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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Stashbusting Sewalong - the Knits Month Posts!

Place Holder for KNITS MONTH POSTS

My final project will post next Monday - I have muslined it up, but I want to make it my first garment in the PR endless combinations contest ( ) so I have to wait to cut until the 1st.

March 1, 2016
It's Knits Month!
According to the interweb we are all intimidated by knits - but TBH I have always been fearless (to occasional great success and frequent thrift store donation). This month I am going to bust some knits out of my stash - if you choose to join the theme, come a long with me!

To start - what patterns do you have in your stash? I started a board -

March 3, 2016
Did the Pinterest Board give you any ideas? (
If you are new to knits, and not ready to invest, here are a few free patterns that I recommended:

Deer and Doe - Plantain Tee…/20-plantain-t-shirt-pattern.h…
(a great starter T shirt Pattern, works well for curvy bodies - and many hack ideas are available on The Internet - try searching images for "plantain pattern deer and doe" Pinterest is a great source for ideas on this pattern too)
Peek A Boo Patterns - Janey Jump Around Dress
(great girl's dress: I have made 6 or 8 of these dresses - it's a perfect little ditty - I can whip one up in less than 2 hours from dryer to hanger)

Oliver & S - Sunny Day Shorts
(Boys' Shorts)
And if you just want to dig around - there are a number of excellent free patterns through Deby's site So Sew Easy
I know that several of our group have made the Lindy Petal Skirt from Itch to Stitch - I haven't, but I am confident in the validity of the reviews I have seen.…/

There are quite a few other free patterns - I will go to the Pinterest Board and comment free on the ones I see there (or if you are pinning and know it is a free pattern, please mark it as free)

Next Up: Identifying the Knits in your stash - and sorting them out.

March 8, 2016There are so many types of knits fabrics in the big wide stash that choosing which is the proper knit to use in a project can be as difficult as sorting your stash.

So, we start with the basic knit identification tips:
- Where woven fabrics have a hash tag layout #, knits have a ₩ look. I'll attach a zoom in photo to show you. So, get out your magnifying glass.

- At the end of the photo set is a picture with instructions with measuring for %stretch - often on a commercial pattern package you will see a "fabric must stretch from here to here" chart. You should become accustomed to measuring stretch both cross grain and straight grain (parallel and perpendicular to the selvage).

- fabric content - hot tip - take a picture of the end of the bolt when you buy fabric - my stash predates digital photos, so that's mostly out for me, but there are lots of instructions on the Internet for testing for content (I don't have a great record for caring what content is in fabric).

-shrink test your fabric - knit patterns typically don't have a lot (or use negative) ease, so knowing the recovery, stretch, shrinkage of a fabric is important - wash a sample a few times (cut a square with specific dimensions - 10x10 cms is my usual - and then measure it when you are done drying it - then you can calculate the shrinkage) you can also check colour fastness and pilling at the same time.

- next we look at recovery and drape

March 11, 2016
After stretch %, Recovery and Drape are what makes a difference on selecting appropriate stash knits for a project.
Recovery - synonym: Elasticity. If you stretch it, does it return to the original shape and size? Imagine a range of BodySuit to Sleeveless Undershirt. A great test is the Poke Test - take a known size piece of fabric in both hands and drive your thumbs into the fabric like you are trying to get into a bag of chocolate. Scrunch it, twist it, poke it and then drop it like it's hot. How does it look? What size is it now? If it goes back to the original shape and size - it's likely Body Suit recovery level. If it looks like a topographic map - that's more like undershirt recovery level.

You have to use your imagination with judging the recovery of fabric for projects - where does the fabric lie on your body? How much ease is in the pattern, will the fabric slide over a joint (elbow, knee) or will you be stretching the fabric all day? Sleeveless undershirts need only a touch of recovery - when you bend forward it should recover. Body Suits will end up looking like a fat suit if you don't use fabric with recovery. Remember, Knit patterns might go so far as having NEGATIVE ease - this is why boyfriends don't like girlfriends wearing their favorite shirts - the girls can stretch out the chest and you end up giving your boyfriend a baggy chest.

Drape - How does the fabric fall? Is it gravity defying? Picture a dance skirt - poor drape makes a tutu, great drape makes a dance skirt - both skirts are gathered, but the drape effect changes the outcome. If you need the fabric to skim the body, then increased drape is important - this isn't unique to knits by any means, but it can be overlooked. Keep the tutu in mind - are you going to gather the knit? - what looks great as a sweatshirt (because it has more ease and hangs away from the body) might look silly as a skirt.

next up - needles, interfacing, and thread - Oh My!

March 15, 2016
I hope some of you have started attacking your knits plans - I whipped up a gorgeous StyleArc Emily and was led down the garden path by M7127 (you can look it up on pattern review - yeesh!) - I am trying to find my TNT (Tried and True) top pattern to blow out some of my pretty knits. - What have you completed so far?
So - Needles - they are what separate the tryers from the doers in sewing and can 'make' or 'break' a project (oh! so clever!)
There's a fantastic info summary on…/apparel-…/all-about-needles
We are focused on two needle types for our knits (size 80 needles will handle a typical knit, delicate fine knits need a smaller number, heavy dense knits need a bigger number):

Jersey/Ballpoint needles have a medium tip designed to slip between the knit fibers (will not break the fibres).

Stretch needles also have a medium ballpoint tip, but these have a special eye and scarf (thread slot) that are designed for especially stretchy fabrics and elastic (in these fabrics the threads will stretch rather than separate and you can end up with skipped stitches) Swimwear - and often slinky - needs this type of needle.

Thread! argue at will - I like a good thread - Coats and I have parted ways as the mercerized wrap seems to hate my tensioner discs in my machine.
You can use all cotton, mercerized, polyester - all of these work just fine. If your thread breaks while you stitch or when you try to stretch your seam (but you aren't skipping stitches), change your thread. You should be using a stretch stitch (a zigzag, double stitch, or lightning stitch).

Interfacing. It matters.
Yes, you will use interfacing in many knit projects. There is knit interfacing - use it if you pattern suggests it - you will produce a longer lasting, better lying, resilient garment. If you skip it, you will regret it.

Extra Interfacing and Stabilizer ideas? Patterns often skip the extras, but interfacing a zipper will improve your garment result, as will stabilizing your hemlines - we recently discussed Pellon and other knit stabilizer tape (in a comment string) I will attach a couple photos for your reference.
Here's the link to the conversation:…/stashbusting20…/924643654298694/…

Finally, clear elastic (skinny like a ribbon) - it is great to add to horizontal seams that need to recover their shape - especially shoulder seams. Pull out some RTW and check to see if they have them in your garments - I have scavenged some out of garments where they used it for hanger strings. You stitch right through it and forget it.

Next up - pinning, cutting, basting.  (more below the comments)

Melissa Evans Thanks Heather Dawson. I just read a blog post on the difference between jersey and stretch needles, and she basically couldn't find a good answer after her research and testing. Your brief description is far and away more enlightening. I need to up my knit game when it comes to hems. I have a few things I need to try.
LikeReply115 March at 15:12
Heather Dawson Epiphany!!! I was just sewing my elastic stabilizer into my shoulder seam and the thread broke. I was using a ball point needle. I switched it out for a stretch needle and no thread breaks!
LikeReply115 March at 22:14
Heather Dawson I KNEW what needed changing!
LikeReply115 March at 22:15
Heather Dawson

Write a reply...
Janina von Weissenberg Ballpoint for knits yes but I wonder if I've even seen stretch needles..
Heather Dawson This is the badly drafted shoulder of m7127
Heather Dawson Clear Elastic stabilizer in the shoulder seam
Heather Dawson I use wooly nylon in the looper and regular thread in the needles on my serger.

March 17, 2016
Ack! We are half-way through the month! Have you tackled at least one of your stashed knits? I am in pursuit of a go-to t shirt pattern and not there yet. My latest project went off the rails, but I am converting into a knit shell to at least not waste the yardage. I have a gorgeous Art Gallery Knit ( that is meant to be a top by the 31st - I have to get crackin'! I am not wasting the fabric on an untried pattern, so I have at least two more tops to make this month!

Pinning / Cutting

I have long been a non-pinner (militant, maybe?) but my newer machine has all sorts of gizmos around the foot and I am finding that my knuckles fared better when I started adding a pin or two - so I now have an opinion on pins:I like some of them, sometimes.

You should test your pins on knits - I know that sounds OCD, but it's true - knits don't like having holes poked in them, so you should make sure your pins are knit friendly. I don't think you absolutely have to go out and invest in fine ball point pins, but next time you have a 50% off coupon or someone asks you what you want for a gift - try out some fine glass head pins. They are dreamy. Test to make sure that your pins don't leave permanent holes in your fabric and that your pins don't cut/tear the fibres of your knits.

As with all fabrics, the gorgeous movement and personality of the drapier fabrics can make them a terrible thing to cut. I use rotary blades to cut my knits and many of you prefer scissors - and both work just fine, but a dull blade will result in a creeping knit.

By creeping I mean:

a) when cutting two layers the top layer and the bottom layer will misalign

b) the fabric will not remain relaxed and will stretch as you cut.

When you cut knits there are a few things that can help (note that I am not saying you have to do these - but precision cutting leads to precision garments - it's worth the time if the garment is worth the time):

a) pinning carefully is one thing and for fitted knits you probably need to pin on the precision seams - princess seams especially - take care to make sure the fabric stays in place around the vertical seams especially - bust point, pocket openings, etc

b) weights - lots and lots of weights (I made some cute bean bags a few years ago to use as pattern weights - I'll attach a photo)

c) cut cut break - meaning let your fabric relax between cutting movements - cut until you start to see a shift (you will notice it at the pins) then release the fabric from your blade to let it relax again

d) cut out 1 layer at a time (yuck.) the plushier the fabric the greater the shift - so for those lovely, luxe springy knits - suck it up and do twice the work - it will make a more precise garment.


Part of Cutting is marking the guide points and notches. I like to use thread for marking on the garment - and I notch with a tiny snip on less delicate knits - on delicate knits I mark the notches with a chalk roller (it has a wheel with bumps so the knit doesn't creep). Very likely you will need to add banding to your knits, so take a second and mark the centre front, back and midway of the sleeve hem. Chalk paper works as well, but I find that the markings can be hard to remove from knits.

I ALWAYS BASTE (see creeping knits above)
On my garments that are worth the time - I baste and then serge. If I don't care as much - I might go straight to the serger on a straight seam. If there is any fitting, easing, gathering, or if the seam is curved in any way - baste it first, check it, and then sew.

Next up: seams and hems, bands and bindings.

Tiny Dancer Midnight in Knit, K-47202, Knits, Product Catalog, Art Gallery Fabrics

March 22, 2015:
I had planned to chat about seams, bands and bindings, but the Internet distracted me and I have a few neat things to share first:

On the weekend Gillian posted a great post on her Tshirt adventures:…/19/types-of-t-shi…/

and followed up with another post:…/types-of-t-shirts…/

I have been hot in pursuit of a new Tried and True T and have been searching my stash - I have the Bronte, Plaintain, and Seamwork Rio to sew before the end of the month to meet my target for the month: a go-to T - but Gillian has me thinking that maybe I might have 3 go-to tees..... (perfect: a stash of go-tos for a stasher)

Here is a blog post on some hotly pursued independent patterns:…/top-10-t-shirt-patterns-ind…


Next Up: seams, bands and bindings

March 29, 2015:
March 29 already! Have you made a dent in your knit stash at all?

My current pursuit is knit training pants for my son and nephew and I am really using my knits skills - doing research for these posts have really upped my game - I am so happy with my improvement in March (ad all my test garments have used up a heck of a lot of my scraps and stash!

In all of the following treatments it is important that you test your stitches:
  • check for wavy seamlines, 
  • watch for tunneling 
  • test the stretch (remember our stretch test using the ruler? make sure you have at least enough stretch to make it to zero ease from the negative ease) 
Twin Needles are a nice stretch finish - Linda has a really nice intro to twin needle sewing:

Knits stretch, so the seam should stretch as much as your garment will be asked. There are some guidelines for ensuring your seam CAN stretch, and the main principal is ensuring there is enough thread to BE stretched.

Many machines have a range of stretch stitches (and often they are indicated by a different paint colour or marked on your machine).

The phrase "The shortest distance between two points is a straight line" is our knits seam antithesis: we want to increase the distance - using a zigzag, back and forth (double or triple stitch), lightning, or serged stitch. Many people DO use a straight stitch on knits, but it is important that you consider whether you are going to ask the seam to stretch - if you are - make sure you reinforce the seam with a second row of stitching and consider using a thread with stretch, like a polyester.

Hems and Bands
Hems, similarly need to stretch. On fabrics that like to tunnel, I add a strip of knit seam tape to the stitching line to support the threads' tension and have no issues with wobbly hemlines. I usually add the seam tape to the wrong side of the fabric close to the raw edge and use the edge of the tape as the fold guide - leaving the right side of the garment with no tape. This also prevents the rolling of the fabric and gives a tidy finish.

Bands are stretchy - bands are especially useful when you want the opening to be snug - usually you cut a band slightly smaller (20%, often) than the opening and stretch the band (and do not stretch the opening) as you sew. Necklines use bands too: stretching the band just right, and not the opening will result in a neckline that lies flat - less stretch will create a standup collar. There are a million guides to sewing necklines - this one is a good example:

Wrapping the edge of fabric is called binding and is another neckline and hemline treatment. Typically you will attach a piece of banding to the raw edge (with raw edges together) and then press the band towards the raw edge, then from the wrong side, press the banding to encase the raw edge and finally top stitch. Here's a good instruction set with lots of pictures:

So! this is the end of Knits Month! I will copy all the posts over to