I don’t often sew with knits. I generally find woven fabrics more rewarding to work with.
But last summer I found a beautiful medium-weight striped cotton knit at Mood Fabrics in New York City that reminded me of those classic French cotton boatneck shirts that have become so popular. This navy blue and off-white knit had the same beefiness as those shirts, and I was delighted to discover that there was no Lycra in it (not a fan of cling, on me at least). It also had only two-way stretch, making it more stable. (You can shop Mood’s online selection of striped cotton knits here.)
Rather than make a boatneck shirt, which strikes me as strictly a summer garment, I decided to make a men’s rugby shirt, which I can wear all year round. I used the knit shirt option (View C) in a favorite vintage Seventies shirt pattern I’ve used often, Butterick 4712, below:
If you’re familiar with classic rugby shirts, they generally have knit cuffs (when they have cuffs at all) and the front placket is sewn like a continuous lap on a sleeve, so that only the fashion fabric shows on top, as in the photo below.
My shirt is a little different. I used the shirt placket template found in David Coffin’s book Shirtmaking. You can see what it looks like below: basically it’s an upside-down sleeve placket.
For the collar and cuffs I used a sturdy white cotton percale from my stash. (White cotton canvas would be another option, or really any white shirting that’s interfaced to give it more crispness.) I used a two-piece collar (i.e., collar and separate stand) instead of the one-piece collar with facings included in the pattern. I narrowed the collar a bit (Seventies collars tended to be WIDE) and also shortened the cuffs.
I sewed all my seams first with my sewing machine and then stitched over them with my serger so that the seams could stretch without popping the stitching. The only challenge on a project like this was attaching the woven parts (collar, cuffs, and placket) to the knit: you have to be careful not to stretch the knit as you sew it to the woven. Pins help — and practice.
I love the way this shirt turned out and it’s the perfect garment to wear on these cool fall days. It’s classic and a little preppy, which is basically the way I dress 80% of the time.
Now I really should research what this rugby thing is. 😉
See you next month!