Sunday, July 28, 2013

in which I sew a large number of woven tanks (or, Grainline vs Wiksten)


The Holland Academy for Young Ladies is on summer break and I've been attempting to sew myself some clothes. To keep my spirits up I've been trying to make it all about The Process. Well, you can't wear The Process under a cute cardigan. So I guess I'm really all about Results. I'm happy to say my woven tanks have been a success!

I purchased the Tiny Pocket Tank pattern from Grainline and made a few, and then became curious about how the fit compared to the Wiksten Tank pattern. After staring at a lot (no, A LOT) of samples of both tanks online I decided just to purchase the Wiksten pattern and try it too. You can never have too many layering pieces, in my opinion.

Well, I love them both! Here's a quick comparison for you if you are wondering what's the difference:

L) Tiny Pocket Tank, R) Wiksten Tank Top (Ignore that seam down the back of the tank on the left -- I ran out of fabric!)

Overview:

Both patterns produce nicely finished, airy, woven tank tops with deep scoop necklines, optional  chest pockets and curved hemlines. There are no closures required for either pattern, both styles slip on over your head. Yay!

Both have clear written instructions that are just right for a person who knows basic sewing techniques and terms. Both patterns come in the form of downloadable PDFs and the pattern pieces are tiled to letter sized pages and taped together at the guidelines.

If you want great results from either pattern, I don't recommend using quilting cotton. I did my trial runs in cotton, since I have so much on hand in my stash. Mid-weight cotton does make a nice looking woven tank, but the drape won't be the bestest. My favorites so far to use for these tanks: double gauze, lawn, chambray and linen blend. I haven't tried rayon, silk or similar, but I'm sure those would be wonderful.

Grainline Tiny Pocket Tank:

Grainline Tiny Pocket Tanks
(from L to R: cotton, chambray, cotton, double gauze)

Grainline's pattern (sizes 0-18) features darts in the front bodice and a handy technique to achieve smooth and professional looking bias-bound necklines and armholes (which is also featured as a tutorial on her blog). There are plenty of line drawings to illustrate the steps. There is also a tutorial on her blog to extend the tank into a dress.

 Darts in the Grainline bodice make for a nice curve around the bust.

Wiksten Tank Top:
Wiksten Tank Tops
(From L to R, linen blend, lawn, double gauze) 

Wiksten's pattern (sizes XS-XL) features french seams (ooh la la!), which means no raw edges will be visible on the inside of the tank - a nice touch in an otherwise basic garment. It includes a dress length option within the pattern. There are plenty of photographs and sketches to illustrate the steps.

 No raw edges on the inside of the Wiksten tank, very nice.
My Process:

Keepin' it real for your reference. I am 5 feet 6 inches tall, 135 lbs DSGV*, with broad, straight shoulders, average size bust, and a lamentably short torso, so I knew ahead of time I'd have to make adjustments in the patterns. I really think a couple of inches were taken from my spine and added to my toes on accident. I usually have to make a few mods to any purchased pattern, so that is no reflection on the quality of these patterns. I used my bust measurement to choose the pattern size and both worked out fine.
*Doctor's Scale Gravitational Vortex

Grainline dry run, size 8: I sewed the dry run in mid-weight cotton fabric I found at the bottom of my stash, not the ideal material, but OK for a test. Overall the fit was size appropriate but pulled a bit across my chest. Because of my short torso and chest, the length was too long and the front scoop neckline was way too hubba hubba (though my husband gave it the thumbs up). Because of my straight shoulders, the back neckline stood away from my back a bit.

Grainline wearable muslin: it shrunk a bit after laundering, but you get the idea.

Grainline Mods: 
  • Raised neckline in front a LOT (1.5 inches)
  • Lowered the neckline in back
  • Shortened the torso overall
  • Reduced angle of darts a bit and added a bit more room under the armscye
  • Made angle of the shoulder seam more shallow to compensate for my straight shoulders
  • Took a wedge off the back fold line to keep the neck from standing off my back (Got that idea here. Thanks, Rae!) 
  • In addition to the instructions, I added stay stitching to the neck and armholes so I could try it on without fear of pulling it out of shape before I added the bias binding. 

Wiksten wearable muslin, still some tweaking to do.

Wiksten dry run, size M: Fabric look familiar? I made a quickie true muslin, then adjusted some things and made a second try. I still had some cotton left from the duvet cover I thrifted years ago, so I used that for the wearable test run. Overall the fit was size appropriate, and I went ahead and raised the neckline an inch even before the muslin because I knew it would be too low. I had the same fit issues as with the Grainline tank: overall length a bit too long, and the back neckline standing away from my neck.

Wiksten Mods: 
I did the same mods as with the Grainline tank above, with these small additions:
  • In addition to the Wiksten instructions, I used the same Grainline method to grade, notch and understitch the neck and armholes.
  • I really dislike turning up a large hem on a curve, so I trimmed off some of the hem allowance and sewed a narrow hem instead.

Let me tell you, seeing the same armhole go by four different times under your needle (1-stay stitch, 2-attach the bias, {then clip the allowance} 3-understitch, 4-stitch bias down) can be a little frustrating and seems like overkill at the time, but it is very worth the effort. The result is a flat, smooth finish that doesn't loudly proclaim 'homemade'. If you've ever been frustrated by a bias bound neck or armscye that stands straight out from your body, then you should try this method.

My Results:

So I took about one thousand pictures of myself to model my new tanks, while my family looked on and mocked me (and I felt increasingly ridiculous). What to do with my hands? Should I look away? Gaaaah the timer is almost up! *click* Do over. I have a newfound respect for those who do this on a regular basis. I really need to buy a tripod and a remote. These were taken on my back screened porch, and it was humid, so please forgive the hair.

On the left is how the tank looks by itself, on the right is how I'll most likely wear it. I love me some cardigans. The parade of woven tanks:

I've laundered this one and I notice the pulling is back under the arms. No matter, I'll be wearing it as a layering piece mostly. I might go up a size on future Grainlines and see if that helps.

Bought this cotton ever so long ago and I'm so glad to have used it. I've actually made two of these, but the first one wasn't lined and the white fabric was too transparent. I remade it with a featherweight cotton lining. Much nicer! This is the only one that I added a pocket to, just because it needed more gray/black right there. The teeny pocket is so cute.

My first try with double gauze! I fell in love with this Fuccra when I saw it a while back, and hoarded it in my stash. I only had a meter so I had to put a seam in the back to make it work. Double gauze has a nice drape and a casual, crinkly look, but it can fray and stretch while you work with it. Stay stitching was a great idea. I bound the neck and armholes with a sturdier cotton to give it some body.

First time sewing with Liberty lawn! This is one of my favorite prints, Wiltshire. The fabric came out of the dryer practically wrinkle free with hardly any raveling, and took only a second to press. A joy to cut. Very easy to work with, but be sure to use a small needle. The lawn makes a more billowy looking tank. I might try a size down if I make another one in lawn.

The. Dreamiest. Fabric. Kaufman Essex linen blend. The yardage felt a bit heavy so I was hesitant about making it a top, but it has such a floppy drape it worked out great. I can tell this tank is going to be a wardrobe staple. Love the nubbly finish of the fabric. Wow. I need a haircut.

More Nani IRO double gauze. Love the colors of this one, such a fun print! I have more double gauze and I'm excited to make something else with it. Kind of a goofy expression for that last one!

I've actually sewn a couple more, but you get the idea. I'm going to love having so many options for layering. Not having a standard body shape can make sewing for yourself a trial, but I'm going to take what I've learned about alterations for my body type and go forward with more confidence. Now on to conquer more patterns...

34 comments:

  1. Love this post. The side by side comparison is great. The liberty tank is gorgeous, and I wouldn't change the sizing. I like the more open neck and narrower straps on the grainline tank.
    Nice job on everything.

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    1. DKB, thank you! The Grainline has a more dressy feel to me and the Wiksten seems a bit more casual. It is great to have both in the arsenal!

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  2. WOW! I am in awe of your crazy tank-making skillz. I have never made a garment for myself. Frankly, the whole idea of that sounds terrifying!

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    1. Skooks, if I can do it, you can do it. Seriously.

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    1. Jamie, sure! Send measurements...Better yet, come visit for a custom fitting. :-)

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  4. The side by side idea is fantastic, really interesting to see (although a lot of work!) and the double gauze works beautifully in both tank styles- I think you could go down to S in the Wiksten tank, graded from M at the armscye too but both look great on you

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    1. Hey, verykerryberry! I've LOVED your Tovas and just noticed you have a sew along for that. One of my next projects is to tackle a Tova, so thank you! Yes, I wondered if I could go down a size on the Wiksten, esp after I made it in lawn and it seemed to grow. Thanks for the advice, I will try that next time!

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  5. Ah, should've checked for a post before emailing. Ditto everything I said in my email. I, too, like the side by side photos - nice touch. And thanks for the link to the bias binding tutorial; I'll definitely be using that in the future!

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    1. I'm very sorry, Robyn, but this does not get you out of having to also chat with me by email. And thank you both for the comment AND for turning me on to woven tanks in the first place by my envy of your Liberty Wiksten.

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  6. Wow, what a great post. I loved the pictures! This way you encourage me to draw a tank pattern and make myself a lot of them too. I love the way you use them :) I love your necklaces too.

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    1. Thank you! These tanks are a good excuse to wear more necklaces. Love to hear how your pattern goes, Erika! I considered starting with a woven tank I have that fits pretty well and drafting a pattern, but since it has a zipper I was worried about sizing it so no closure was necessary.

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  7. OMG you are so adorable and i love your hair!
    it's so fun and very helpful to see all these in the different fabric types with your comments on how they sewed up - thanks for your generous post!!

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    1. Maggie Smith, awww thank you! Wow, seriously about the hair? Haha! I figured someone might be able to benefit from the comparison! Thanks so much for the feedback.

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  8. Oh, forgot to say, also, your hair looks adorable. Goober.

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    1. Robyn, thank you. I soon realized how CRAZYcakes it was to put my hair UP for the photoshoot -- I had to practically dislocate my shoulders to keep from dragging the tanks over my hair as I was pulling them on and off. That's why the bun slowly disintegrates from the start of the shoot to the finish. LOL

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  9. I want to see a video of you taking pictures of yourself. I've done that before too, and wow. So. Awkward. Your tanks look great, and though you say your humid hair looks cray cray, I think it looks awesome. Very pretty (for reals). I am almost inspired to make myself a tank. I just usually have a hard time wearing something that isn't fitted. Heaven knows I don't need any more volume around my waist/hips!

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    1. Pinksuedeshoe, I so do NOT want to see that video! haha! Aw, thank you about the hair! I guess it could have been worse for sure. I'm glad messy is 'in'. Go ahead and make some tanks. The Grainline is more fitted and you can make them even more form fitting with a cute belt. It is so gratifying to be able to make some layering pieces, I tell you.

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  10. I admire your fortitude in coming up with the necessary adaptations. I have no time or talent for that. :-) You look just great in all of these.

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    1. Mama Pea, it's been a journey. A few years ago when I sewed my first garment, I gave up in frustration. And thank you!

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  11. What a fantastic, in depth post with wonderful photos on a real person! Cheers!

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    1. thanks, Jessicah! I appreciate posts that have real person photos, so I thought I'd pay that forward.

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  12. Just found your post when I was searching for tips about making the Wiksten tank; I am so glad that I did because it's a fabulous post. You look absolutely gorgeous in all the tanks and I am very envious of your skills. I'm going

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    1. Queen of Toast, I'm so glad you found this. I was hoping it would be a good resource for those sewing their own tanks.

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  13. ha, i was just admiring you hair then read 'mind my hair'!
    although i'm not a sleeveless sort of person, this post is such a helpful reference to see how small variations in fabric and pattern look different. pinning now.

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    1. Hi, Isis, thanks so much about the hair! Haha. We are always our own worst critics , eh? I'm so glad you found the post helpful, thank you.

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    2. With that "eh" comment I thought you might be a fellow Canadian, Larissa! I searched your profile to find out...not so. However, you are a sister in Christ and that is good enough! 😉

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    3. Hey, Jan! Nope, I'm not a Canadian, I'm American but we are squashed up against you so that's alright. Hello to a sister in Christ too. I'd love to visit up there one day and find out all aboot our neighbor to the north. :-)

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  14. I would like to rob your stash of amazing cardigans, is that okay today? Don't care cause it's true. Thanks for this thorough look at the two patterns, very helpful for a quilter who is dabbling in garments!

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    1. Hey, Terri Ann! Back away from my cardigan stash. I confess I'm always looking to buy more. It's a sickness. At present I really need a bright orange one with 3/4 sleeves. Also I organize them by color wheel in my closet. That's not creepy at all is it? :-) Good luck with your garment sewing.

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  15. I LOVE THIS POST! Yes, all capital letters, and I mean every one of them! I've been trying to find a perfect tank pattern for a long time, and I wasn't sure how the Wiksten compared with other patterns. I loved seeing the two side-by-side, along with your alteration notes. Thanks so much for taking the time to share!

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    1. Hi, eastdakotaquilter, thanks so much, wow! I'm glad to be a resource for you! I still wear my woven tanks a lot. They've become part of my uniform. Happy sewing!

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  16. Have you had the chance to compare these to the Colette Sorbetto pattern?

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    1. Hey, rissarielle, no, I've never made the Sorbetto pattern.

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