The pattern in question this week is the Kristen kimono t-shirt by Maria Denmark. It is a free t-shirt pattern when you subscribed to Maria’s newsletter. As top patterns go this is about as simple as possible – a front and back piece cut on the fold with kimono sleeves – no darts or other shaping. For the more ‘complex’ option there is an additional neckband pattern piece. It seems a great really fast basic pattern for knits and is really efficient in terms of fabric use – less than a metre (.75) per top (and that is a long top as drafted – those with shorter bodies will want to shorten and use even less). The only delaying issue is that you have to add seam allowances and the neckband pattern piece is not supplied – you have to calculate the length and draw it.
Having made two of these tops I can testify that the pattern is as simple and quick to make as it seems – two side and shoulder seams, sleeve and bottom hem, and a neckband finish to the neckline. That didn’t prevent me having issues – but I’ll come to that.
I made several fit adjustments to this pattern before cutting it, firstly a 1cm forward thrust shoulder adjustment, as standard for me. I am glad to say the top is very long to start with – I am long bodied, and it fit me fine without length adjustment. I also added a no dart full bust adjustment. I also added a 1cm seam allowance all around, as the instructions suggest. After I made my mockup I noticed that the instructions say not to add the seam allowance to the neckline, so I removed this before cutting the first top.
For this top I used a wool jersey in navy. For the first version I cut and sewed as per the instructions. There were several glitches with adding the neckband which required ripping it out and restitching. First time I realised I had calculated its width wrong – 4 inches rather than centimetres, and second time installing the neckband the wrong way out. Despite this I thought it was all going well until I tried the unhemmed garment. Suddenly a garment that had fitted me well as a mockup was handing off my shoulders – the neck line was far too large, hanging almost as a cowl if I centred it, and falling off a shoulder if I moved.
What had I done? Surely the 1cm seam allowance I had cut off couldn’t make that much difference? Had I miscalculated the length of the neckband? Had I stretched the neckline as I sewed, ripped and re-sewed? I ripped and resewed shortening the neckband easing in the neckline even more and ensuring I didn’t stretch as I sewed. It made no discernible difference. I decided to compare it to my test garment – you can see the neckline is clearly visibly stretched out by several centimetres.
I declared this garment a wadder, but I had more of the fabric left so I tried again. I added my seam allowance back on the front neckline, just in case, and I checked the calculations for my neckband length. With this all in order I cut again. Luckily (as it turns out) the neckband was the first piece I unpinned to press in half. After this simple press I compared the length to the pattern piece – it was now 6 cm longer! About 1/6 of the total length! And I was pressing carefully not to stretch – lifting and pressing, not moving the iron as I went. At this point I realised the problem was the fabric – it was stretching on first sewing/pressing like no other fabric I have ever used.
Therefore, I moved into super stabalisation mode. I cut a third neckband and the second I unpinned it I fused stretch knit tricot interfacing to it as careful as possible not to stretch the fabric in any way. Then I unpinned the other pieces attaching staytape to the neckline immediately upon unpinning. I sewed the rest of the seams immediately (although there was no evidence of stretch on the first garment) and reinforced the shoulder seams with twill tape.
When I tried it on it was clear this time the neckline had stayed in shape – not stretched. It did not lay perfectly flat, probably because of the extra necessaries neckline seam allowance I had re-added, but it is wearable and a 98% improvement from the first go, so I was happy. I am satisfied with the overall fit, so I will be able to sew this top again (after removing the uneeded neckline seam allowance) – this will be a great stash buster for left over knit fabric as it only needs 1-2 hours from cutting to sewing. The fit is loose and boxy, but has enough shape for some definition, so it works.