The pattern, as described on the envelope, is a “Close-fitted, wrapped tunic has asymmetrical fronts with ties, two-piece dolman sleeves with elasticized gathers on overarm sleeve seam, with or without hood, multiple back panels forming seaming detail and flared hemline and stitched hems.” Pants were also part of the pattern, though I chose not to sew them. Knit pants aren’t my “thang.”
Cutting and fitting on this pattern is extremely complex, because the original pattern tissue is a complicated nest of lines for sizes A-J. But I needed to use one set of lines at the shoulder, and another at the bust and midline, and if I guessed wrong, I would have lost the original pattern to redraft it. So I began by tracing most of the pieces on white gift wrap tissue, making the expected pattern adjustments there as I drew.
I had always planned to first cut the fabric out of a knit muslin before I went to my final fabric, but Kathy, sewing guru and co-owner of my LFS, suggested I use a woven muslin as a step even before the knit muslin.
As cut and made adjustments, I decided to identify the right and wrong side of the muslin fabric (which has no right or wrong side), as well as identify which pattern piece it was, by using letter blocks and a stamp pad. Then, as I continued to modify, a new pattern piece would be marked with an A or B, or C, and so on. Easy to identify the most recent one. I also took copious notes - where I lengthened or broadened, etc.
Once that was done, I cut it out of the knit muslin, purchased because it was both cheap, and approximately the weight of my final fabric. More adjustments were necessary there, like the bust dart placement, because woven fabric simply doesn't fall the way knit fabric does. Satisfied, I then went to the final fabric.
I purchased a serger to complete this project, and I’m glad I did. But never having used a serger before, or seen someone else use one, I hadn’t realized the differences. The one I chose - a Brother 1034D. That is a fine machine, but it only does an overlock stitch. In the finishing of the hems and cuffs, I could have used a serger that makes cover stitches. This means either an additional serger, or a very expensive one. I sort of had a make it work moment on my regular machine, but Kathy (LFS sewing guru) said I can use a double needle in my machine.
It worked like a charm. I’ve heard some people advise using wooly nylon in the bobbin, but Sarah (also owner of the LFS) says that should only be used in sergers because the wooly nylon is abrasive and bad for the life of a regular machine. Sewing the knit muslin first, gave me to practice on the serger, too.
The trickiest part may have been sewing the elastic in the elephant sleeves, because I needed to keep it stretched as I sewed, and I was sewing along a curved edge.
After the shirt was finished, I decided to swing by my tailor’s shop to see what her thoughts were on the fit. She thought it was good, but suggested I take 5" off either side of the side seams, for a total of 20" hem circumference. Doing that would allow the sides to fall straight, rather than billowing out. Kathy also suggested I do the same. Apparently, if I had chosen a lighter weight fabric, it would have fallen that way naturally.
That may have been excellent advice, but it seemed a bit extreme, and I didn’t like how it would have altered the back seaming/butt area. So I went with 3" on either side of the seam, for a total of 12".
Original pattern tissue with complicated nest of cut lines for sizes A-J.
So, I decided to tile together white gift wrap tissue, and trace my first-best-guess on to it, then use this tissue to cut the first muslin.
Though a muslin out of woven fabric won’t have the same behavior as a knit fabric, Kathy strongly recommended that I take a first pass in fabric out of woven muslin so I don’t wreck my knit muslin. Because I can go back to the store and buy bolt after bolt of woven muslin. It’s an utterly replaceable product. But the knit muslin? Finding a cheap knit fabric in approximately the same weight as my final fabric? It may not be precious in terms of price, but certainly in rarity.
I get the pattern pieces as close to the shaping as I can to fit well. And then - and only then - do I cut out of the knit fabric muslin.
Once that’s perfected, then I can cut out of my final fabric.