Thanks for all of the suggestions on Monday’s post, asking what kind of things you’d like to see as I sew more Renfrew Tops. So many good ideas! So many things to note as I sew, recommendations to explain why certain things are done, and votes to find out more about fabric selection. While I may not be able to cover everything you’ve asked for, I will do my best to provide useful, helpful and thorough sewing posts to guide you in making the Renfrew Top. Sewing posts are going to be rolled out at a fairly slow pace as I’m working on a couple different things at once here, but once it’s all posted there will be plenty of good information to reference any time you want to sew a Renfrew. And I will definitely explain many of the ‘whys’ with this pattern to help you make the best choices for your own project.
So on that note, let’s talk about fabric!
On the back of the Renfrew Top pattern, the recommended fabric is a Stable Knit Fabric. As opposed to any old knit fabric, a stable knit fabric will work better with the self-fabric bands at the cuff and hem, and create a nicer looking neckline band.
So, what’s a stable knit fabric?
This is one of those concepts that has me waving my hands in the air, trying to gesture and explain how this fabric feels. It’s hard to put into words exactly, but I’m going to try. Here are some of the factors to consider when it comes to choosing a good fabric for the Renfrew Top.
Stretch is important and necessary when it comes to sewing a pattern designed for knit fabrics! You’ll need to have some stretch to your fabric in order to make the Renfrew Top. However, a fabric with a lot of stretch and not a lot of recovery (which we’ll talk about in a minute) may end up growing, getting larger as you wear the garment, or stretching out permanently. You want a fabric with a little bit of stretch, but it doesn’t have to be super stretchy. Think of it this way – double knits are hardly stretchy at all but they’ll work great for this pattern. Bathing suit fabric is very, very stretchy and because it has good recovery, you could use it for this pattern. (But you probably don’t want to wear a tee shirt made of swimsuit material.) Something like a bamboo-rayon knit, very light and drapey with a lot of stretch, isn’t going to be the easiest to work with. Which brings me to the next point..
A fabric with a little more weight to it is going to work better for the Renfrew Top. Something like a cotton-spandex knit usually has a bit more thickness to it and feels sort of spongy and stretchy. (I hope that makes sense!) A double knit fabric is slightly thick and works well. A super light tissue-weight knit is going to be so light that the bands weigh it down, and you’ll notice the double layer of fabric as it will look very different from the main body fabric where it’s only a single layer. Medium weight knits are best, and light weight knits are all right as long as they don’t stretch out of shape, which leads right into the next point.
Recovery is what happens when you stretch your fabric. Does it return to its original dimensions, or does it stay stretched out slightly? Is it now just a little bit wider than it was before? Has the fabric stayed permanently as wide as when you first stretched it? If it ‘recovers’ to the original size, or very close to the original size, then it has good recovery. Personally, I like all of my knit fabrics to have good recovery. I want them to return back to their original dimensions if I move or stretch. (Who’s ever had a knit top with saggy elbows, that get saggier as the day goes on? I know I have!) So if your fabric is very stretchy, it’s important for it to have good recovery for this top.
The more fabrics you touch, handle and sew, the more you’ll be comfortable choosing fabrics for patterns based on your own preferences. I tend to prefer substantial knit fabrics personally, so I’ll be looking for cotton/spandex knits, double-knits and anything else that feels thick enough for my liking. I like how thin knits look on models and mannequins but I dislike knit fabrics that pill quickly, so I avoid very light and very soft knits.
Look for keywords
What if you’re buying online, and can’t touch the fabric? What if my notes above are still confusing? Look for keywords that will help you find this type of fabric. Double knit, “hefty knit,” “beefy” and interlock are good words to note. Choose ‘midweight’ as opposed to ‘featherweight.’ Gorgeous Fabrics (link goes direct to the knits section) has great fabric descriptions and even links to patterns that might work well with the fabric, giving you an idea of what this fabric feels like in real life. Many places will let you order a swatch to feel the fabric first. This one from Hart’s Fabric looks exactly like the fabric I used on my striped Renfrew samples. (Hart’s has a great selection of knit fabrics as well.)
What if we use a different kind of knit fabric?
Well, then you’d end up with a slightly different result. That might not be a bad thing! Maybe you really like thin, tissue-like tee shirts and prefer a drapier, softer look. Maybe you have the softest bamboo-rayon knit that you’re dying to make into a cosy long sleeve tee. Fabric recommendations are there to guide you, but they’re not hard and fast rules. With a pattern that’s this easy to sew up, it’s a good time to try out different fabrics and find out what works for you!
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 do you think? Have you made the Renfrew Top and what fabric did you use? What words would you use to describe a stable, not-too-stretchy, not-too-slinky knit fabric?