Hello there Sew-my-stylers! I hope you’re having a great start to your weekend! Have you started thinking about your February project yet? I’ll bet some of you are already zipping up tees on your machine, but I’m sure there are plenty of other sewists who (like me) tend to decide a little “closer” to the deadline. 🙂
I’m extremely excited to be one of the leaders for the February challenge and as you know, this year we will have TWO patterns to choose from every month. I’m going to talk a little about the Athina Kakou Sheona tee shirt/dress, which is the pattern I’m making and leading for February, to hopefully give you a little info and some ideas on what you can do with this versatile pattern.
Let’s dive straight in with a look at the Sheona pattern from Athina Kakou. The first thing to say about the Sheona is that there are so… many… options! The pattern itself boasts five different views: the knit shift dress, the basic tee/top and then three different options with ruffle add-ons – all very cute and simple to achieve. Even though the theme for Febuary is “tee shirts”, the dresses are simply elongated versions of a tee. There’s also no other knit dress theme this year, so I’m totally making a couple for this month…
The pattern comes in a fantastic range of sizes: Sizes UK 4-28, US 0-24, EU 32-56 and is drafted to have a little ease, which is perfect for me as I personally like a tee that skims over my lumps and bumps, as opposed to outlining them (!). The neckline is nicely rounded and slightly scooped. Again, I think this is a shape that suits almost everyone. There are two sleeve lengths: a shorter tee shirt length and three quarter length.
Normally, you would expect the Sew my Style team to come up with some adaption ideas for the featured patterns, but Athina Kakou has made life incredibly easy for me as she has already published blog posts and a video with an incredible 15 different hacks and ideas for Sheona. I mean, seriously, every single idea I came up with she has already covered! Amazing.
Here’s a list with links to Athina’s blog posts for easy reference:
- Pattern piece for tie belt
- Making a tie-front top
- Making a maxi dress
- Making a dress with a gathered skirt
- Adding flutter sleeves
- Adding cuffs and sleeve bands
- Adding elbow patches
- Bodycon midi with a cowl neck
- Bishop sleeve with curved hem
- Adding pockets
- Sleeve ties
- Peter Pan collar
- Boatneck top
Whew! That’s quite a list, eh? And of course these methods are useful for adapting lots of knit patterns, so it’s a great little library of simple adaptions. I’ve already made the basic tee and am finishing up a bishop sleeve adaption (with a slight difference from the posted hack), as well as a gathered waist version, so look out for those later this month here or on Instagram.
- As well as her hacks video, Athina has produced a great sewalong video with beginners in mind. So if you’re unsure of your skills when sewing knits, this will definitely help you well along your way.
- I personally found the length of the Sheona tee a touch shorter than some other tees I’ve made. Proportionally, I do have a slightly longer torso than legs, so if you are short-waisted or prefer your tee a little shorter you will have no issue at all. If you have a slightly longer waist or hips, you might just want to double-check the pattern piece against your body. It just scrapes my hips, so after I made the first one I lengthened the body by an inch or two.
- Other than the length (for some), I found the Sheona to be true to size, with a little ease. Since you have more fitting flexibility in a knit, the main measurement to get right is the shoulder. Make sure the shoulders are not too wide or narrow with the pattern piece or a muslin and consider grading or changing size if they are.
Now to the part that flummoxes many of us with knits – how do you know which fabric to pick?
Athina recommends medium-weight, two-way stretch knits with at least 20% stretch as the ideal choice for your Sheona. This is definitely what I would recommend for a beginner, as they’re easier to handle, plus the extra weight will give you a smoother fit, with little to no clinginess. In particular, a shift-style knit dress like Version 1 often benefits from that extra bit of structure.
Here is a little more info on each recommended type so you know what to look out for:
Main fabrics for the body
Cotton t-shirt jersey: The most common “traditional” tee shirt fabric, it usually has a two-way stretch and little drape. It also curls rather annoyingly! There’s an obvious right and wrong side as one side has lots of little knit stitches (V-shape), and one side purl stitches. I find the term “jersey” a bit confusing because there are so many types of it: wool, silk, all sorts of blends, and general cotton jersey, which often has a 4-way stretch! Keep an eye out for “t-shirt jersey” or read the description closely to get the more stable version of this fabric.
Cotton spandex: Also known as cotton-lycra, these fabrics come in solids, but also an amazing array of vibrant prints. The saturation of the colour is usually really great, so if you like a bright print, this might be the fabric for you. The added spandex/lycra/elastane gives good stretch and great recovery, so they keep their shape well. One potential downside is that they tend to be a little clingier because of the spandex/lycra content. For myself, I tend to want a little more ease around the tummy area if I’m using this and grade out a little or even size up, depending on the pattern.
Ponte di Roma knit: Often known just as “ponte”, this is an example of a common “doubleknit” fabric. What this means is that it looks the same on both sides and is soft, but a bit thicker than other knits. This would be a great cosy choice for the body and sleeves of these garments, for something that glides over your figure rather than clings.
Interlock: Although this isn’t specifically mentioned, interlock might be another good option. It feels a lot like a regular jersey knit, but the fabric is actually the same on both sides, like a doubleknit. It is again fairly stable, making it easy to sew with and it has good structure. It also doesn’t curl horribly!
Neckband fabric is a little different. This is the one area on a tee/tee shirt dress where you are really stretching the fabric. You can use the same fabric (self fabric) for the neckband, or you can use a different piece – the most common of which would be a rib knit – but you could also use a different jersey or cotton knit.
- Make sure when you pin the neckband in place that you have to stretch it to fit the neckline circumference. If it fits round perfectly, it will probably flop once it’s sewn in.
- Try stretching your chosen neckline before you sew it. Some fabrics, like a deeply-coloured organic jersey will lose colour when stretched (see below).
- If you have to stretch it too far, or it gets really out of shape, consider using a rib knit or other knit instead.
- Rib knits are super stretchy, so check the fit before you sew as you may have to slightly shorten a rib knit neckband to get the right tension.
Ruffles, hems and hack fabrics
Okay, so it would be optimal to use a mid-weight fabric for the Sheona, but, hey, rules are made to be broken! When it comes to some of the added extras or hacks, a bit more drape could actually be advantageous. For adding ruffles to the basic shape, it would be desirable to use something a little lighter and drapier to give a full, but soft ruffle effect. If you want to use a bishop sleeve hack, you will achieve a much more attractive sleeve drape by using a fabric with more flow, for example. Here are just a few:
Rayon/viscose/tencel knits: This is a very common type of flowing knit and many RTW clothes are made from this category of fabric. They feel extremely soft and have a beautiful drape, but can definitely cling. The other big issue with these is that if there is weight to your garment (a long maxi for example), these knits can grow over the day and you might find you end up with a much longer dress than you started the day off with!
Bamboo knits: Bamboo knits are light and strong, and even have anti-bacterial properties apparently! The bamboo plant itself is touted as a fairly sustainable crop as it grows quickly and doesn’t require too much chemical control, although bamboo is often blended with less eco-friendly materials and, as with all these types of knits, it’s the chemical processing that is often the issue.
DBP (double brushed poly) knits: This fabric is pretty new to me and feels heavenly, because it is, indeed, “double-brushed”, making it baby soft on both sides. It has a lot of 4-way stretch and also a lot of drape, but with a little more weight than some slinky knits.
How about a winter version of Sheona? I was thinking about the shift dress Version 1 in a lovely soft merino knit I have. I also have some great French terrys for a cosier tee dress with some body. French terry is the fabric with the little “loops” on the back and has good structure – it’s one of my favourites.
I was also wondering about using a woven fabric for some of the smaller ruffles. It would probably need to be paired with one of the more stable knits for sewing purposes, but I’m game to give something like chiffon or a silky fabric a go.
That’s it, folks!
Okay, that about sums up the post and I hope it gives you a few ideas on Sheona and fabrics. You should already have received your codes for this month’s pattern in Meg’s newsletter – check your inbox if you haven’t already!
Whitney will be here in a couple of days with some info and ideas for the other February pattern: the Deer and Doe Givre, which is another stunner. We’re so looking forward to seeing what you make! Happy sewing!
PS. If you have no idea what Sew My Style is, here’s the info post! 🙂