In this blog, Helen Bartley, our workshop instructor, and I introduce you to our newest pattern.
We liked it so much, we hacked it!
What is the pattern? Read on …
I wanted a fit-forgiving top that was easy to sew—so I designed McCall’s pattern M7979, a top and tunic pattern for knits. I was inspired by a swim coverup and drafted the pattern adding a sleeve and collar option. It is designed to fit snugly around the hips to create a blouson look. Recently, I sewed it in three different fabrics, covering all seasons and many occasions.
Look for techniques on sewing knit fabrics in the pages from our Knits for Real People book at the bottom of this post.
McCall’s 7979 line art:
Below, I’m wearing View C, a winter version—a sweaterknit with a skewed cowl collar and ¾-length sleeves. Later in this blog we will give you the skewed cowl instructions from our book Knits for Real People. You can add it to any pattern, even a round neck tee shirt.
Below, a McCall’s model wears it as a tunic. Since it wasn’t sewn for her, I think it wouldn’t stay up around her hips. But it does make a great easy-fit tunic or dress!! If you want it to be a dress, check the length to make it the length you want before cutting. Later in this blog, see Helen Bartley’s dress versions of this pattern.
SIZE AND FIT
I sew with a size 12, but for all of these tops I used a size 10, which is the size of the pattern tracing McCall’s sent me. A size 10 is for a 32-1/2″ bust, but the size 10 pattern finished garment measurement (FGM) is 60” in the bust. We doubt most of you would need a full bust alteration.
Usually McCall’s lists the bust FGM on the back of the envelope, but here they listed only the width at the lower edge. Don’t use that as a reference for the size to buy. Stick with your normal top size or go smaller if you want less ease. Your knit will stretch and NEEDS TO STRETCH to fit your hips snugly.
I took 36” of my knit (the hip FGM of the size 10) and stretched it around my hips. In all three of my fabrics, the knit stretched to fit snugly and I didn’t need to add to the side seams.
McCall’s decided to add shirring in the side seams of the lower hip area for lightweight knits. It is a nice touch, but not necessary if you fit the knit snugly, because then it will stay up.
The top is so forgiving that I needed only to do a high round back alteration and sway back, and those instructions are in the pattern. You can also change the length and width of the top depending on your frame and fabric. If you are short waisted, take a horizontal tuck across the middle to have less blousing.
If you really do need a FBA (full bust adjustment), the alteration lines are on the tissue and the guide has instructions.
A SHORT SLEEVE VERSION
This black rayon jersey version has a dropped shoulder and open neckline. It is the same size that the previous skewed cowl collar was sewn to. It’s fun to wear and accessories can totally change the look.
Here’s what the short sleeve view looks like on the McCall’s model.
CUTTING TIP FOR PATTERN PIECES WIDER THAN THE FABRIC
My pattern was first created using Perfect Pattern Paper gridded tissue. The gray sweaterknit was a little narrow for the width of the pattern, so I folded the pattern edges under at the side seams in the bust area. I folded the same amount away on the underarm seams of the sleeve. It made the armhole a little less deep, which was OK.
VIEW B IN A PRINT
Here the McCall’s model is wearing View B with the open neckline and ¾-length sleeves in a rayon/poly/spandex interlock print with capris. The neckline has a band finish. We will show you that technique from Knits for Real People later in the blog.
Here’s the same top on me. I like the hip-slimming look of the side view.
HELEN’S ITALIAN SCREEN PRINT KNIT
Helen found this rayon jersey screen print from Italy at Josephine’s Dry Goods here in Portland (@josephinesdrygoods). Using View B, she lengthened the pieces, then fussy-cut the print, placing what she wanted on front, back, and sleeves.
(Helen teaches not only Palmer/Pletsch workshops but also classes in her home-based sewing school, Seam Divas Sewing Lounge in Vancouver, Washington. @seamdivas )
Helen sewed it in one evening during this year’s summer sewing camp and wore it the next day. Note the armhole would fit almost any size upper arm.
The easiest hack (changes you make to a pattern) is just to cut it off into a short top as Helen and I have done. We wanted a few short tops to show off the details of all of the jeans we have sewn (for our 4-day jeans workshops that Helen teaches). The hack? I just cut off the length like I did for the green and black top at the beginning of this blog. Helen did the same but also raised the front neck.
Helen adds, “For the two shorter tops I had to get creative due to yardage limitations. I was easily able to hack the pattern to fit the fabric by folding the pattern from shoulder to hem, narrowing it by 3” which equals 12” total. I later narrowed the gray top from the underarm to the hem and that became the pattern I used for the maroon patterned top shown below. Both tops have narrow machine-stitched hems at the sleeves.”
“The gray top is handstitched at the neckline. The maroon top neckline has a self-fabric binding.”
“The top is paired with my favorite pant: M7415, the No-Side-Seam Pant in a lightweight rayon/nylon/spandex blend ponte from Josephine’s Dry Goods.”
ANOTHER DRESS-VERSION HACK
Helen in her Seam Divas Sewing Lounge wearing her just-finished knit dress in a rayon/spandex jersey tie-dye print.
She lengthened the top to almost ankle length using a yardstick. From just below the waist she cut straight down to add length and snip marked where she wanted the slit to start.
I’ll let Helen tell you what she did:
TIPS FROM HELEN
I stabilized the back neckline with SewkeysE Extremely Fine Woven Stay Tape and bound the neck with a crosswise grain strip of self-fabric. If you sew this top in any rayon jersey, be sure to stay the back neck or it will grow.
I serged the shoulder seams with a 4-thread seam (3mm L x 6mm W) and left the seam unstabilized just to see what would happen. I like it!
I basted to check fit and then serged the side seams using the same stitch as the shoulders.
I added mitered side slits. To leave enough fabric for the slits, I stopped my serging on the side seams 14” from the bottom edge. I carefully ended the seam by stopping and folding the remaining seam allowance out of the way and then chaining off the edge. I drew the chain back through the stitches and applied Fray-Check to the cut ends.
I tried the dress on and tied a narrow scrap of fabric around my waist, adjusted the blouson and marked the level of the tie with pins at the dress sides, center front and center back.
I used a ½”-wide strip of Pamela’s Fantastic Elastic at a length just slightly tight around my waist to make sure it would fit after being stretched and sewed. I divided both the elastic and the dress in eighths and zigzagged (3.5mm x 3.5mm) the elastic to the wrong side of the dress, stretching the elastic to fit the dress.
We like Pamela’s elastic because you can cut it to any width and it won’t ravel on cut edges!
For the mitered side slits I used the step-by-step instructions in the Palmer/Pletsch book Knits for Real People, page 103, shown below.
The sleeves are hemmed with a 5/8” narrow hem. Voila! Easy, breezy summer dress!
TIPS FROM THE KNIT BOOK
AN EASY MITERED SLIT
Helen wrote these instructions and made and modeled a dress with mitered slits for Knits for Real People.
BANDS FOR KNIT NECKLINES
A SKEWED COWL COLLAR
HEMS FOR KNITS
Paper-backed Steam-A-Seam is used to turn up the edge once and fuse. See instructions from Knits for Real People below.