Sewing for Beginners – If you love it – sew it over and over and over…

Another Tilly and the Buttons Agnes Top

Tilly and the ButtonsTilly and the Buttons


This is my third, Tilly and the Buttons Agnes Top. As you can see from the illustration above, Tilly offers two neckline variations and three sleeve variations. I think I’ve tried them all. Well, the navy blue with white polka dots, cropped one was a neckline disaster – so, I have not yet succeeded with the ruched neckline version. I am not counting that one…

This may be my favorite – her name is Rose Agnes. She is from a  black jersey fabric with red roses and lovely green leaves from NRfabrics on Etsy for $8.50/yard.  It reminded me of 1980s Betsey Johnson, which I wore as often as I could afford it, back in the day. When Rose Agnes accompanied me to a dinner the other night, my fashion-aware colleague referenced Dolce and Gabbana. So true. The fabric is soft and stretchy – about 40% and feels like a dream.

Ok, for the nitty gritty:

Beginner Sewing Corner

The Fabric – 40% stretch fabric is plenty for sewing up this top. Just be aware that the less stretch, the closer fitting. If this had been a 60% stretch, it would not fit this close if I had made it in this size (2).  I would have made a smaller size if I had more stretch in my material. Also, this is printed fabric rather than dyed yarn fabric. The back side is white and with extreme stretch, you can see the white coming through the black background. So, if you plan to sew a pencil skirt, where your hips and behind would stretch the fabric with sitting or bending – you don’t want to use this one.

On the other hand, if you are new to sewing with knits or simply a sewing novice like me, the weight of this fabric is medium. I don’t know the exact number of ounces per yard, but it is not super thin. This is important. The fabric doesn’t slip and slide, it likes to stick together and go smoothly through the machine. This is a good one to try in the medium category. Thinner knits slip, roll and the layers go in different directions when you are trying to keep them lined up while cutting and sewing. And it is so pretty…

The Pattern – Tilly made this pattern for us. It spells out every step with actual pictures instead of illustrations – yayy! As I mentioned in my last post, she also created an online workshop for this top, “How To Sew Jersey Tops – On a Regular Sewing Machine.” It is a wonderful class and will walk you through, step by step, for all of the variations.

Sewing it Up – There are three difficult things to learn with sewing knits and this top: 1. layout and cutting. 2. inserting stabilizer for the shoulder seams, and 3. the neckband. Tilly walks you through all of these in the workshop. But, this is really a practice thing.

Layout and Cutting

Knit has its own rules for layout cutting and keeping on grain. The pattern and workshop go over this, just know that it is different from wovens and may take longer or present a learning curve. Just breathe and smile – knowing that you are entering the world of stretch that you have known and loved through ready to wear. There are a lot of resources for learning this. I will do a roundup of all of the great online instructions and tips and tricks from the sewing super heroes around the web in another post.

Stabilizing Shoulder Seams

Knits need help not to stretch out of shape in areas of high use. Different kinds of stabilizer are suggested for keeping those shoulders from sagging over time (in order of beginner difficulty): clear elastic, a piece of the fabric you are using (self fabric), ribbon or stay tape. 1/4 inch, clear elastic is crazy-hard to use the first time and maybe the second and third, but, it does work and you can master it. The self fabric is just annoying because you have to cut it to the exact measurement of the shoulder seam and it can’t be bigger than the 5/8 inch seam allowance you are using. The ribbon and the stay tape are much easier, especially if you buy them in 1/4″ to 3/8″ widths – exactly what you need! All work and you should give them each a whirl.

The Neckline Band

Well, this one is the most satisfying and frustrating part of sewing t-shirts. The neckline is sewn as a band which is designed to be 10% smaller than the than the top opening. With the Agnes Top, Tilly goes into detail on two different ways to measure, baste and stitch. Whew! However, it is trial and error. The technique is to is to stretch the neckband, without stretching the top, as you sew. Fiddly, but learnable. Most times it turns out great. Sometimes it is the navy blue with white polka dot fiasco. Practice, practice, practice. As you can see, Flowered Agnes’ neckline is smooth, flat and lovely. That proves that anyone can do it.

The Tools

Your pattern will list these things, but I will repeat them here. Ball point needle for sewing knits, (a must),  a walking foot if you can get your hands on one and my favorite (not necessary) a rotary cutter and cutting mat instead of scissors – precision guaranteed.

Ok, you beautiful, fellow beginner – go out there and get some knits and this pattern and, if you like, the workshop, and sew beautiful tops in your favorite fabrics. If you have any questions about any of the above, give me a shout and I would love to tell you all I know. Let’s do it, let’s make fresh clothes with sharp styling, one lesson at a time.

Sewing for Beginners – If you love it – sew it over and over and over…

Sew Obsessed

This blog is dedicated to the sewing obsessed, enchanted and fascinated

I have officially given in to my sewing obsession. In every spare moment, I am dreaming of time at my machine, which pattern to try next and what fabric I have on the way. Mind you, I am a total beginner. I can now make a pencil skirt, a flare skirt with pockets and a t-shirt! This gives me enormous pleasure and all I want is more. I have a million grandiose dreams of the wardrobe I will sew for myself this year and I am stickin’ to it.

My Pattern Stash

The Next Fashion Opportunity Pattern Bliss

I am so excited about learning how to make these five patterns. The Tilly and The Buttons Agnes Tee is the only one I’ve tackled so far – with great results. Well, thanks to Tilly creating an online class to take me through it. If you want to sew with knits – go sign up now!

My Agnes Tee

Blue Snake Agnes
My second Agnes Tee – modeled by my lovely assistant, Trinity.

So, for all you other beginners out there, come along, let’s do this. Six months ago, I could not sew without a teacher holding my hand (all respect to my long-suffering, “how to sew a tote bag” instructors). If you want to teach yourself how to sew all of the beautiful outfits in your mind, but either don’t know where to begin or have stopped, started and stopped again, let’s figure out how to get the skills and community we need to do it!

A special shout-out to She’s sew fineHer new beginner sewist blog was the tipping point for me starting this one.

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Sew Obsessed