It’s not an exaggeration to say that I’ve done a truly ridiculous amount of sewing over the past few months. Oh boy, does my body know about it. After this, I will be taking a much longer break to allow myself to recover! However, in the interests of pushing myself to learn new skills I’ve begun learning about pattern drafting. Not being mathematically inclined, what I was promised was a rather simple exercise became several weeks of effort. All of which I am excited to share once I get a few more bits and pieces sorted. I also sat down to perfect a PDF pattern I had bought a while ago, but hadn’t managed to fit at the time. Then, because I love to over-complicate things, I also signed up for a beginner’s short course on sewing trousers, and decided to learn how to sew stretch fabric on my overlocker. Lucky for me, I had fabulous results all across the board.
Readers of this blog might recognise the designer behind the featured pattern of this post. I’ve written about Wardrobe By Me before, as they’re the designers who created my all-time favourite shirt pattern, the Wardrobe Builder T-Shirt. Having fitted that one so well, I was encouraged quite a while ago now to purchase a PDF version of another of their patterns; the Trudy Turtleneck. Turtlenecks are so cosy and warm, in particular when layered under sweaters. They also bring a fun touch of the ’70’s to your wardrobe. I like them because I’m not comfortable having an exposed neck when it’s cold, and it’s been cold for quite awhile. According to the radio, at the time of writing this post, the 25 degrees-Celsius we recently experienced was the warmest it’s been in six months. I can believe it!
Although I have to admit, there’s been quite a stretch of time between when I first purchased and made the pattern and these latest versions. Knowing that I had made quite a few changes to the Wardrobe Builder T-Shirt pattern, when I made the first version I pulled out both patterns and compared them. I’ve since run into the classic problem of leaving such a long time between makes that I’m no longer quite sure of what size I ended up with after doing the comparisons. However, I do know that I curved the side seams more to match the curvature I added to the Wardrobe Builder T-Shirt, and that I removed several inches of length from the bodice. I graded up one size at the shoulder, and did a similar full-bicep adjustment to add more space to the upper arm of the sleeve pattern piece.
Noting that this pattern is quite fitted, I was glad to have another pattern to compare it to for fitting. It also comes with two collar options, the classic high collar which can then be folded over, and a low collar. I prefer the low collar version as I don’t like the pressure a rolled or folded collar can create around the neck. But perhaps the most exciting feature of this pattern is that it is a fantastic base for some historical inspired pattern hacks! Having seen some wonderful turtleneck pattern hacks for making Edwardian Cycling Sweaters without needing to knit, I decided to see if I could do something similar with the Trudy Turtleneck. I examined the sleeve pattern and decided that to get a good amount of flounce, without adding so much that it simply became extra weight, I would need to add pleats at the shoulder.
To begin, I traced the top half of the sleeve pattern, and then the remainder of that sleeve pattern as a separate piece. In terms of the length, I made the top section long enough to finish above the elbow – with a quarter inch seam allowance. I also added a quarter inch seam allowance to the bottom half of the sleeve pattern. But why make them in two pieces, I somehow hear you ask. This is because it allows you to make both a short and long-sleeve version of this pattern hack. The shorter sleeve version can be finished with a simple band, whereas the long-sleeve version is gathered at the base and attached to the lower sleeve. I then drafted that band for the short sleeve version, which would be the test of the hack, with the following measurements. The length would be the length of the base of the upper sleeve, plus a seam allowance at either end. Then, as I wanted it to be a simple, fold-over band, I made it the desired width by two, with a seam allowance at both ends. I aimed for a one inch band, once sewn, with quarter inch seam allowances on all sides to match the base pattern.
To pleat the sleeve, I first drew a line down the very centre of the upper sleeve pattern. I knew I wanted a single, box pleat on the top, and after playing around with some design ideas, I decided on having two other knife pleats on either side of the centre, all pointing towards that main box pleat. So I then drew four other vertical lines, two on either side of that centre line, about one inch apart. I then cut along each line, entirely separating the pattern. For the box pleat, I added an extra one and a half inches of space in the centre. For the other pleats, I added an additional inch of space. I found the easiest way to do this was to tape the cut pattern pieces onto a new piece of paper. I then took my french curve, and smoothed out the curve of the sleeve, so it would retain it’s original shape once the pleats were folded out. The real trick then was remembering on which side to mark and fold the pleats when sewing!
For the first version of this pattern, I had stumbled across an unbelievable bargain in some stretch fabric that reminded me of lace, used for Victorian tea dresses. It was in the clearance section at a secondhand sewing goods store, so I snapped it up. However, it was quite see-through, so I took some white, quite soft and drapey stretch fabric from my stash and flat-lined the bodice section. I did find that the lace fabric stretched out quite a bit more than I was expecting, however, it all came together quite well on the overlocker. I did have some kerfuffle with attaching one of the sleeve bands on backwards, and had to unpick and redo it, which the lace-like fabric did not take to in the slightest. But I am still quite happy with the result.
Then, as I quite loved the shape of the sleeve, it came time to test the full length version. I had some mysterious brown stretch fabric in my stash, which was quite soft and fluffy on the inside. I thought it might be good for making an extra warm top, and seeing how well the design held up with thicker fabric. I quickly found there were some struggles in attaching the collar, as once folded, the fabric lost most of it’s stretch. This did result in some puckering, and some parts needing to be redone, but I did like how structured the collar then became. In the future, I think I will do a bit of a hack and make it so the collar either buttons or zips at the back, to get around this issue of a lack of stretch. Something which I noticed in my research that a lot of ’70’s, and even ’60’s patterns, often did.
I did also find that gathering the base of the upper sleeve by hand didn’t work all that well. Both fabrics didn’t take to gathering, and wriggled free. Unfortunately at the time my sewing machine was set up rather particularly for another project, but I know for future makes to have it set up for both gathering, and then basting the upper sleeve to either the band, or the lower sleeve, before I run it through the overlocker. The brown fabric in particular fought me quite hard, so I ended up going over that seam on both sleeves again for piece of mind. However, I was thrilled to discover that the design worked! Having the upper sleeve as a separate piece, which then gathers and attaches to a more fitted lower sleeve, gave it so much more structure!
As something of a treat, a friend then let me mess around with her coverstitch machine which had been refusing to stitch well for some time. If I could get it working, I could borrow it and take it home to finish a slew of stretch fabric tops. Another friend and I went over it and over it, and at last got it working! I did discover, however, that coverstitch machines do not at all like cuffs or hems to be more or less complete. These machines prefer flat surfaces, without side seams, and have a tendency to give up on stitching altogether if there are lumps. Nevertheless, I persevered and the results were superb. As someone who habitually pulls on hems to get in and out of shirts, and who cannot have a longer sleeve without pushing them up their arms and pulling them down again, I am hardly a stranger to a snapped stitch. Yet the coverstitch machine stitches were so much sturdier and stretchier than I could have anticipated. They stretch beautifully, and give such a wonderful, professional finish to each shirt.
I am extremely pleased with how this base pattern comes together, and how much fun it was to hack it for a more historical look. I’m hoping to stumble across some sweater knits in a secondhand shop somewhere so that I can make some more, actual sweater version of this pattern hack!
Estimated time taken: 14 hours.
Estimated cost of materials: $110, including notions.