New Look 6230: Reiss repro silk jersey tee

My 2016 sewing resolution is to think more carefully about which projects I embark on. The shop-bought items I value and use the most are a handful of tees from high street store REISS. These are pretty expensive for what is essentially a basic, (I have only ever let myself buy them in the sale!), but I cannot deny that they are really well made, and have lasted and lasted....

 Reiss  Reiss Reiss
If you've ever bought a cheap tee only to find it twisted, warped and unravelling after the first wash, you'll know what I mean.

I took a close look at a favourite that I already own, to think about what made it worth the spend...


There is limited tailoring to a loose tee, but cut still matters! More expensive ranges have put more effort into this than you might think, and it can really make the difference once the garment is on.


LESSON 2: Grain

This is an important difference between hard-wearing, long-lasting quality and cheap fashion. All fabric has cross-wise and length-wise grainlines, plus a bias line angled between the two. Deciding in which direction this should flow can dramatically alter your finished garment.

There is a really lovely lesson on grain lines here at The Cutting Class...

In simple terms, cheap manufacturers want to use fabric as economically as possible, in order to keep costs down. This will mean squeezing pattern pieces onto a piece of fabric wherever they can be fitted! This results in some pieces being on grain and some off... when these pieces are joined together for the first time and pressed, they don't look too bad hung up on a hanger in store. But one wash will usually reveal the truth!

When you pay more for your garment, part of what you are paying for is the waste created by cutting only on the correct grain. This results in fabric that hangs as it should, washes well and doesn't twist and pull around the body as different grain lines fight it out to the death!

LESSON 3: Finishing

If the pattern pieces are cut well, it will generally follow that seams are well aligned and stay straight through wearing and washing. This blue / purple top has overlocked seams and a cover-stitched hem around the arms and bottom edge, which have stayed neat wear after wear.

 So, I set about making my own version of the luxe tee...

Fabric choice

I splurged on a bit of this beautiful, drapey 100% silk jersey at Maculloch and Wallis several months ago. The moment I picked it up I knew I needed to buy some! This was painfully pricey, not least because it is only 90cm wide. This project was the perfect thing to show it off and I had just enough to cut everything on grain, like I wanted to.

TECHNIQUE 1: Choose a simple design!

 Simplicity New Look 6230In order to minimise potentially fatal errors when finally cutting into this precious piece of fabric, I went for a simple design. I already had this tee pattern in my stash, from a magazine freebie. Crucially, it has raglan sleeves, which avoids the fiasco of trying to set in a sleeve made of slippery silk jersey...

I measured the sleeve on my RTW top and altered the sleeve length on this pattern to give me short sleeves. I also straightened out the side seam a bit, to allow me to pattern match as best as possible across the seam.

Although this is intended to be made up in a knit to form a fairly close fitting tee, I cut the body 2 sizes larger than I usually would to create that loose, flowing fit that I like about my RTW tee. I cut the raglan sleeves only one size larger, to avoid a gaping neckline, and trimmed any differences once I had attached them.

TECHNIQUE 2: Make friends with your overlocker...
 The Overlocker Technique Manual
OK, this is easy to say and less easy to do. I have to confess that mine has sat on the shelf since I bought it, turned it on the first time and found it all just too confusing.

I finally made myself work through the manual and through this book, The Overlocker Technique Manual, which I really recommend.

The difference it makes to finishing knits is amazing!

Here are some tricks that I found got me through the fear of using this machine and produced some really good results without too much bravery required:

Read the manualblindingly obvious, but I assumed because I knew my way around a sewing machine, I'd be able to set up my overlocker on instinct alone...

Baby stepsI started with a 2-thread lock, to get used to the machine and build confidence. This is not a stitch that creates a strong seam on its own (see below), but it is simpler in terms of setting up and tweaking tension.

Sacrifice some of your fabric to practice; and practice until you are confident that the settings are right for that fabric.

Make use of the differential feed; I ended up with mine set pretty high (1.8) in order to not stretch out the fabric edges.

Use it to finish edges after seaming; construct seams with a sewing machine zigzag stitch, then use overlocker 2-thread stitch to finish the inside raw edges.

Use without the blade; I used the overlocker with the blade disengaged to "wrap" the raw edges of the arms and lower hem, before turning these up and top-stitching with a narrow zigzag again.

TECHNIQUE 3: Cut the neckband a size smaller.

I find that cutting the neckband smaller than the pattern suggests results in a better neckline, that doesn't gape or sag. This may be less important if your fabric has really impressive elastic recoil. You should always measure and cut a neckband to match the original paper pattern, never your half-constructed garment, as fabric edges will stretch mercilessly during handling!

I am really pleased with how this turned out, not least because I took my time and thought about each step before I ploughed on. The fabric has a lovely sheen and drape.

Making up the same pattern again, I would probably drop the V-neckline a little further, but that's really about it!


  1. This is a beautiful top. It makes such a difference to take care and attention when sewing.

  2. Lovely top, looks more expensive than the rtw Reiss that you used as inspiration, due to the nice print and silky drape. Thanks for the useful tips!