Conquering Sheer Fabrics

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112 Kacy’s 5 Way Top

I was mesmerized.  In a recent broadcast, Peggy Sagger showed this fabulous pattern 112 called Kacy’s 5 Way Top.   It’s the kind of thing I’d never buy had someone not shown me a completed version. I toyed with the idea of drafting it myself. Really this is a T-shirt with a scarf attached to the center fronts.  I even asked for drafting hints on SG. The best I got was “buy the pattern and rotate the dart”.  I can rotate darts but didn’t want to for this simple garment.  I pulled out my T-shirt pattern and tissue paper and stopped in my tracks.  I realized this is why we buy patterns. So many decisions have already been made and tested. OK Big 5 does not always test.  But Indies do. Indies also make multiple versions. That’s why Indy patterns are worth $20 and the Big 5 are worth $2.  I purchased the pattern.

When the pattern arrived I determined my size using the bust measurement.  Which really didn’t matter because I didn’t even iron the tissue pieces.  I smoothed it out; placed my T-shirt on top, then a sheet of tracing paper on top of that. I traced only the section extending from the center front of my T to the fold line of Kacy’s 112.  I used the back and sleeve of my T-shirt pattern (PP104).

For anyone wondering about the differences. The front extension on 112 is not just straight lines drawn to infinity. The fold line is a vertical straight line. The extended neck and hem lines are gently sloping curves terminating at a fold line that is shorter than the center front of my T.  I didn’t measure how long the extension is but I can tell you that the fold is placed cross grain making…

..this pattern a fabric hog.  It will not fit across  60 or 68″ fabric.  I know because I had 2 yards of 68″ sweater knit and could not fit the pattern. It calls for and uses a full 3 yards of 60″ fabric.  That was a problem for me.  I rarely buy 3 yards of fabric. Oh I used to. When I was making suits I routinely purchased 4 and 5 yard cuts for my stash. No longer and I’ve given most of those suitings away. I searched my stash looking for 3 yard pieces. This was the same issue I had when making the POV (on which you also cannot skimp yardage.)  Making it more difficult, I knew that my fabric needed to be something with drape.  I finally settled upon a sheer fabric purchased from Walmart eons ago. Ok 25 years.   I tried to take photos of this fabric with my 10 MP Cannon. It needs a much more adept photographer than me. It deserves a much more adept photographer than me.  I don’t know the fiber content. I’m assuming polyester or acetate maybe nylon with some lurex threads. The gold lurex is woven at even intervals. Being a fine thread, it glitters and gleams but is not in your face Lady Gaga shiny. The fabric has been treated somehow, could be painted, to resemble the Japanese style Shibori.  Like I said, this was an ancient Walmart purchase. It could be Shibori.  Who knows what they Walmart buyers dug out of the depths of American warehouses and sold for pennies?  I can attest that I’ve tested and discovered silk, rayon, and linen in my purchases.

Since this sheer was my 2nd choice, I did not have time to pretreat it (beyond the wash it got 25 years ago before going into the stash).  I can tell you, I regretted the decision to just throw it on the table and cut. It didn’t crawl badly on the cutting table.  I’ll credit the rotary cutter with helping on that score. Scissors lift and then drop the fabric which contributes to fabric moving during cutting.  I was able to use my standard weights and a few pins. Er, I pinned the fold of the fabric to which I matched the fold of the pattern. It was the only way to convince the fabric to fold evenly along the cross grain.  I pinned roughly every 6″ which was enough. Once pinned the fabric easily smoothed into place and, as stated before, cut without moving about on top of the table; or off the table. I’ve had sheers that did that.

I taped the back shoulders.  I use 3/8″ fusible tape both in bias and straight grain versions. I used the bias version because I wanted to stabilize the shoulder but not nail it in place.  Then I looked at the back neck and realizing how much fabric was going to be hanging in front, taped the back neck.

This is a serger garment. YIPPEE!  I stitched the bust darts at the sewing machine. (Currently my favorite T pattern has bust darts.) I used a 4 thread overlock seam at the serger to stitch the shoulders, insert sleeves and stitch that long underarm-side seam.  My fabric behaved well under the needle. Not so well other places.  That front drape is heavy, even in a sheer.  Possibly a combination of sheer fabric and heavy drape caused my handling issues.  It was easy to twist the front making it out of alignment. Although I will point out that could be a plus for a future garment. Kind of a mobious scarf  thing. Possible, but not this time. This time I struggled with keeping the pieces properly aligned until stitched because pins did not want to stay in this fabric.  I have no easy solutions or tips. Instead of pinning by sliding in and out once, I doubled that. Slide in and out and then again in and out. Two bites instead of the normal one. That helped but was not a sure thing. I.E. pins still fell out of the fabric. This is not something I’m likely to solve because I prefer to starch sheer and crawling fabrics into submission.  IOW I starch using full solution and allow to dry before I even lay the fabric on the cutting table.

I switched to a 3 thread overlock to finish the long hem and neckline edges.  Actually, I pulled out my manual to check the settings for a 2-thread rolled hem and upon spying the 3 thread overlock said to myself “Hey I haven’t used this in a long time.”  I changed my serger to  the recommended settings and did a test strip about 8″ long. I like it. I usually like to switch to a wooly thread. This time I used regular serger thread in all 3 paths. The stitch did seem a little close which can cause waviness in the final run. Often a 8″ test will not show me how a 24-36″ run will look.  Fortunately, others tell me they have the same situation.  So anytime I think the stitch is a little off, I adjust.  In this case I increased stitch length from 1 to 1.5.  That was perfect.  Even the back neck is lovely.  Taping the back neck was surely inspired by my guardian angel. It was such a good idea and finished beautifully but strong.

This was a quick and fun sew. Because I modified a TNT it took me only 30 minutes to get the pattern and fabric ready.  I did have to change fabrics when the first just wasn’t enough, so make that a total of 1 hour prep for sewing.  Sewing took less than an hour.  It’s essentially 2 bust darts, shoulder, sleeve and side seams followed by finishing the long hem an neckline edges.  Definitely a 3-hour or less pattern.

OK so what we’re really here for is some pictures.  Keep in mind that these have been lightened.  My fabric is a dark blue. Dark blue doesn’t photograph more easily than dark brown or black.  It’s necessary to lighten to photos to see detail.

Photo Lightened 80%

Pattern comes complete with instructions for draping 5 different ways. Not all, in fact most of these drapes are not flattering to my robust and very pear-shaped figure.

Will I sew it again? Yes, probably.

  • First off, mentally I’m calling this the Tank Top Version.  I used my knit T-shirt sleeve on a woven fabric.I did consider making the sleeve wider. But I thought I already had done that when I was trying to eliminate the front drag line. During that process, I had considered insufficient ease as a reason for the drag line and added about an inch. Now I’m not sure I returned the pattern to its original dimensions because this sleeve is close when worn over a T-shirt.  It would work fine over a sleeveless top. So another version with more sleeve ease or in a knit is a possibility. BTW Peggy did demonstrate the garment made in a woven. Had I used her pattern pieces, it might have worked.
  • The amount of fabric required can be a show stopper.  None of the fabrics I want to use with this pattern are in 3 yard lengths.  I’d have to buy specifically for use with it. Possible but likely?…
  • …because this is a very trendy garment.  People are already complaining about drape front cardigans. Some are getting tired or the endless parade of drapes. I’m not. I hope we keep drape fronts in our wardrobes for many years into the future. But the majority rules and I follow. I won’t make this garment again if drape fronts disappear from the stores. (I don’t really pay that much attention to runway trends.)

As seen from the front of the bank line:

and the view from the back of the bank line:

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