Tiny Pocket Tank, Huge Copy Cat

I’m not gonna lie to ya. There’s one reason, and one reason only that I bought this fabric. BECAUSE I SAW OTHER PEOPLE BUY IT AND I WENT BACK AND BOUGHT SOME OF MY OWN!

A couple of months ago, Sew Incidentally hosted a Walthamstow shopping trip. I witnessed a certain amount of excitement around this jersey. At least three Sewists bought this bird print – So Zo, A Sewing Odyssey and Lazy Stitching to the best of my memory, but I suspect others were involved in this mass purchase at Saeed Fabrics. My god, the shop owner must have been a happy man that day!

On the day of our joint shopping trip, I resisted. Me and jersey – we don’t have an easy relationship. From a sewing perspective, I don’t totally get it. Why sew a T-shirt when you can buy one for a few quid? All that stretching and distorting and misbehaviour – and sometimes the clinging. With my curvacious and relatively mature figure, clinging is not always a good thing.

Which means I’ve never fully engaged with jersey. But I realised this bird print was too awesome to pass up at £2 a metre, and marched myself back down to Walthamstow market pronto. I wanted to prove myself wrong and discover the magic of jersey. Did I?

Um. Ah. Yes, well… I think the above photo absolutely sums up what I think of my Tiny Pocket Tank by Grainline Studios. It’s good for gardening. It will go well with pyjamas. If I’m ever hiking in Death Valley again it would be cool to wear. That’s about it… No offence to the pattern, more my fabric choice. I still don’t get it!

I beg you. I implore you. Tell me what I’m doing wrong. What am I not seeing? What am I failing to do? I know there are people out there who work magnificently with jersey – I know because I see it in their blogs. Come on, guys! Share your secrets with me. What do you love about jersey and how should I get the best from it?

Finally, this is called the ‘Tiny POCKET Tank’ but you may not see a pocket on my make. That’s because I had huge fun matching up my print. But it’s there, honestly. Look…

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45 Responses to Tiny Pocket Tank, Huge Copy Cat

  1. leahfranqui says:

    Haha, well first of all this is adorable and I heartily enjoy it. But honestly, I like jersey because I think it’s fun to make something that people really don’t believe you could have made. It’s odd, but the more complex woven things I’ve made people just nod their heads like, of course, I’m sure you knocked that out in an hour, but the easy peasy jersey t-shirts I’ve made, people are like, ARE YOU KIDDING ME YOU MADE THAT THAT’S AMAZING! And they want one too. And because I’m excited to make a whole wardrobe and stop relying on buying rtw clothing, I’m happy to sew with jersey. But I don’t know that it’s anything all that special, and I hate how the edges curl…still, no seam finishing!

  2. Roobeedoo says:

    I am not sure I understand your question… it’s a bit like asking “why sew”?! I sew with jersey because I want to keep wearing jersey items even though I have stopped buying clothes. I really like the print and the shape of your top – yes, it looks like something you could have bought on the High Street… but that might be the point! You know YOU sewed it, and not a child in a Chinese sweatshop. Obviously you ought to have knitted the jersey yourself too… but even I will admit there are limits!

  3. Kerry says:

    Oh, so jealous that you can get such great printed jersey for £2 a metre!
    It’s one of my new goals to master sewing knits and jersey so I can’t offer anything to get you more exciting about sewing with it. But I will be reading the comments to see what the jersey defenders say! 🙂

  4. Funnygrrl says:

    As a new-ish sewist I like that jersey is more forgiving with fit. I don’t have a lot of time to sew so a stretchy fabric is forgiving if my measurements were slightly off. Not so with fitted woven garments.
    Not that jersey is easier…it just has more ease. 🙂

  5. i have a pile of jersey sitting in my stash, unused, admonishing me every time i look at it. it scares me.
    i think your tank is marvy – it would be a shame to hide it in the garden! it would look smashing with some slim trousers, or belted and worn with a pencil skirt.

  6. gingermakes says:

    Ooh, I’m pretty new at sewing with knits, but I love it! I think the key is to buy decent jersey– you don’t want floppy, transparent, gross, cheapo jersey. I like some with a little bit of heft to it so it doesn’t feel like every little lump, bump, and lovehandle is encased like a sausage!

    • I suspect you’re right on coughing up for decent jersey.

      • gwennski says:

        Hi Karen,
        I can recommend Liberty jersey – I’ve made a few tops with it that I really like and wear all the time, plus they’re lasting really well, not stretchy or bobbly or anything. There is softer viscose-mix stuff and heavier cotton-mix. Of course it’s not cheap, but worth it I think, especially since you only need a metre for most tops. Really easy to whip up with your overlocker. I’ve both it at sewbox, raystitch, shaukat and on eBay.
        Good luck!

      • gingermakes says:

        You might enjoy sewing with double-knit– it’s a lot less floppy and provides more coverage than the average jersey. Ponte knits can have fiber content that isn’t my favorite, but a nice cotton-based double-knit is a dream to sew with!

  7. alibobs says:

    I made a special trip to Walthamstow after seeing posts about the meet-up (fingers crossed I don’t have a full diary for the next one). I made a top, but I have enough left for a summer dress if the weather ever sorts itself out.

    I agree with Funnygrrl, that it is easier to get a good fit in jersey when you don’t have to add/take millimetres from a dart here and there. I feel that I am very weird for learning to sew wearable clothes with jersey and wonder what I am doing wrong to have never had a problem. Now I am closer to perfecting my fit, things might change (now woven tops don’t suffocate me when I move)

    Plus I love being able to cut out 2 (or 4 if sleeved) pieces and whip up some fast fashion – if my seams are slightly wobbly, who will know? Some projects deserve hours of work, but if you want a fun top to wear with jeans, its nice to have a quick fix.

  8. Andrea says:

    First, I had to chuckle at Gingermakes’ comment above. I think we all know she doesn’t have any lumps or bumps to speak of!

    Anyway, jersey can be a pain, but it can also yield the quickest results (no closures). I also find I reach for my me-made jersey garments the most because they are so comfortable and less prone to wrinkles. Definitely not my chicest of garments, and definitely my most boring for blogging sake, but whatever. We are modern day women and thus allowed to use every excuse possible to pass off pajamas as office-appropriate attire or evening wear. 🙂

  9. Lucy says:

    WANT some of that jersey!!

    Now, I’m going to cut straight to the chase: now you’ve had your bra size revelation, do you need to start considering an FBA? If you’re a D-cup or above, the answer to that is “yes”. And if the answer to that is “yes”, then this should tell you all about “why jersey?” 😉

  10. Lanie says:

    I kind of agree with you regarding jersey- I have never been that motivated to sew with knit fabrics, and have dedicated most of my years of sewing to working with wovens. However, now that I am more aware of and better at fitting, I have started to become annoyed at buying knit tops and dresses that have the same fitting problems that rtw woven garments have for me, even if they are more forgiving in some ways (I’m tall, so too-short garments are one of my problems). I live in a very hot climate, and like knit tops and dresses for summer. I’ve started to make more jersey items recently when I can’t find just what I want in a store. However, if I could find knit garments that fit me well- and I do sometimes- I probably wouldn’t sew them very much.

  11. Joanne says:

    ahhhh no i have teh fabric envy now (sad face). Having yet to master jersey but having done a couple of things – here’s my take: the lack of seam finishing is awesome and there’s nowhere near as much fitting and refitting as it’s so forgiving, and it feels goooood next to the skin if it’s nice and soft. But it can be difficult to lay out the fabric properly to cut with all those curling edges and if you haven’t got an overlocker it’s tricky getting a nice professional finish. Did you user your overlocker BTW?

  12. Sarah says:

    I love the magpies! I’m a bit scared of jersey but it’s got to be worth it for a cute fabric!

  13. madewithwhimsy says:

    I never liked sewing jersey on my regular machine, but since I got an overlocker I love working with it. As a female with more than my fair share of lumps and bumps along with a miriad of other fitting issues, I like making t-shirts that fit the way I want them too (the same with the rest of my clothes) The amount of RTW T’s that have shrank on the first wash or been cut off grain or show off my belly when I lift my arm’s above my head is unreal. Treat yourself to some good quality jersey and experiment.

  14. Jenn-NY says:

    Oh, give jersey another chance! I have learned to like sewing jersey though there are some tricks to doing it well, and like other sewing skills, it sometimes takes a few tries. Also, some fabrics are better/easier to work with than others. I had a couple of bad projects involving lightweight stretchy viscose (ackk), but I was determined to master the jersey thing. I then made a summer dress out of the softest modal and I’m hooked. Recently I’ve started making my own t-shirts which will fit my (FBA) chest without horizontal stretch lines or clinging where I don’t want it. Standard RTW just wasn’t made for my top half, so it’s been a revelation.

    In my experience so far, these are key to obtaining a good result with jersey/knits, and with minimal stress: 1) an overlock foot, 2) a stabilizer for tricky seams on very stretchy, thin, or slippery jersey–I use strips of Solvy, a wash-away type. Alternatively, sew difficult seams over gift-wrapping type tissue paper, 3) a twin needle for hemming, 4) clear elastic for stabilizing shoulder seams, and also, 5) be sure to cut on the proper/straight grain. That’s what I’ve learned so far anyway, and I’m happy sewing jersey on my non-serger, a mechanical Bernina. It’s also important to choose the right fabric for the job (interlock versus baby rib, etc). I agree with gingermakes on the necessity of buying good quality jersey, which is not always easy to find.

  15. Paola says:

    I enjoy sewing (and wearing) jersey. I totally agree with the comments above that specify decent quality jersey. Earlier this year I sewed the same dress in two jerseys – one a very average polyester, and one lovely rayon (I think). Guess which one ended up in the bin?? My favourite winter outfits are made of merino wool jersey. They keep me warm and toasty without suffocating me.

  16. Marie says:

    Firstly – I think your Tiny Pocket Tank is amazing! It’s funky and I think it genuinely suits and flatters you. It’s far too nice to be worn to bed or for gardening alone. But if you don’t like something, there’s no need to force it ;o)

    I agree with the comments that quality jersey is key…I’ve experimented with all sorts recently and the results vary depending on how good my jersey is. I agree that you can buy jersey garments very cheaply and I too still enjoy shopping and buying clothes, so I guess I enjoy sewing with jersey because I find it fast and easy!

  17. Stephanie says:

    I love knits but those with high degrees of crosswise and lengthwise stretch are a pain to work with, the more fluid they are the more difficult issues off fit are because these fabrics stretch in an ongoing fashion. Even by looking at I swear they change shape! You can preshrink several times, and they still keep stretching out, sometimes less than predictably. I like to use knits that have more stability but this rules out some patterns that need the 70 percent stretch in both directions. I have noticed ITY(Iinterlock twist yarn) or dry knits as they are know in other countries poly is less prone to misbehaving but then I don’t like the feel of it so much in hotter weather, like wrapping yourself up in cling wrap!!
    I overlock as much as I can, often use sewing machines in areas where I need lots of control (necklines, bands, pleats etc) and coverstitch my hems. Once I moved on from twin needle hems I found the knits also became more durable, no hems coming undone or popping. I always stabiliser the shoulder seams, often with fusible tricot tape or even fine cotton tape incorporated into the seam. Some RTW tops I see have ribbon stitched into the seam.
    What I find is the more stable the knit is for a jersey or even a double knit, the simpler and better behaved it is to sew, and the quality of the knit makes a massive different. Not only in how it behaves on the table before cutting but at every step. And they last longer and tend not to have flaws. Well worth shelling out for.
    Its also good to pay close attention to the type and degree of stretch the pattern recommends, ignore this at your peril and you can have armpits down to your belly button! Or clothes so tight you cannot wear them. Different fabrics do behave in different ways, some are fussier to lay out or more difficult to hem.
    I would suggest you go buy some nice stable cotton knit or cotton blend, with maybe 25 percent crosswise stretch, find a good pattern for the same amount of stretch in a simple shape and try again. Kwik Sew have some great patterns for simple t-shirts and trendy tops that are easy to sew with lower degrees of stretch, and they are good at offering good information on construction.
    The less you can handle and fuss with the fabric with knits the better the results. I don’t press as I go, but finger press. Except sometimes I will gently press up a hem with an iron. Once the neckline is finished I might give it a light steam but with the lightest touch. I lightly press the garment it once its finished.
    It worth taming knits and adjusting the way you handle and sew for knits, for the wonderful benefits: easy fitting, soft to wear, launder and travels easily, super comfortable garments.

  18. Trisha says:

    I love wearing knits, so I love sewing with knits! I see it is a challenge. With woven fabric, I know how it’s going to behave, but every knit is a little bit different–in how it stretches, and how you need to finesse it. I like that challenge! And when it works, the results are amazing! My handmade knit clothes are the ones I wear the most. They are cute, they are comfy, and gosh-darn-it, people like them!

  19. I used to have the same kind of reaction at the idea of sewing tee-shirts that are so easy and often cheap to buy. But that was when I lived in France where the brand Petit Bateau was easy to find. Now that I moved, believe it or not, I have a hard time finding basic tee-shirts that fit all my criteria, and I would probably try to sew some if I had a serger (and convinced myself I shouldn’t be afraid of sewing jersey in the first place)!

    And by the way, perhaps we can also think beyond tee-shirts when we talk about (good quality) jersey. To give an example, here’s the etsy shop of a Portland based designer called Emily Ryan: http://www.etsy.com/shop/emilyryan Some of her pieces are edgy, but some are completely wearable: I own her cowl neck pocket tunic, and it’s one of the most gorgeous piece of clothes I’ve ever owned, it’s a little miracle really (no wonder it’s her best seller): the jersey is so nice and heavy and the shape so well thought that even though the tunic is very form fitting, it’s both forgiving and even flattering (I swear I’m not her publicist or PR person).

    Another example: Natalie Chanin amazing hand sewn jersey clothes (sometimes made with old tee-shirts!). http://alabamachanin.com/store/collection

    So perhaps all you need to finally fall in love with jersey is 1. find the best possible quality (easier said than done?) and 2., find a project that isn’t too tee-shirt-y?

  20. I like sewing jersey because I know it won’t twist when it’s washed because I’ve cut it on grain, and it also won’t shrink in length because I’ve cut it the direction it is supposed to be cut.

  21. Rachel says:

    animal prints!! that looks like something you would buy in Oliver Bonas….

  22. ZoSews says:

    Had a bad experience with a lighter knit fabric – put me off for quite some time! But the resultant dress was just so damn comfy. So I gave it another shot with a Renfrew – and it worked! Maybe because I sewed it up with my overlocker and skipped the whole sewing machine chewing up my knit fabric experience. And, I think you new top looks really cute on 🙂

  23. I’m a dedicated knit-fabric sewist, mostly for the comfort factor and because the fit is a little more forgiving. You don’t need an overlocker to sew jersey though it helps and certainly speeds things up enormously. I like your top and think it’s worth far more exposure than it will get in the garden! Unless, perhaps, you’re talking Kew Gardens.

  24. LinB says:

    Kwik Sew and Stretch and Sew have good, basic tee shirt patterns THAT ARE CUT IN BUST SIZES AND THAT NIP IN AT THE WAIST! This is a good reason to sew jersey. No need for darts and close fitting, because of the inherent stretch of the fabric. Soft draping for cowl necks and knot-front blouses. And, yes, decent rtw knit tops are hard to replicate for the price — but jersey that you sew has more color and print options (usually), and rarely has someone’s advertising printed all over it. Even rtw tee shirts can be improved for a curvy figure by sewing in a curve from the underarm to the waist and back out again for the hip. I often take off the sleeves, cut the shoulder back to a better width, and re-insert sleeves, just because I can and just because the fit is so much improved.

  25. redsilvia says:

    I like sewing with knits simply because I like wearing knits. You can take big steps, eat lots of food and squish it up in a suitcase without needing a dry cleaner to set you straight. It’s a slightly different skill set, but not dissimilar to what you already know.

    You got lots of good tips from the other comments if you want to play with knits again. I’d start with nice stable cotton interlock or jersey and work from there.

  26. Trisha says:

    I really found this discussion to be interesting! I hope you don’t mind, but I referenced it in a post I put up today. I really hadn’t intentionally thought about the type of fabric I “engage” with, but I’m a knit girl!

  27. Fiona says:

    I have that jersey from Saeed fabrics too! I really don’t know what to do with it though…

  28. Pella says:

    I like the top, and think that if you banish it for a few weeks and then look at it again you will too. However, jersey and D cup, – I find it works better if the pattern has some kind of drape, pleat or something so it doesn’t shelve off the high spots and hang loose. Especially fine cotton jersey.

  29. molly says:

    What a wonderful post, and ever more entertaining comments. I have always been in your boat when in comes to jersey. I hate the clinginess of it and just assumed, well, I don’t have a jersey friendly figure!. Then I discovered double knit ponte (does this still classify as jersey?) its thick, luxurious and not clingy at all 🙂 It was certainly a good place to start! But I won’t speak to soon, I have only made one thing in it!
    None the less, I don’t believe your tiny pocket tank clings at all – it looks great 🙂 and the print makes it all worth it x

  30. annie says:

    Have you tried Burda 3197? It’s a starter pattern and it doesn’t show a tank style but I don’t see why you couldn’t adapt it. I really like the fit. Also, I love the knit neckband tutorial from a blog called Girls in the Garden. Very minimal math – subtraction :). I stayed away from knits and got brave last winter. Since then I have made several shirts w/ this pattern. Prefer my regular machine to my serger when sewing knits.

  31. Sewingmrsc says:

    I absolutely love that print!! I know what you mean with jersey, my first two garments made from it were a disaster, but then I bought an overlocker and it has really helped, I just finished sewing a jersey dress today infact and no issues at all, woo-who!

  32. Rachel says:

    Maybe its different over here in Oz, but i’ve started making my own t-shirts because it is better than buying cheap t-shirts. I can get cheap ones, but they’re often cut off grain so twist, and stretch out of shape quickly, so don’t last very long at all. I had started buying better quality t-shirts that were like $30 each, so if I can buy good quality jersey for $15 a t-shirt i’m definitely saving money and getting a good shirt. Also I often find the scoop neck tshirts I like are cut a bit low for my tastes so if i make my own I can select the neckline I want.

    I tried making a merino wool one, but i don’t know if it’s me or the merino I bought (which was supposedly good quality stuff) is really itchy against my skin – it’s alright if i wear a tank underneath it so it’s only touching my skin on my arms, but the one time I wore it without another top under it it was uncomfortable all day.

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