Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Rainbow of Renfrews

Or an Ode to Renfrew

Stripes work great with this pattern

Like many people out there I’m a bit obsessed with Sewaholic’s Renfrew pattern.  It’s your basic knit t-shirt with neck and sleeve options. Whenever I feel in a bit of a rut or want a quick fix I make a Renfrew.  They’re really that easy and satisfying.  This is my latest version.
Check out that side seam!

Let's just take a moment to appreciate my stripe matching on the side.  I carefully cut out everything in a single layer and used my walking foot.  For the bands I followed the stripe width more than the pattern piece and made sure the design would continue uninterrupted.  Instead of a 5/8" seam allowance I used a stripe which made it easy to pin and baste before serging it for good.

 Then I made this discovery:
Gillian of Crafting a Rainbow would be so proud

Yep, almost a complete rainbow.  All I’m missing is orange which I’m ok with because it’s not necessarily the best color on me and I haven’t found any orange knits out there that weren’t Halloween themed.

Why must tiny stripes photograph so poorly?

This is one of my favorites.  Turquoise is one of my all-time favorite colors so I was thrilled to find this striped rayon/spandex jersey at my local Pacific Fabrics.  So much so I ended up going back to buy more.  I successfully suppressed my sewing OCD with stripe matching and threw caution to the wind.  When dealing with 1/8” stripes it’s better not to try and match everything up.  I did pay attention to the neckband since I figured this would be the most obvious miss.
Getting over my aversion of yellow
I used to never wear yellow and yet this is probably my other favorite version.  I made it in the spring but have worn it a lot during fall because of the long sleeves.
Short sleeves are perfect for layering
This pattern is a great introduction for anyone wanting to learn to sew with knits or use their serger/overlocker.  The instructions tell you how to sew it using a sewing machine however you can also construct it almost entirely on a serger with the exception of some topstitching.  I prefer to sew the neck/arm/hem band seams on the machine for less bulk before using the serger to attach them.

After washing, those neckbands lay so much flatter
Looking at my still growing collection I realized just how much I love a v neck -  most of my Renfrews have one.  Like to the point where I had to make a conscious effort to make a few scoop necks.  My hot pink one totally was supposed to be a scoop neck too.

3/4 Sleeves
Long sleeves

With the cold weather here to stay I might need to make a few more with 3/4 or long sleeves.  I've never been a fan of turtlenecks (I spend half the day fussing with them) so I love the looser cowl neck option.  I have fabric for about 3 that fit in this category.
The best thing is that with most knits coming in 60” widths it doesn’t take up much fabric.  I can get a short or ¾ sleeve version and v or round neckline out of a single yard of solid knit.  I got both the green cowl neck and yellow long sleeved out of 1.25 yards and managed to stay on grain for both.  With the Lilac version I tried to eek it out of ¾ yard but at the store it was cut way off grain. I ended up piecing the neckband in the back, left off the armbands and used a twin needle to hem them instead.  Keep in mind with solids there’s nothing to match and I was cutting a size 0 but playing around with the cutting layout can do wonders.
My top 4 most worn

In general the Renfrew fits as is and I only shortened the long sleeves a bit.  Recently I started taking 2" of length off the body and I like a the fit a bit better - I'm short and the original length was a bit long.  

Makes a cute dress too

Hack it off at your waist and add a simple gathered knit panel and you instantly have a flirty dress.  Just make sure you determine how long you want the bodice to be before cutting and hemming your skirt or you'll end up with a mini dress like me.  Simply adding the skirt panels in place of the hem band just ends up with an awkward looking dropped waist dress.

Or add length to the bottom (I added 3.5") and you've got a tunic to wear with your leggings.  Made out of ponte it makes a cozy, classy winter outfit with the feel of PJs.

Yes, I might have a Renfrew addiction
If you haven’t tried out the Renfrew yet, I and the majority of the online sewing community highly recommend it.  It’s a great basic that has filled a lot of holes in my wardrobe.  In the past few years I've started to think I need more plain "grownup" tees  to replace my college collection of printed novelty tees. I frequently use it as a palette cleanser between more involved projects or when I can't sleep at night.  Yes, I've gotten out of bed in the middle of the night and whipped up a Renfrew.  (I try to keep one laying around that's already cut out exactly for this reason.) I still have other versions on my never ending to do list with some more alterations planned.  Next year I plan on trying out some of Maria Denmark's patterns (they're just at the taped together stage) but I know I'll come back to my precious Renfrew.


  1. Wow, there's just no beating a simple versatile t-shirt! I love all the bright colours, and that yellow one really does look great on you!

    1. Thanks! I'm not sure what made me grab yellow at the fabric store (probably a good sale...) but now I'm glad I did!

  2. I have this pattern set aside to do soon and was wondering about the length because I am short waisted, also thinking of tunic with leggings and dress. Thanks you for showing your versions now I am ready to tackle my first one. I am doing the Ready -to Wear fast and really need some basics.

    1. I'm 5'3" and took about 2" off but didn't bother adjusting the hem band. The shirt doesn't taper much at the bottom so the band fit just fine for both shirt and tunic versions. For your first make you could either adjust the pattern or wait and try it on before attaching the hem band so you can find where your exact sweet spot is for it to hit. (What I did.) Good luck with the Renfrew - it's great for quickly building up a collection of basics although lends itself well to prints as well.

  3. Wow! And I thought I'd made a lot of Renfrews! My black one does look very similar to your tunic-lengthed one. Well, except for the belly that is! It's a great pattern, and I foresee myself using it a lot more in the future as well. My favorite of my Renfrews has to be the bow-necked one that I made awhile back now:

    1. Your bow-necked version is incredible! Way to think outside the box with the pattern. I'd imagine any future Renfrews will be perfect while taking care of your sure to be adorable baby while still looking cute and stylish.