Bread and Butter - The Renfrew

As previously mentioned in my MMM posts I have finally made up my Sewaholic Renfrew pattern, and like many before me I think that its great! I've attempted quite a few knit tops now, some self drafted tanks, others from Burdastyle or free downloads from such generous ladies as Maria Denmark, and where I seemed to run into a bit of general construction crappiness is the neckline bands. I think I have finally perfected my technique and am very pleased with my first two Renfrews. These are fantastic wardrobe 'bread and butter' staples - 3 necklines and 3 sleeve lengths. The sleeves and hem are finished with bands rather than a regular hem, and I think this works most of the time (and is very easy for a knit beginner), but my next couple (oh yes, there will be more) I am going to experiment a little with different hem/cuff finishes.

So, to the pattern and construction. I made a size 2 based on the measurements of a top I already had that was quite close fitted. I think its an OK size, but I think for further versions I am going to go up a size in the chest/shoulders, and grade down to a 2 in the hips as it is has plenty of room down there (but in the below photos I am also wearing a singlet underneath both versions). I did the recommended 5/8 inch seam allowance in the shoulder seams, but for every other seam I reduced it to about 3/8 inch, mostly because my machine has a nifty stitch that seams and overcasts the edge at the same time, and a 3/8 inch seam allowance means I don't have to trim anything (I have an awful habit of cutting into the garment when trimming seam allowances - it makes me want to be ill just thinking about how often I've done it!). Its just as well I did that because I think I needed that extra room around the bust - there are some diagonal folds there at times, which I do see on a lot of RTW knit tops on ladies. The only other thing I did differently was to cut the waist band in 2 pieces rather than on the fold - this was for fabric economy. I just added 3/8 inch to each piece and hemmed the end at the same time as the normal join, and matched (crappily) the seams to the side seams.

To the finished product!

My first version was the scoop neck with 3/4 sleeves in a completely luscious dark charcoal cotton and wool blend (80% cotton, 20% wool) that I snapped up from Darn Cheap Fabrics last year. Its hard to describe how lovely this fabric is - it's spongy, soft and warm. When I wore it to work last week I had everyone stroking it (in a non creepy way) because it was just so soft. And it does't seem to have shrunk (I do preshrink everything I buy but I normally do it on the handwash cycle and this went into the general wash by mistake).

Version 2 is a fabulous double layered cotton with a cute little almost-heart pointelle design that I bought in the Fabric Store Christmas sale. I think from memory it is a Marc Jacobs fabric (it also came in black and there was HEAPS of it. Just saying). This time I went with the cowl neckline and 3/4 sleeves.

So cold. Apologies for strange face

Because this is a 2-layered fabric, it turned out that the cowl ended up being 4 layers thick - which meant at some of the seam lines my poor Husky was having to go through 8 layers of fabric - she munched through it pretty well though. And because the cowl is 4 layers thick it is more of a stand up structured turtle neck rather than a drapey cowl neckline - but I love it, it's warm and snuggly, and worth remembering to layer 4 pieces of fabric for future versions if I wanted a similar collar.

The drag lines are most obvious in the above pic - they aren't there all the time, but I think I need to try to eliminate them.

My tip for first time users of this pattern and/or those inexperienced with knits - don't skip the step where the neck band/hem band edges are basted to each other before attaching to the body of the garment. It's hard enough stitching 2 pieces of knit together let alone 3 - if you miss this step you are likely to not catch one edge of the band. This is particularly important with the scoop neckline because if that neck band is not even it will be very obvious and look crapola. I basted mine with a short wide  zigzag (too close zigzag may make the edges ripple a bit). Also with the cowl my pattern had the printing error in the instructions where it says to put the wrong sides together and it's meant to be right sides.

I have many more of these planned - fine black wool, longer sleeves, different cuff finishes, and I'd LOVE one in mustard wool. I reckon you could even go up one or two sizes and make one out of a heavier jumper or sweater weight knit too!


  1. Your Renfrews are great! I love the cowl neck on the red one. I've yet to venture into knits, but I'm working my way up to it.

    1. Thanks Lynne! I was a bit scared of knits to start with too, but there is so much info out there on technique, with a little practice they are very forgiving!


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