Knits and Refashioning

I’m still a relative newbie when it comes to sewing knits. I’ve had successes, but they still seem like a lot of trouble. However, one really needs knit pieces in the wardrobe, especially for those tank and T underlayers. A week or so ago, I was scanning the online fabric stores for knits for these indespensible pieces…and coming up with an empty shopping cart. Everything was too bright, too splashy, too polyester.

Now, sometimes when the most basic of Ts is needed, Kohl’s or Target comes in handy. But when the fashion is for a really tight fit, or when the season’s hot colors aren’t your cuppa, or when you just want something a little more interesting, it’s time to make it yourself. But I wasn’t finding knits that I liked online, either.

My solution: I visited Dillard’s closeout store, where things are marked way, way down, and visited the big & tall men’s section. I usually prefer the colors, patterns, and textures of menswear to what’s available in the ladies departments. This little trip netted me three pieces to remake into something for myself. The first was a plum-colored v-neck pullover in a silk/cotton jersey. Here it is in its original state.

Lots of nice fabric there, but not enough to make my first choice of knit tops, which was a sleeveless scrunchneck. I am a tall girl, and even though this pullover was a man’s XXL, it wasn’t long enough for a cut-on neck. It this had been a crew or a turtle…..maybe it could have been done.

Plan B was for a tank that I could wear with another piece I picked up at the close-out shop (actually from the ladies’ section!), a drape-front cardi in a burnout fabric. I knew that I wanted to preserve the original ribbing at the hem, which was a little different than ordinary ribbing. Another factor in that decision is that the hems on my homemade knits are usually my least favorite part – both in execution and in their final appearance.

Out came the Marcy Tilton tank pattern. There is something about the proportions of this tank that are just right for me. I didn’t complicate this experiment with trying to shape the sides. I cut it straight up, using the pattern for only the armholes and shoulder. I modified the scoop neck to a V.

The sleeves furnished the material to bind the neckline and the armholes. With refashioning like this, it seems like you have two choices. You can pick whether to preserve the manufacturer’s neck or hem treatment. If the neck is the part you’re re-cutting, binding has to come from somewhere. If you choose to leave the neckline as is, then you can just chop of the length, allowing for a hem.

Here’s the finished tank, and another shot showing it with the burnout cardi that I’ll be pairing it with.

The other part of the ensemble is four-ply silk one-seam pants, which are yet to be made. I did do a trial pair from Louise Cutting’s re-issue of her one-seam pattern, which includes the patterns for both straight and tapered pants plus some extra refinements (like pockets and darts). Working through the instructions from the beginning (over half the instructions are for choosing size and altering the pattern to your measurements), my trial pair of straight-leg pants are just dandy. I’ll be cutting into the silk and making those up soon.

That will be my basic symphony outfit this season. There is also a black silk matka jacket planned, but it might be awhile before I get to that. The tank and cardi will keep me going until the jacket has its day, or at least until these drapey cardis are totally over.

A project like this, where you cut up something perfectly wearable (by someone) to make something else is not, alas, “green”. Not unless you snatch your source fabric out of the incinerator. But I did end up something that I like and that I will wear for a long time, and in the end there was not too much waste of material.


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