The Briar Sweater
Posted on Thursday the 28th February 2019 by Sew Mama Bear
Sometimes we make choices in life that make us question our sanity and wonder why the heck we did this to ourselves… this make contains one of those moments.
Megan Nielsen patterns are to me wonderfully designed wardrobe staples, in the most wonderfully beautiful envelopes. Staples are not something I usually make… however this year one of my aims was to change that. I often get asked if I make most of my clothes and the answer has always had to be no as although I have always made my occasion wear my everyday wardrobe is disappointingly majority filled with high-street purchases… this year’s resolution was to flip this around and this pattern screamed out to me as a starting point for doing that.
Now I don’t know why but I have become entirely obsessed with long sleeve tops. I don’t know why but they’ve become my favourite choice so it felt only right to start with making myself one. The style of these tops where they are shorter at the front and longer at the back is really flattering so I was excited to find the right fabric to make it in so with hopes of spring being around the corner I fell for this beautiful floral jersey. The pale blue background with a light feeling jersey fabric in a long sleeve felt like it was going to be a great transitional piece to get me between the seasons.
The pattern contains a few different options, sleeve length, top length, pocket shape and neckline finish. It then made a statement that only now, having made the top I wish I’d never read…
“These pockets work incredibly well with fabrics that don’t fray such as leather or felt.”
Because the trouble is, it sounded like an amazing idea… and don’t get me wrong, it even looks amazing but oh my goodness the execution of making it work was frankly a nightmare. If anyone asks you in the future if you’d like to sew with leather… run… run like the wind and never look back. It’s funny, because generally I do avoid it but for some reason, I thought it would look cool (a statement I would agree is still the case) I just didn’t consider the trauma the sewing would be. Unfortunately, being the stubborn soul I am, once I started I was hard pushed to admit defeat.
The logic behind sewing leather is… use the right needles, use a longer stitch length than usual and don’t use any pins. I did all those things and who knows, maybe my machine was just having a tantrum that day, or maybe it was just something about the leather I was using but I tried every needle I had in my stash (leather, denim, topstitching, stretch) and nothing was working with any consistency. The trouble was, I got lulled… I managed to make it work with a denim needle for the topstitching on the top edge of the pocket. I daftly thought that would mean when I came to attach the pocket to the top it would therefore be fine… I was wrong! After I had sewn it on, I realised large numbers of stitches had been missed in several areas.
Now the reason this happens is if the needle is taking too long to get through the fabric (because of a tight weave/fibres) by the time it gets down the bobbin has already swiped past and missed it, causing the top thread to not be caught and the stitch missed. Usually a sharper needle resolves this.
Having tried to see if I could get the machine to fill in those areas on a second run, it became apparent that wasn’t going to happen… so after a cup of tea I decided to hand sew those sections using the holes the machine had created as my guide. If you don’t look too closely, you’d never know the troubles I had…
One thing that did work amazingly was using masking tape to hold the pocket in position on the top. The masking tape pealed away really easily after I had sewn it on and meant that there were no additional holes from pins (and before you ask no that wasn’t why it didn’t sew it right as it actually seemed to be sewing better where the masking tape was).
Once the pocket was attached the rest of the sewing of this top went like a dream. The shoulders are the first thing to be sewn and I have a lovely little tip for this. A lot of patterns suggest using a cotton tape/clear elastic when sewing the shoulders to stabilise them. The reason for this is the shoulders of a garment carry the weight of the whole garment and in a stretch fabric they could easily stretch out. Me being the cheapskate that I am, found these items to be expensive for their tiny role so I sought out an alternative method that uses something that everyone just throws in the bin… the selvedge! This edge of the fabric has been treated to stop it fraying so is perfect to cut off, line the cut edge of this strip with the raw edge of your shoulder seam and then stitch through all 3 layers. Once overlocked it looks really neat and does the job of stabilising the seam.
The pattern gives 2 options for the neckline, a binding or a band finish. The band is the more traditional t-shirt option so I decided to go with that. Its attached folded in half, then topstitched in place to hold it out. I found the band was quite wide and would have benefitted from being stretched more into place but some of that is preference and due to the level of stretch in the jersey. It’s something I would consider though before I make another. I use the time when I’m topstitching the band to sew my label to the back of the top – it’s such a simple thing to add to a handmade garment but really adds a professional touch.
The way this fabric handles absolutely makes this top. It’s lightweight without feeling thin and has a great stretch/recovery to it. The shrinkage in washing was negligible and it wears really nicely. All in all, an absolutely beautiful pattern in a stunning fabric. I’m thrilled with this top, and can see myself making more of these in the near future… (although they aren’t likely to ever have a leather pocket again!)