Using Knits When the Pattern Calls for Wovens

Join us in welcoming Shelly Figueroa of Figgy's Patterns for today's post about sewing with knits!

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I love knits first and foremost because how they feel against my skin and secondly for the drape.  I try to design most patterns using woven fabrics because sewing with woven is an easy way for those just learning to sew.  As I look around the Internet, I see more people jumping in and falling in love with knits, and that gives me so much joy.  Thanks to companies like Robert Kaufman, we are seeing more and more fabulous knits coming out of production.  A big thank you also to RK for hosting my little tips today and for giving me more knits to love!

I'd like to talk about how to use knit fabric with a sewing pattern made for woven fabrics. My first advice is to test this out using a children's pattern.  Most children don't have a ton of curves and haven't developed in ways a woman has so there isn't a ton of altering needed.  However, there are still things to keep in mind.

First, select a knit that isn't too stretchy.  I would stick with cotton jersey and avoid knits with Lycra or Spandex.  Spandex and Lycra have a lot of stretch and are usually quite slippery.  If this is your first time working with knit fabric or your first time using knit as an alternative to woven, it may be helpful to stick with a knit that doesn't stretch from one room to the next. Just remember the more stretch you have in the knit, the end result will be more drape and loose looking.  Here are a few examples of makers that used knit with the Figgy's Sunki dress pattern.

Second, if the pattern has a lot of details such as gathers, pin tucks, or other design elements that require a woven fabric you may want to consider altering the pattern a bit. Thicker knits will not show off those design elements the way a woven fabric will.  I was surprised to see many Sunki patterns on Pinterest that have been constructed with knit,  because that particular pattern has a lot of tailored touches; however, I did notice little changes made to each one to accommodate the knit.

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Deux Souriceaux actually combined two patterns for this adorable dress.

By taking the top half of the Beach Boat Neck by Blank Slate patterns she eliminated the gathers at the shoulder and the overlap but added the bottom half using the Sunki to still give it the desired look she was after.  I think it turned out amazing!

 

MCPB altered the sleeve to have little tucks instead of the gathers at the shoulder to help eliminate bulk.  I was quite impressed with her use of a zipper with this jersey knit and has inspired me to try one myself for Ofelia!

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Lou from "Wotsybaby" eliminated the zipper and downsized to accommodate for the stretch in her knit for this cute Sunki. 

She kept the overlap at the shoulder but eliminated the gathers on the sleeve.  Her daughter was thrilled to have such a stylish dress but with added coziness.

 

 

 

When you've decided to go for it and use a knit for your next pattern measure the flat pattern first.  Depending on the seam allowance you may find that simply sewing one size smaller will be the only adjustment you'll need to make.  An example would be your daughter has a chest measurement of 24" and on the back of the sewing pattern she is a size 6/7 but you measure the pattern and notice after subtracting a 5/8" seam allowance on all seams the pattern is 26" you may want that one size smaller because the knit will be looser fitting than a woven and she could look a little lost in the end result. Another option is just eliminate the ease from the pattern and then adjust from there.  It's always better to be too big than too small!!

On most woven patterns necklines will either have a facing or a full lining.  You may get to avoid both of these by simply turning the neckline and topstitching because most knits don't fray and will still look professional by just turning and stitching.  A double needle works great for this type of finish.  Also, consider a binding or rib trim like the Sunki made by Lou; she skipped adding the facings and instead chose to use 2 rib knit trims instead.  By doing this she gave the dress a real sporty feel.

Another amazing thing about knits is you may not even need to hem the garment!  This is all personal preference. For me it depends on the garment, I love a nice raw edge look on the  Seraphic Maxi Skirt to give it a little bohemian touch, but I don't think it would look very nice on the bottom hem on the Sunki. 

Let's make something!!

I've decided to use the Ethereal Pattern to change up a what could be a very formal dressy blouse to a fun every day school shirt.  My niece is on the small size of 4/5 so I've traced and cut out the size 2/3 because the Ethereal is nice and roomy and I don't want her to get lost in the fabric.  I also did not cut out facings or a lining and will explain why below.

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I always check or change my sewing needle first before each project to be sure and have the correct needle size and type in place.  When sewing knits you'll want to use either a ballpoint needle or stretch needle.  Which one is the best one you ask?  A ballpoint needle is generally used for heavier, looser sweater knits and stretch needle for highly elastic fabrics, like Spandex, or Lycra.  They both have rounded points that penetrate between fabric threads rather than pierce them. (Stretch-needle point is slightly less rounded than ballpoint.) 

Just make sure to test-stitch knits with ballpoint and stretch needles to see which yields the best results. If ballpoint skips stitches, try stretch needle instead!


The Ethereal pattern uses a facing</a> when sewing the garment with sleeves or for the sleeveless version it's fully lined, but because I'm using knit I've decided to just add a band to the neckline and the sleeve openings instead.  I used my serger and rolled hemmed the edge of the flounce.  If you don't own a serger you can leave the flounce raw edged or turn the raw edge 1/4" and topstitch.  When sewing with knits you'll need to change the stitch on your sewing machine to a zig zag setting and adjust the length to 3.0 and the width to 1.0. 

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I've sewn the flounce in place and attached the back bodice at the shoulders only.

I've tried the top on my niece to make sure the opening is wide enough to go over her head.  If it's too tight, I suggest trimming the neck edge by 1/8 - 1/4" then try it on again.  To make the neck band simply measure the neck opening and subtract 1/2".  My neck edge measured 19.5".  Be careful not to stretch the neck opening while measuring.  I want a thin neck band so I've cut a 19" x 1.5" band. Sew the neck band with a 1/2" seam allowance.  My band is now 18" x 1.5". Right sides together sew the strip to make a circular band.


Next, we can pin the neckband to the shirt, but first we need to mark some key points to match up. Begin by placing a pin at the seam of the neckband; this will match up with the center bodice back. Find the shoulder point of your neckband by looking at the shirt neckline, then mimic the shape with your band. You will have to guess a bit here because the front neckline is a bit longer than the back. Place a pin at the folded point that you determined to be the opposite shoulder. Find the center front by folding the band in half, matching the shoulder points. This will give you the centers of the front  of the band, and you can mark this with pins, too. Also mark the center front and center back on the shirt neckline, with a disappearing-ink marker or pins.

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 Pin the band with the <em>right</em> side facing the wrong side of the shirt and stitch together using 3/8" seam allowance.  You will gently stretch the neckband to match the width of the shirt.  Be sure not to stretch the shirt and only the band.  Trim the seam allowance being careful not to trim the seam and pull the neckband up.  Press the seam allowance (that little bit left over) up towards the raw edge of the band. 

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At this point you have two options.  You can simply fold over the band and stitch in place leaving the edge raw or fold the raw edge 1/4" and press then fold again a top the seam and topstitch.  Normally I go for a raw edge of these hearts seem to need a more professional looks so I'm going to press, fold and stitch.  The great thing about the Robert Kaufman knits is that press so nicely.  There are a lot of knits that won't hold a press but RK knits behave nicely.

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I decided to just turn the raw edges along the sleeve opening just to see how it'd look and I think it came out very nicely.  You could instead bind the sleeve opening or use the same method as you did with the neckline and add a trim.  Complete the rest of the Ethereal as instructed in the booklet and you'll have a really cozy, sporty shirt!  I think this a great alternative to the T-shirt, what about you?!



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