That F*@#ing “Designer” Purple Circles Knit

In general, I, Ruthlessly Practical, hate printed fabrics.

And yet I bought 1.5 yards of this Valori Wells for Robert Kaufman printed interlock knit when it was on sale at Fabric.com for US$12.73/yd. Without swatching it first. Or rigorously testing the yardage when it did arrive, while the order was still within the returns window.

Because I figured, “Oh, Kaufman, should be good stuff since I’ve swatched other fabrics by them before, and it’s a knit, so it’s forgiving anyway, how bad can it be?”

Famous last words.

Valori Wells Interlock

Deceptively pretty, no?

#sewinglifelesson learned: Swatch, swatch, and swatch. All of my current sewing project disappointments have something to do with fabric choice and/or not going through the swatching process correctly. Isn’t that always the case?

What is “Solid-Plus”?

If I despise printed fabrics, then what made me buy this one? I blame an overabundance of solid-colored garments in my closet and fabrics in my stash that I felt compelled to balance out with a few prints…

This print is what I call “solid-plus”: the colors are “harmonious” to my eye, which I define as sharing at least 2 of the 3 color properties (hue, value, or saturation).

Also known as subdued, subtle, and boring prints that are easy to mix and match with other clothes I own, like blue jeans, black/grey dress pants, and black/white/grey/cream neutral layering pieces.

The design is monochromatic using lighter/darker shades of the same purple, accented by white, which automatically makes it harmonious to me. While I’m normally drawn to florals and paisley, the interlocking circles design was one of the few geometrics that I had trouble letting go of. And – bonus points – it wasn’t overly or overtly twee (I can’t stand twee personally, but you do you).

Fabric, Meet Pattern

My original intent with this fabric was to sew an office-appropriate, long-sleeved, winter weather top. I decided on a surplice/wrap top design, which is usually a flattering style  on me, and since this fabric arrived in the midst of the Lekala Patterns discussion on GOMI Craft, I used the free Lekala 8004 pattern because FREE and to test their made-to-measure drafting system.

While the original pattern had some issues, I fully own my share of the blame due to pattern alterations I made, but all of these problems were further exacerbated by the fabric.

This soft, brushed on the wrong side, very warm and comfy, 100% cotton interlock knit has non-existent recovery. As in 3” recovered into 3.5”. Overnight, it became 3.25”. Finally, 48 hours later, it recovered back into 3”.

What. Is. This. Nonsense.

Everything grew and stretched as I worked with it, and to my chagrin, I didn’t notice the non-recovery until I tried on the almost-finished garment.

The “Home Alone Scream” Moment

The black line is where the seam falls; the yellow line is where my actual underbust line is. The red line is the fabric grain, and the perpendicular blue line is the stretch or non-recovery line.

The black line is where the seam falls; the yellow line is where my actual underbust line is. The red line is the fabric grain, and the perpendicular blue line is the stretch or non-recovery line.

Saggy. Boobs.

Let’s be clear: I don’t have them in real life, with or without foundation garments. This? Made me look like I had ‘em. Not ok for me.

Part of it was my own fault through adding 1-2” in length to the surplice pieces because of some incorrect, convoluted thought process on an FBA.

Another part of it was “correcting” the original pattern’s drafting: Lekala drafts a surplice piece with the grainline running lengthwise down the body, instead of parallel to the neckline. So, I “corrected” that, as you can see in the photo above, and in the process, put the fabric stretch in a place where it would continue to recover grow unattractively.

I did take it apart, trim down the surplice pieces, and resew it – it looks better in its final version below, but I ended up waving the white flag of surrender with this fabric.

After unpicking, trimming, and resewing – much closer to my actual underbust line.

After unpicking, trimming, and resewing – much closer to my actual underbust line.

Regretfully

I don’t have a problem paying $$ for fabrics, whether they be natural fibers or “designer” prints. I simply expect GOOD quality fabric in return, which in this case, is fabric that actually recovers worth its salt. If I do pay a price premium for a “premium” fabric, then I expect a quality product in return, which was not the case with this fabric. Had this fabric been blended with lycra, the recovery might be a completely different story.

But now I’ve learned my lessons, part 1 of which is that just because ONE fabric in a brand’s product mix is “good” doesn’t mean ALL fabrics by that designer are “good”. Part 2, which has only taken me about 4 sewing disappointments to drive home, is to “swatch first and rigorously” on any project that I actually care about (i.e., non undershirts or wearable muslins).

As it stands, I now have a finished top that, thanks to the happy accident of styling it with a camisole underneath, has been upgraded from “louse around the house” clothes to “super casual I don’t care for you but apparently we’re having brunch anyways” shirt. Or, fit for public appearances.

In short, this fabric was not worth the $13 (or $15 non-sale) price tag. I don’t know what one does with brushed, printed, non-recovering cotton interlock, except for more PJs that I don’t need, but I have about ½ yard x 58” wide left.

The End.

The End.

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11 thoughts on “That F*@#ing “Designer” Purple Circles Knit

  1. Cotton interlock is notorious for poor recovery. The stuff looks great till you sew and wear it. It stretches out in the weirdest ways, shrinking some areas and expanding in others. When I first started sewing knits it was my go to, at least until I realized it just doesn’t work for most knit designs. Now I check the stretch “ruler” that you find on the Big Four patterns. That and I haven’t used cotton interlock in years so I am a much happier knit sewist. Good luck with your next knit sew.

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    • Thanks, Bunny! I had better luck with a cotton interlock blended with lycra way before this project, and I wouldn’t be opposed to using cotton/lycra interlock in the future as a natural fiber alternative to ponte.

      The purple interlock *seemed* like a good idea based on prior experience, but I severely underestimated how much of a difference the lycra made. It is such a crapshoot though – “interlock” seems to be misused as a descriptor all over the place, so I never really know what I’m getting…unless I swatch!

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  2. Had the exact same experience with interlock before. I don’t think it’s so much a quality thing, but simply a property of that type of fabric. I do occasionally buy it to make raglan sweatshirts, but that’s about it!

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  3. Cotton interlock! Nuff said. Grainline usually runs vertical parallel to CF and if FBA-ing with a V or cross over kneckline my tip is to put some of the dart fullness into that line and close it off – this gives a V which is actually a tiny bit wonky but looks straight when worn. Otherwise, using a facing on straight grain or stay tape can help to hold it. When cutting out either slap a bit of masking tape on the line to prevent stretching or mark it but don’t cut it until faced.

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    • Thanks for the tips, jay! After your comment, I went through my closet and looked at some RTW knit tops in this style, and they do have the knit grainline running vertically on the body. I was drawing on my wrap dress experience when I changed the grainline direction, but the weight of the bottom half of a shirt bodice has a much smaller effect on the wrap pieces than a full circle skirt.

      *shrug* Live, sew, and learn, I guess!

      I personally hate facings that can’t be topstitched down, with a fiery, fiery passion, so will have to practice my stay taping techniques some more. Great tip on the masking tape!

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  4. Any cotton knit w/o lycra, spandex, or elastine will not recover until it is washed and machine dried. And then it will stretch again. You need elastic in the fabric — at least 3-5% — in order for it to snap back. A good guide to knits and recovery is on the cjpatterns.com web site — Christine Jonsson used to sell her own knit fabrics but now sticks to patterns only. Still, there is some good wisdom on her site about knits.

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    • I have to disagree with the blanket generalization, AJW. I have two 100% cotton single knits, one made up in a wrap dress and one still uncut, that recover very well (95-100%) without machine drying. I definitely think it’s a “tread with caution, swatch, and proceed at your own risk” territory, but not an “any, never, and not” area.

      But, yes, the lycra-blended knits I’ve worked with have a much higher, better, and consistent rate of recovery than the non-lycra knits.

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  5. oh yeah, cotton interlock! If you need good recovery, then nope. But it’s really great for other qualities. I made several cotton interlock knit tops a few months ago, and I think I may have even used the exact line of fabrics you used. I love the way it feels so soft against my skin and I love the prints for times when I’m in a juvenile mood. The best pattern for my purposes is a basic tee, just for the reasons you encountered. Also, note to self, cut the sleeves longer next time. My tops have shrunk a little bit, but I’ll wear them til they are in rags – they are so comfy and cosy.

    I agree 100% that swatching is a necessity. It is a pain, it takes time, and sometimes the fabric sells out while you wait, but it saves money and aggravation!

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    • Oh, I just remembered this – I got a request from a “Ruthlessly Practical” to view my private blog called DIY Dressmaker (How many RP’s can there be, right? ha). That is not an active blog, that’s why I never responded to that request. I started it a long time ago, when I worked at McCall, actually, when we were building ideas for a company blog. Obviously, that died when I left their employment. Anyway, that’s what happened. I think Meg Carter is doing a bang-up job these days running the McCall company blog.

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    • It really is delicious stuff on the inside. I ended up making the shorts from Grainline’s Lakeside PJs pattern with the remaining yardage, and I STILL have a decent-sized scrap leftover. Looking forward to getting wear out of the “louse around the house” shorts as summer gets here.

      Buuuut…if I had known that both finished garments from this yardage would end up as “louse around the house” garments, I wouldn’t have bothered A) spending that much $ per yard on the fabric, and B) expending the time and effort on sewing garments that “naturally” occur as my RTW wears out. *headdesk*

      Lol, yes, how many RPs can there be in the world, right?!

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