Tuesday, August 11, 2015

FO: Ruched-Sleeve Renfrew - Experiment 1

After my last t-shirt sewing project ended up being a dud, I decided to finally try to copy one of my favorite ready-to-wear shirts. I have a Philosophy brand top with a scoop neck and short ruched sleeves that got regular wear for almost a year (until a recent bleaching accident *sniff*). I liked the shirt so much that last April I bought it in 3 different fabric patterns. I've worn each shirt quite a bit over the past year, but they are getting a little ratty and I wanted that silhouette still in my wardrobe. This innocent desire lead to a not-so-successful experiment, but not entirely unfruitful. Spoiler - this shirt is also a fail for me, but not in the way of my last one. Anyway, I guess I should show you the shirt first, huh?
Not too awful, but certainly not the most flattering thing I've ever worn. The sleeve problems just make it look dumpy in my opinion. Anyway, back to the story and I will get to the dumpy sleeves soon, I promise.

I started out with the Renfrew pattern from Sewaholic because it's a good basic design and I've figured out the fit on it pretty well now. Then I started looking for tutorials on how to change the sleeves. Jo's Blog has a great list of resources from various sources around the internet which I highly recommend if you want to do a little t-shirt pattern modification. On the link for gathered sleeves, there is a link to this vintage tutorial which is what I used to draft my new sleeve.
I copied the sleeve to new tissue, then slashed and spread the sleeve cap to give it about 1/2" between each strip at the top of the sleeve. This will give me the puff I wanted, but I also wanted to ruche the center of the sleeve. To figure out how much ruching I wanted, I just stretched out the elastic on the inspiration t-shirt and measured, then added that distance to the center of the sleeve and used a French curve ruler to draw a new hem line. In theory this is still the correct way to accomplish what I wanted. So next I grabbed a thrifted jersey material I didn't mind losing if this didn't work and set to work. I sewed the neckline, but I wanted to add bust ruching as well - I love the Renfrew pattern, but some of the others I've made ended up with an odd-height-neckline. I'm not wanting to flash my cleavage or anything, but there is a certain point that a shirt can end that is flattering and higher than that plane just doesn't look right on me. So, instead of lowering the neckline like I had on other versions, I decided to ruche the center to echo the sleeves. To do this, I used elastic thread in the bobbin of my machine (hand wound so preserve its elasticity) and sewed a simple 2 inch line down the center front. It looked great - just a bit of ruching like I wanted - so I moved on. I sewed the whole body, then did the same elastic-thread-in-the-bobbin trick on the sleeve while it was still a flat piece, then gathered the puff sleeves and sewed them on. I hemmed the sleeves and bottom hem and only then did I try the shirt on.
One thing I forgot to pay attention to before starting this shirt is the stretch percentage of the material I was using. This jersey is much more rigid than any other I've used, meaning it just flat out doesn't stretch all that much. The shirt still fits, but it's not quite as comfy as I'd hoped. The problems began when I looked down and saw that the boob-ruching that looked so nice on my dress form was completely stretched out and just looked like a sad line of stitching on my body. The shirt needed more room for the ruching to ruche, if you get my drift. "No matter," I thought," I'll just unpick that since the sleeves was what I really wanted ruched anyway." Then I looked at the sleeves ...
My sleeves just look like a sad, wrinkled mess on my arm. Due to the lack of stretch, the sleeve is tighter than normal, causing the fabric to suction down on my arm. The elastic thread has a weaker recovery than the rigid jersey so instead of the sleeves pulling upward like they do when not worn, the sleeve just tries its best to stretch and accommodate my arm. It's not that my arms are Hulk-ing out of the shirt or anything, it's just that the tightness of the sleeve beats out the stretch the elastic can maintain, so the sleeves end up a weird length that dips down a bit in the center :(
Here's all my pretty details. I did everything by the book since I was so sure this would work out at least to something wearable. Look how nice the sleeve gathers up when it's not on my arm! On someone a size smaller than me, the sleeves would probably be really cute. Alas, it just was not meant to be this time. I also included a pic of the insides with the elastic thread. I did it this was because this is the exact construction of my ready-to-wear top, but now I'm wondering if using clear elastic wouldn't have worked better on this firm fabric? I'll have to give that a try next time around. This was a super easy technique to try though, so if you have the inclination, I definitely recommend it. Just make sure your jersey is stretchy enough :) To be truthful, I think the fabric may be a bit too juvenile for me anyway, so I'm really not heartbroken this shirt didn't work out. OH, I will say though - this was my first time using a lightning bolt stitch instead of a zigzag when sewing knits and what a revelation that was! It's lightning bolt all the way from here on out!
So there you have it - an experimental muslin that did not turn out but that will yield successful makes in the future from what I learned. That counts from something, right?! I'm excited to try my sleeve idea on a lighter fabric, maybe the boob-gathers too, we'll see. Even The Gordo doesn't look like he knows what to say about this shirt. You can't win 'em all!


Fabric: 1 yard thrifted floral print heavy jersey - $0.25
Pattern: Renfrew by Sewaholic, Sleeves altered to be puffed and ruched
Hours: 2
Total Cost: $0.25

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