Top of the Heap
The Somerset T-Shirt from Maven Patterns is an effortlessly stylish top designed for light to medium weight knits with a minimum of 40% crosswise & lengthwise stretch. It features an elegant bateau neckline, a flattering slim fit (which nicely accentuates the waist!), and 4 sleeve options: a long straight sleeve, a 3/4 length straight sleeve, a bishop sleeve with long cuffs, and a 3/4 bishop sleeve with short cuffs.
After making the WBM Mirri Dress, I gained a little confidence sewing with knits. But, when Maisie asked if I would make the Somerset for her – with Bishop sleeves and long cuffs of course! – I felt a little trepidation. I’d never sewn with elastic thread. Never used a twin needle. Was I prepared to give it a go?
It turns out that, with the help of Maven’s excellent instruction booklet, the answer was a resounding ‘yes’!
Laying the Groundwork
Instead of jumping right into the make, Maven (awesomely) spends the first 13 pages of their instruction booklet going over fabric choice, stretch, sizing, stitching, and construction techniques. I found this to be particularly helpful when it came to sewing with a twin needle.
I was worried that this part of the pattern would be very difficult and had all but convinced myself that a zig-zag stitch would be the safer way to go when I opened the booklet. A few minutes later, Maven had talked me in off the ledge!
Their tips (combined with a helpful blog post titled ‘How to sew with a twin needle | The Somerset T-shirt‘) made me feel confident enough to give it a try – and I’m glad I did! Sewing with a twin needle is a great (and easy) way to introduce clean, straight stitches without busting the seams as the knit stretches.
Kate also recommended threading the right needle first so the thread doesn’t get tangled. I followed this advice and had no issues whatsoever with this stitch.
Didn't Bateau an Eyelash
Once I’d practiced a bit with the twin needle, it was time to apply this stitch to the garment itself.
The pattern directs you to use this stitch on not only the hem of the Somerset, but on the Bateau neckline as well. At first I was nervous, but, unsurprisingly, the instructions were thorough and I had no trouble with this step. In fact, the trickiest part was aligning the twin needle topstitching at the shoulder seam where the front and back pieces meet. Rather than topstiching the neckline after the front and back pieces have been sewn together, the Somerset instructions tell you to topstitch each piece beforehand, then all you have to do is close the shoulder seam.
This method makes it really easy to get the neckline to lay flat (especially if you also use double-sided stay tape like Kate suggests to keep the hem from curling). However, you need to be precise about stitching 2 cm from the hem edge on both pieces or risk your stitching not lining up.
For more of Kate’s knit tips, check out our Sewing With Knits playlist on The Confident Stitch’s YouTube Channel!
Tricks Up My Sleeves
The crowning glory of this Somerset is definitely these sophisticated Bishop sleeves paired with the extra-long cuff.
To gather the sleeves, I did as Maven directed, and (with a shirring elastic thread wound on my bobbin, and a regular Gutermann polyester threaded on the top of my machine) I sewed two rows of straight stitches along the bottom of each sleeve.
The whole process was incredibly simple! But – if/when I next attempt this top – I think I’ll want to accentuate those sleeves even more. For example, Maven has a post about adding more volume to your Bishop sleeves (yes please!), and I also think there’s a fun opportunity to use a contrasting fabric.
I adore a sheer sleeve (talk about elegant), and it could be fun to use the Designer Black Stretch Lace or the Designer Sheer Wool Knit in Black for the sleeves and the Organic Soy French Terry in Black for the body and cuffs!
As Luck Would Have Knit
Ever since we got it, Maisie’s been in love with the AGF Feral Essence Knit in Tan, and I get it! There’s just something about leopard print that makes you feel fancy! What’s more, this Art Gallery knit has great structure and recovery. It’s not too thin or drapey so it won’t cling unattractively. Plus, its natural structure really allows the Bishop sleeve to stand out!
Somerset the Record Straight
As a grad student, I’m always looking for clothing that’s comfortable, classy, and easy to throw on in a rush. The Somerset ticks all these boxes! I’d love to make a few with different sleeves to last me all year long.
However, even more than its elegant design, what I love best about this pattern is the detailed instructions. While making this top, I learned several new skills that will benefit me as I continue on my sewing journey. And, after this experience, I can’t wait to work my way through the entire Maven Patterns collection!