Houndstooth Renfrew top

It’s time for a confession: I am totally obsessed with knit fabrics. I think it’s because they appeal to my sloppy tendencies. You don’t need to finish the inside seams because they’re not going to fray on you. Facings aren’t necessary. Darts are rare. Zips too.

You don’t have to freak out as much about gaping and FBAs and all the other things that I’m still too intimidated to think about.

You don’t even really need to press as you go along.

Consequently I have a knit stash mountain, which is threatening to impinge on the hereto untroubled consciousness of my roomie. At the current exponential rate of growth, he’s going to be forced to notice the stash when it topples onto him one morning and he has to gnaw off his own arm to escape.

To save his life and limb, I nobly purchased the new Renfrew pattern from Sewaholic. For my first experiment with the design, I opted for the short-sleeved cowl neck combination. I do not own a single cowl neck top and this top kind of reaffirms that purchasing decision. It feels like it’s kind of too much on top of my chest, it’s already a party up there right?

Houndstooth Renfrew - what is this fold above the bust?

But I still like the finished article.

As I’d expected, I found Tasia’s instructions straight-forward and the pattern pieces designed well. I think you can be a little more conservative with your fabric purchasing than the back of the packet suggests. This is a straight 4 and I just managed to cut it out of 1.5m of this houndstooth knit fabric.

After sewing up the sleeve bands I noticed that the seam allowances form a ridge where the band meets the sleeve. I wanted to be able to tuck the top in to skirts without lots of seams being visible, so I opted to leave it off. I could easily have shortened the bodice pieces because they reach hip length on me but I wanted to try the top in a longer length. In the end it looks much better tucked in.

Instead of the band at the bottom I intend to hem it with a twin needle.

The fabric really determines how your cowl will turn out. I used a thicker polyester blend knit so the cowl is less draped and chunkier, which makes it nice and cosy but I think it would be more wearable on my frame with less volume. I do try and style it without the rounded look I have in the first picture but I didn’t realise it looked like this until the pics were done.


  • The fabric is a little cheap but the houndstooth print is pretty awesome. It’s more of a cream and very dark brown combo than the pictures show.
  • Having a warm neck.
  • The sleeve bands are a nice finish that makes the knit look a little more polished. Plus, less twin needling.
  • There was only one side of pattern instructions, score!

Love less:

  • Why do I have a fold of fabric above my bust? You can see this in the side-on shot. I thought this sign-posted the need for a small bust adjustment but I wear a double D for heaven’s sake! I’m at a loss.
  • The seam allowances creating a bulky ridge on the sleeve bands. I should try and trim this down a little. It would be less of a problem on thinner knits.
  • I  should try and grade it down one size at the waist to make it snugger. When it’s not tucked in, the side view makes me look a lot wider than I am in reality.

Looking at these pictures in the cold light of day I realise I need to stop dodging the fitting issue. Even with this straight-forward knit, something is not quite right with the bust. Fortunately the slightly hypnotising houndstooth pattern means no one will notice because they’ll be mesmerised by my chest area.

As per readers, as per.

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16 Responses to Houndstooth Renfrew top

  1. yesilikethat says:

    Lovely top, I like the way the cowl stands up in this heavier fabric. I’m not a fan of overly drapey cowls, they remind me of bassett hounds or something. Great houndstooth pattern. I have no idea about fitting in knits, it’s a mystery to me, I know the ladies on Pattern Review all seem to do FBAs on jersey fabric, might be worth trying?

  2. shivani says:

    might the fold be due to a tiny bit of extra length in the area? I’m no expert when it comes to fitting though!
    but it’s lovely. I too bought that pattern – I’ve never sewed knits before, so it will be quite a learning experience!

    • It’s a cool pattern to start with knits since the bands give a nice neat finish. look forward to seeing your version!
      The suggestion about extra length is interesting…I think maybe going down a size or two and then doing a FBA might address the issue.

  3. __cui says:

    I like cowls – they can be really flattering. though I prefer the ones that drape only from the front piece to create a nice V- neckline cowl and also gives your clavicle a soft sexy frame [I have seen this sold in knits]. Maybe you can start experimenting different cowls with your mountain of knits?

  4. You don’t need a small bust adjustment, that fold is because you have D+ chumleys like myself. That’s the fabric sitting across on top of the boob, I get that as well and it’s when things are a tad close. if you took the boob out it would go way. That’s not an option however 😉 give it a tad more width over the widest area maybe, just under the armhole

    • It’s cool to hear from someone else who has this issue, thanks for your comment! From what I’ve read about FBAs, that adjustment would give me the extra width to allow for my chest…or can a pattern be tweaked with the one alteration you suggest without a terrifying cascade of other issues?

      • I’m no expert (!) but you look similar to me, wide around the full bust but then small back/ribs. just a bit extra on the sides under the arm works for me but that’s on a top that is fitting fairly well anyway not one that needs radical adjustment..

  5. Faye says:

    I am dying to get this pattern but don’t know where I’ll be able to buy knits in the UK as I am new to dressmaking. Do you buy all yours in shops or online? Can you give me any online recommendations? Thanks!

    • Hi Faye,
      I bought my Renfrew from the Sewaholic patterns website directly. If you sign up to the newsletter you can take advantage of special offers, so I got free shipping in the pre-sales, which made it much more affordable. In the UK Ray Stitch carries a lot of the Colette Patterns but the Renfrew doesn’t appear on their site, though I presume they’ll carry it eventually. For the big 4 patterns I like to buy from Sew Essential which personally I’ve found reliable and has frequent sales. Right now they have a 1/2 price New Look and 40% off Vogue offer…hmmm…
      I mostly don’t buy in shops because John Lewis is my best resource and they always seem to have run out of the ones I want.
      Hope this helps!

      • Faye says:

        Thanks for that, that’s really useful. And where do you buy your fabric from, especially the knit fabrics?

      • I prefer to buy fabrics offline rather than on, so all my go-to-places are in London where I live. If you are in London then there quite a few cool places. Goldhawk Road is my favourite: a whole row of shops with reasonably priced fabrics of all sorts. Walthamstow Market also has some cool stalls and at least one shop worth checking out. Both have been discussed by Karen of Did You Make that, so her reviews are great for info.
        If it’s not from those 2 places, pretty much all of my fabric comes from Fabrics Galore in Clapham, S.London, shops in Brixton (excellent remnant bins) and Cannon Street Jersey Fabrics in Tottenham Hale (check out this post for more info). If you’re after affordable knits, the last can’t be beaten in my experience.
        Melissa of Fehr Trade is a UK-based sewer who uses quite a few online stores and likes knits, so her blog is definitely worth checking out.
        Hope you find something cool!

  6. Faye says:

    Thanks, that’s really helpful!

  7. Jill says:

    I’m about to sew a Renfrew for the first time, looked up some reviews and found yours. I think it looks fantastic, really loving the houndstooth!

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