While browsing for tips to make my PJ pants and gathered skirt, I discovered Cation's lovely Dolman Sleeve pattern. Having recently relegated my favorite, but sadly worn, dolman sleeve shirt to the get-rid-of pile, I could barely wait for the printer to spit out the pages.
I pulled my worn shirt back out to compare size and shape with the pattern, and set to work tweaking the pattern outline a bit. I wanted a narrower neck, slightly lower in front, and banded arms and waist. The sleeves were almost perfect as-is (and not at all too narrow as some comments indicated). I made the sleeves just below elbow length. The longer body length was great. I traced my new lines and cut the pattern.
My fabric was a slinky, slippery knit (neat color - it shifts from grey to plum/raisin, and has very subtle tonal skinny stripes), and I have never sewn knit fabric before nor have I used a serger. However, my grandmother's Juki MO-134 serger has been sitting in my closet for the past year or so, and I was determined to figure it out. It was still threaded (for the moment), and Sew McCool's post on serger tension took some of the intimidation away, so I pulled the Juki out and cracked open the manual.
Opening the box, I discovered a rolled hem attachment included with all the cones of thread and wooly nylon. (How exciting! Plans for the attachment are stewing.) The Juki was threaded with 2 wooly nylon cones and one regular thread cone, but I wanted to try all four threads. So I proceeded to pull out all the threads until I had a nekkid serger.
Let me pause here. So many times I have heard that threading a serger is scary, difficult, and people advise doing everything possible to avoid it. I have no idea why. There is a diagram on the machine, it is all color-coded, and the manual has even more detailed instructions. One has to follow directions, but it is not scary and it is not difficult. It's worth knowing how to do it.
There was some experimentation with tension, and I got the looper threads crossed once at first, but it all worked out fine a short time later. I took a couple of scraps of fabric, serged them into oblivion while practicing sewing straight and turning, adjusting tension, etc., until I felt comfortable trying on my real shirt fabric.
The shoulder seams came first, and my stitch length was too short so they were a bit lettucy/ruffled. Not bad enough to redo, but enough that I adjusted the stitch length longer for the rest. Side seams, then sleeve and waist bands sewn in place, serged the neck facing to the neck, then a switch to the sewing machine for tacking down the neck facing.
I used a twin needle (first time ever) for the neck facing. It was very cool, and such a quick way to get perfectly parallel (and stretchy!) stitches. Highly recommend.
First time sewing with knit fabric, first time using a serger, first time using a twin needle and I am rather pleased with how this turned out. I want to make it again with a cottony fabric, and will probably narrow the neckline just a tad bit more.
More to come!