Friday, June 2, 2017

The Arenal Top: 3 Tops, 3 Summer Fabrics

I had been searching for a new short sleeved t-shirt pattern after realizing that my old ones are just not working for me anymore.  I wanted a top with a relaxed fit, sort of like those Boyfriend Tees I see at Target.  It needed to work for moderate stretch knits, particularly knits with a little less stretch lengthwise.  

And then I realized...I already had a pattern that fit my requirements: The Arenal Top* by Itch to Stitch Patterns (aff link).  This pattern, which I tested for last fall, calls for knit fabric with 100% stretch widthwise and 30% lengthwise.  Kennis states that drapey knits work best for this top.  If you use something with more or less drape you may need to size up or down.  I chose the fitted top option.

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Fit Adjustments:
My bust measurement puts me at a size 6.  However, when I was testing, I found the shirt to be a bit baggy on me, so I sized down to a 4.  I did a narrow shoulder adjustment.  Sometimes it can be difficult for me to gauge how much of a shoulder adjustment I need.  I find that comparing the pattern with another top in my closet made out of similar fabric helps me get it right. 

Pattern Modifications:
I made a couple of modifications to make the Arenal Top the perfect summer tee.  The pattern does not come with a short sleeve option, but that is easy to fix.  I decided where I wanted the sleeve edge to hit my arm, added some length for my seam allowance, and cut off the bottom part of the sleeve.

I chose not to color block the bodice fronts.  The pattern piece is easy to alter.  All you have to do is draw where the seam line would be on the bottom of the yoke and on the top of the bodice front.  Then, you place the two pattern pieces together, lining them up at the seam line. Tape them together, and you've made the yoke and the bodice front essentially one pattern piece!

3 Summer Tops
I made the Arenal Top in three fabrics to compare the staple fabrics of my knit summer wardrobe: bamboo, modal and cotton.  These breathable fabrics are perfect for braving a hot, humid summer. I live in the Southern USA, so I don't take my fabric choices lightly!

Modal Jersey Top

I love this modal fabric from So Sew English.  This fabric has 50% stretch widthwise and 40% stretch lengthwise.  In a nutshell, modal is a second-generation rayon fabric that has more wet strength than rayon, is softer,  and holds more water than cotton.

As you can see, the top is very drapey in modal.  I cut the hemline to be curved.  (This was also an easy pattern mod.)  I love the way the hem turned out, and I'm so pleased with the fit!

This fabric is absolutely perfect for this top.  I need more of these modal solids, STAT!

Bamboo Jersey Top

This Kelly Bamboo Jersey from Allielane in Abbyville has 100% stretch widthwise and 30% stretch lengthwise.  It has a wonderful, soft hand and has a beautiful, soft sheen. It is the most luxurious-feeling and the most expensive fabric I used.  In previous years, I've only been able to find bamboo in the $16-20 price point.  I was really happy to find this bamboo for just a bit more than my CLUB jersey prints.   The widthwise stretch of the fabric affected the fit of the sleeves.  The top of the armscye sits a bit farther off the shoulder.

I'll admit, this fabric was a bit frustrating to sew with.  It slipped under my presser foot A LOT, despite me using a walking foot.  But, the finished product looks just as good as the modal tee, so I won't be giving up sewing with bamboo any time soon.  If you're a newer sewist, you might want to choose a more stable fabric to learn on.

Cotton Jersey Top 

My third top is in cotton/lycra made from some fun CLUB mint stripes from Raspberry Creek Fabrics paired with Icy Mint Knit from Art Gallery.  Both fabrics have 50% stretch widthwise and lengthwise.  Cotton has more body than rayon, bamboo and modal.  It doesn't drape well, but it works just fine for this view of the top.  I love tops made out of cotton jersey because they breathe well and they don't tend to snag.  

I was concerned that the increased thickness of the fabric would affect the fit around the arm, making it tight and uncomfortable.  I didn't want to size up, so I chose to use a 1/4" seam allowance at the armscye and side seams.  It feels a bit roomy and is so comfortable!  

Final Thoughts
As you can see, the fabric you use can change the entire look of your garment.  The bamboo and modal tops are very drapey.  I think they are dressier and give the wearer a more feminine silhouette.  I love how thin these are, without being see through.  They are the most comfortable tops I own!  The big differences I noticed between these two types of fabrics is that the bamboo is softer and has more of a sheen to it, and the modal is slightly more stable and was easier to sew with.

The cotton jersey top has a more structured look.  This fabric is the most stable of the knits I sewed with.  The CLUB fabric, especially, is almost spongy and is a great fabric for a beginner.

I hope you've enjoyed this comparison post! If you've made your own version of the Arenal Top for summer, post your blog link below.  I'd love to see them!


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