to swap the back neck opening and snaps for a short invisible zip. It stops just above the back yoke seam. It’s just enough to get the top over my head but no more.
I haven’t bothered hemming this. I didn’t want to fight with a twin needle. I ran the hem and sleeve edges through the overlocker with a fairly short stitch length to give the impression of some sort of intentional finishing and that’s good enough.
I think this will be a useful basic top. It goes with most of my other clothes and it’s good for layering. It’s not the most exciting thing I’ve made this year but it’s the basics you wear the most.
Photos by my husband, taken on a very windy and sunny day so excuse my hair. I’m wearing the top with my gold Burda jeans here but it should go with most of my jeans and skirts.
Now I come to write this blog post I realise I’ve never made any of the other items from this pattern, and there’s an excellent pair of culottes and a skirt in there too. Maybe some time soon I’ll have a go at those.
This is the top from Vogue 1417. This style is all about the cape. There’s an interesting knit top pattern under there with an asymmetric hem and unusual seaming, but you’d never know!
Here’s the line art. Unfortunately it doesn’t show the seaming. The side seams are on a diagonal so the back piece is much narrower at the bottom than the top. The picture gives an idea of the size of the cape though. The pattern piece is one of the biggest I’ve ever seen.
This was a lot of fun to sew. It’s not terribly difficult or time-consuming but there’s slightly more to it than making a t-shirt. I thought the pattern instructions were unusually good. I followed them almost exactly for once; the only change I made was to add a bit more interfacing around the zip which made it a lot easier to insert. I made this entirely on my regular sewing machine with a narrow zig-zag stitch despite having the overlocker ready to hand. You need a twin needle for the hems but that’s about it for special equipment.
I made it from a viscose-lycra knit from Tissu Fabrics. At the time of writing it’s still available here. This is a lovely fabric. It’s medium-weight and fairly stretchy. It presses very well which was a great help in hemming. The only downside is that there’s a definite wrong side to it which is slightly shinier than the right side.
Although it was fun to sew it’s rather a nuisance to wear. The cape tends to get in the way and I find myself pushing it back all the time. That could probably have been predicted from the pattern photo, but I liked the design enough to give it a try. And I’m glad I did because without the cape I think this would make a great top. I’d probably go up a size if making the shell on its own. There are no finished pattern measurements on the tissue and I didn’t take any notes, but it’s very close-fitting.
One more picture, because the back view is rather the point of this garment.
Despite having complained about the impracticality of this design I’ve actually worn it a few times. It’s no good at all for work but nice for cooler weekends where the cape adds a bit of warmth. I don’t think it’s ever going to be a favourite garment, but I’ll definitely revisit the pattern in future.
I’m getting my money’s worth out of Vogue 8866. It’s a wardrobe pattern so you might expect to get multiple makes from it, but I’ve only used two of the five views so far. And those two are so similar they’re really the same pattern: a knit top which can be lengthened into a dress. The grey top below is the most recent incarnation. Previously I’ve done the dress in a sparkly doubleknit and the top in an unusual textured jersey.
This version is made in a scuba knit from Tissu Fabrics. The colour is evocatively described as platinum grey. Sadly they now seem to have sold out of the grey although there are other colours available. It’s fairly heavy weight with good recovery, but not ultra-stretchy. I definitely should have gone up a size on the top this time. You can see quite a bit of wrinkling below.
The original pattern has got a keyhole opening at the back neckline and the collar closes with hooks and eyes. For this version I replaced all that with a zip in the centre back yoke and collar seam, which I made a complete pig’s ear of, managing to sew over the teeth in a couple of places. Amazingly it looks OK in the pictures but it only unzips about halfway! It was supposed to be an invisible zip but I ended up inserting it with top-stitching like a centred zip because I hadn’t thought the construction through properly in advance.
The original pattern has a lot of top-stitching on the decorative curved seams. I didn’t bother with that on my previous makes, which were in very textured fabric, but on this one it was worth the effort because it shows up against the smoother surface. You can just about see it on the raglan seams in the picture below.
I wasn’t very pleased with this make when I finished it, what with the zip and sizing problems. However it’s grown on me. It’s been worn to work a couple of times which is always a good test, although one of my colleagues did compare it to a wetsuit. I guess I can’t complain too much if the fabric’s called scuba knit.