So it begins! Today I am kicking off the Dive into Dolmans tour, the brainchild of Tibeca over at Sewing by Ti. A few weeks ago, she had this craaaazy idea to gather and review as many knit dolman top patterns as she could and put out a call to help her identify all the patterns out there. Turns out there are a ridiculous number of knit dolman tops on the market, way too many for a single person to review. So this crazy idea of hers turned into a 5-week blog series hosted by 4 different main bloggers with 5 guest bloggers popping in for a week here and there.
The basic idea is to show this same basic silhouette, in its many iterations, on a variety of sizes and body types. You can pop over to Tibeca’s blog to see all the nitty gritty and everyone involved.
But for now, let’s:
My contribution to Week 1 of the Dive into Dolmans tour is a pattern that I’ve seen and wondered about for a while but never got around to sewing up — The Tee by Cake Patterns.
I had primarily wondered about this pattern because it’s free, and I always like to try out a free pattern before I REALLY recommend it to people. Free patterns can be hit or miss — sometimes they’ve gone through the same rigorous drafting and testing process as a designer’s other patterns and sometimes…well, they haven’t.
So what about The Tee? It’s pretty solid. Not perfect, but solid. It’s not the best free pattern I’ve ever worked with, but also far from the worst, and has a few features that are a bit unusual and may appeal to a lot of people.
But let’s get the business out of the way first. We’re using the following chart for all the reviews in this particular series, so everyone is sure to get this information about every pattern. Here is my “report” for the Tee:
And what do I think of it? And what do I mean by all the “custom” references in this chart?
Well, the whole premise of Cake Patterns is that with a little bit of customization at the pattern tracing stage, a home sewist can get a garment much more fitted to her own body than working from a pre-drafted flat pattern. The Tee is no exception. So rather than drafting the entire t-shirt, the designer has drafted the shoulders and neckline, and then from the bust on down, there are a series of dots that correspond with measurements. Clear as mud? I thought so. Here is a photo of my pattern for the Tee before I connected the dots to trace out my pattern pieces:
I started with the bust line that corresponds to a 35″ bust, and then marked the width I wanted on down the pattern. I knew that I wanted my final shirt to be about 24-25″ long and that I wanted the hip to be 40″ around to give me a couple of inches of ease at the hip. So I colored in the dot marked 40 at the 24″ and 25″ line. I knew that my narrowest part (my natural waist) hit about 16″ below my neck, and I wanted that point to have a width of 33″ (my waist measurements plus a few inches of ease), so i colored in the dot marked 33 at the 16″ line. And then from there, I marked dots to gradually bring the curve in at the waist and then out again to the hip.
The nice thing about this method is that it reduces the need for me to make vertical adjustments on a flat pattern. If I needed a significant adjustment above the bust, I might still need to do that, but my above bust adjustment is relatively small and easily dealt with in choosing how to trace my pattern. I didn’t have to shorten at the waist like I normally would, and the ease is exactly as I like it for a t-shirt.
I have only a single gripe about this pattern, in fact. I have some funny folds/wrinkles happening around my neckline, and I’m not entirely sure what’s causing them. It may be because the shoulder on this dolman is not drawn as a straight line — rather it is bent to create more of a distinction between the shoulder and the “sleeve.” But I have relatively broad shoulders, so that bend might be pushing the fabric in funny places for me. The other potential is the neck opening. It’s a fairly small neck opening, and I wonder if widening it would help. This is such a quick sew that I might make a couple more to experiment.
Other than those folds, I actually really like this top. The instructions were straightforward (well, it’s a dolman, it’s not rocket science). But a V-neck can be a little tricky and this one was a breeze to put in.
I did find the pocket markings to be a bit off, as you can see my pockets are almost in my armpit rather than over my boob. But I also didn’t follow the instructions there, which told you to construct the shirt, try it on, and THEN sew on the pockets. Had I done that, I would have been A-ok.
Bottom line on The Tee: Solid pattern that allows for some easy customization. Be aware of the shoulder/neckline folds (so maybe do a very quick muslin or wearable muslin in a cheaper fabric). But it’s a pretty good free pattern.
Be sure to check out the other stop today:
Pattern: The Tee by Cake Patterns
Size: 35″ full bust, custom sizing for the rest.
Difficulty: Beginner. Dolmans are very simple since there is no set in sleeve, and the Tee offers a couple of necklines so you can choose options appropriate to your level.
Techniques Required: Sewing with knits, attaching bands, attaching a V-neck (if you choose that option), basic understanding of measurements and garment construction.
Similar Patterns: Oy, the list is endless! Seriously, we counted literally dozens of dolman patterns. There will be a comprehensive list of what is currently on the market when the series concludes.
Fabric: This is a gray cotton/rayon blend jersey from Cali Fabrics. It’s very soft and has great drape.
Fit: Pretty good. I have some funny folds at the neckline, which I think are due to either (1) my shoulders being a little broader and the bend at the shoulders in the pattern hitting me at the wrong place, or (2) the neckline being too narrow.
Modifications: None. I drafted the pattern to my measurements as indicated above.
Pattern format: PDF. There aren’t too many pages, so not a cumbersome one at all.
- Cake method of pattern drafting allows for easy customization.
- Multiple neckline options — a rarity on a free pattern.
- Cute pocket details — again, not often seen in something that’s free.
- Hem band makes for an easy, clean finish.
- It’s folding and wrinkling funny at the neckline. I need to troubleshoot this a bit.
- The sleeves were cumbersome to hem. I think I’ll cut some bands next time as that would be an easier, nicer finish.
Overall Grade: B-. This is a solid free pattern. There are some issues at the shoulders for me, and I know some people won’t like having to draft part of their own pattern, though I don’t mind. But really, getting multiple options and necklines in a free pattern is relatively unusual, and the finished neckline was really nice.