Pattern Hacks⎮How To Stray From Fabric Suggestions

What I learned from my fabric switching exercise

The pattern calls for stretch knits only. But curiosity urged me to try a woven fabric. I cut it on the bias though; woven textiles gain stretchability when cut on the bias. It is even more so, if the material is on the softer, lighter side. To make the featured tunic, I used the McCall’s pattern below. Here’s what I learned from my fabric switching exercise. First, it doesn’t always go as planned.

 

TUNIC AND DRESS

A halter with a cowl neckline and back loop

 

The pattern

M5424  MISSES TUNIC AND DRESS - A halter with a cowl neckline and back loop - Size combinations: AX5(4-6-8-10–12), DD( 12-14-16-18) -  Yardage: 1 1/8 yards of 60” wide of all sizes. 

Back in the summer of 2007, I chose the pattern because it was an easy pullover I could complete in an hour or less. More than 10 years later, it offers the same choices. Only this time, I have some additional alternatives up my proverbial sleeves. The options on the envelope are all above knee length but I made this one in a top. As hemlines are easy to change, I knew at a later date, I could  effortlessly make it maxi length and dress it up or down.

The recommended fabric: For stretch knits only Such as Matte jersey - Lightweight Interlock  and Stretch Velour.

The substitute fabric: Lightweight, polyester, woven, I originally bought as an underlay fabric. Here’s something important: If the pattern lists only stretch knits, it was developed with the stretch factor in mind. As a rule, knit patterns are drafted smaller than those made for woven fabrics. So, when straying from suggested fabrics, maintain the textiles’ most important features. In this case, that is the stretch. It will increase your chances of success.

How will I know the fabrics’ most important properties?

The envelope will specify: Not suitable for… Take you cue from there.

 
Above left:  Back of tunic with hints of blue bra showing through fabric.  Middle:  a closer look at the cowl and modesty panel.  Right:  A view of the full length tunic.

Above left: Back of tunic with hints of blue bra showing through fabric. Middle: a closer look at the cowl and modesty panel. Right: A view of the full length tunic.

 

The process

The original pattern is cut on the vertical grain. I cut the tunic on the bias, the same size intended for knits. And because of the fabric I was using, I thought it would look better if I faced the armholes. The original instructions used a 5/8” turn under, stitched hem. Learn more about the bias grain here.

As well, I made a modesty panel that eliminates the need to wear an under layer garment. To do that, I cut a piece of the fabric on the bias, pleated it and hand-stitched it to the area starting just beneath the collar bone to around mid armholes level. That created a pleated camisole effect.

If I recall correctly, I didn’t have an exact matching thread. And as the armholes and neckline bore no visible stitches, I did not want to use a machine stitched hem. So, I hemmed it by hand. It took more time and I’m glad I did. 

 
Above:  The back faced armholes leave a clean look with no visible stitches. However, directly beneath the point where the facing stops, suggestions of a blue bra reveals itself.

Above: The back faced armholes leave a clean look with no visible stitches. However, directly beneath the point where the facing stops, suggestions of a blue bra reveals itself.

 

The outcome

Overall, I’m pleased with how it turned out. I wish I had completely self-lined it though. If you look at the photo directly above, you’ll see hints of a blue bra peeking through the fabric. I had enough material to fully line it but I didn’t think of it at the time. Still, it’s nothing that a nude colour bra can’t change. In the end, it’s a win win situation. Now, I will take this information into the next project and I’ll remember to check for fabric opacity.

What about the fit

I’m happy with the fit but I am not a fan of jean pocket impressions showing through the fabric. So, for a worry-free smoother look, it’s going to be lined throughout next round-for now, no jeans.

How much sewing time

Using the suggested fabrics, you could finish the tunic in an hour or less. If I hadn’t added the facings and the modesty panel, I would be able to make it in the same amount of time. That’s because generally, except for loosely woven fabrics, bias cut seams will not ravel. As a result, they do not need further finishing.

Would I make it again?

Yes; I plan to make it again using woven fabrics with different textures.

What I would do differently

I would use gathers in place of the pleats to see how that plays out. Too, I would make the back neckline of the halter wider and gather it as well. 

 
Above:  A closeup of the pleated modesty panel beneath the original cowl. It is anchored to the halter neckline on both sides, around mid collar bone point.

Above: A closeup of the pleated modesty panel beneath the original cowl. It is anchored to the halter neckline on both sides, around mid collar bone point.

 

Conclusion

I had that piece of fabric for a long time. Originally, I bought it as an underlay for a piece of organza of the same hues. The organza got swallowed up in another project and it got left behind. If I resisted my curiosity because I feared failure, I wouldn’t be thinking about fabric opacity or whether I should fully line a top. Now, I’m equipped to take on another phase of exploration. I’m certain some unexpected issues will turn up; that where the lessons are though.

As fall approaches, I have every intention of using the same pattern to make pieces with dressier fabrics: Tops to wear with pants; or maybe full length dresses. Either way, I’ll keep you posted.

As you go along your sewing journey, bear in mind, one of the most reliable ways to learn more about what works in sewing, is to twist the rules. I promise you would fail sometimes but for what it’s worth, you would gain a lot more.  Use inexpensive fabrics.  Muslin’s a good place to start; and if you like it, and you’re not in love with the colour, dye it.

I hope you are encouraged to bend the rules for learning sake. I guarantee you’d be happy you did.


Thank you for stopping by and sharing your time.


If the Lord will, see you next time.