how to attach a narrow binding for knitwear

here is a little top i made for my daughter. since i have recently discovered the awesomeness that is the dolman tee, i decided to make one out of a knit fabric i bought from gee i wonder where… girl charlee. this is one of those roxy prints, which i bought mostly because purple is her favorite color. it’s kind of a strange fabric… it’s a burnout but just barely, not a ton of stretch, and it’s medium weight.


i assume there isn’t a kid-sized dolman pattern out there so i drafted my own based on a regular knit tee pattern i had. assuming this pattern ran large, i traced off a size 8. to get the dolman shape i took the sleeve pattern piece and lined it up at the shoulder seam then let the bottom seam sit on the seam line under the arm. i taped the pieces together then traced out a dolman shape under the arm and added the upper seam allowance where the shoulder seam extends down the sleeve. i used the same piece for front and back and simply drew in a different neckline for the front (just as the cation designs dolman tee is printed).

i guesstimated how long the arm and hem bands needed to be and cut a binding strip for the neckline. this narrow binding is becoming one of my favorite neckline finishes. i’ve done it several times and only casually mentioned it here on the blog… so to let you in on my awesome binding method, here’s a handy dandy tutorial for you!


how to attach a narrow binding for knitwear

this binding method is most similar to a regular bias binding for wovens. make sure that the edge you are binding is without any seam allowance, or that you have added width to your pattern if you are replacing a banded finish.

cut a strip of knit binding on the crossgrain (or bias if you’re dealing with stripes) to retain stretch. it should be about 1 1/4″ wide and a couple inches longer than your neckline. (note: my binding strip is cut 1 1/2″ wide and ended up being wider than necessary.) if you choose, serge one edge of the binding strip. this is not absolutely necessary, but later when you topstitch i feel like the serged edge gives the topstitching something to grab on to and is a little more secure than a raw edge.


after sewing the shoulder seams, take the binding strip and line it up with the edge of your top, right sides together. serge the binding all the way around the neckline edge and stretch the binding as you sew. no need to be gentle here, just try to keep the pressure as even as possible, stretching a little harder as you go around any curves. i usually stretch the binding, hold it in place, then serge an inch or two at a time; stopping and starting as i go.


once you are almost back to where you started, trim your bias strip so you have 1/2″-1″ overlap, and just let the ends overlap. sure you can stop serging, piece the binding together then finish attaching if you really want, but i have found that this tiny raw edge is virtually unnoticeable (and believe me, i notice everything!) and is definitely less bulky.


serge the free edge of the binding together at the overlap.


from the outside, press the binding strip up  then fold it over the edge to the inside; the edge of your top should be encased in the binding, not folded over in any way. pin the binding in place all around the neckline then twin needle top stitch either directly on the binding strip or just below as i have done here. i find that stitching on the binding is a little harder to do evenly, and works best on thinner knits. if we’re close to medium weight i would stitch outside the binding.


give it all a press and admire your handiwork!

note: if you want a cleaner finish on the inside, you can turn the binding strip under (from the inside) before topstitching. just make sure you calculate the right width for the binding.


this gal is super pleased with her top and wore it all day beginning the second it came out of the sewing machine, and was mad at me this morning when, for the second day in a row!, i did not have it washed so she could wear it to school. which reminds me… i should really go do some laundry…

—lisa g.

the totally awesome archer button up

i know the archer sew along was supposed to start monday (sadly, postponed!) but what can i say… i’m impatient and decided to sew mine up over the weekend. we still didn’t have the heat working in our house (though we do now thankfully) so i moved my sewing stuff to the dining room table. it’s a large table so i wasn’t too disruptive to the family… it’s a wonder sometimes that they put up with me. i cut a straight size 4 of view B. i have to admit, when i first saw the butt ruffle version my reaction was a bit like “ew. really? hmmm…” but i have to say the more i looked at it the more i thought it was “interesting” and somewhere along the way “interesting” turned into “really like” which turned into “MUST HAVE NOW!” you know how it is.


still loving the contrast last buttonhole thing!

reasons why i thought view B would work: for one the fabric i bought is a steely greyish blue. not exactly over the top girly. then i like how the shirt in general is quite boxy and has that “i stole this from the boyfriend’s husband’s side of the closet” look, then you turn around and BAM! butt ruffle. to quote the much overused phrase from project runway, i like how it combines the hard and the soft. no seriously, i gag every time they say that. call it a hangover from my college literature studies where the most intelligent thing you could say in class was how two dissimilar things were juxtaposed and suddenly became interesting. i digress.


i’m sure any of you who plan to make this shirt want to know about sizing. what i learned from sewing my moss mini is that grainline patterns are not drafted for one with a curvacious backside. hips seem to be taken account for, but le boo-tay? not so much. if i were making view A i would probably slash and spread, much like suzanne from Beau Baby discussed HERE just the other day.

also, i consider myself to have slightly wide shoulders. maybe i don’t, but even though this shirt has a dropped shoulder i would prefer it be dropped a smidgen less. it may help if i just go down a size in the bust/shoulder then slash and spread for my lower half. if i brought the shoulder seam in by 1/2″ or so it would still hang off my shoulder slightly. speaking of shoulder seams, the instructions have you press the shoulder seam toward the sleeve. since i wasn’t making a classic button up per david coffin i decided to follow the pattern on this one. when you press the SA toward the sleeve you get a slight puff at the sleeve cap. when you press the SA toward the body, you get a flatter cap. my gut was to press toward the body, however i did not go with my gut thinking: oh, i’m using a blouse-y material (rayon challis) so i’ll go the more feminine route as per the directions. this would be fine if the shoulder seam sat closer to the shoulder, but since the design is to hang off the shoulder the cap just looks a little confused. i would go back in and change this, but i frenched the side seams so it would be a lot more work than it’s worth. sorry if you’re wondering what the heck is wrong with me, i’m just a perfectionist.


since i’ve made a few button up’s lately, i have to say that i think her method of inserting the collar is now my favorite. last time around i followed david coffin’s and while that turned out well, i think i like this way even better. the only thing i would add, is to stay stitch around the entire neck edge, then clip close to your stitching so you can lay the neckline virtually straight as you attach the collar stand. it is INFINITELY easier to attach the collar stand when you clip those curves first.


one note on the collar construction: it wasn’t entirely clear at first whether the instructions have you put the interfaced collar stand to the outside or inside. it should be toward the outside, the un-interfaced collar stand should be to the inside. later on in the directions this is more clear, but by that point it would be too late to go back and change it if you did it the other way around. minor detail, but i just wanted to point that out.

another thing i really like about this pattern is how the front button placket is done. the left and right shirt fronts are different so that the under-placket is folded under twice then topstitched and the over-placket is a separate piece sewn on. this is how you see it in RTW and how i’ll be doing my (and my husband’s) shirts from now on.


i love how the cuff is sewn on. makes it so easy to get the edges lined up properly. what i don’t like is that the cuff is one piece that is folded in half instead of cut as two and sewn together at the cuff edge. the once piece thing feels a little weak at the edge, so next go i’ll cut it as two pieces. i went with the continuous placket as instructed to go with the overall blouse-y feel. if i did view A i probably would have done it with a tower placket. for women’s wear i think either is acceptable, so i wouldn’t get hung up over it. what… you don’t get hung up over these things? oh. okay.


PS i added 1/2″ to the sleeve length because i have monkey arms

sorry to be all detail-y with my opinion on this pattern. since most button and collar shirt patterns are super lame, this one gets my vote for being AWESOME. the directions are not of the “hold your hand” variety if you need that; since i’ve been studying the techniques and construction of shirts lately i had no issue. that said, if you haven’t done a shirt before this one at least has all the right pieces to give you a nice professional finish. also with the sew along happening, it’s probably a good place to start. if you havent’ bought this pattern already… what are you waiting for?! i’m crazy in love with mine.

—lisa g.

i’m moving! blogspace, that is…

okay folks… today. today! i am moving over to wordpress, with or without a glass of wine in hand. it seems pretty easy to do, wish me luck! my blog address will be the same, just wordpress instead of blogger. so, if i stop showing up in your feed you’ll know where to find me.

i have a slight lull in my sewing due to the fact that our heater went out over the past weekend and we’ve been heating our not so well insulated house with a few space heaters. now, my sewing room never had central heat (it’s a weird poorly built addition to the house) so i’ve always had a space heater to keep it warm. but due to the lack-of-heat situation i have to sacrificed my sewing room heat in order to keep our actual living space warm-ish. it was okay over the last few days when our temps made it to 50s F, but today we’re hovering in the 30s F and my hands are shivering… it may not be fixed until next week due to the freak snowstorm we had last week, dumping us with another 2 feet of snow. seriously. can we just get on to spring already? we are told that all those heater fixing people with the gas company are working in high priority regions where there was flooding and coastal erosion and such. what do i know? i just want heat!

while my sewing room is a literal icebox i have started prep work on the grainline studio archer button up. woot! i printed and taped last night, traced this morning and hope to cut my fabric today or tomorrow. that is if my hands are steady enough. this was probably the most it really needs to be precise .pdf pattern i’ve done. initially i had a bit of a problem, it seems as though my printer cuts off the top and bottom of each pattern page leaving me to guess exactly how to connect those sides of the page. i came up with a brilliant (if i do say so) solution.

since the sides of each page printed fine, i simply traced the the square that connects each page to the next, then used it as a guide to line up the edges that didn’t print. whew!

alright folks… see you on the other side!

—lisa g.

oh my darlin’… ranges!

guys, i’ve been dying to share this dress with you! i have for ages drooled over the darling range dresses you all have made, but i’m cheap and it’s hard for me to buy an expensive pattern and then still have to go buy fabric. i start adding up the costs in my head: pattern… fabric… lining… thread… buttons… then i go buy a simplicity pattern on the cheap and complain about how sucky it is. i really need to be convinced that a $20 pattern will get substantial use before i buy it. since i have so many different versions of this dress floating around in my head, i think it’s worth the expense.

that said, a while back julie over at fabric mart contacted me about doing a guest post on their blog—fabric mart fabricistas—if they sent me some fabric. sign me up! she pointed me toward some new rayon fabrics and the darling ranges instantly came to mind. it was a match made in heaven if i do say so myself.

so here she is… new favorite dress! head on over to the fabric mart blog to see my write up there, then come back and see how i made the bodice adjustments!

much discussed over here is how wonky i am proportioned. i’m 5’8″ which is certainly taller than average. in fact i have four sisters who are all 2-5″ shorter than me. however, most of my height is in my legs making it so that i’m rather petite on top. i have a high bust, spindly arms, and have always had trouble finding necklines that aren’t indecent and armholes that don’t gape wide open. side boob is just not a classy look for me. i’ve finally come to the conclusion that, more often than not, i need to do a petite adjustment above the bust, then re-add the length under the bust. if you happen to need a similar adjustment, it’s very easy to do. here’s how…

pick a point above the bust (about 1/3 the way up the armscye) and fold out the amount you need to shorten by all the way around (i took out 3/4″).

obviously this is a not-to-scale drawing

then, smooth out the armscye curve and you’re good to go!

once i pinned out the room and tried the bodice back on it just fit and felt right; the neckline hit in a good place, the darts were in the right place, the arm hole wasn’t gaping. success! a few tweaks here and there, okay a lot of tweaks… and i had a bodice i was happy with. i decided to leave this fitted but still everyday comfortable. i left off the back ties and added darts, and i lengthened the bodice to hit my high waist. mostly i’ll wear the dress belted so i left about 2″ of ease at the waist. i did add lining to the skirt portion; since the fabric has a white background i didn’t think i could get away without it on a sunny day.

i am loving how this dress came out and i have ideas for a few more… sleeveless, short sleeved, scoop-necked… i really need to get more megan nielson patterns!

—lisa g.

moss mini AND dolman tee

so i made a green corduroy skirt eons ago and never really liked it all that much. (i hesitate to link to it, but here you go) i think i wore it once, altered it a bit, then chucked it into the closet never to be seen again. until recently… i unearthed it from the bottom of a pile of sweaters and thought maybe i should do something with it. there was a decent amount of fabric and the moss mini from grainline studio came to mind. i bought the pattern and lo and behold, it just fit! the original skirt had buttons down the front so i decided to keep them and not mess with a zipper.

i didn’t bother to muslin this, i figured if it didn’t fit i can call this my muslin and still be okay with that. happily it does fit well enough to be worn. yay! i measured a size 8 so that’s what i cut. it still seems a little snug in the hips, but it is a mini skirt, so i think it’s okay. the waist was a little gaping in the back so i took in the back yoke by a small amount to curve around le boo-tay.

as you all know, this skirt lives up to it’s name as a mini skirt. i cut the skirt to the longest length then made a faced hem with bias tape i reclaimed from the original skirt. also—polka dot pocket lining! 

the only other fitting tweak i need to work out is that space below the waist but above my hips. i’m not sure if i have proportionally low hips or what, but that area above the pocket is just kind of floating out there. i’ve had this problem before, so i guess i need to pay more attention to it. since i was using an existing button down skirt i couldn’t sew the pocket lining into the fly as the pattern instructs and i think that would have helped to pull that part in closer to the body. no worries, there will be a next time with this pattern.

i had to piece the waistband because it was a hair too short… we’ll just call it a design featureoh, and i added back pockets and belt loops because i thought it needed them.

fortunately the small fit issues i have don’t render the skirt useless. i had some purple cotton lycra knit so i decided to make cation designs dolman tee. i’ve seen these pop up over the past months and while i liked it, i wasn’t sure if it was the right style for my figure. i always feel like my shoulders stick out funny and the lack of shoulder seam can exaggerate it. however, i am happy to say i think this top is not only supremely comfortable, but also flattering! 

when i printed the pattern the scale was off (i got 3.5″ for the 4″ square) so i took an existing knit tee pattern and picked my size based off that. it all worked out and i think this is my new favorite tee! it was wicked fast to sew and would have been even faster to cut, however i had less than a yard of fabric so i had to do some fancy maneuvering. i cut the hem band in two pieces and had to cut the sleeve bands with the grain. i had plenty of stretch going both directions so it worked out fine. also i did a neck binding instead of band. i like the wide neck slouchy look for this.

so look at that, a whole outfit in one weekend! both projects were super fast and i love how they go together. can’t wait to try more grainline patterns, i just bought fabric for an archer blouse. so excited for that one!!!

—lisa g.

some bloggity business

there’s been loads of discussion around the blogs about how much the blogger platform stinks. i feel as though i’ve been fighting with blogger since day one, whether it’s about getting my posts formatted correctly, uploading pics, commenting (darn you captcha!), and just generally not working when i need it to. when i started this blog i wavered between blogger and word press and claimed my blog name at both spots. blogger won out because it seemed less confusing to set up and more customizable. basically i’ve regretted it ever since.

my fist blog-posted renfrew! shameful it’s
taken so long, but i figure everyone is sick
of this pattern by now.

so i’ve decided to switch over to word press at some point when i have time to deal with that and hopefully it won’t be too traumatic. i am concerned that, because this is a picture heavy blog, that those might get lost. and that would be soul crushing.

this is a nice drape-y rayon with a subtle sheen.
not great for hiding the lumps and bumps, but
it’s super soft, so i’ll deal.

regardless, i will switch and the switch will probably happen on a whim late some night after one too many glasses of wine… so if you wake up to some weird feed of mine in your reader, i’m apologizing now!

paired with my thurlows… it was only right.
i left off the sleeve and hem bands and lengthened
the hem to compensate and just cut the sleeves
where i wanted them and twin needled the hems.

also, i’m just wondering what ya’ll do with your pictures in general. i take what seems like a bazillion pics just to get one or two where i don’t look like a complete doofus. i try to make sure and delete the pics off my computer that i will definitely never use, but sometimes i’m in a hurry and think i’ll come back to it later. guess what. i never do. 

the pattern’s neck band was too long for this knit and it stuck out
all sorts of awkward. had to rip it out and redo. love that…
but now it’s nice and profesh looking.

so now i have thousands of pictures of myself in iphoto, which makes me cringe every time i open the program because i HATE having my picture taken. i’m awkward, i don’t photograph well, i’m super self-conscious, i don’t know where to put my hands, ahhh!!!!

BAM! hand-made outfit!

right now i have to upload them to picasa first in order to put them on the blog. but it… takes… forever… and they’re really hard to organize. i use flicker occasionally but only have a few pics there. i haven’t come up with a good way of storing my pics, but i really have no need to keep them for the long-term if they’re on the blog, right? i just don’t know! what do you guys do????

—lisa g.