MN1006: ‘Cara’ – Ruched Maternity Tee Mk I, II & III

After the great success that was the Ruched Maternity Skirt, I figured I’d leveled up and so started on the Megan Neilsen Ruched Maternity Tee. Reviews abound on PR with many gorgeous versions of this top, and many people singing its praises – so I was really motivated to get stuck into it!

But I’ve come to a rather big realisation – I don’t like sewing with knits. Not one bit. Give me the sheerest and most wayward lightweight silk to work with over a lightweight knit, ANYDAY.

Having spent the last few weeks procrastinating, avoiding and then forcing myself to take photos of the outcome from this pattern – I think I’ll tick this off as having been ‘done’ and get straight back to wovens (I’ve already finished my maternity pants for work).

Here is the final outcome – my third version of this top:

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Anyway back to the start of the story – my pre-pregbot measurements exactly fit in the range for a Size L across the bust, then back to a Size M at my (now non-existant) waist and hips. As I so successfully sewed the Size M Ruched Maternity Skirt, I traced off the top pattern, grading between the Size L & M from the underarms down.

I worked with a stretch cotton mystery fabric (found at Rathdown Remnants for $2 a meter – easily the least expensive fabric I’ve ever bought) in a minty green marle that I’m a huge fan of. The recovery of it is lousy, but given that this was going to technically be a wearable muslin, I wasn’t too worried.

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You’re seeing an adjusted version here – I took in the underarm seams considerably (about 2-3cm in, going from bust to the sleeve hem). Before having done this, I had a considerable amount of excess fabric around my armpits and bust – which had the rather unfortunate effect of making me look rather, well – saggy. It wasn’t a good look.

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Afterwards, I made a crop top test version to make a change to the armscye seam across the shoulder – taking it in by 2.5cm (a full inch). This looks a million times better. (I also scooped out some of the neckline to make it more rounded). Basically, it suggests to me that I should have made the size S across the shoulders, not the L.

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The ruching is done on the front pattern piece only, ruched to fit up against the back pattern piece. The front hem is curved. Next time I might try straightening that hem, but ruching the back as well to get a closer fit under bump.

I’ve also seen on a lot of RTW maternity tops that the front is self-lined – presumably to assist in containing leakage? I tried this on my second version of this top, which I never actually got around to ruching. It’s in a watermelon polyester – gorgeous colour, horrible fabric. Looks pretty fluoro orange in my photos though!

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Unlike my experience with the Ruched Maternity Skirt, the outcome of this top leaves me feeling… keen to put the experience behind me. I think that’s a mix of trying to get used to my new shape (gigantor boobs, puffy everything, additional body fat percentage… far out!!) plus the annoyance of working with flimsy knits.

Next project please!

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31 thoughts on “MN1006: ‘Cara’ – Ruched Maternity Tee Mk I, II & III

  1. Ok, it is time to buy yourself a serger. I highly recommend the Babylocks. Especially the Evolution or if you have enough spare cash lying around the Ovation. You will then love knits. I always cut my knits with a rotary cutter. I made this top for my daughter 4 times with knits and accomplished it in under 4 hours each time. (that is from cutting to hemming!). The Evolution gave me the ability to do the cover stitch for hemming and that has made all the difference in the world. If you have a slinkier knit, spray the fabric (after washing) with spray starch and it won’t slip as much.

    • Thanks for the recommendations :) I’ll succumb one day, I’m sure! For the moment I’ve been lucky enough to be able to borrow one from a friend to make these from… I think my dislike of knits is stemming from the fact that it’s difficult to find really good quality versions. Or maybe I’m just still too unskilled in that department. I’ll definitely try the spray starch though – do you make your own or buy it?

  2. I agree – overlockers are awesome for knits… I also think, don’t over-think your bump fit as it changes so much through your pregnancy, it gets bigger, it drops… it even wiggles! And if you have Bump 2, it’s totally different again. I was quite small with my first (despite her being 8.5 pounds) and my second I had an ENORMOUS belly, nothing fitted and she was 9 pounds. Yes, I decided to stop after that LOL.
    I think knits require a different mindset to wovens. They behave so differently and can be much more forgiving. The funniest thing about them is that every knit is different, a bit like a family of 6 siblings and every single one has a different personality! You can make the same pattern in different knits and it changes every time.
    All that said – you look FABULOUS!
    … And now I feel like sewing a tshirt… #squirrel

    • You’re totally right – knits are a completely different mindset from wovens. And I’m so far over to the right on wovens it’s hard to swing back and change tack. It must be because they’re all so… I’m going to use the word ‘unique’ (instead of unpredictable).
      Thanks though, Lizzy – go forth and sew knit tee shirts!

  3. well you certainly do look beautiful so at least there’s that ;)
    I know what you mean about some knits. It is weird how difficult some can be, but sometime in the future, you will have forgotten, try it again and wonder why don’t I sew with knits more often? That has been my experience anyway.
    Some knits are so hard to work with!

    • Thanks Robin :)
      In my limited experience sewing with knits – they’re all difficult! I probably will, but because I need to rather than wanting to. Give me a coat or blazer pattern to wrangle, any day!

  4. Some knits can be tricky but overall, I do like working with them. I agree that using a serger is the best way to work with knits. I hope you will give knits a try again in the future. Love your hat and I think the orange top looks fabulous.

    • Thanks Tomasa :) I think it’s a case of practise, practise, practise! I’ll get there, and I’ve still got quite a bit of knit sewing in front of me over the next few months, so I’d best get used to it!

  5. I just made this shirt pattern last week and had the exact same issues as you. The shoulder seams were a good inch past my shoulders and there was a lot of fabric pooling around the lower part of the armscye. I will most likely follow your lead and take in the arm seam quite a bit to make the top work. I was too lazy to make any alterations and instead bought the StyleArc maternity T and pants. Shoulders definitely fit better on this pattern but the top is VERY long – luckily shortening is an easy adjustment :)

    You and your tops look great by the way! I second what everyone says, a serger make the whole process much easier. I haven’t looked at many RTW shirts but self-lining the tops is a great idea – must remember to try that next time!

    • Oh that’s good to know – I was wondering about the Style Arc ones (and admittedly, regretting not having tried them after I first put on that green top!) especially as they quite predictably follow a more RTW fit.
      The self lining was a lot easier to work in than I thought it might be – hides the shoulder seam and also means you don’t have to worry about getting the binding to sit nice and flat around the neckline – win! Thanks Carrie :)

  6. I can understand not being a fan of sewing knits if you’re using a regular sewing machine; a serger just makes it so much fun! But if you don’t love it, you don’t… And it’s really, really hard to love the new preggo shape. It’s all temporary though, and you still look great!

    • I started out using just my machine, but sewed the second two tops at Social Sewing where I had access to an overlocker… it definitely does make things faster (and neater!!!!). I think right now it’s just such a transition from what I’m used to (wovens) and I’m not handling the change well ;) I’ll get there – I’ll need to, as I’ve still got quite a few more months of knit sewing in front of me! Thanks Lisa :)

  7. I know every knit is different. Just depends on how heavy it is or how much stretch there is and which way it stretches. I love them just as much as wovens. I find every fabric has it’s applications. And I love your tops! You look great! Way better than the A line bags that I had to wear when I was pregnant. Hang in there. Beautiful Baby will be here soon and your body will come back! 😄

    • I definitely like the heavier, more stable knits more at this point in time – that ruched maternity skirt I sewed was really not a challenge to work with at all. I think it’s just that the lighterweight knits are all so ‘unique’ (read: unpredictable). Thanks Linda!

  8. Sewing knits on a normal machine is a pain in the butt! I don’t have an overlocker either so I do the same. I really love the colour of that last top on you! I never got around to making this pattern with my two pregnancies. I quite like the look of the megan nielsen wrap maternity top too.

    • Thanks Kat – the watermelon looks even better in real life :) I have the wrap top pattern too, and hope to get around to making it before its too late. It all seems to be happening faster than I thought it would!

  9. Well, I think you’ve done a good job – and you’re a beautiful Mother-to-be :) But I couldn’t agree more; I would always choose wovens over knits. Sx

  10. When I started sewing with knits I bought a lot of cheap fabric for practicing, which rather spoiled the fun. I almost gave up on knits, until I started buying better quality fabrics. Give it another go later on with both fabric and a pattern you really love!
    By the way, you look fabulous!

    • Ugh – those cheap knits are horrible. Looking back on the ruched maternity skirt I made – which was a lovely experience in comparison to these tops – that was a great quality knit. Now I feel at least as though I’ve got the fit through the shoulders sorted for this knit pattern, maybe I’ll try some of the better quality knits I’ve been holding out on using, and it will all be rosy again!! Thanks Marianne :)

  11. You look absolutely beautiful! But I completely understand — sewing for a pregnant body can be so frustrating and discouraging. But it gets better and each one is different. And yes, a serger will change your sewing world!!

    • Thanks Katie – the constant changing of shape is definitely a real challenge. I’m really enjoying being pregnant (more than I thought I might) but photographs can seem like a harsh reality! I’ll splurg on an overlocker… one day :)

  12. Looking fabulous, Mel. You kinda have to approach knits with a ‘it’s speedy’, mindset, and there’s a degree of perfecting knits but it’s pretty slapdash. And I agree with you that it’s hard to source good knit fabrics in Australia! You end up with a different kind of skill sewing knits, rather than wovens: it is much more about fabric knowledge and appropriate use, compared to say the fitting process of wovens. As you know, I’m thoroughly in the knit camp!

  13. I’m with you in not being super into knits. They’re so slinky and annoying! But, I do love thick knits, like beefy French terries. They handle so beautifully! But the queen of all knits is wool jersey… it seems like you guys would have access to lovely merinos, since they produce so much wool in Oz? Seriously, if you get a chance, try one! They press well and are positively obedient. :)

    • While we do produce excellent merino wool, we produce the raw stuff. It gets shipped off to China to be cleaned and spun and turned into fabric, then shipped elsewhere for sale. By the time it gets back to Australia, if at all, it’s very expensive partially because we don’t have a sufficiently dense market. It is similar to the USA and its raw cotton: shipped off to overseas cotton gins.

      Ever seen the documentary Darwin’s Nightmare? While no one is starving because of the craziness of how developed nations with primary industries convert the raw product to consumer products, Australia is not far off with so many of our raw materials.

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