07 February 2014

Sewing with Knit - My Scary First Step

Yesterday week I finally achieved something I've been wanting to do for a long time.  I sewed a knit fabric … I made a tshirt.  I don't know why, but knit fabrics have always scared me.  I was finally inspired to take the plunge when I found this tutorial by Ask Sarah.  I'd thought about drafting my own tshirt pattern, but it just seemed so overwhelming getting the fit right, and dealing with negative ease and other thoroughly baffling drafting concepts.

I started with a favourite tshirt, and used Sarah's technique for creating a pattern on paper.  I took photos of this step, but managed to lose them before I could upload them.  I thought about recreating the photos to include in this post, but Sarah already had some really clear photos of this step.  This is what the carefully pinned tshirt looked like …

Once I had the pinned outline, I used my drafting ruler to carefully mark the lines then add seam allowance (3/8" for the seams and 1" for hem on body and sleeve).  I bought a lovely knit fabric from Rolls and Rems in Holloway.  Just to make things complicated, it is a stripe!  In hindsight, this was a bit silly.  It was also a really light, soft, fluid knit, which was REALLY silly to choose.  I carefully folded the fabric (trying to line up those stripes), then I pinned and cut the pattern pieces.

As you can see from the above photo, the stripe was really hard to line up.  I ended up with the stripes very slightly off kilter.

Before we get onto the sewing part, I thought I'd share a photo of how I like to work when I'm sewing. I don't have a dedicated sewing space, and usually set up on one end of the dining room table.  This picture shows my overlocker (serger) on the table, with my usual sewing tools I like to keep handy.

I drop all my scraps of thread and fabric into that little plastic box as I sew.  It keeps things really neat.  If I'm doing something that generates a lot of scraps, I keep a waste bin under the table, but this is usually big enough.

Once I had all the pieces cut, I sewed the front and back pieces together at the shoulder seams.  For posterity, I've included a photo of my very first knit seam …

My overlocker seemed to work really well with this fabric.  It wasn't pulling or puckering, and I only had to make some minor adjustments to tension.  If you are having trouble with tension, this tutorial by Make it Handmade is really handy.  It is also helpful to look at your own overlocker's user manual.

Once the shoulder seams were done, I cut a strip of fabric 1.5" wide to be the neckband.  the stretch runs along the length of the fabric (not the 1.5" width).  I used this brilliant video tutorial from Threads Magazine for attaching the neckband.  I really wanted to have the strips in the neckband going in the opposite direction to the body of the tshirt, but unfortunately the fabric only stretched in one direction.  Again, not a great choice of fabrics.  As the fabric was so flimsy and hard to control, my neckband is a bit wonky.

The next step was to attach the sleeves.  I marked the front of the sleeve using chalk, just to make sure I attached it to the correct side of the tshirt, then I pinned and overlocked the seam.  The pattern I drafted from my original tshirt was slightly different to the front and back of the sleeve.  I'm not sure if it's supposed to be like this, but it's how mine turned out.

I pressed my seams and turned the tshirt inside out.  I then overlocked the seams on both sides from the end of the sleeve, to the armpit, then down to the hem.  This was really exciting, because it was almost a tshirt.  I resisted the temptation to try it on and moved onto the hems.  The hems were a bit frustrating to sew.  I've never used a twin needle before and I had trouble getting the tension and stitch length right.  I googled a few tutorials and found that a long stitch length was recommended and this seemed to work better.  I found the fabric between the two stitch lines puckered a little, but it pressed out OK.

The hem isn't perfect, and I'd really like to see how this works on a more stable knit fabric.  It was probably, again, down to the fabric choice.

Here's the finished tshirt:

The fit turned out a bit tighter than I had planned, and there's something slightly funky going on in the underarm seam, but overall it turned out well.  I would wear this, but I'm not completely in love with it.

All up this project took me about four hours.  Drafting the pattern took about two hours, and the cutting and sewing took about two hours.  In reality this project has taken me about four months.  I bought the fabric way before Christmas and drafted the pattern in a burst of enthusiasm.  I then kept eyeing that fabric and thinking how difficult it was going to be.  It was such a soft, fluid knit that I knew it wasn't going to behave itself.  In truth, it wasn't too bad.  The neckline was the most difficult part, closely followed by lining up those stripes.  I definitely want to sew with knit again, perhaps perfect my tshirt pattern, but I will definitely choose my fabric more carefully next time.

1 comment:

  1. wow its very nice, i'm using the same tutorial you did and followed your link to the comment here. it's good to see it put into working perspective so thanks for posting pictures!