Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Forest Boat Neck top: Betsey Johnson for Butterick 4426

 This top came about from a generous offer of some fabric from UK knit/jersey fabric specialist Girl Charlee and a vintage pattern lucky find at a local stitching fair, both in the same week!  The pattern is a classic Betsey Johnson knit design for Butterick design, I made the top  (view B) which I shortened, straightened at the sides as I didn't want to wear a belt and  straightened the bell shaped sleeves.   The fabric is Girl Charlee cotton/poly blend 50/50 which I was interested to try as many of their prints are on this blend and I usually stay away from anything with polyester in as manmade fibres can irritate my skin and in all honesty, I am a fabric snob!

 This is Fawn Silhouette on Forest Green Cotton Jersey Blend.  It is mid weight- it makes me think of T shirts- and has 25% stretch.  That means that 10" of fabric will stretch to 12.5" maximum which is quite low so it has stability and the edges of the fabric don't roll when you cut it.    It is soft and it drapes nicely.   Mark warned me that I would need to wash it first as it feels a little stiff straight off the bold which it did when I first unwrapped it but it softened just as he said and knits should always be pre washed and dried flat to allow for shrinkage.  It seemed a good fit for this style, it matched the stretch gauge on the reverse of the pattern.   If you are new to knits, this blend is a good fabric to start with: it's easy to handle for cutting and sewing and there are lots of prints to choose from.   It's a jersey fabric that lies flat and is suitable for a style that doesn't need a lot of stretch so something like a Megan Nielsen Briar top or a Tilly & the Buttons Coco top/dress is good.  It doesn't work for close fitting styles like leggings or tight tops as it has no lycra so the recovery is mechanical rather than specific stretchy fibres. 

 This is a mid 1970s pattern guessing from the style and these tend to stress MODERATE STRETCH knits on the front of the packet.  Manmade knit fabrics were a very 1970s phenomenon,  I remember as a child wearing crimplene everything- trousers, tops, dresses, coat, and cotton/spandex blends were in still waiting to happen in the distant 1980s and 90s!  Occasionally, I will see original knit fabric garments and fabrics from the 1970s on my carboot sale and charity shop visits and although the styles are great, the fabrics are so artificial compared to what's available now.  I notice in the new series of Fargo, the costumes reflect the authentic clothing of the time rather than the stylised version of the 70's currently on the high street.

It's a simple pattern.  The neckline is the same front and back and is horizontal- no curve.  The front and back are slightly angled at the shoulder where the two cross over.  You have to go with the bra-straps-on-view look as it's unavoidable with this style!

With vintage patterns, the methodology is often different to what we would do now.  I would usually opt for a double needle hem finish  but instead, this pattern called for two lines of straight stitching.  I experimented- see below and I opened for the 0.7 zig zag as I tend to pull tops as I take them off and on!  In hindsight I think the double needle hem would've been better with some knit stabiliser tape to stop the tunnelling or bunching up of the fabric between the stitching rows. 

I added the sleeves flat but they were eased stitched and I tried to avoid stretching the fabric as I sewed them in on the overlocker.  So I avoided distorting the fabric but it dos look a little puckered around the armhole.  I used a moderate heat on the iron for pressing because of the polyester content and it worked fine.

The degree of stretch in knit fabric is such an important factor when matching up fabric to pattern.  Girl Charlee is one of the few online shops in the UK that includes the percentage stretch for each fabric.  Other shops write some beautiful descriptions and include fibre content, width and all the other info but it would be so helpful to have this extra information. 

I'm adding this into my #vintagepledge as an extra- I still have a Betsey Johnson jacket to make which is waiting for me to buy a walking foot for my Bernina!  See my other makes for #vintagepledge here and here

sib blog


  1. Mm, very interesting, though I'm not sure I'll ever be converted to polyester, even blended. I'm so pleased to hear of your fabric snobbery confession - me too! I always try to avoid polyester, at least more than 20% ish if I really like the fabric, but I'd be interested to hear in the future how this top shapes up. Will it feel comfy, twist, misshape or pill? I suppose it's partly a question of cost, but if you take the time to choose and order fabric and make something up you want it to last. Thanks as always, Jen

    1. It was better than I expected cotton/poly blend to be and I am drawn to the prints too. It has it’s limits but fair enough for the price! Jersey is so expensive to buy as fabric in the UK and cheap jersey is hopeless-holes and faults- so this is one solution. I’ve worn it a few times. It is comfortable. It doesn’t have the breathability of cotton but it lies very flat. I’ll have to see with pilling over time! So many bloggers buy Scuba and Ponte knit fabrics which are usually 100% manmade even if they are good quality and I just can’t cope with those fabrics on my skin even if they sew up well!

  2. I'm a bit of a fabric snob too, when it comes to jersey, so it's good to her your experience as GC have some great prints. I'm loving Fargo.

    1. It was better than I expected cotton/poly blend to be and I am drawn to the prints too. It has it’s limits but fair enough for the price!

  3. Such a pretty top! I love boat necks and that color is so flattering!
    I saw somewhere another person had a great fix for the bra problem on boat neck tees...just sew in a little triangle of fabric at the edge of each end of the "boat" (hemmed at the neck edge, of course) to cover the straps without changing the cut of the neckline.

  4. A very nice top - the colour really suits you :)

  5. Nice review of the fabric. I can't bear tops that have the same front and back neckline - I feel like I'm being choked, which is a shame as they're so easy and look chic!


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