Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Sewing with Knits


This week we're sewing with knit fabrics.  New skills covered are sewing machine needles for knits, pinning a pattern on the fold, marking pattern dots onto the fabric, making gathers, setting in sleeves, and a few tricks to keep knits from stretching too much.

Knit fabrics are great for making clothing that fits and has a nice, soft drape.  Go to almost any clothing store and you'll notice the majority of clothing is made from knit fabric.  While we seem to buy a lot of ready made knit clothing, we must not be sewing them!  Fabric stores often have a limited knit section.  My guess is too many people are leary of sewing with knits.  Don't be!  If you keep a few simple things in mind when using knits, you'll be rewarded with easy to wear, great looking clothes.

Number One - make sure you are buying the right kind of knit for the pattern you are using.  Think about what is in your closet - if you love your T's, knit skirts, and pants, look for this same weight of fabric.  Unless you are making a swimsuit or leggings, you're most likely going to want to use the thinner knits.  These go by names such as interlock, jersey, stretch velour, stretch velvet, and single knit.

Number Two - sew slowly.  Do not pull or stretch your material as it is going under the presser foot - just let the machine feed it through.  The only job you have is to keep the seam width even.  If you pull or push the fabric, it will make the seam wavy or curved.  You won't like how this looks on the finished piece!

Number Three - use a zigzag stitch.  Your fabric will be able to stretch a bit without distorting.

Number Four - think about how your piece will drape.  One of the wonderful things about knits is how they hang, or drape.  When constructing the piece, you do not want to do anything that interferes with this drape, like adding bulky hems.  You also want to give your fabric help in not getting over stretched in key areas.  We'll touch on this while we work.


I'll be using New Look Pattern  6875 to make a knit top.  I really like this pattern - it has a seam down the back and curved side seams, so it fits better than a normal T-shirt.  I love my T's, but sometimes I like to look more put together!  The gathering on front gives it a nice drape and adds a bit of shape.

It also has some great additional pieces to make.  The flared skirt and capris will definitely be making their way to my wardrobe.




Materials List:
 *fabric - when you look at the suggested fabrics on the envelope, you'll see they say "See Pick-A-Knit Rule."  Keep looking down at the very edge of the pattern envelope.  You'll see a bar with arrows - four inches of the fabric you choose should stretch between them.  I'm using a very stretchy, slightly fuzzy jersey.  Not quite a velour - thinner.
*about a foot of 1/4 inch satin ribbon
*optional hem tape
*ball point sewing machine needles - these are labeled for knits, for thin knits use a size 11.  Ball point needles have rounded tips so they go between the knit loops instead of cutting them.


If you have not used a pattern before, refer to last week's post on sewing pajama bottoms for information on how to read the back of a pattern and find and lay out the pattern pieces.  This post also explains simple pattern fitting.  Since our shirt pattern we're using has curved seams, do any adjusting at the double adjustment lines.  If you take off the extra from the bottom, the curves won't fit you in the correct places.


When we made the pajama bottoms, we did not have any pattern pieces that were laid out on the fold - this week we have two!  Find the edge of the pattern that tells you to place it on the fold, lay the piece along the fold with the pattern edge line laying directly on top of the fold, and pin into place.


With our last pattern, we also did not have little black dots on the pattern.  We have quite a few of them this week.  These are like notches - they help you line up your seams and they also mark where to start/stop different types of sewing.

There are two ways to mark dots.  One is to make a small clip on the edge of the fabric next to the dot.  This works great for dots that help you line up seams and tell you when to start/stop.  Since that's what our dots are for, we'll use this method.


The other method involves making a mark with thread or a marking tool.  This is the method to use when marking where another pattern part, such as a pocket on the front of a shirt, goes.

Starting this week, I am going to assume the reader now has basic pattern reading skills - way to go!!  I will only be giving instructions when we get to a new technique or something that we haven't done before on the blog.

Before you begin, remember:
1.  Use a ball point number 11 sewing machine needle.
2.  Move your machine down to a slower speed until you get the hang of #3.
3.  Let the machine move the fabric through - NO pushing/pulling and making wavy, distorted seams.
4.  Use a zigzag stitch for sewing seams.  I use the default setting on the Brother.

Okay - here we go!

1.  The step is gathering the front of your shirt.  You are going to be sewing between the two dots I have marked with pins, below.


Set a straight stitch to the longest stitch you have - #5 on the Brother I use.  Sew 3/8 inch below the edge of the pattern and then sew again right inside that stitching (toward the fabric edge).


Pull two of the thread ends that are next to each other up together just a little bit.  Pull the other two thread ends up just a little bit and move the gathers along the sewing to even them out.  You can pull them up more later, if needed.

2.  When you sew the front to back at the shoulder seams, add a piece of satin ribbon exactly where you will sew the seam.  This prevents your shoulder seams from getting stretched out.  If you have any T's from more expensive stores, they probably have either this or plastic sewn on this seam.


After you get all the seams sown, it's a good time to try it on and see how it's fitting.  If you adjust the side seams, remember to adjust the sleeve seam, also.  If you adjust the shoulder seam, adjust the neck band the same amount.

3.  When you move on to the neck band, notice the side of the pattern tells you to use a 3/8 inch seam.

We're going to change the neck band a bit.  I hate raw seams sticking out along the neckline, so we're going to make this neck band more of a facing.

After you stitch the center seam together, pin only one side of the band to the neckline (matching notches and dots - you may need to pull your gathering threads up a bit to make the shirt edge fit on the neck band).  Sew this in a 3/8 inch seam.


Now, press the seam up toward the neck band.  Fold the free edge of the neck band under about 1/4 inch and pin it on the seam line.


Sew the neck band down with a blind hem stitch.  I don't like to machine stitch facings or hems on knits.  Hand stitching makes them lie nice and flat with no waves.  It's tricky to achieve the same with machine stitching.





The "blind" part of this stitch is achieved if you just barely pick up a loop of fabric on the main part of the garment (lilac, here) and the hem (violet).  In any case, don't take up too much fabric on the garment side or your hem stitches will show on the front.





4.  Setting in sleeves.  The key here is to pay attention to your notches!  If you match a single notch to a double notch, you'll put your sleeve on backwards.  Been there.  Make sure you have right sides of the fabric together - for some reason this is the place that slips by on me.  Double check everything before you sew - taking out sleeves is time consuming.

I match the dot to the shoulder seam, match the notches and even out the gathers, and then pin the rest. 

For your sleeve hem, you are going to sew along the edge with a bigger zigzag stitch than you've been using for the seams.  On the Brother, I use a 3/4.  This is a good time to use the free arm on your sewing machine.


Don't turn this hem under.  It'll add bulk and ruin the line of your sleeves.  Turn up and sew in place with a blind hem stitch.

5.  You have two choices on the bottom hem.  You can stitch along the edge with a zigzag as you did on the sleeve hem.  Or, if you have very thin, stretchy material (like I have), you can give it more stability by using hem tape.  The downside is that your hem will not have much stretch - so if you anticipate the bottom of your shirt being snug, don't use the hem tape.  I like loose, more tunic-like fits so I don't need much stretch at the bottom.  Just like with the sleeve hems, don't turn the fabric under before you sew the hem.  This adds too much bulk with knits.

Pin the hem tape about 1/4 inch over your hem on the right side of the fabric.


Turn your hem up, pin, and blind hem stitch in place.


I'm not sewing the skirts or pants yet, but looking over the instructions, it looks like these are all skills we've covered.  There are pockets - the pattern sheet does a good job of explaining how to put them in.  Hmm - have we talked about basting?  That just means to temporarily sew the seam with the longest stitch on your machine (use a straight stitch).

If you're like me and love knit clothes and want to have a wider choice of knits than the fabric stores usually offer, tune in starting on Monday and learn how to dye and print your own designs.

Happy Creating!  Deborah

2 comments:

  1. Debra, thank you for your tutorials. They are extremely easy to understand. My compliments on everything you design. Absolutely wonderful.

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