April 9, 2015

A Japanese Renfrew sweatshirt

When I’m binge watching TV I have a tendency to absent-mindedly fabric shop at the same time. Not good for my mental rest or wallet, but great for my stash.Β EmmaOneSock is a perennial favourite, as is Miss Matatabi on Etsy, who has the best Japanese fabrics. I was knee-deep in House of Cards when I found this beauty: a 100% cotton polka dot reversible knit. Swoon. I snapped it up, and started brainstorming about how to use it. I knew I wanted both sides to show but I didn’t want it to be childish, so I hit on a solution: a sweatshirt with rolled cuffs.


My final verdict of the Grainline Linden on me was a bit “meh” (I’m not sure I’m ever going to be sold on raglan sleeves) so instead I decide to re-use my well-used adapted Sewaholic Renfrew. I made some tweaks to the cuffs, because I didn’t want to have a serged seam showing when they were rolled up, but the fabric was too thick for French seams which would be my usual solution. So, I made a 4 inch deep double-sided cuff which nicely rolls up with no seams in sight. On a “no setting up my coverstitch machine” roll, I also made a hem band, and split it because that’s what all the cool kids are doing these days.


This is clearly going to be a workhorse in my wardrobe: it’s so soft and snuggly, and warm without being enormous. And given the first few days of spring have mostly involved snow, I need all the warmth I can get.


I love my Renfrews but I do still have bunching at the underarm. Has anyone with a big bust ever solved that problem? I’m not quite sure how to address it without putting in a dart, which I don’t fancy in a knit.


54 thoughts on “A Japanese Renfrew sweatshirt

  1. Lizzy says:

    Oh I love this! I’ve looked at this fabric… often… brilliant choice & I love the cuffs.
    It’s getting cooler here & this has me truly tempted to make something similar.
    Sorry I can’t help with boob issues… as much as I have often wished I could.

    1. Thanks Lizzy! You should totally snap some up.

      1. sewbusylizzy says:

        Enabler! πŸ˜‰

  2. Joen says:

    Very Cute!

  3. Lynn says:

    I cannot solve your bunching problem, I do not share your dilemma, but Shams from Communing with Fabric will probably know the solution right off. She is the queen of bust adjustments!

    Super cute top!

    1. So actually I FBA-ed this pattern based on her recommendation for doing that in knits, but think maybe I need to do it a bit more even…. πŸ™‚

  4. carlalissa says:

    Love your renfrew! How did you do your FBA? have you tried Jennifer Lawrence method. I have in another pattern and is great. I have the same problem as you.

    1. AJW says:

      What is the Jennifer Lawrence method? I have never heard of it but am always interested in learning more about fit and alterations.

    2. I did a vertical-only FBA but I think I probably needed to add more. I haven’t heard of the Jennifer Lawrence method either – do you have a link?

      1. carlalissa says:

        LOL sorry for the misleading I meant Jennifer Lauren Vintage patterns and she show a FBA on the bronte top, here is the link.

  5. ssandrav says:

    Gorgeous I love it! For some reason I’ve never shopped for fabric online, must give it a try someday soon esp when I see what you’ve come up with

    1. It can definitely be hit or miss, but if you buy from quality stores like EmmaOneSock or Miss Matatabi you’ve got a good chance of success! You can also often get swatches in advance to check if you like the fabric.

  6. Christina says:

    Gorgeous top and lovely fabric πŸ™‚ I have the same fabric bunching problem as you (38G) so I know exactly what you’re talking about. I think the problem stems from having a relatively small high bust compared to the full bust. I haven’t done this adjustment on knits but have on wovens. I made a muslin, pinched the extra fabric, sewed a dart, took apart my muslin and redrafted my bodice + my sleevehead with that adjustment and “resquared” everything. This worked really well for me and guess would work well in a knit too. Hope that made some kind of sense πŸ™‚

    1. That’s interesting! I’ll have to give it a go

  7. AJW says:

    I might be wrong but I think the issue is that you need a FBA in this pattern. Sometimes the pattern will “fit” a full bust (ie, cover all the parts), but not look good. Often the finished garment will be higher in the front than in the back, or there will be other issues with the fit, like bunching. I have seen FBA directions for knits that do not result in a dart (I hate them in knits as well). This might be the solution to the problem.

    1. I did already do an FBA because I’m way, way bustier than Sewaholic drafts for, but I think that I probably didn’t add enough in. More adaptations!

      1. AJW says:

        Good that you’re willing to work and find a solution to these pesky issues. Good luck as you refine the fit of an already great-looking top.

  8. Nathalie says:

    What a lovely top! It looks like it’s one of those tops that get worn all the time because they are so comfortable and go with everything.

    1. Totally! I just washed it and am anxiously waiting for it to dry πŸ™‚

  9. Julia says:

    Gorgeous. And thanks for showing me Miss Matanuki’s shop. No really, thanks. *broke*

    1. Julia says:

      Matatabi. I can’t read at the moment.

    2. Sell your firstborn child? There’s always a way! πŸ˜‰

  10. Jane says:

    Ah we’re fabric twins! I have this very fabric (I also have the same habit of absent mindedly buying fabric whilst watching TV!). I made mine into a Lady Skater dress which I’ve worn a LOT in the past few months, it’s sooo cosy and warm! Love your version of the Renfrew and especially the contrast cuffs It’s definitely a notch up from ordinary knit tops, it’s lovely. x

    1. Yay twinsies! A dress made out of this would be lush… I might have to try to find some more when I’m in Japan in a fortnight!

  11. michelleinsea says:

    I get the bunching, too. Doing a “traditional” (i.e. Palmer/Pletsch slash-and-spread) FBA helps. In knits, where i don’t want the dart, I’ll ease or gather the extra length length added by the dart and not actually sew the dart. This keeps the side seam the same length at front and back, gives you the extra length to go over your bust, and tweaks the armscye shape a touch to cut down on the bunching.

    Full disclosure: Most of the time I’m lazy and just do a cheater FBA in knits and ignore the bunching. But I have tried the above method and it does help.

    1. gilliancrafts says:

      I was thinking the same thing! Could you rotate the wrinkles/ease/length to the side seam, and gather the section at the side seam for a dart-like effect? I’ve gathered bust length on things for my sister, and it works well and isn’t noticable at all. (Also love that fabric!)

  12. michelleinsea says:

    Also, thank you(?) for introducing me to Miss Matatabi. Because my fabric stash clearly needs enabling!

    1. Oh, the fun you’ll have!

  13. Haha I do the exact same thing with yarn shopping – unless the boyfriend is sitting there. πŸ˜€ Great find, that fabric looks pretty awesome, especially made up the way you have. I really need to try the Renfrew, it looks like everyone’s favourite! I adore the rolled cuff and the split hem you have here.

    1. It’s a great basic tshirt, though it’s a shame it doesn’t come in more sizes and is drafted for a B!

  14. AZ Barbara says:

    I put darts in my t shirts because I much prefer a shirt that fits nicely than holding to some “rule” that says “no darts in t shirts” πŸ™‚ It looks lovely on you!

    1. I think that’s definitely an option !

  15. Tiffany says:

    I have the same underarm bunching and without a big bust. I think some of the problem is that the Sewaholic patterns have wide shoulders (from the few pictures you put, it looks like your shoulder seams are around 1/4-1/2″ too far out) and that the armscye is too high (I blogged about it awhile back: http://www.spiffystitches.ca/2014/06/sewing-sewaholic-renfrew-2.html). You might want to measure across your shoulders and your front armhole depth and compare that to the pattern. Hope that helps!

    1. Hmm interesting, I actually *think* I have wide shoulders, but maybe not! Sometimes shoulders get problematic in grading though, which may be the issue – Big 4 are the worst, assuming I become a linebacker as I get bigger!

  16. Oooh, I love this so much, Jenny! The rolled cuffs are a great way to show of the reverse side! xo

    1. Well thank YOU for the finding the best fabrics, Frances! I love the roll cuffs too πŸ˜€

  17. Carolyn says:

    It’s a really cute fabric that you used so effectively to make a great top!

  18. Sara says:

    Oh Wow! It’s gorgeous in that fabric!

  19. michelleinsea says:

    Ooh ooh ooh! I was flipping through my fitting books last night looking to solve an unrelated issue in a muslin I’m working on, and I ran across a suggestion for the bunching issue that I haven’t seen before. It’s from a book called “The Perfect Fit” (http://www.amazon.com/Perfect-Fit-Classic-Altering-Patterns-ebook/dp/B003ODJ32Q/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1428687858&sr=1-3&keywords=perfect+fit), and they suggest to measure the bunching, then pinch it out of your pattern tissue’s armscye as an unsewn dart. If the legs of the dart are over a certain width (I don’t remember off the top of my head, but I think it was 1 1/4″), they recommend taking a smidge out of the sleeve cap too, then to offset the change in stitching line. Smaller distances can be eased in. I’m going to try it in a top that I just made that fit relatively well in most places but has serious bunching issues.

  20. TC Ferrito says:

    Get the newest Palmer/Pletsch book- Knits for Real People. They describe how to make a FBA in knits a couple of different ways. Great book that gives lots of different ideas on working with knits, color blocking, etc. Basically, you would make the FBA and then transfer the bust dart to extra ease in the side seam at the bust. You make the seam curve out and use a gathering/ease stitch just for that little bit of the side seam. I also don’t like darts in my knits and this works perfectly. Nice top! and nice save!

  21. gingermakes says:

    Oh man, Frances really has the best stuff! This is super duper cute! I always have a little bunching like this in knits because I need to do a small FBA but I’m lazy and skip it. πŸ™

  22. Martina says:

    Nice top…but is your necklace from the Faire Collection? I work with the founder’s aunt.

  23. Nancy K says:

    I am a DD cup and make a lot of knits. I have tried Shams’s method and don’t find that it always eliminates the problem; it depends on the knit. I go back and forth using darts especially French darts and sometimes the vertical fba. Depends on what I am making. Darts are the only way in my experience, to eliminate that extra fabric,at least on my body. Debbie Cook used to have another method on her blog, but I don’t think it’s there anymore. She would draft an fba with a dart. Then she’d trace the side seam, rotate the dart out and use the traced seam as her side seam. I don’t really recall exactly how she rotated the dart out, but it worked for her. I tried it a few times and my results were just so so.
    My dd is a very thin DD cup(32DD) and I have used Shams vertical fba to better effect for her. While her cup size indicates she should need an fba, her upper bust is only 2″ different from her full bust size. Most probably because she is a climber with a well developed back. I still do a small fba on her of 1/2″.
    This was probably not very helpful to you, but I am interested in how you solve this issue.

  24. Nancy K says:

    BTW, I love the top, your hemming details in particular are a nice addition to a simple tee.
    Thanks too for another good fabric site. I am an Emmaonesock addict myself.

  25. Faye Lewis says:

    Don’t know why I’m late seeing this but I think this is absolutely gorgeous! I’ve never gotten up the nerve to use my renfrew pattern yet, but hope that I remember your sweat shirt when I start my fall/winter sewing.

Let me know what you think!