Fitting a Sleeveless Knit Shell

After I finished my 6PAC, I was kind of let down. A mild postpartum which many people experience after completing an important goal. I cleaned my Sewing and Stash rooms some times called the Studio.  Put away unused fabrics. I straightened up stash shelves and sorted my muslin pile.  I had 2 stacks with multiple fabrics, but every time I want to make a muslin I can’t find an appropriate fabric!  So I sorted through not asking what gave me joy, but what fabrics am I sewing or want to be sewing. That made short work of the 100% cottons and the non-stretch corduroys.  I asked a third question: “Am I going to be able to see the wrinkles in this fabric?”  That eliminated dark fabrics. I finished with two much shorter stacks of rayons, ITY’s, RPL’s and a few blends that I like.  What’s really nice is the mojo miraculously returned!

I’ve spent so much time fitting, that I’m not anxious to do it, but I’ve made 5 sleeveless knit tops which fit horribly.  I’m calling 3 of them camisoles and wearing under other garments. Point is, I wanted to fit Otto 2/2007 #1 and use for summer sleeveless tops. I decided that since I had the perfect muslin fabric, I should just bite the bullet and get this fitting done.

My first fabric is an ITY that looked better on-screen than IRL.  It is embroidered but has nasty uncut strings and some tensoning errors. I’m not sure why I didn’t dump it immediately.  The second, also an ITY, looked great in small format. Stunning -and I don’t mean that in a good way- IRL.

Why two fabrics?  Well I could not get Otto to fit.

According to OTTO the armscyes and neckline are to be bound and therefore will not be any smaller.  Since I dont like boob baring, I also raised the neckline 2″ before beginning. I added 1.5″ SA’s to the shoulder seam and side seams before cutting the fabric.  I taped the armscyes and neckline immediately after cutting and basted all the seams using water-soluble thread.  Muslin 1 above shows the pinched in dart because no amount of tweaking shoulder slope or side seam diminished the side swags (The other drag lines largely disappeared by sewing a 3/4″ SA instead of the 1.5″ added).  I marked the dart on the pattern then rotated it to the hem before cutting a new front and basting it to the back again using water-soluble thread.

Muslin 2 was somewhat more successful. I now knew that I needed the extra 3/4″ ease to be comfortable.  The extra ease which results from rotating a bust dart to the hem was not objectionable but not what I had set out to create.  Still I would have coped had I been able to remove the under arm swags.

I promise, I tweaked shoulders and armscyes multiple times.  5 F-I-V-E FITTINGS. You know I can be persistent when I really interested. Final fitting:

and I said “why’d I bother”.  I had increased and decreased both the slope and the depth of the seam allowance multiple times and the garment looked no better than the ones already hanging in my closet.

So I thought, “maybe I really do need a bust dart or armscye dart even with knit fabrics.” I ran across this concept long ago when I was a member of a on-line, plus-sized, sewing-group .  One the members related a tale of needed a tank top.  For whatever reason she neither had what she wanted nor could find one at the store. In desperation (do keep in mind that this is a story I remember from 12-14 years ago. I may not have all the details right.) To continue, in desperation she decided to use the woven tank top pattern that she already had fit perfectly.  As I recall, she said she needed to make both the side and shoulder seams a little deeper.. She did sew in that dart –didn’t try to rotate or remove.  It was the best, very, very best, fitting tank ever!  My thought was why not try the woven shell I was planning to refit for summer:  CLD’s HAF

I took the time to measure the pattern and compare measurements with previously fitted garments. I selected a size large.  Added 1/2″ to the shoulder and the back side seam. I wasn’t sure I needed the extra on the back side seam but that does seem to be what I do to make each of my tops fit. So why not?  I can cut it off later, but I can’t add it later.

I cut my pieces and stay stitched all the curves.  Usually I tape front necklines and back shoulders of knits.  I wanted a guide for where the finished neckline and armscyes would really sit. I opted to stay stitch and take care of both problems at the same time.  I then loaded the Dream with water-soluble thread; stitched the armscye dart, shoulder seams and side seam.

Just a note about my Dream:  it really doesn’t like ITY knits.  This is the first time I’ve had it suck fabric into the needle plate at the beginning of seam. I cut multiple strips of WSS on which to start the seam.   It’s a doable quick fix. I was using the triple straight stitch set .5 wide and .4 long. I may want to test sewing ITY with the straight stitch plate or check for some alternatives.  For knits, I need to select a stitch and build in some stretch. The straight stitch will pop on these knits.

So basted everything together and tried on in the mirror.  I pinched the armscye and the shoulder.  all the U’s under the arm disappeared.  Huh!

So Pattern 2, Fabric 2, Muslin 1 above, fit with one quick change. Yeah I’ve got something going on. The garment is caught on my left hip and skewing things. I also found that the back neck gaped a little; the front a little more.

I copied the shoulder slope back to the pattern. Following Peggy Sagers suggestion, I created a 1/4″ CB dart and 3/4″  CF dart  that starts at the neckline and zeros at the hem.  On the pattern. I couldn’t get the fabric to line up and stay still long enough to try and make the dart on the fabric.

I decided to finish it. Following Peggy Sagers suggestion, I serged the edges along the 5/8″ line (default seam allowance); turned and then top stitched. I also turned the hem up and top stitched.  Something happened during the sewing because the completed garment doesn’t look quite as good as the final fit

I’m not really sure I’m going to wear this. It’s just too bright. I kept this fabric for the specific purpose of having a ITY knit muslin. So yes I do see issues above. I think some result from the serge-turn-stitch and some from trying to serge the side seams to 1/4″ width. I also used Steam-A-Seam strips in the hem and got the hem slightly unaligned. I’ve never been able to reposition SAS after pressing without Herculean effort.

I’m going to be using the HAF not only with my wovens, but with my knit fabrics as well. I’m surprised that I was unable to fit the Otto when all it took for the HAF was a 5/8″ shoulder slope. I did try to compare the patterns:

The HAF is on the white Swedish Tracing paper; Otto on the Golden Tracing paper. The patterns were aligned along center and then slid up until shoulder seams were *mostly* aligned. Before rotating the Otto dart, both patterns were very similar.  Keep in mind that the HAF still has 5/8″ seam allowances while the Otto has none along the armscyes and neckline. Most of the difference is in the armscye dart, ease and the side seam shaping. Which makes me think, maybe the Otto is just not my shape.  I mean I’ve gone through that with so many pants patterns. There’s something about the draft that’s just not my shape and that pant pattern will never work.  However, that makes me sad.  I’ve loved Ottobre Design for several years. Sadly , if fitting them s no longer possible or requires lots of effort, I won’t renew my Otto subscription.


2 thoughts on “Fitting a Sleeveless Knit Shell

  1. I may have misunderstood what you wrote above, but Peggy only turns under 3/8″ at the neckline and armhole. If you turned under 5/8″–that might have an impact on fitting and the hang of the top. Just a thought.

    1. My first pattern was from Ottobre design – no seam allowances other than what I added. The second was a Louise Cutting pattern which includes 5/8 seam allowances. Peggy is a woman after my own heart or maybe I’m after her’s. I much prefer a 3/8 SA and trim my seams down once I’m sure of the fitting. In this case I trimmed the 5/8″SA Louise included to 1/4″ when I finished the blouse. Didn’t mean to confuse. Hope I clarified what I did. I probably should reread and edit that post a little.


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