A Rainbow of Renfrews

I keep promising to post about my Renfrew hacks, and I keep finding other things to post about, but no longer! Today is the day I finally write about the approximately twenty I’ve made over the years, fifteen of which I still have (the others long since having worn out and joined the Great Scrap Heap in the Sky).

What today is not, is the day I have new pictures of all of them. Sorry about that. Work explosion + endless housetraining + regular life = absolutely no time for photos. I keep telling myself that this will be the weekend I find an hour to take some … and then the weekend says, “Hey, there’s two community climate talks, and you’re getting your haircut, but I’m sure after groceries and laundry and cooking and housework you’ll still have some free time,” and then the free time laughs and says, “you forgot that you need to stare frantically at a puppy wondering if she’s circling and sniffing because she has to pee or because someone dropped food there two years ago, but maybe there’s an hour in there somewhere,” and then the hour in there somewhere says, “lol, no, this hour is booked solid for staring into space while sitting catatonically in the most comfortable chair in the house.” As it turns out, they’re all right. I’m reading a lot, because that’s something I can do in ten second snatches while worrying that the dog is about to pee on the floor. I can sew a bit in two-minute intervals here and there, though it takes forever right now. I found twenty minutes on a long weekend for photos of three of them. Maybe next month.

My entire sanity is banked on the idea that someday Juniper will learn that pee goes outside, not in the kitchen.

Straight Up

I’m not Sewaholic’s target market, obviously, but I found that I could get a good fit with a size 8 and an FBA. I’m not a fan of the bands, so I just hemmed mine; otherwise these are as indicated in the pattern, and don’t need much explanation. These are made from cotton, rayon or bamboo jersey, or rayon or cotton rib knit.

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I will say that if you like a snug fit, you can’t beat a fine rib knit. The stretch and recovery are fantastic and it’s so comfortable.

Neckline Gathers

In Which I Transfer About Half of the FBA Onto the Neckline

I like this one a lot, obviously, and it’s not so hard once you’ve got a front pattern piece you’ve transferred the markings to. I find it doesn’t matter if you use the v or scoop neck piece because the process of gathering the neckline is going to round out the neckline anyway.

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Here’s the basic process:

  1. Do a regular rather than a slide-and-pivot FBA on an unaltered pattern piece that is about half of what you need (eg. I normally need 2″ on each side; in this case I do a regular 1″ FBA).
  2. Slash the neckline to the bust apex and rotate the side dart into that. Remove the waist dart by re-drawing the side seam.
  3. Use this piece to do a slide-and-pivot for the remaining additional space you need across the bust.
  4. Make a mark on the neckline about 3″, maybe a bit more, away from where you slashed for the neckline gathers, and write on the pattern how much gathering you’ll need. (eg. say you spread the neckline 3″ to create the space you need, and there’s 5″ between that cut and the centre and 3″ to the mark you just made; you’ll want to gather the double of that total ((3+5+3)x2=22″) into the space of the original doubled total ((3+5)x2=16″). That will ensure your neckband length remains the same between the original and the gathered version.
  5. You know how to gather….

Two caveats:

  1. You can probably put all of the extra you need in the neckline gathers if you don’t need to add much. Over an inch or so and you’ll find the gathers get very thick on the neckline and no longer look so nice, which is why you also still do the slide-and-pivot.
  2. This will still make for a snug t-shirt. If you want a loose, drapey t-shirt with a gathered neckline, add extra to the side seam all the way down.

You can probably figure out for yourselves which of these I made loose and which I didn’t. You want something with a pretty decent drape for this; stiff won’t work with the gathers. So these are mostly rayon or bamboo jerseys with one sparkly metallic spandex knit.

Centre Gathers

I only did this once, and because it’s black, I never wear it–but it does work:

  1. Your centre front fold line is now a seam; add a seam allowance.
  2. Do a regular FBA to add what you need.
  3. Rotate the side dart into a new dart line drawn at a parallel point on the centre front seam, and as with step 4 above, make a top and bottom gather mark, and figure out how much you need to gather that into to keep the original centre seam length.
  4. You know how to gather….
  5. Use a non-stretch stick to sew the centre front pieces together. In my experience, a stretch stitch here, given the weight and location, will weigh the gathers out and the whole thing will just sag.
  6. Construct the rest of the t-shirt as you normally would.

This will add a dart bump to the centre front, just as it would the side, that will mostly have to be removed during construction; you won’t need to keep that rounded part for the final shirt construction.

Again, this is a bamboo jersey, as that gathers nicely.

Ruffle

This is an easy but fiddly variation on the basic t-shirt that assumes you have a well-fitting adjusted front piece. I used the ruffle from the button-down shirt in Burda 8/16, shirt 103, though I added about 1″ to the width at the top of the ruffle to make it a bit more dramatic.

Additional steps to attach it to the t-shirt:

  1. Sew the ruffle pieces together at the centre front using a non-stretch stitch and a walking foot; press open.
  2. Trim away any parts of the seam allowance that are visible from the front when the ruffle is laid flat(-ish).
  3. Assemble the t-shirt as you normally would, except for the neck band.
  4. Very carefully pin the ruffle to the t-shirt front:
    1. Down the centre,
    2. Along the neckline, and
    3. Along the yoke line (you’ll fold this down before sewing it on, but right now you’re just trying out the ruffle location)
  5. Try it on and figure out if you want the ruffle where it is, or higher or lower, and adjust until it’s in a spot you like.
  6. Use something like wonder-under to adhere the ruffle where you like it.
  7. Using a narrow zig-zag stitch and a walking foot, sew the ruffle to the centre front and the yoke (now folded under), and baste to the neckline.
  8. Try it on to have another look and make sure you’ve trimmed away any parts of the ruffle centre-front seam allowance that might be visible, depending on how it drapes.
  9. Finish the shirt by adding the neckband etc.

Voila! A t-shirt with a dramatic ruffled front.

I like this a lot with this rayon rib knit (from Needlework) because of the drape and fit; you do want something that has good enough stretch and recovery to fit your body snugly but also enough drape to make a nice ruffle. Even better would be a rib sweater knit with good drape and a more interesting texture.  (I had a storebought t-shirt like this once upon a time; it was a sad day when it wore out, and I’ve never found a sweater knit fabric that would make a perfect replacement–but this is pretty good!).

Embellished

I did this one once upon a time too: basic Renfrew, embellished with pieces of the same fabric. Basically circles, with a straight line cut from one edge to the centre, opened up to make the cut edge a straight line, and then sewn in various places to the shirt.  Fiddly but not hard.

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There you go: a bunch of t-shirt variations on a basic fitted block that will add more interest and variety and replace some need for a FBA. It doesn’t have to be a Renfrew, obviously; whatever pattern you have that’s already adjusted to fit you well will work.

2 thoughts on “A Rainbow of Renfrews”

  1. It is like jumping through hoops to get into WordPress. I recall your grey try and the look on your face.
    Thanks for the advice regarding gathers. I have trouble with them in slick fabric, especially.

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