Jalie Dolman Top, Salvaged

This is the second saved project I alluded to when I blogged about my knit Stevie Top. The pattern is the Jalie Dolman top, which I originally made using the view with ¾ sleeves. It’s sewn in a really lovely marled sweater knit. I love this fabric so much—it washed up beautifully and it is lightweight, super-stretchy and very soft. I had grand visions of turning it into a basic pullover that I would wear all the time.

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My Jalie Dolman top originally

But the reality of my first version of this top was something that I just didn’t like at all. There was too much ease in the sleeves. I felt like the drop-shoulder style looked weirdly sloppy on me, despite the fact that it’s a style I typically like a lot. And the neckline was so wide that I was flashing bra straps every time I put it on. I was incredibly disappointed to have wasted such nice fabric on another flop.

Jalie Dolman Top

But like the pinstripe jersey I used from my second Stevie Top, my love for this fabric led me to hold onto the failed project and the scrap fabric much longer than I otherwise would have. And I would pull the pieces out from time to time to puzzle over how I might salvage the project or recut the fabric to get some kind of wearable garment. It was a tough puzzle to solve—I pinned out the excess in the sleeves in the hope that I would like the result better, but it didn’t make a substantive difference. I tried cut another pattern out of the scraps and the larger pieces of the top, but I could never seem to make it work. I considered finding a complimentary sweater knit that I could use to create a color-blocked project, but couldn’t seem to find either a second fabric or a good pattern that would result in something I’d like.

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I very nearly gave up when I was reading a blog post by Meg at Cookin’ and Craftin’ about a t-shirt she’d made for her sister and was shocked to see that she’d made it using a sweater knit. It had simply never occurred to me to use a sweater knit for a short-sleeved, warm-weather garment. Apparently, in my mind, sweater knits could only be used for traditional sweater-like garments with longer sleeves that are meant to be worn in cold weather. Talk about a ridiculous limiting belief. I thought about this lovely marled, gray sweater knit—which is a lightweight rayon blend that would be very nice in warmer temps—and wondered if I could get a tee out of the scraps I had left.

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I couldn’t. But at some point in the middle of trying unsuccessfully to get all the pieces of my favorite tee pattern out of the little bits of fabric available to me, I finally recognized the very clear and obvious solution: just cut the damn sleeves off. All other attempts to salvage the fabric had failed, so I recklessly cut of the sleeves about an inch from the seam. (Trying to unpick the sleeves would have taken forever and would have seriously marred the fabric.) Then I treated the remaining bit of former-sleeve fabric as a find of facing, turned it to the wrong side of the garment, and top-stitched it in place. Voila. It took me more than a year to basically just make the easier view of the pattern. So it goes.

My original thought in cutting the sleeves off was that even though the neckline was too wide, I’d be fine to wear this as a shell under a jacket. But without the weight of the sleeves, the neckline doesn’t pull in the same way so I’m no longer flashing my bra straps. So now I have a multi-season top that I can wear as is or under a jacket, and I finally get to enjoy the soft sweater knit that has just been languishing in my stash for way too long. Another win.

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Sewing Fails: Jalie Dolman and Ottobre Statement Tee

Whenever I take a long break from either sewing or knitting, I experience a lot of stumbling and fumbling when I pick it back up again. It’s like I haven’t forgotten how to “ride the bike,” so to speak, but I’m pretty wobbly for a while. This wobbliness resulted in two failed projects (one of which didn’t even get finished) when I started sewing again mid-March.

The first failed project was a version of the Jalie Dolman Top (Jalie 3352) that I made with a really nice marled sweater knit—I’m fairly certain the fabric is a cotton/rayon/Spandex blend. It’s soft, lightweight but still opaque, has great drape, and washed and dried really well. I originally bought it with the intention of making a long-sleeved Concord Tee so that I would have just a basic, lightweight sweater in my closet. I’ve been kind of kicking myself for changing plans, but whatever.

Jalie Dolman

I don’t like this pullover. I’ve worn it a couple of times and it just feels sloppy to me. I think there are two primary issues at play: first, the fabric has substantially more stretch than the pattern calls for (~75% vs. 40%); and second, I made some ill-advised sizing choices in the hopes of getting something that would be more wearable during the spring as I moved into my second trimester and then again in the fall in the middle of unpredictable post-partum fluctuations. (This was also the logic that led to the pattern switch—I thought the looser style of the Jalie Dolman would be more wearable than the fitted style of the Concord. The overall lesson here has been that it really isn’t worth it to try to predict what my body will do or what I will want to wear in the future.)

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Given the stretch in my fabric, I think I would have been best off cutting a size down from my measurements. But what I actually did was cut a size larger than my measurements. The result is something that just doesn’t feel good on me and that I don’t enjoy wearing. The body feels completely shapeless and dowdy and the sleeves are too loose and long—it basically looks nothing like the pattern photos or other people’s finished projects suggest it should look like. To add to the frustration of this project, my twin needle gave me a hell of a time and kept skipping stitches and breaking threads, which really made me feel like I had no idea what I was doing at my sewing machine anymore.

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The twin needle issue was easily solved—I realized about a week later that I just needed a new needle. I ordered one and all my twin needle problems are magically gone. As far as the pullover goes, it’s still hanging in my closet, and I think at some point I will take apart the side and sleeve seams and either recut it as a smaller size or just take the whole thing in. But there’s no sense in even trying to do that right now. And who knows—maybe it will actually fit well in the fall and I’ll get a lot of wear out of it.

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My second failure was the Statement Tee pattern from the Spring 2017 issue of Ottobre Woman. I was drawn to this pattern for the relaxed fit and because it is drafted for more stable jersey fabrics. However, I didn’t even end up finishing the first tee I made because I hated the fit on me. I found that the neckline on this is really wide. I added a neckband instead of the binding called for to get a bit more coverage and still ended up with a neckline wide enough to allow for frequent peeking bra straps. The sleeves are also quite long (which, to be fair, is more or less indicated by the fact that the pattern photos show the tee worn with the sleeves rolled up) and I would have to cut off ~2″ to get the length I want. Plus, I think it is too short in the body for this style—something I found especially surprising since I have a long torso and Ottobre tops are still usually a bit on the long side for me.

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The unhemmed tee

There were enough issues and frustrations with the fit and style of this pattern that it just didn’t feel worth finishing right now. The failure of the project is mostly due to the pattern, which just wasn’t what I was expecting it to be. The real clumsiness on my part as a sewer was the fact that I cut out two of these tees before testing the fit of the pattern in any way. This gray fabric is no great loss at all since it is boring and inexpensive. But I cut the second tee from a really nice black and gray pinstripe cotton-rayon blend jersey from Mood that is super soft and lovely. So I’m really kicking myself for now having sacrificed two nice cuts of fabric to failed projects.

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The sadly cut up pinstripe jersey

Ultimately, I think I’ll have enough of the pinstripe jersey leftover to be able to get something out of the fabric, although I don’t know what that will be yet. And again, maybe I’ll pull this t-shirt out of my project basket at some point in the future and find that it’s totally wearable and worth finishing. Either way, I’m happy to report that this was basically the end of my sewing wobbliness and I’ve had a lot more success at the machine since.