Paisley Park

 

Handmade knit tank top and dirndl skirt / Wanna Be Sewing Something Blog

One afro, two elbows, and a UFO walk into a park…

The start of a curious joke? Or the list of accessories for the paisley knit tank top I made?

It’s the latter, of course. Though a suitable punchline for my setup is still a goal.

With help from a quirky, patchwork paisley printed stretch knit, I executed the binding technique I wrote about in July to sew a companion for a chambray dirndl skirt that waited a year to be hemmed.

Handmade knit tank top

Even though I still have to draft new sleeves for it, my beloved fitted t-shirt pattern (debuted here last winter) is officially operating as a block now that I’ve got the shoulders and armholes fitting just right. I traced it to create a tank top pattern with a lower neckline.

Unfamiliar with drafting for knits, I referenced my Helen Joseph Armstrong book. The section on patterning kids clothes made with knit fabric covers how to measure and plot a lowered neckline.

Had I attempted it on my own, I wouldn’t have accounted for the bit of contouring that seems to build in just the right amount of negative ease at the chest.

Handmade knit tank top and denim dirndl skirt separates

The position of the neckline on this tank top is EXACTLY where I want it. Plenty of skin showing to give the eyes a place — other than the obvious one — to land. With a shape that isn’t too scooped…but soft and rounded. Like my hair. Which I styled carefully for a look in the middle of the spectrum between Angela Davis and Pam Grier.

Examining the symbiotic link between neckline and hair shape… is for another blog post.

Let’s enjoy a photo collage tribute to binding construction instead.

Knit binding with mitered seams

From left to right: (a) When I sew wovens, I cut patterns from a single layer of fabric. For this pattern, I folded in the selvedges to the middle and used my rotary cutter. (b) The 45 degree line on the grid of my cutting mat and chalk-marked stitchlines kept the mitered seams of my binding looking sharp. (c) I know it’s overkill, but a steamy iron and my tailor board got in on the action. (d) I always get a little nervous before attaching freshly cut bindings. Did I get the ratios right? I can usually tell if I’m off by laying the seams next to each other.

knit tank top, chambray dirndl skirt

About the skirt. My usual dirndl. It’s origin story is ancient.

95% of it was sewn over a year ago!

I even lined the skirt and the pocket and Instagrammed my results to the world before noticing there wasn’t enough fabric for the waistband.

A small tear was shed before I hung it up in a corner to display it as an unfinished object (UFO) in distress.

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Lined denim pocket or smiling muppet mouth.

A post shared by Najah (@wannabesewingsomething) on

 

I picked it up a few months later after I learned a machine sewn technique for interfacing a waistband with petersham in my Skirt Skills class.

I tried it out on a straight waistband cut from bottom weight denim that happened to match my chambray.

 

Handmade knit tank top and denim dirndl skirt separates

After admiring the results, I abandoned the dirndl AGAIN so I could use the denim to sew that game-changing pencil skirt.

By the time I returned to finally hem and fasten the chambray dirndl (last week), it was three seasons later and I was ten pounds lighter.

If its muppet mouth could speak, it would’ve cursed me out.

Handmade denim dirndl skirt: waistband, lining

Even though the waistband was a bit thicker than I’m used to, and the hook placement had to be sewn an inch deeper, the peterhsam interfacing performed like a champ.

My waistline did not grow like it did in the un-stabilized, chocolate linen maxi version of this skirt.

After a day of wearing and eating, and through the weight of keys and phones in pockets, my waistband was a solider.

Handmade knit tank top and denim dirndl skirt separates

These separates are a uniform silhouette for me that leave me feeling comfortable and confident. I may not be able to craft a swift punchline for a joke, but I can certainly craft a slow, wonderfully wearable outfit for my body.

Bound for the Sun

With a fool-proof strategy for binding the neckline and armholes of a sleeveless knit top, my relationship with the summer heat finally caught a cool breeze.

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I found myself unprepared for the nuclear levels of heat that are happening. My selection of warm weather tops is grossly inadequate for the global baking of the earth. Any project that does not directly involve the prevention of melting has been put on hold.

Tank tops have topped my priorities.

The mission: Make my favorite t-shirt pattern sleeveless and perfect my knit wrap-around binding construction.

Fresh out of “the lab”, this stretch jersey tank is my mostly successful but still very wearable mockup to test my pattern adjustments and the execution of the knit binding technique I adapted from Marcy Tilton’s book. It produces a smooth edge that hugs the neckline.

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Before I binge-sew a hundred more (yeah-yeah, I know…it will be more like, three), I wrote a little construction guide to help me repeat (and improve) my binding results on the next tops – which might have different neckline depths or shapes. For those of you with wardrobes as vulnerable to heatwaves as mine, this could come in handy.

Formula for Calculating Knit Binding Length

  1. Measure. Measure seam allowance-free neckline and armholes, front and back. Record totals. Divide neckline circumference by 4 to get the length of the test strip for finding the fabric’s optimal neck-to-binding ratio.
  2. Stretch. Cut a 5 cm (2-inch) wide by test strip length piece on the crossgrain. Stretch it along measuring tape in a 1 to 1 ratio to see how far it can stretch before the fabric gets distorted.
  3. Calculate. Multiply the stretch distance (e.g., 1cm) by 4, subtract it from the neckline circumference, and add the total seam allowance for the binding’s join to get the final length of neckline binding. Repeat the calculation with the armhole circumference for its binding length.
  4. Miter. Cut binding lengths by preferred width —3 times finished width plus 1.3 cm (1/2 inch) for turn of cloth and underlap — and cut short ends on a 45 degree angle. Sew the ends with a 1cm seam, press seam open, then trim allowance to reduce bulk.
  5. Quarter. With seamed and finished shoulder seams, divide the neckline and binding into quarters (without using the binding’s seam as a marker), and snip tiny notches. Keep the binding’s seam off-center at the back, match and pin it to the neckline at the snipped markers, right sides together with binding on top so feed dogs can ease in the longer neckline to the smaller binding.
  6. Sew. Set machine to a slight zig zag stitch, stretch the binding strip slightly while sewing between each pin.
  7. Wrap. Wrap it to the wrong side, smoothing the binding over an even seam allowance. Press over a ham from the front side, pinning along the way. Turn underlap edge under, overlock it, leave it as-is, or pink it (my favorite option so far).
  8. Secure. Sew the binding in place by stitching in the ditch from the front side with an edgestitch foot (or by hand for extra invisibility).
  9. Repeat. Carry out steps 5 through 8 for the left and right armhole bindings.

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The status of this mockup as a wearable muslin was sealed when I forgot to check the placement of the binding’s joining seam. Ideally, one would place it inconspicuously. For the neckline: in the back, off-center. For the armhole: in line with the side seam. On my right armhole, it landed aimlessly near the shoulder seam.

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If you walk around from that point to the front and squint your eyes, you can see the neckline binding’s mitered seam loitering about near the top of the shoulder.

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Hardly noticeable unless you find yourself close enough to my neck to kiss or bite it. My potential critics are: my husband or Dracula. Luckily, neither will care given their business in that area.

I rewarded my triple binding work with a simple, lazy zig-zagged hem.

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If it’s possible to have a crush on a sewing technique, I certainly have one on this wrap-around binding. It elevates the status of a tank top to more than just a color peeking out from under a cardigan….it becomes a hand-wrapped license to bare arms.


Are you sewing yourself cool this summer? How do you finish the holes of your sleeveless garments? Do you turn, bind, or band?