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I am a mother, a new grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My first book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge will be published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon


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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Making the Renfrew necklines easier

I love the Renfrew top.

It's a great draft with a good shoulder and neckline fit - both areas that too many other T shirt patterns don't do all that well.

I even teach the odd class on beginner's knits and use the Renfrew as our base pattern. It works.

And I have been adding length and width to make the pattern a tunic using the pivot and slide method and am pretty pleased with that too. Also the cowl is excellent. Well worth travelling over to other tops as I did with my blue Lazy-boy top a few posts ago.

All that said I find the V neckline and scoop neckline views have some issues that I detected in my student projects.

Here are my fixes for those issues.

The scoop itself is fine. 

Not too wide and not too low. And because of the nice secure fit in the upper bust there are none of the usual gaping issues. You can lean forward in all company and be comfortable doing it.

I do find though that the pattern piece for the neck binding is too long for many knits, like this very stretchy rayon/spandex below. I always use the old formula of measuring the neck opening once the shoulders are sewn and cutting the strip of neck binding 3/4 of that measurement plus two seam allowances. This seems to reliably pull the binding in just enough so it curves into the body and does not have any little peaky things. In this case, for the top here, that meant cutting off about 2"+ from the length of the binding strip as suggested. I think that the result, a neckline that curves in just enough, is a decent result.

Oh and BTW all three neckline views in this pattern tell you to top-stitch around the seam with a straight stitch after you have put the neck binding in.


Makes no sense to me. The seam allowances don't need that extra stitching to lie flat.

The seam allowances should naturally move down to the body if the binding is snug enough and top-stitching with a straight stitch around a part that is likely to stretch is just asking for trouble IMO. 

I get into enough sewing trouble on my own without asking for more, you can count on that. 

For instance the bright green strip drawing attention to my belly was not something I set out to do on purpose. I have decided to ignore this little detail since this top goes with my glasses but you and I both know it is still there.

Next I have abandoned the instructions for the set-in mitered V neckline the instructions tell you to use. I decided to do this for the simple reason that it breaks one of my main sewing rules, the rule I activate particularly when I sew something stretchy or emotional like a knit.

That rule is this: Never stitch a pivot if there is any way at all you can achieve the same result by simply crossing two shorter seams instead.

Crossing seams gives you the same end result, a corner or point of some kind, but by not pivoting you have avoided pushing the grain around in a woven (going one way going down to the pivot and going up the other away from it) which nearly always produces a little bubble at the point of the pivot - you are pushing the grain into a dead end and it has no way to go but up when you sew like this. 

In a knit pivoting so easily just twists the fabric around the needle and you get a little pleat that you will rip a hole through when you try to fix it, or a funny bumpy thing, to use the latin term.

So to do a V neckline that will always be easy and uses my two seam method and no pivoting I do a cross-over V. I will explain this tomorrow when I don't have dishes to do.

If my friend Carolyn is reading this I want her to know I can feel her eye roll at yet another psychedelic print. That poor girl has already done her time trying to get me to shop with taste. I obviously bought this when they let me out on my own.

Whenever I make something like this I always say to myself - I can wear it in Florida, I can wear it in Florida.

The thing is around here it is looking like this:

A shot near my youngest son's place, the ocean in winter. You might think this is picturesque - I just feel the cold.

My body is craving colour like an old sailor with scurvy.

So that's my excuse.

Now off to the dishes that still haven't figured out how to do themselves.


Anonymous said...

Well we sure don't want any of those funny bumpy things. And definitely you need those colours for Fla!


Shirley Ann said...

Looking forward to seeing how to do the V neck! I always avoid them because I am afraid I won't get them right. Love these 2 tops. I have the Renfrew; it is a great pattern! I've only done the scoop neck or the cowl.

Cherry said...

Thanks so much for the advice in this post. I am about start sewing knits for the first time and this pattern is on my list. Shall look out for the next instalment!

Anne Frances said...

I have also found the Renfrew is an excellent base for adding on other necklines. I have added on a Burdastyle envelope neck cowl (Burdastyle 10-2014-103 and an Ottobre woven placket and collar 2 -2011-12. Both worked really well.

Anonymous said...

We need colour all the time,especially in winter !
Love the tops...they look great !!
Ria in Melb. Oz.

Janee said...

I too love the Renfrew top - have made several cowl neck versions for myself and my daughter. And your guide for the length of the scoop neck band is great! Looking forward to your post about the V-neck band application. I just did a Tabula Rasa tee and used their instructions for the V-neck, which sounds like it might be similar - I was pleased with the way it came out.
And you should keep on choosing those psychedelic prints and colors -they obviously make you happy!

patsijean said...

I too love color and prints. Hubby chose a grey turtle-neck for me to try on when shopping a couple of months ago. Whaatt!? Me in grey? A turtle-neck? Nope. I may not make the "elegant in neutrals" list but color makes me happy. I love both of your tunics.

Julie Culshaw said...

Just made the scoop neck Renfrew and found the scoop too wide and too low for my taste. The skin in that area doesn't look young as it used to. So I raised the neckline.

I find that Kathleen Cheetham's method of binding a neckline always works. She doesn't cut a certain length but simply stretches it slightly as she applies it to the neckline. This is done with one shoulder seam not sewn, so that you can cut off the excess at the end and then join the shoulder and binding seam all at one pass. Works every time, even with a woven on a woven.

It's great that there are so many methods out there for doing things. I look forward to your V neckline demo as that one confounds me and I avoid V-necklines for that reason.

Sox said...

"My body is craving colour like an old sailor with scurvy." Me Too! I love your colourful tops!!!

Louisa said...

Definitely don't wait for Florida! You need all that colour right now. Pay no attention to alternative opinions and just do it!

lsaspacey said...

I am in LOVE with that second print, it's glorious. I'd wear it everywhere.

Michele Ondrizek said...

Have made my first renfrew top with the boatneck and like ALL of my other knit tops, the neckline droops terribly! I am going to try your suggestion and hope for the best. I was truly disappointed as the shirt is not wearable. My seams matched, the stitching was straight, side seams were French seamed but the neckline is terrible! I've even watched craftsy classes on how to deal with knits. Maybe I should stick with wovens....
I love your psychedelic top;-)