Today I’m cutting my striped knit fabric for the Renfrew Top. Remember how we lined up the ribbed lines along the fold of the fabric to ensure our solid-coloured knit fabric was on grain? We’ll do something completely different to line up our stripes today. (This is a long post but it’s full of good stuff, I promise!)
One important thing to determine is whether your stripes are printed on top of the fabric, or if they’re knit into the fabric. How do you know? If your fabric was knit using two (or more) different colours of yarn, the stripes will be visible on both the right side and the wrong side of the fabric. If you stretch the fabric, the stripes stretch too. Most nice-quality knit fabrics that are striped will have stripes created by knitting with two colours of yarn.
However if your fabric is only one colour on the wrong side, with stripes only showing on the surface of the right side, and if you stretch the fabric the stripes crack like paint, then your stripes are printed on. (Or if you can feel the texture of the striped part, and it feels different from the non-striped part.) Your fabric started as a solid colour when it was knit, and the stripes were added later on. In this case, you’ll want to check if the stripes are printed straight on grain, or if the stripes are slightly off-grain. A good-quality fabric will have the print aligned with the grain so you don’t have to choose whether the grain is straight or the stripes are straight! (Although if I were to find my stripes were printed slightly crookedly, I’d probably still opt to have the stripes run straight and let the grain be off.. but I wouldn’t really be happy with either.)
Short story: your best bet is to pick stripes that are knit into the fabric!
Now, the cutting. Instead of lining up the ribbed lines, which are hard to see, we’ll be lining up the stripes. We can do this, because they’re knit into the fabric. They have to be on grain, it’s impossible for them not to be. So if we line up the stripes to be straight with each other, and our pieces have perfectly straight horizontal stripes, then our pieces cut on the fold will be perfectly on grain!
This makes sense when you can visualize it:
A while back, I wrote a post about how to match up plaids. This is similar but thankfully much easier!
We’ll line up the stripes, from top layer to bottom layer. Every couple of inches, place a pin through one stripe,
and turn it over to see if the stripes are still aligned through both layers. Yes? Good!
(If not, slide over one layer of fabric and re-pin until they are properly lined up.)
I’m going to pin every six inches or so, to keep the stripes lined up. Once this is all done I’ll start placing the pattern pieces.
When you get too far from the edge to check the back side easily, try this. Pin through both layers,
and lift up the fabric edge to see if the pin went through the bottom layer in the right place. If not, slide the lower layer of fabric until it’s lined up.
Now, when we place the pattern pieces, we’ll want to think about how the stripes will line up from piece to piece. We’ll also consider the stripe direction.
Stripe matching: lining up the stripes along the sideseams or underarm seams. (This photo shows how the stripes are matched from back to front.)
Stripe direction: deciding which way we want the stripes to go on the waistband or neckband. (This photo shows how I chose to place the stripe on the neckband, lining up the stripe with the long edge of the band piece.)
I like the stripe placement on my navy sample top, so I’m going to do the same thing on the new Renfrew top. This one’s going to be a V-neck with long sleeves. (Or perhaps three-quarter sleeves.. but not short. It’s too cold already!)
First, I’m pinning the back pattern piece in place. I’m only going to worry about matching the side seam here. The bottom corner of the side seam is placed on the lower edge of a white stripe.
I know that if I pin my lower corner of the front side seam on the same white line, the sideseam will line up! (For your fabric, it can be any colour of stripe and any section of the stripe pattern. It just has to be consistent from front to back!)
Next, I’ll pin my front piece in place, following the same lower corner sideseam placement. And if we check the armpit, we’ll see that the top of the side seam lines up in the same place, on both the front and back! (Trying to not go too heavy on the photos here, but you can see the top ends up at the top of a white stripe on the front armpit here, and also on the back in the previous photo.)
Why did I pick the bottom as my matching point? Because I care more about the lower side seam matching and less about the armpit matching. Most of the time my arms are going to be down, so you won’t see the armpit if it’s off, but you will notice if the waist stripes are off.
Next, we’ll cut. If you feel confident about the pinning job through the stripes, go ahead and cut! (If you are being extra cautious, follow these next steps instead.)
Cut along the cutting line of the pattern piece, through the top layer only. Remove the pattern tissue, and re-align the cut edge with the stripes.
Now cut out the lower layer of the fabric, using the cut edge as a guide.
And our piece is perfectly symmetrical! (I swear, the cutting is way harder than the sewing. It gets easier after this!)
The sleeve side seam will match if we cut it completely on-grain, with symmetrical stripes running across the sleeve.
Last thing to consider is stripe placement on the bands. Do you like the stripes running lengthwise, like my sample? Do you want them to go the other way, short crosswise stripes? (Do you want to avoid striped bands altogether and choose a coordinating solid knit for solid bands?)
For the bands, it’s best to cut them with the fabric single-layer, and line up the cut line along a stripe.
Once I’ve started cutting, I tend to take the tissue off and focus only on cutting straight along the stripe line. I’ll replace the tissue to cut the other side, but at least I know I’m staying on the stripe as I cut.
Replace the tissue and snip notches.
This is the best way to ensure your band has a nice, straight stripe running around the neckline. Think about which stripe you want on the fold, or in the centre of the band. On my sample I centred the white stripe along the band, with navy on either side. Depending on the width of your stripes, you might want a different look. It’s up to you!
Use the fold line marked on the pattern piece as a guide. This is going to be the folded edge of the neckband that touches your skin. I’m going to have taupe on the fold, one white striped line down the middle of the band.
If you have a hard time visualizing the neckband stripe and what it will look like on the finished garment, why not cut two? Try placing different sections of the stripe in the middle, and sew up both bands to see which one will look better and which one will get attached on the final top.
Here are more blog posts about the Renfrew Top. (Get the pattern here.)
- A Big List of Tips for Sewing Knits!
- Three Tips for Sewing Stripes
- Introducing the Renfrew Top
- Sewing the Renfrew Top: What Would You Like to See?
- What’s a Stable Knit Fabric?
- Assembly-Line Cutting and Sewing
- Cutting Knit Fabric: Making Sure Your Project is Cut On-Grain
- Make Patterns Last Longer: Iron Interfacing to your Pattern Pieces
- Renfrew Top: Choosing which View to Make
- Thoughts on Cutting Knit Fabric
Again, the fabric I’m using is from Télio and in the last month I’ve also seen it for sale at Fabricana and at Hart’s Fabric online in various colours. (Just in case you wanted to ask!) It’s a 65% Viscose, 30% Polyester and 5% Spandex blend. For some reason I get best results when the spandex content is 5% – it seems to be the magic number. The purple cotton also has 5% spandex.
Wow, that was a lot of information! I hope this helps you with your own striped knit tops. Stripes always seem to be in fashion, so it’s great to be able to sew with them confidently!
Do you have any tips on cutting striped fabric to share? (Stripe-cutting disasters or cautionary tales?) Any great sources for buying striped fabric, online or at your local store?
Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!