Seam Allowances on the Renfrew Top

Every time I go to sew the Renfrew Top, I think of something new to talk about! Today it’s seam allowances. (Thought of it just as I went to sew the very first seam.) This is good, bit by bit I’ll have answered every possible question about the Renfrew top pattern!

What are the seam allowances on the Renfrew Top? I’ve made them 5/8″ (1.5cm), the same as all other Sewaholic Patterns. All patterns after the Renfrew Top have the seam allowances labelled on the pattern pieces to make it easy for you, it’s the earlier patterns that have it in the instructions only.

Often you’ll see knit patterns with narrower seam allowances, so it’s important to check the pattern if you’re using it for the first time.

You may prefer narrower seam allowances on a knit fabric. If you’re going straight to the serger, a 1/4″ (6mm) seam allowance is probably all you need.

Why did I choose 5/8″ as the seam allowance? One, because it’s standard. It’s easy to remember that all of the Sewaholic Patterns use the same size range and the same seam allowance. Also, because if you’re scared of knits, it’s even scarier to sew with teeny seam allowances. Having a generous seam allowance gives you more room to sew confidently. It also provides just a little more room for fitting and adjusting. If you need to add just the tiniest bit at the sides, you can using the space in the seam allowance.

Tell me, which do you prefer when it comes to sewing knits? Standard 5/8″ (1.5cm) seam allowances? Narrow seam allowances? Or would you prefer that the pattern has regular ones so you can choose to trim them down or not?

Here are more blog posts about the Renfrew Top. (Get the pattern here.)

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17 Responses to Seam Allowances on the Renfrew Top

  1. Jenny October 17, 2012 at 6:25 am #

    I definitely prefer 5/8″ seam allowances. I tend to cut a little bigger (probably more than I should) because I’m always afraid something is not going to fit, so I like having more of a seam allowance to play with.

  2. LisaB October 17, 2012 at 6:32 am #

    My preference is to use whatever is used in production rather than what’s standard in home sewing patterns, which is generally 5/8″. That means I tend to use small seam allowances for knits as well as for woven collars, cuffs, etc. I don’t use the same allowance for every seam on a garment either. Side seams will be different than outside edges. I can’t think of a time that I ever use 5/8″ anymore.

    If I’m trying a pattern for the first time and am unsure of the fit, I’ll cut extra large side seam allowances and then trim them down after a basted fitting and before sewing the seam.

    The beauty of sewing for ourselves, though, is that we can do whatever we want. Even if a purchased pattern has seam allowances different than our personal preference, we can change them. Yay!

  3. Penny K. October 17, 2012 at 6:41 am #

    I do prefer a 5/8″ seam when sewing garments for myself; however, when I sew skating attire for my daughter I really prefer the 1/4″ allowance in the patterns as I would never want the bulk or to have to trim every seam. In a recent project for Jamie Christina’s Abbey coat there were a few places where she indicated in the instructions to use a smaller seam allowance and that worked great since they were smaller pieces or pieces with much more curve, etc.

  4. ms. modiste October 17, 2012 at 7:20 am #

    I’m notoriously forgetful so I was glad to see 5/8″ as it’s easier for me when everything is standard. I used my serger to make mine, and my serger needs 2/8″ if using the blade, so I just chalked a line 3/8″ from the edge before pinning my pieces together and aligned that with the blade while putting it all together. Worked perfectly and didn’t really take much extra time.

  5. Josephine October 17, 2012 at 7:33 am #

    It’s so funny to me that you would have seam allowance in the pattern. I live in Holland and use a lot of Burda patterns, that have no seam allowance in the pattern. You have to add it yourself before cutting. I once had an old American Vogue pattern (with seam allowance in the pattern) and in the end I just cut it off! It was so confusing!

  6. Seraphinalina October 17, 2012 at 7:39 am #

    I’m not sure I’d put a whole lot of thought into my intentions with seam allowances. I know I tend to go a little more to 1cm than 1.5cm. I actually kind of like patterns without SA on them because then I mark the sewing line and worry less about precision when cutting the pattern out. A wider seam allowance is handy for the first time with a new pattern just in case a little extra wiggle room is needed.

  7. Linda October 17, 2012 at 8:20 am #

    I agree with you in using a consistent 5/8in seam allowance for pattern production. It is true couture sewers like myself trace seam allowances to underling and cut whatever sa is needed for a particular area, but for less time consuming approaches it is nice to have the benchmark of 5/8s included. I think as sewers get more experienced they can decide how they cut them a little wider or narrower. You could never include all those possibilities in a pattern instruction sheet. As a side note…after fitting, I will serge my Renfrew top. It is easier not to deal with a 1/4in that wants to roll before I serge it.

  8. patsijean October 17, 2012 at 8:43 am #

    5/8″ seam allowances are fine with me. I do not cut my patterns, but trace them on vinyl sheeting instead. Some sewists use various tracing papers and filter cloth as tracing materials. I can then add whatever seam allowances I like without ruining the pattern and I see a 5/8″ seam allowance on side seams as an extra stabilizing factor.

  9. julsmalham October 17, 2012 at 11:34 am #

    I do not own a serger so I have made my three Renfrew tops on a sewing machine. I like the 5/8th inch seam allowances as my machine does not seem to cope well with sewing stretch fabrics with narrow seams. I then trim the seams after using a closed overlock stitch to finish the edges.

  10. Ellen October 17, 2012 at 2:07 pm #

    I prefer the 5/8″ SA for consistency. I’ve made 3 renfrews, and serged them all, but like the extra width for easier handling as well, especially with knits the might want to roll.

  11. Jessica October 17, 2012 at 2:41 pm #

    When sewing with knits, I prefer to have a 1/4″ to 3/8″ seam allowance. I just tried a Jalie pattern with 1/4″ SA and it was pretty awesome!

    There are marking lines on my (Babylock) serger that let me know how far 5/8″ is, but it’s not as accurate as on a sewing machine, since the serger blade custs the fabric before it passes over said lines.

    However, I can understand keeping yours at 5/8″ so people know that all Sewaholic patterns have the same SA! :)

  12. Sewing Princess October 18, 2012 at 2:10 am #

    From a consistency point of view what you do is great…and also to sew on a sewing machine and as you say to gain confidence. For serger I agree with Jessica…less is better.
    Normally when I draw my own patterns I use 1cm SA which roughly converts to 3/8 inches. That also saves fabric and helps reducing bulk.
    I wouldn’t go as far as 1/4″ as some knits tend to roll ;o)

  13. Caroline October 18, 2012 at 4:37 pm #

    I read through the comments and there seems to be an intelligent consensus… but I thought I’d pipe in with some history: remember in the 40s how seam allowances in the USA dropped to 3/8″ and 1/2″ to conserve fabric and help win the war? It’d be kind of cool to do that again, but for other obvious reasons!

  14. Tilly October 18, 2012 at 11:19 pm #

    When I’m drafting patterns for myself, I use 1/2″ for side seams etc or 1/4″ for curved pieces like necklines. This is what I was taught at the London College of Fashion – it’s partly about ease of sewing, partly about saving fabric, and also quicker as there is less trimming involved. I wonder whether 5/8″ is preferred in home sewing to leave room for adjustment or if it’s just one of those standard things that few people question?

  15. Erika October 18, 2012 at 11:40 pm #

    I tend to use 1 cm SA while cutting, then I let the serger shave off a few mm to get the seams even and clean. However, I prefer my patterns without SA. So much easier to mark seamlines and then just add whatever SA I feel like!

    For a novice seamstress I suppose it can be good if the seamallowance is standardzied, those of us who has had time to develop preferances can after all choose to just alter the pattern to our liking =)

  16. LLBB October 19, 2012 at 1:24 pm #

    Sometimes it seems silly to have the bigger SA when it is just going to be cut down, but in the end I still think it makes sense to keep it at 5/8. That way it is consistent, and it gives us a margin of error :)

  17. elementsofmylife October 12, 2013 at 9:27 am #

    Perhaps it’s all those Kwik Sew patterns, but I really prefer a smaller seam allowance with patterns that fit me so well (my measurements are almost bang on with your size 10, lucky me!) All that bulk drove me nuts on this shirt and I was so disappointed with how it looked until I undid all the intersections and serged it up with a tiny seam allowance. Now it’s quite nice but I realize I should probably make it a size smaller next time.