Thursday, October 27, 2016

Itch to Stitch Irena Top

A while ago (sorry I can't be more specific, time has no meaning for me) Shannon blogged her Irena Top from Itch to Stitch, and I knew I had to have it. I waited for cool weather and a sale and now I have my own Irena!

This top appealed to me because the cowl neck is low enough for nursing access. It's difficult to nurse in the winter when you're all bundled up in layers, so I take advantage whenever I find a pattern that will work and keep me warm. I used a cotton/modal/Lycra French terry for this one, I believe it was from Girl Charlee but I can't recall exactly.

I've been trying to be more thoughtful about fit lately. I make a lot of knit tops, they're fun and my favorite to wear. As easy as they are, they can still fit pretty wonky if you're not careful, and because there are so few seams it can be hard to figure out why the fit might be wrong. I've spent more time upfront looking at photos of patterns and paying attention to fit through the shoulders, the bust, and to length. Does something strike me as "off"? Can I pinpoint what and why? How can I fix it? What is it that is drawing me to the pattern in the first place?

For the Irena, I liked the neckline, as I said. But something was hitting me about the proportions, and I finally figured it out after I saw a top made without the bottom band. Having the horizontal line of the cowl under the bust, and then another horizontal line at the hem band, makes the body look a little chopped. I also felt like the sleeve cuff was too big/long and made the arms looked chopped as well. Based on these observations, I left off the bottom band, lengthening the bodice 3" at the L/S line to make up for it. I also left off the arm bands.

Looking at photos in the Facebook group, it looked like a top that errored on the larger size was worse than going smaller. The vertical cowl seam is so close to the armscythe that if it's too big, your sleeve will start way down off your shoulder. If in doubt, size down. I have a 36" bust and made a size 4. Looking over the photos, it might still be too wide. I typically do have narrow shoulders and have to adjust knit tops. You can see a lot of wrinkling in the above photo where it looks like the top is trying NOT to fall off me.

At this point, the bottom is unhemmed as are the sleeves, although I tacked down all the seam allowances with my sewing machine. I can't decide about the sleeves, I think I might still want a (smaller) band to finish them. For the hem, I simply don't have dark green cone thread! The closest I have is black. So until my next Wawak order this will probably stay unhemmed.

One great feature of this design isn't noted online and is hard to see, but the cowl is two pieces. On the back of the neck is a more fitted section which greatly improves how the cowl lays. I have a kid's pattern that has a cowl neck like this and it's just one large piece that flops a bit behind the head.

If you've never sewn a cowl like this, I advise you to go super slowly and use a lot of basting. The directions in the pattern are great but it can still be tricky. My first pass was pretty good, so I didn't fiddle with it any further. It's still pulling a tiny bit but I can live with that over ripping a hole in my fabric.

At the end of this project I feel the same way I felt before I started. I wish I could adapt the cowl onto my copy of the Renfrew. The two-piece cowl was a nice surprise, so I'm glad I bought the pattern anyway, but the fit of the Renfrew is so much better for me. I spent an afternoon trying to pattern-mash these two together but couldn't quite make it work, so I stashed it into a bag and will come back to it another time. I wore this top all day yesterday and kept plenty warm, but the fact that it was unfinished bothered me more than I thought it would. It will probably hang out in the closet for a while until I'm motivated to work on it again.

Do you have any tried-and-true tips on fitting knits? Or books I can read? Or should I just treat my well-fitting Renfrew as a block and adapt/draft my own patterns from there?

Side note: with my leftover FT I'm about to make 30,000 pairs of socks using the brand new Cozy Toes pattern from Peek-a-Boo Pattern Shop. Finally I can #makeallthethings!! (affiliate link)


  1. I think I do like this better without the hem band. Good idea! So glad I seen this post because I totally forgot about this shirt. Now I can go home and drag it out of storage from summer! lol!

    1. Yes! I loved your's, it looked more like a sweatshirt (a fancy sweatshirt!) than a top. I think I could size UP to get that look and it would be just as useful.


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