Sleeveless Renfrew with angled sleeve bands

Teal striped Renfrew - finished

Breaking news: I made another Renfrew.  Does this pattern ever get old??  Apparently not around here!  What can I say – I’m a sucker for simple, comfortable knit tops.  Like the lovely Roisin, I know what I like, and I just keep making it.  : )  However, instead of making yet another version of exactly the same thing, I decided to change things up a little this time around.  It’s finally getting warm here in Boston, and a sleeveless top was just the ticket.

I spent a few hours online looking for a pattern for a knit top with a little “interest,” some intriguing detail at the neckline or shoulder to distinguish it from a boring old t-shirt.  Not surprisingly, I couldn’t find what I was looking for.  Most of the patterns I found had ruffles and frills, and you know I’m not a ruffle girl.  I knew I already had the Renfrew pattern with all my fit modifications, and I knew I wanted a more sleek and streamlined detail, so I decided to just wing it.  Hooray for DIY!  : )

Teal striped Renfrew - side Teal striped Renfrew - back

Project Stats:

Pattern: Sewaholic Renfrew (my 11th one, for those of you keeping track!)

Fabric: Teal striped cotton/poly jersey from Grey’s Fabric

Modifications: Omitted sleeves, but added self-drafted angled sleeve bands (see details below).  I used my scooped-out neckline from Renfrew #10.

Level of crafty satisfaction: Love it!  A comfortable and versatile summer top.

Ok, now about those sleeve bands…

Teal striped Renfrew - drafted sleeve band

Here’s the piece I drafted, and I’m calling it an “angled sleeve band” for lack of a better term.  The top curve is essentially a nearly-flat sleeve cap, and the piece gets folded in half lengthwise so all the raw edges are enclosed in the armhole seam.

To draft the piece, I measured the length of the armhole, multiplied by about 0.93 so the band would be slightly shorter, and drew the band length as a horizontal line across the center.  I chose my desired width at the shoulder (2 inches) and armhole (5/8 inch), and drew vertical lines at the center and ends to represent these distances.  (Remember to double these width measurements since the piece will get folded in half.)  I eyeballed the curve, connecting the ends of all my vertical lines.  Finally, I added a 5/8 inch seam allowance all around the outside of the piece.

Does this make any sense?  If not, just ask.  : )

Teal striped Renfrew - front detail

I really like the result!  I knew I wanted something similar to a kimono sleeve with a thick sleeve band, but not quite as big as an actual kimono sleeve.  I didn’t exactly want a cap sleeve either, since I find cap sleeves extremely difficult to move my arms in.  These angled sleeve bands extend the shoulder line just enough to give a hint of a sleeve, without actually adding one.  The look is streamlined while still adding some interest.

Teal striped Renfrew - back detail

The back is my favorite part – I just love this look!  My style can be somewhat androgynous, and I really like that the added “interest” isn’t overly feminine or fluffy.  It’s still just a t-shirt.  Nothing fancy here!

Teal striped Renfrew - sleeve band detail

Here’s a close-up of the angled sleeve band.  I inserted it just like the neckband, zig-zagging on the outside to keep the seam allowance in place.  Each sleeve band (well, and the neckband) took 4 seams (!!!) to insert, which took forever with the lightning bolt stitch on my sewing machine.  It was much more of an epic saga than I was expecting, but I do like the finished look.  When am I going to strike it rich so I can buy a serger??

Teal striped Renfrew - armhole detail

The armpits were a little tricky, and as you can see above, they didn’t come out perfectly.  The curve of the armhole is sharpest here, and easing in the slightly smaller sleeve band took a little bit of finessing.  Steaming can cure a multitude of sewing sins, and I definitely steamed the crap out of this!  Still, it’s in my armpit, so who’s really going to notice?  : )

Teal striped Renfrew - stripe matching

I made an executive decision about stripe-matching: life is too short to worry about perfectly matching stripes!  My machine can only do so much without a walking foot (WHY are Bernina feet so expensive??), and I’m not patient enough to hand baste seams on a t-shirt.  So, I’ll live with whatever I can get.  The stripe matching is good enough, and who’s going to care anyway!

Teal striped Renfrew - front angledOverall, I’m quite smitten with my angled sleeve bands, and I’m mulling around the idea of a maxi dress for my next version.  My credit card slipped this afternoon, and I may have purchased more jersey… oops.  : )

And no, I haven’t forgotten about my self-drafted maxi dress muslin… I still want to come back to it!  I need to muster up the energy for more drafting work.  For now, I predict a Renfrew dress will appear on this blog first.  Stay tuned!

14 thoughts on “Sleeveless Renfrew with angled sleeve bands

  1. It looks so great! I love the sleeve idea, and no one will ever be that close to your armpit, ha ha! I feel exactly the same way about stripe and print matching – life is too short! A maxi Renfrew? Do it! That would look awesome!


    • Thanks Erika! I like that the mini-sleeves are subtle but still interesting. Isn’t that teal striped fabric awesome? I knew I was going to buy some as soon as I saw it. Teal looks good on so many people, I think.


  2. Hey that really looks good – what a great idea – thanks for posting! Will have to bookmark this. Really great way of using a pattern more than once and getting a totally different look – you sure got your $$ worth out of this one 🙂


    • Thanks Kat! Knit tops are so comfortable, and I wear one practically everyday. Part of my Renfrew obsession is that I’m too lazy to fit another pattern… might as well just stick with something that I know will work!


      • For me making all these kinds of modifications to a pattern are even more fun than making the version that the designer originally intended.
        I forgot to say in my previous response that I usually sew seams that require stripe matching with a basting stitch first. When I am happy I’ll redo the seam with a stretch stitch and then remove the easy to unpick basting stitch because I am totally with you that unpicking the lightningbolt stitch (or most other stretch stitches for that matter) is pure torture…


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