children's clothing · kids clothing · sewing · tween

Cutie Cats – a study in knit fabrics

In warm weather Clare really enjoys wearing loose simple t-shirts.  I made her a few a couple of years back and they have been on constant rotation in summer.  However they were becoming a little too cropped – she has been wearing them for a couple of years, and has grown a little bit over that time!  She requested more – the same size width wise, but longer.

Ottobre 4 2011 no. 30 Cutie Cat top lengthened 3 inches in a variety of knits

The pattern is the “Cutie Cat” top, which is no. 30 from Ottobre 4/2011. I sewed size 134 again but added three inches to the length. The fabrics were mostly scraps from stash – this was a great scrap-busting project! It was also interesting as an exercise in how different fabrics affect the fall and fit of a loose top.

Ottobre 4 2011 no. 30 Cutie Cat top lengthened 3 inches in a variety of knits

This one is in a printed knit from Darn Cheap Fabrics a couple of years ago. I think it is a cotton viscose blend. There doesn’t seem to be much spandex in it. And it does crease in wear.

Ottobre 4 2011 no. 30 Cutie Cat top lengthened 3 inches in a variety of knits

These are super simple tops to sew, with just a front, back and neckband. The sleeves are simply turned and hemmed, like the bottom. I finished the necklines with a band from self fabric.

Ottobre 4 2011 no. 30 Cutie Cat top lengthened 3 inches in a variety of knits

I go back and forth between finishing edges with a zig zag or with a twin needle. In this case I chose the zig zag. I think the effect is very pretty. It doesn’t look “shop-bought” – and this is not my goal in my sewing, as I don’t think that shop-bought necessarily means professional or better! I choose the finish based on personal aesthetic and on which I think will work best on the fabric.

Ottobre 4 2011 no. 30 Cutie Cat top lengthened 3 inches in a variety of knits

This one is in a heavier weight viscose/lycra from Tessuti (bought when they were running their Jaywalk competition). The fabric hangs beautifully, and feels soft against the skin.

Ottobre 4 2011 no. 30 Cutie Cat top lengthened 3 inches in a variety of knits

All construction was on the overlocker, other than hems. I think I sewed all four tops in an afternoon.

Ottobre 4 2011 no. 30 Cutie Cat top lengthened 3 inches in a variety of knits

Once again I used the zig-zag stitch to finish edges. You can see in the photo above that the neckband is a teensy bit ripply. I should have cut it that fraction shorter. Getting neckband lengths right is a matter of trial and error, as so much depends on the degree of curve in the neckline in combination with the width of the band and the added influence of the recovery of the fabric. It’s one of those things that you get better at as you go along. I pretty much ignore any neckband pieces that come with patterns for knit garments and cut my own according to preference.

Ottobre 4 2011 no. 30 Cutie Cat top lengthened 3 inches in a variety of knits

This fabric comes from Super Cheap Fabrics in Sydney Road, Brunswick. I don’t know why I don’t go there more often – they do have excellent fabrics at “super cheap” prices! However, fabric composition is often unknown. This knit jacquard feels like a poly/viscose/spandex combination to me, but I really have no idea. It has quite a bit of substance, and also hangs nicely.

Ottobre 4 2011 no. 30 Cutie Cat top lengthened 3 inches in a variety of knits

Even with the added length, these tops will show a bit of tummy when Clare raises her arms – especially because she likes to wear her bottoms low slung. I like the proportions on her, especially as compared to the width of the tops.

Ottobre 4 2011 no. 30 Cutie Cat top lengthened 3 inches in a variety of knits

This time I used the reverse side of the fabric for a contrast neckband. This fabric is very difficult to press, and the fold of the neckband is not quite as crisp as I would prefer. Once again the edges are all secured with a zig zag.

Ottobre 4 2011 no. 30 Cutie Cat top lengthened 3 inches in a variety of knits

I often refer to this tutorial from Gillian at Crafting a Rainbow when I am sewing knit neckbands – I find it really helps to distribute the length of the neckband along the curves successfully. Give it a try if you have trouble with your knit neckbands.

Ottobre 4 2011 no. 30 Cutie Cat top lengthened 3 inches in a variety of knits

This fourth one is Clare’s favourite. The fabric was a gift from my friend Rachel, and it is the softest, drapiest, stretchiest stuff yet is still quite straightforward to handle. It flows beautifully over the body.

Ottobre 4 2011 no. 30 Cutie Cat top lengthened 3 inches in a variety of knits

I was inspired after watching “The Artful Tee” class on Craftsy to try cutting the neckband so that the stripes went across it rather than along it. I did first check that the fabric had plenty of stretch, which it did.

Ottobre 4 2011 no. 30 Cutie Cat top lengthened 3 inches in a variety of knits

And yes, it was a zig-zag again that was chosen for finishing! I was extremely happy with this neckband – it sits perfectly flat to the body, and it’s fun to have the stripes going the other way.

lots of tops

I hope that you found it interesting to see how the differences in knit fabrics translate to the finished garment. The differences can be subtle, but definitely influence the sewing techniques that are used. There are some good Craftsy classes on sewing with knits – I have watched both the classes by the Tilton sisters and highly recommend them, as well as the Sewing Fashion Knits class by Linda Lee. I actually did a KnitWit course back in 1990, so have been sewing knits for many years – although I’ve only owned an overlocker for about nine years. There is nothing like sewing a knit garment for ease and comfort.

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11 thoughts on “Cutie Cats – a study in knit fabrics

  1. Those are all SO CUTE! I love the how the turquoise one matches her glasses though. 😉 I”m flattered you check my tutorial – glad it works for you!

  2. They all look great but the pinky bubbles is my favorite. Maybe I should try making some for my boys, not sure they would be as appreciative as Claire looks though! I looked at Gillian’s tutorial and it’s a great tip, I always find neck bands a bit tricky, never quite sure how they will work out. You inspire me to sew more color and I wish I could sew as fast as you!

  3. All lovely tops. I am always looking for easier ways to sew knits as they are what I prefer to wear. Neckbands have always been a bit of a challenge to get right. I have found that measuring the neckline along the stitching line, adding seam allowance and then calculating 85% of this length has been working out quite well. I am keen to try Gillian’s tutorial as it looks great for getting the distribution of stretch even. The varying amounts of stretch between different knit fabrics will always effect the outcome and I suspect the more experience I have sewing knits will only improve my skills. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  4. Very cute combination! I just read a threads article today that gives a tip on neckbands. It says to cut a band the same length as the neckline, start pinning in the centre front with the centre of the band, stretching a little more for the curvier parts, then mark where to join on the back, add a SA, join then attach…… I think you’re right though, it just is something that comes with experience and practice!

  5. I really like how these turned out, from the zig zag finishing to the way the stripes are aligned on the last tee. And your little one is just plain adorable 🙂 This post may have inspired me to pick my tee shirt attempts back up, today. I’m in the mood for something fast that I’ll wear often, and tee shirts usually fit that bill.

  6. Those Knitwit classes were really good. I did a lingerie one.

    I really like making tees as well. They are quick with lots of visual progress and are a good use of leftovers. Your pattern seems to be a great tnt and your finishes are obviously well rehearsed because the finish is great.

  7. Clare is such a talented model! She is adorable in her new tees. I bet she’ll make the next one on her own! I love the zigzag finish and the colors are really fresh.

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