Sunday, 9 March 2014

Completed: MN Ruched Maternity Tee

Thanks to everyone for indulging me in my last couple of posts, and I'm glad you enjoyed reading about the mill and the museum as much as I enjoyed visiting them!

So, onto another maternity make. This was the FO I was hoping to feature in Sew Grateful week the other week, as my finished project, but I only managed to finish last Sunday night and it's taken this long to get round to photographing it! This is the Megan Nielsen Ruched Maternity Tee.

The reason I am grateful is that my Mum and Dad gave me the pattern for my birthday, which was at the beginning of December. They also then gave me cash for Christmas to buy some fabric to make it up. This is not the fabric, as this top is more of a wearable muslin. I was unsure what size to make, or how it would go together, given I don’t have much experience of knits, so I didn’t want to ruin any fabric that my parents had paid for. Having now made this, I am wondering why I left it so late in my pregnancy. However, having said that, this make was not all plain sailing.

The fabric is black viscose mix knit that I bought in Mandors in Glasgow at the Blogger Meet Up last month. I actually bought it to make something else, but the stash fabric I had in mind for this tee wasn’t stretchy enough – the pattern calls for fabric with at least 40% stretch. I have no idea how you measure stretch, and I’ve never seen percentage stretch on any product description or label, but the handle of this was really stretchy and drapey, so I thought it would be close enough. It’s also lovely and soft and really nice to wear.

I was unsure on sizing because when you buy maternity RTW, you are usually advised to purchase your pre-pregnancy size, and the pattern didn’t state whether the same logic applied here. I decided to go for my maternity size (my current bust size), reckoning I could probably always just increase seam allowance to size down if need be. This is a really basic pattern, so that logic probably would have worked, but in the end there was no need. The pattern is only 3 pieces – front, back and sleeve. Nice and simple, and I was able to cut this from 1 metre of fabric, albeit the fabric was about 170cm wide I think. I would have preferred a ¾ sleeve, but only had enough fabric for a short sleeve.

I more or less followed the instructions as given. I used clear elastic to strengthen the gathers on the side seams, as advised. I did the same on the shoulders, although this is not mentioned in the pattern. My first time using clear elastic. I would have liked to have used it to gather the side seams, but didn’t know how to work out how do this, so that the front was then gathered enough to match the back in length. When doing the shoulders, I tried to overlock the elastic in place at the same time as sewing the shoulder seams, but this didn’t work that well, as the elastic moved around a bit, so for the side seams, I simply sewed them up as normal, then attached the elastic to the seam allowance using a 3 step zigzag afterwards.

After overlocking my shoulder and side seams, I realised that my seam allowance was off, so in the end, I also sewed these seams at 5/8 inch using a lightening blot stretch stitch (yes, I have one!). I know some people make knit items fully on an overlocker, so I assume they trim off the seam allowance at the same time. But how do they measure their seam allowance? I have some markings on my overlocker, but they don’t seem to bear any resemblance to the usual seam allowance markings on a sewing machine.

It was only after doing all of this, that I realised I had sewn my garment with the fabric wrong side out. Luckily, it’s a black knit, so it’s really not obvious. Certainly not obvious enough to justify unpicking all that work, but it does bug me a little bit.

Next up the sleeves, which is where the trouble really started. I was a little surprised that the sleeves were to be inserted in the round on a knit (some reading had lead me to believe knit sleeves are usually inserted flat), but this was my first ever knit sleeve so I was happy to give it a try. The pattern didn’t mention gathering and easing it in, so I thought it probably didn’t matter either way. The sleeves went in no bother – in fact if anything the sleeve head felt a little smaller than the arm scye, but I managed to insert it first time with no problems. Both sleeves were the same. It wasn’t until I went to hem the cuffs that I realised I had in fact SET MY SLEEVES IN UPSIDE DOWN!  In other words, I had sewn the cuff to the arm scye! Now, that mistake was probably 75% baby brain and 25% tiredness, but all the same – I shouldn’t be able to do that, should I? Surely the cuff would be completely the wrong size and shape? It made me really question the whole sleeve and a bit of googling on this tee proved my hypothesis. The sleeve head is far too big for the arm scye. Furthermore, the sleeve was really big in circumference, making a very loose fitting sleeve – not what the pattern diagrams, or photos on Megan’s blog would have you believe. Is that because I inserted it upside down? Surely not – surely circumference is circumference? Anyway, I didn’t want to have to unpick teeny tiny black stretch stiches on black knit fabric, so decided I had to “make it work” in a Tim Gunn voice. I cut the sleeve at a right angle to the underarm seam sleeve to get a straight cuff, I would have preferred to have tapered the underarm seam to take it in a bit, but with what was now such a short sleeve there wasn’t enough to work with, so I just left it as is. Instead of the drafted ½ inch hem on the cuff, I turned up a teeny tiny hem instead and sewed it with the stretch stitch again. And the whole thing stretched out. It looked like a really fluted hem. And I don’t like fluted hems. A LOT of steam later, I managed to fix it a bit. I am still not happy with the sleeves at all, but I don’t hate them enough to unpick them and start again, so I’ve just gone with it.

You can see here the stretch and excess fabric in the sleeve
The bottom is hemmed to ½ inch as directed and sewn with a stretch stitch, and the neckline was turned under ½ inch and again sewn with a stretch stitch. The pattern suggests stitching with a twin needle, but I didn’t have a ball point, or stretch, twin needle and I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to try out a new technique. I have now ordered a stretch twin needle, and intend to use this next time.

I really like the lower back neckline.
The pattern suggests stabilising the neckline with Stitch Witchery before turning and sewing. I really debated this one. I couldn’t find Stitch Witchery in Mandors or the Cloth Shop on Saturday, and I was worried that without it I would stretch out the neckline. Also the neckline is very low and I wasn’t sure I wanted to lose another ½ inch (see my maternity bra concerns in this post), so I did briefly consider cutting and attaching a binding at the neck. But then, that would have involved maths and thought and I was tired and had already messed up the sleeves, so I just went for turning the neckline without the Stitch Witchery, took it slow and hoped for the best. It’s actually not that bad, but I can see how a stabiliser would help. In chatting to Jo of Sew Little Time on Twitter over the weekend, I established that Stitch Witchery is only really available in the US, so I have ordered some on Amazon. Delivery is estimated between 1st March and 1st April, so just as well I’m not in a hurry for it!

So, sleeve issues aside, I really like this top. It is amazingly comfortable and nice and long at the front to cover the bump. I am not a huge fan of scoop necks, but this one is very flattering, and I particularly like that the back neckline is a little lower.  I have realised that I have very little to wear it with – as I don’t really have any maternity separates, but it’s working here with black maternity jeggings from Mothercare. Some potential changes for next time, and there will be a next time:
·         Lengthen the back – for some reason all maternity bottoms have a really low rise at the back, and I don’t really want to flash my bum, pants or even just the giant elastic waistband at anyone.
·         Add a bit to the neckline, or change the shape completely. I’d like it maybe ½" higher to be fully comfortable as a scoop, or I’d like to try a bateau neckline. I also find the neckline a little wide, so again, I'd like to play around to stop it slipping and exposing my bra straps.
·         Something needs done with those sleeves. I actually have half a mind to exclude them completely and replace them with sleeves from a different pattern – I’m thinking the Lady Skater, which I have bought but not yet made. I do want to make a ¾ sleeve version, so not only do I need to address the sleeve head issue, but I also need to address the circumference problem, to make the sleeves slimmer in fit.
·         Add some detail. Buttons on the shoulder, or a little pocket or something just to change it up a bit.

You an almost see the gathers here - they don't show up so well in black!
I'm still uncertain about sewing with knits. They are nice to wear, but I think I will always prefer sewing with a nice stable cotton. However, I was interested to see Colette's latest project, which I think will be a must have for me: The Colette Guide to Sewing Knits. Sarai promises it will cover using an overlocker, finishing edges, industry tips and shopping for and fitting knits. I am really keen to learn more on this subject, particularly on using my overlocker, so I can't wait for this book's release.

And as for the money that my parents gave me? I have ordered a swatch of this and this from Fabric Godmother. If it's stretchy enough, I think the bird print would make a lovely version of this top. My only concern would be whether the growth of my bump would distort those little birds and look a bit weird? Maybe I could size up the middle area a bit?

I’d also like a stripy version. A classic navy/white combo, or maybe something a little bit more colourful too. I only have 10 weeks to go, but once I sort the sleeve issue, this will be a quick and easy make – and I reckon this tee would be great for postpartum wear too. Layered over a cami, it would be perfect for feeding.

I promise those are not stains on my top - must be dust on my camera lens... honest!
Thanks, Mum and Dad! x


  1. I may be wrong, but I think that stitch witchery is just a brand of hem tape / fusible bonding taoe, so you don 't need to order from the states...for example

    1. Thanks Miriana. I did wonder that, hence asking the question on Twitter. Jo (Sew Little Time) confirmed that Wundaweb(hemming tape) is just glue, whereas Stitch Witchery is fusible stay tape. I have ordered the Stitch Witchery now, so once it arrives, i might do a compare and contrast between the two! I'll let you know how I get on!

  2. Your top looks great, I love the scooped back!

  3. You are the Queen of Sleeve Problem Solving! I'm so impressed - looking at the finished top you'd never guess there had been any issues. The neckline and backline (?) is really flattering on you.
    If you've got any tips for using a twin needle please post them! I just tried using one and made a complete hash of it :(

    1. Now that is some title! :)
      I suspect that twin needles and I will not be friends, as I struggle with straight hemming at the best of times, and the thought of stitching right side up fills me with fear, but I am willing to give it a go! On episode 3 of the Great British Sewing Bee, they all seemed to find it quite straightforward - even those who had never used one before, so I take courage from that! I will let you know how I get on.

  4. nice work - glad it came good in the end! to measure stretch, hold the fabric over a measuring tape and hold in in 2 places 10cms apart. stretch the fabric and the distance it stretches is the amount of stretch! so for 40% stretch you'd be able to get your fingers 14cms apart.

    1. OK, so that seems kind of obvious! Thank you! :)

  5. That looks lovely! From my experience of RTW maternity your sleeves won't be at all obvious. I did see that the Guthrie Ghana blog used tape when making the knit Coco dress - she used this one and snipped it on the curves. It's out of stock now though.

  6. Looks really comfortable! So glad you persevered and got a workable top out of it!

  7. What an adorable tee! You look fab in it!


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