top-halfs wardrobe

Megan Nielsen – Briar Sweater

saki jane - briar sweater

When I first started making clothing at age 15, it was mostly because I was drawn to the things I couldn’t afford to buy off the rack. My parents (justifiably) refused to buy me a new gown for each of the three different formal dances my high school held annually, while my peers invariably waltzed in with a new Jessica McClintock dress every time. At that point, I had had very limited experience with sewing clothing, and most of the experience I had was in repurposing, but sewing and textiles had been such a major part of my childhood that it didn’t seem like a novel idea to sew my own dresses from scratch. I realized that if I wanted to have a new dress for each occasion, I’d have to make it myself, so I picked up a dress pattern and some cheap poly from Joann’s and went to work.

By the end of high school, I had sewn 5 gowns for myself, 5 gowns for friends, and a blazer and pants suit for a male friend, and yet, I still somehow managed to mess up sewing a basic circle skirt by believing it would work without a zipper. In the following years, as I began to sew more or sew less for work, my affinity for party dresses and my aversion towards basics stayed strong. After all, my mentality had always been that I make the things that I can’t afford to buy, and that people are more willing to spend money on a special occasion than on an everyday piece. Even as sewing evolved from work to hobby and making from necessity to desire, I’ve held this outdated belief that my skills are best utilized in making fancy things I can’t wear often.

saki jane - briar sweater

saki jane - briar sweater

Thankfully, through this blog and through #SewMyStyle, my aversion to sewing basics is slowly melting away. While I still love making and wearing dresses, I’m finding that the basics that I’ve been forced to make via #SewMyStyle have actually been the garments I’ve worn the most. It has also made me unafraid of wearing my me-mades to the point of them being worn out. In fact, I’ve worn the Toaster Sweater so much it’s pilled itself into being loungewear. And a t-shirt pattern is not something I’d have bumped to the High Priority list a year ago, but here I am in a sewn up Briar Tee and Sweater pattern and I have to say it’s one of the coziest things I’ve put on. Aside from a couple of small fit issues (too wide, too short), I’d make this again in a heart beat, and in all the variations it comes in.

The Pattern: Megan Nielsen Briar Sweater
The Fabric: 100% cotton Lightweight Sweater Knit from
The Size: XS
Worn With: Vogue 1247 Skirt

I did something a little unconventional and perhaps crazy for a knit garment, and that was to use a woven binding for the neckline and french seams for the construction. I knew that the circumference of the neckline was large enough for my head to fit through and that the fit hung loose enough that the seams wouldn’t be pulled, so I was able to deduce that neither would be a problem. Even with the french seaming, I still used a narrow zig-zag stitch throughout.

saki jane - briar sweater

saki jane - briar sweater

While I cleanly bound the neckline in a homemade cotton bias tape and french-seamed the interior, I decided to leave the bottom and the sleeves as raw edges (with the seams tacked down) so I could fiddle with the lengths of each a bit later. I do like the over-sized length of the sleeves as is, but I’m a little disappointed in the cut of the bottom. While I love a good crop-top, the length of the front is so short that when I lift my arms, it exposes my bra. I’m not sure if hemming or binding the bottom would help in that it would help weigh the front down (as it’s the shifting through wear that causes it to rise up) or if it would hinder since hemming would eat up a bit of the very necessary length. For now, I think I’ll leave the edge raw and plan to wear it only over other crop-tops or dresses.

saki jane - briar sweater

If I were to make the briar again in the future, I’d likely add some length to the front and subtract some from the back. While the high-low cut is quite cute, I think it’s a bit drastic for my short torso, to the point of it looking like I may need a swayback adjustment even though it’s a very unfitted piece. The whole issue could likely be mitigated by just chopping it off. And fortunately, I can do just that quite easily.

With that said, I do love the modest scoop neck and the ease of the pattern. It’s something that can be whipped up in an afternoon, crazy french seams and all.

I used a wearable-muslin-worthy, very cheap cotton knit from I usually don’t like to shop at the big-box stores (preferring instead to support the small and local businesses where I can), and I’m well aware that is owned by Amazon, but I think it’s purchases like this sweater knit at ~$3/yard that let me then spend more on beautiful fabric from local shops.

The quality is surprisingly nice, especially for something purchased online. The knit is even, and it didn’t pill in any way in the pre-wash and tumble dry. Even with the wonky nature of a dyed fabric, I was able to match the stripes pretty evenly on both the sides and the sleeves without compromising the grain. It’s not itchy like wool, it’s soft, and with the loose knit it’s incredibly breathable; perfect for a chilly summer evening. My only complaint is the dye bath seems to have been a bit inconsistent in parts; you can see some vertical striped of saturation throughout, but this also might be why the fabric was so cheap.

saki jane - briar sweater

I got 3 yards of this fabric so I could make John a wearable muslin of a vintage tee pattern (Simplicity 8550), and we now have surprise-matching sweaters! It’s a surprise because I definitely didn’t tell him I was making him a shirt (it’s hard to commit to Unselfish Sewing, amiright?) and I also didn’t tell him I was making myself a shirt out of the same material. I hope he doesn’t mind that we now have the potential to be that annoying matching couple, but right now we’re separated by an ocean so perhaps it’s okay? No one else has to know, right? Sounds like a slippery slope (but maybe one I’m willing to ride to rock bottom)…

saki jane - briar sweater

I’m overall pretty happy with this fabric made up as a Briar Sweater, and in fact if it had not been 100 degrees in Portland all weekend, I’d definitely have worn it.

Thanks for reading, everyone! I promise I’ve got some non-#sewmystyle garments coming up which I’m excited to share with you. I hope everyone has had a wonderful weekend.

saki jane - briar sweater


4 Comment

  1. It’s cute but yes, a little Cher Horowitz…. do you think the wideness of the neckline and shoulders might be improved on another version if you did use a knit neckband to bring it in a little?

    1. It probably would since the band would be cut a little smaller and eased in? But I’m not sure. Also, I didn’t see the Cher Horowitz until you mentioned it, but now I do! Maybe it’s even a little bit… Tai? I don’t actually mind the neckline though!

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