Oh let's talk.
This week I finished one of Butterick's "fast and easy" patterns, 5495 to be exact, pattern picture here.
Now this is a simple knit talk and I am needing some of those for my everyday life, and since I have found a good brand of easy to wear pull on tightish, slimmish pants (with the stretch woven yoke sort of like my easy short pattern, several posts back) I now really need tops loose and long enough to cover what could be called many other things but really can most accurately be described as a bit of a middle aged female gut. The kind of thing that seeps into your body so that one night you are lying in the bath with a book propped up on your stomach and you look down and say "oh my god." This happens about the same time you realize that other parts of your body are getting thinner, like your thighs and your hair (OK maybe not thinner so much as sort of detaching).
I am going somewhere with this and that is that all of this leads in a pretty straight line, if you are a sewer, to the need to sew more clothes.
Now this Butterick 5495 looks on the pattern envelop as if it has some style and some grace around the middle. Not really. The cut is essentially some very nice under bust gathering achieved by a loop that pulls the fabric in (kind of like a loose top you might have once made where you grabbed all the fabric at the front and said "now that looks better"). Quite flattering with a nice V neckline.
However appearances, in pattern envelopes at least, can be deceiving. In fact this shirt has no more than standard T shirt ease waist down and the effect as you can see in my own blurry picture spotted version (will upgrade the photo later, someone was trying out a new iPhone) is a lot like a twist top but probably easier to figure out.
OK so my advice on this is that if you want more than very moderate room in the waist and hips of this top you best add a couple of inches at the waist and hip. I have already cut out another version in better fabric (this is very comfortable) for another top and even gone so far as to cut an even fuller version in a longer length, sleeveless, for a summer nightgown in some pointelle knit (that's what Fabricmart called it - a single knit with stripes of little holes).
So there are some good things about this pattern.
What's with the pattern companies completely disregarding the realities of modern sewing and knit fabrics with the instructions? No wonder good sewers pay zero attention to the instructions (or buy indy patterns that may have some very basic and maybe even dated styles, but at least have instructions written for real sewing and real sewers - I am sure that most people buy the independent patterns simply because the instructions actually make sense.)
OK, so what do I mean by instructions that refuse to acknowledge knit fabrics or techniques, written I assume by professionals (or more probably cut and pasted from some library of generic sewing instructions) and therefore absolutely doom the new or new-to-knits sewer to failure?
Let me tell you, specifically:
1. The pattern pieces are marked with a straight of grain line. No such thing in knits, that's a woven term. What matters in knits is the direction of greatest stretch and keeping that running around the body. Where is the greatest stretch line in 5495?
2. The sewer is told to sew all seams twice with a straight stitch. If you sew knits chances are very high that you have a serger, and even if you sew on a 50 year old machine you will have some kind of a zig zag. A narrow zig zag is an excellent alternative to a serged seam, but really who do they think is making this top, a person with a treadle machine? What's with the straight stitches only?
3. An enormous proportion of the construction steps are about things that make sense in wovens when stabilizing grain is the thing (see note 1 on the absence of grain in knits) but are just messy and unnecessary in knits and likely to over work the fabric. My own analogy for knit fabrics is pastry, this is something that works best if you treat it with a light hand, over work it and you pull it into a shape from which there is no return - ever see a pie crust that benefitted from an extra 20 minutes of good hard kneading? Exactly.
I have included a few shots here, staystitching a curved seam, stitching one of those little boxes around where you are going to have to clip -a practiced sewer would just ignore this advice but a new sewer would follow this nonsense and end up with a wavy, worried seam.
Also note the hem instructions. Where is the reference to how to actually handle a knit hem so it doesn't stretch out of shape and you don't end up with the dreaded wonky wavy hem? Baste this twice and then press it and then straight stitch it, well that would take as much time as it should to put this little top together and definitely produce your worried hem.
4. Finally, and this is specific to this top and not to knit instructions in general, the V neckline instructions, illustrated here are really, really odd. Basically you are told to do reinforce stitching, clip to the point of a V, fold under the edges of the V like sort of facings, after which you finished the raw edges and then just to press the facings down. So what about the point of the V? Is that just supposed to be pressed under and just stay? Are they kidding?
I tried this and of course the finished edge of the facing just stood there showing at the point of the V because there was nothing to hold it down. Also the V was so deep that it in fact ended below my bra band. Not a look that is that sharp on a 56 year old woman even if she made her bra herself and did an excellent job.
My solution was to sew a little dart to close the neckline up and finish the bottom of the V (fold the top right sides together and start stitching about 3" above the point of the V which then becomes the dart point - doesn't that make any sense? It will when you have it in your hand).
Final thoughts on Butterick 5495 - nice and interesting top but use your own head to put it together.
And better photos next time. And maybe the next pattern won't make me crazy and I won't look that way in the picture, vertical hair and all.