Knit fabrics and forgiving fibers

Knit fabrics can be a very forgiving fabric to sew with.  The degree of stretch (how much the fabric can be pulled out and recover from) make fitting a garment to your individual shape a bit easier. I have a knit twill skirt that has box pleats and low recovery, it was a bad choice but the print was so much fun I went against my better judgment. When I wear this skirt, at the end of the day it’s pleats are a bit saggy and the garment is heavy. However it has vintage Bakelite buttons and pockets so in the closet rotation it stays. Stretch and recovery vary from fabric to fabric but the overall  structure of knit (the loops and chains instead of the x and y-axis of woven fabrics) help reduce fraying and makes the wearing ease flexible and a useful material to master.

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Knit fabrics can seem scary to sew with but to wear they can be quite forgiving. Giving this versatile fabric a try might be a bit easier with these tools and tips. http://www.laurendurrdesign.com

The patterns that call for knit fabric usually have negative ease calculated into the pattern measurements unlike with woven you have an average ease of an added 3-4 inches for your measurements. Sometimes when you cut out your size (that you have measured your body for, don’t use your store size, please) the paper may seem a bit small, that is negative ease. Your chosen fabric will stretch on your form, unlike woven fabric which must be fit to your form with seams, darts and design lines.

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Just a few of my knits, a brown textured jersey, grey/black sweatshirt, pink waffle, print jersey and red interlock.

Knits also come in many different substrates (the base fabric that is printed on, dyed or knit) and some of the names may be regional. Tee shirts are often sewn in an interlock, jersey or tissue weight jersey. Some of the more stable knits that are stretchy but not as much as interlock are ponte de roma, sweatshirt knit, sweatshirt terry, fleece, and scuba knit. Then there are the knits we use in lingerie and athletic sewing like power mesh, tulle Leonardo, swimwear lining, swimwear lycra, dance lycra (which might have more foils and shiny treatments than swim), nude mesh and some nylon tricots (pronounced tree coat, tricot has a bit of mechanical stretch but not much recovery).

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Some of my nylon tricots, black in front and pinks and corals in back

There are some wovens that behave like a medium weight knit because they have added into the weave fibers like lycra, spandex or polyester. Some of these would be called stretch denim, stretch twill, stretch shirting, and stretch velvet. These substrates do have some fraying tendencies so treating your seam allowance is necessary.

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Swimwear knit can be shiny and sparkly like the black and navy or more matte lithe the print and light orange. It also comes in different weights or thickness.

When sewing knit fabrics on your machine there are needles you need to use called ballpoint or stretch needles. They have different numbered sizes for light to heavy weight fabrics. They are a necessity because the tip of the needle is rounded and will push though the loops and chains instead of cutting them. If you forget to use the right needle you will notice your seams begin to wear out and tear at the stitched thread line.

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Some of the tools I use when stitching knit fabrics are my twin needles to give it that professional cover stitch finish, and my walking foot.

Machine wise you don’t have to have a serger, a straight stitch lengthened or a zigzag stitch will work well. Many of my projects are made on my sewing machine with a zigzag. One tool for your machine that is very helpful with sewing knits is the accessory foot called a walking foot. When your fabric is fed through the machine it is lightly gripped by feed dogs, those grippy teeth like things below the foot. The walking foot has  extra feed dogs on the foot so that both the top and bottom fabric are fed equally. Another way to reduce the drag from the presser foot is to reduce it’s downward pressure. Each machine is different and may or may not allow this, look in your manual or online for tips.

Knit clothing items are some of the most forgiving of all the sewing garments, I think because the fiber stretches giving you up to an inch or more of wiggle room. Understanding the proper tools and tips will get you started with this versatile substrate. The forgiving fibers in knits stretch around your form, fitting you and giving room to breath. Some give and recover their shape very quickly and easily, these usually have more spandex and lycra content (the end of the bolt of fabric will sometimes tell you the percentage). When you make a pair of underwear for instance you want enough spandex or lycra that while you wear them throughout the day they don’t sag down your bum (trust me I have made this mistake).

When you have to hang it up and wait

I have posted about my first and most fabulous Harrison Shirt by Cashmerette Patterns. I made it out of Art Gallery Denim Collection and it is washing and wearing well (except for a little extra wrinkling in the collar but I think that’s a fusible interfacing issue)

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The story of putting a project away and waiting till the right supplies arrive. http://www.laurendurrdesign.com

I had a few yards of black double gauze and half a yard of a japanese print double gauze that I though would be an interesting version #2 with contrast back, cuffs, collar and button placket. Sadly the colors didn’t work for me, one was deep navy and the other true black. Maybe this should have been my first sign to change ideas but I persevered on.

After the new year I reorganized my sewing room (even well-organized places need a refresh after all) and had all my fabrics easily accessible based on what I was most likely to sew often. This unearthed a fine wale corduroy that I had purchased for the big kid probably four years ago or so, back when she still liked pink. Oh how things have changed. A lightbulb went off! Oh what about pink and black and pearl snap buttons!!! And at this point if you are wondering if I have western boots to go with this glorious concoction of contrasts the answer is yes, yes I do. They are grey with rainbow stitching and I found them at a thrift store for eleven bucks, I love treasure hunting.

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So I began, body of the shirt to be black double gauze, back yolk and all little bits were going to be this corduroy print.

Everything was ok the fabrics were playing well together, they have a velcro like stick to each other capacity so less pins. But the corduroy shifts, and warps. Could be user error, not on straight grain or could be a sub par substrate (that is what the base fabric is called). I continued on and used my nifty new Tula Pink Surgical Seam ripper often. Did you know that it’s hard to seam rip black thread on black fabric? I think in the future I will go with navy or a deep grey as my glasses and Ott light didn’t help, I wonder if it was like that black paint and absorbing all the light so I couldn’t see?

Then I run out of black thread, sort of. I later realized I have cones of black serger thread but that’s ok, I went to one of our local independent retailers and found high quality thread (yes thread matters, listen here and find out why) and some seam tape for a future bra. I was on track to finish this shirt in time for my weekend. This project is a lesson in not rushing through.

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My super cute light pink Dritz pearl snaps I bought on sale from WaWak were right where I needed them thanks to my organizing overhaul. I began with a cuff because if I mess up, there is less visual impact. Then where is my snap setter? Can’t find it anywhere. I have an eyelet press, a leather punch and no snap setter, seems wrong to me. Thank goodness for JoAnn’s coupons, in less than 30 minutes I have what I need and hammer away.

It’s not working. The prongs aren’t catching, try again with a new set, and it looks like I have it. I set the mate with no problem, woo hoo! I snap them together, nice tight fit, oh very tight, oh guess I need to pull harder (this is going to be challenging to do up or undo the front) and POP! The pearl back snap has popped off. GRRR. Ok I post a picture and my dilemma on one of my favorite FB groups and ask for help, we all need help sometimes. Prongs are probably too short for my fabrics. SIGH

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I kept the grainy photos because it truly captures how I feel about not finishing this shirt. hoo-hum, whawhaaa, sad trombone

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This shirt is going to be awesome. When I have the right snaps or buttons, I don’t know what it is going to be at this time, but I do know that I don’t need to force it any further. I have a fun shirt that will be finished when the time is right and not a moment before. So there it hangs. I am happy with the fit and will not settle for notions that do not fit or function in a way that make it a pleasure to wear.

What is the longest you’ve had a project sit and wait for the final touches?