Last weekend, as part of my ongoing effort to expand my dance-class wardrobe, I made myself this stretchy little top:
Perhaps this is not quite as newsworthy as my jeans’ recent visits to the CYC Day Spa, but there is at least one unique aspect to this project: I made it entirely out of fabric scraps.
Since this pattern is designed for knit fabrics, I started by gathering my impressively large collection of stretch-fabric scraps. (I tend to organize my scraps according to fabric type, i.e. knits, laces, silks, etc., rather than by color. Yes, one knows one has too many scraps when one has to devise an organizational scheme to manage them!) Next, I sorted them into piles of similar colors, just to determine what color families I had the most of; gray, black, and aqua stood out to me as having possibilities in combination with each other. There are several different textures here, including dark gray and black matte jersey, aqua rayon/spandex single knit, and gray/black/aqua printed stretch lace on the front of my top, plus black ponté knit and black stretch lace on the back.
Because the heaviest of these fabrics was the ponté, and also because I knew I would have to put an additional layer under the 2 lace fabrics, I decided to do double layers of fabric for all the panels on the front of the top, and I’m glad now that I did. Not only did this make the total fabric weight much more balanced between the front and the back, that extra layer also provides more (ahem) support in the front and reduces show-through of undergarments. So here’s how I worked out the 2 layers (as you see them in the photo):
Top center: 2 layers of the same aqua knit;
Right: 2 layers of the same black matte jersey;
Bottom center: 2 layers of the same dark gray matte jersey;
Left: 1 layer stretch lace plus 1 layer of dark gray matte jersey.
And on the back (below): the inset at lower center is 1 layer of black stretch lace plus 1 layer of gray matte jersey:
I debated what to do with this back inset more than any other part of this project; it’s placed in, shall we say, an area that I personally don’t want to highlight with a contrasting color. However, I didn’t have enough of the ponté to make the inset with that, so I went with the subtle textural contrast of the black lace, which is even more subtly backed with the dark gray matte jersey.
And I thought a lot about where to place each color on the front; I like the aqua in the middle, mostly because it’s a great color on me, and this way, the aqua is closest to my face. Also, the darker colors on the sides are ultra-flattering. In the end, though, since I was making the top out of scraps, most of the color-placement decisions were made based more on how much fabric I had of each type. As it was, I had to do some serious juggling to make this work with the irregularly-shaped pieces I started with. (But then, I love this sort of challenge; to my mind, this is more practical than going out and buying new pieces of different fabrics— I’d just end up with more scraps!)
Other than using different colors instead of just one, the only major change I made was deleting the draped front panel; I really like it, but I’m not sure how wonderful that feature would be for dancing. More importantly, that one pattern piece requires nearly a yard of fabric by itself, so the decision was practical: I didn’t have a piece of fabric that was both big enough and the right color to work with the other fabrics.
One thing to think about when you’re planning your own fabulous color-blocked garment: you will most likely need more than 1 thread color. In this case, I planned the sewing order ahead of time based on making the minimum number of thread-color changes possible; I used black, dark gray, and aqua (in that order), changing colors mostly when the thread would show on the outside of the garment. Here’s one of the armholes, where you can see the thread color change from aqua to black:
Tip: In case you’re noticing the stitching in the above photo, yes, it’s a wide and shallow zigzag stitch, my favorite way to sew stretchy knits.
Speaking of making your own, I did a quick check of possible patterns for color-blocked garments, and came up with a few; I’m a little surprised there aren’t more, considering how popular this look is in fashion right now, but I suppose there’s a lead-time issue for producing patterns. Anyway, here are a couple of possibilities to get you started:
You can also look for patterns with interesting seaming, like the top pattern I’ve used for this project; most of their sketches show the 3 versions in just one color, so I have to use my imagination. In general, I tend to look at the schematics more than the photos; the drawings enable you to see the details of the design more clearly than in the photos, particularly when considering the possibility of color-blocking. I’m often surprised, when looking at schematics, how much more of the design details can get lost in the fabric and/or color choices in the example garments. (In the case of Vogue 1336, I can tell you that I wouldn’t even have considered this pattern if I had only the photo to go by, but in the schematic, I really like it!)
McCall’s 6712 is another example. Yes, the skirt in the photo does use more than 1 color, but look at the schematic and ask yourself how much more creative you could be with this pattern plus your fabric scraps! (Ditto for the top, shown mostly in solid black in the photo.)
When I look at the schematics for this top and skirt, I can see using a sort of crazy-quilt approach— all those velvet, lace, sequinned, beaded fabric bits I’ve saved like a fabric-crazed magpie, just begging to come out and play! I think I’ll have to get this pattern… especially since that circular skirt would be perfect for dancing!