Wednesday, December 2, 2015

A Devil of a Striped Jersey Top

A few months ago I decided I wanted a classic Breton striped top. I initially looked for a commercially made version, but such tops are usually navy and white, and I don't wear navy or white. I couldn't find one in a colour that would look good on me, which meant either give up the idea or make one myself. I think you know which option I chose.

The pattern for this project, Vogue V8597, was already in my pattern library. I searched several Toronto fabric stores to find a striped jersey fabric in a colour I liked without any success, and wound up ordering a fabric online.

And this is the finished result. It turned out fairly well. The fabric is quite lovely and the colour suits me. It's a nice-looking piece that will go well with with the denim and twill jeans, skirts, and shorts that I wear in summer. The fabric is a bamboo rayon blend and I've put it in the drawer that holds my current cold weather tops rather than putting it away with my summer clothes, as it should prove trans-seasonal.

But man, was this one unexpectedly difficult project. To begin with, the green of this top proved impossible to match in thread. I never did succeed but ended up going with a Gutermann thread that was a good four shades darker. Then when I began cutting the top pieces out, I screwed up the front piece -- the lines were askew. It would have looked bad and there was not enough fabric left to recut the piece. I had to order more fabric online, which was maddeningly expensive.

When the extra fabric arrived, I recut the front and back. I was extremely careful to get it exactly right. But I used tailor's chalk to do so... and then it turned out that the tailor's chalk would not come out of this fabric. I tried every suggestion I found online to remove it and it would not budge. Both the new front and back pieces were marked and unusable. Fortunately there was enough fabric left of the second piece I had ordered that I could recut the front, and I was able to reuse the back piece from my first attempt at cutting.

But there was another difficulty still to come. It turned out that the jersey fabric stripes were very difficult to match up when sewing seams. I pinned and sewed the seams again and again before I got them to match. One especially low moment occurred just after I'd spent the better part of ten minutes painstakingly pinning a sleeve. I had moved onto pinning the second sleeve when I heard a sound, looked up, and saw my cat Trilby sitting on the sewing table, industriously pulling the pins out the first sleeve with his teeth. Perhaps the stripe match didn't meet his standards.

I'm not sure I'll ever make another striped jersey anything. It seems to be more hassle than it's worth. However, I did learn how to work with striped jersey, so perhaps another sewing project will go much more smoothly. For your reference as well as mine, here are my tips for sewing striped jersey:

- When cutting a piece that is supposed to be cut on a fold, cut the piece flat instead. Cut the first side of the piece and then fold the cut side over the fabric for the other side, making sure the stripes match exactly. Then cut the second half of the piece using the lines of the cut side.
- When pinning seams, put a pin each stripe, making sure to centre the pin on the stripe on both sides of the pinned section. The pin should also pierce the fabric on each side of the stitching line. You want to keep those stripes firmly and exactly in place.
- When sewing seams, machine baste them first, as it will probably take you several attempts to match the stripes.
- When basting, leave the pins in place until you've basted the entire seam rather than taking them out just before the machine needle gets to them.

The other lesson that I learned from this project is not to use tailor's chalk on the garment until I have first tested the chalk on a piece of scrap and made sure I can remove the mark. I'd also advise against sewing when one has an evil cat around, but as every evil cat owner knows, evil cats usually insist on being present during all such activities.

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