So have you guys been watching The Great British Sewing Bee? I can’t believe it finished last night? No spoilers here i case you haven’t seen it! But thoughts about who won? I was a bit surprised if I’m honest. Anyway, sorry, not the point of the post! I really enjoyed the show, but was in a bit of disbelief about the number of fabrics or techniques that the contestants were unsure about! I’ve only been sewing just over a year and so felt shocked that I often knew something that they didn’t.
One of my biggest shocks was when a few weeks ago most of them had a freak out when confronted with Jersey. Whaaaaaat? I LOVE jersey. I have made soooooo many clothes from jersey, and all of them made with a sewing machine, not an overlocker. Seriously, if you ask me every beginner should start with jersey. It’s not as scary as people think and within an hour or two you’ve got something wearable. It’s so quick! And so forgiving.
SO I’m on a mission to make you all love jersey and knit fabrics. I had a week off last week (absolute joy!) and after not having had much time to sew I took the opportunity to sew, sew, sew. I ended up making three jersey outfits! Because it’s soooo quick to sew with knits! I officially name this week ‘knit week’.
I do think that sewists are less scared by knits now, but I figured that if there are some people out there who are still scared maybe by showing you these (simple!) outfits and showing you how I made them you can feel able to give them a go yourself! Sarai has also put some fabulous tips up on the coletterie in prepration for her book release on this very subject – very exciting! Some of you might already know what to do when it comes to knit, so feel free to give me some more tips. I’m always eager to learn!
Ready to see what I made first?
I have had this grey rose fabric (yes, floral – what’s going on!) in my (growing) stash for months…. I was going through a monochrome phase when I bought it but had no real plans for it. When it arrived I felt like the print was a bit overwhelming… So I ignored it. I tried palming it off on my sister as a skirt, but even she wasn’t keen. Then I saw this post by Geneva at A pair and a Spare. I love this little skirt.
While I love the tartan, and want to make something from red tartan (it seems to be everywhere!), the thing that really caught my eye was the black back of the skirt. My mind immediately went to the rose fabric. Could this be a way to calm that busy fabric down?
Er, I think yes! I thought about making another gathered skirt or dress, but I didn’t want an overload of gathered dresses, plus the jersey is quite thin. In the end I decided to make a very simple dress with a more conservative neckline than the last one. I seem to make a lot of sleeveless/racerback dresses so I wanted to make something with more coverage round my shoulders. Inspired by the Anna dress by the By Hand girls I decided to lengthen the shoulder seam so that I had slight kimono sleeves.
The thing I love about Jersey is how simple your pattern can be, and how forgiving the fabric is! This pattern took me maybe half an hour to draft and cut out and maybe half an hour to sew up? Seriously, this was QUICK sewing! Wanna know how I made it?
The pattern was merely created using my own measurements, and transferring them to the pattern paper. It really is as simple as that. I do this by taking these measurements:
and the distance between them
When making a pattern for a knit fabric I always divide my measurements by two (halving them) and fold my pattern paper in half. Using the fold in the paper as the centre point, measure from here out to the various measurements you took. Draw the points together and you’ll end up with half a silhouette of your body. I seem to have lost my pattern for this one, so this is just s little sketch to give you an idea!
Depending on how tight you want the dress there is no need to add ease as knit fabrics are stretchy and will stretch to fit your body, and personally I like things tight and fitted. I’m comfortable with it being this tight, however I know that others might like some more wiggle room. I think adding an extra inch to all of the measurements would help to make it look more like a t-shirt dress, and less like a body con dress. I’m planning to make a version of this dress for my sister, and I think I might make it with some more ease added in to see what it might look like looser.
I also don’t really add a seam allowance. Again the stretchy nature of the fabric will compensate!
So, once all the measurements are on the paper you can cut the pattern out. Then when you open it out…. You have the entire dress in one pattern piece!
This is just my particular way of doing things because I don’t like to cut knit on the fold. If you cut knit off grain it can start to twist and pull in wierd ways so it’s important to get it right. For me, that’s easier to do if I can see the whole pattern piece on the fabric. That way you can line it all up and check it’s right. When it’s cut on the fold you have no idea if one side of the fabric has fallen off grain. I spend a lot of time on this part, just checking I’ve got it as perfect as I can – that way the stress is taken out later when you’re wearing it and it moves wierdly. You know that feeling when for some reason your top, or leggings keeps spinning to the side and you don’t know why? That’s cos it was cut off grain, and it’s soo annoying!
Checking the grain is right on knit fabrics is so easy as the ‘knit’ pattern runs right down the fabric, so just line up your straight edges with this and you’re good to go!
Do you see it?? Sorry for the horrible knit, I had to find something that would show up the pattern easily in a photo.
A note on cutting out the fabric: MAKE SURE THE STRETCH IS ACROSS THE BODY!!!!! IF it’s the wrong way, nothing in the world will squeeze you into the dress! (unless you have four way stretch….)
So, another reason why knit is so cool? NO DARTS! and this dress has only 2 pattern pieces! Talk about quick sewing!
There are a couple of things I REALLY suggest you get if you’re working with jersey – a twin needle, and a walking foot. You can totally work without either of these things – I did for a while. But, having a walking foot makes everything better. The amazing thing about jersey is that it’s stretchy. But that’s also it’s frustrating bit! It can mean that when you use a normal sewing foot the bottom layer of fabric will be moved along as usual, but the top layer of fabric is more likely to stretch, as there is nothing to move this layer of fabric along as you sew. Meaning you can end up with some crazy wavy seams and hems. It is NOT a good look. It can end up looking like this…
The walking foot makes sure both layers of fabric move at the same time – no stretching! They are expensive though, and they are noisy and make for slower sewing. But, trust me, they are worth it! I ALWAYS use mine. In fact I usually leave it on for everything I make. I only wish I could attach a zipper foot to it, that’s why I’ve started handpicking most of my zips on stretch fabric!
Anyway!! Once you have these wonderful accessories just sew that baby up! You do not need to use a stretch stitch or a zig zag stitch on the side seams as nothing needs to stretch there – you don’t want the dress to get longer do you? You want the stretch ACROSS the body, not down the body. Make sure to add in some twill or offcut of fabric to the shoulder seams. In case you forgot, this is stretchy fabric – and the weight of the rest of the dress is heavy and will pull on those seams. So you strengthen them with something that DOESN’T stretch. Twill is perfect! Sarai has some great tips on this too!
When it comes to the hem, this is when you are going to want a stretch stitch – it’s gotta let you walk! There are many ways you can do this – you can use a stretch stitch, you can use a zig zag stitch, or you can use a twin needle. Or if you’re mega fancy, a Coverstitch machine. Most sewing machines will have a stretch stitch, it’s the one with three rows of straight stitch. Don’t ask me why it can stretch, I just know that it does! It’s my preferred way of hemming.
I’ve gone off the twin needle, although that’s also a cute way of doing it. Helen has recently put up some neat instructions for using a twin needle, as has Sarai. If you don’t have either of these things a zig zag stitch is also perfect.
Most of my makes are finished this way, and on a pure colour and on a busy print you can’t really see it. The ‘pointier’ your zig zag the more it will stretch, but, in my opinion, the uglier it will be. I would change you stitch length so you have a smaller zig zag, rather than an imposing one! Play around on a scrap before giving it a go. See how much stretch it gives you! Just fold up the raw edge once and sew it in your preferred way. If you like neat hems feel free to fold it up twice, but knit is not going to fray so you don’t have to worry too much. I never finish any of my seams when using knit fabrics!
You can also finish your armholes and neckline in this way. Personally I don’t like to – as you’re more easily going to see these finishes. There are many ways to finish these edges. You can use a band, which can look super cute and sporty. See my old tutorial for this. You can use a facing, in the way you normally would. Or sometimes I use bias binding. I like doing this on edges that don’t need to stretch – so as long as your head can fit through the hole it’s all good. It also means that the neckline won’t stretch over time and look baggy. It’s up to you how you finish it! On this dress I went for bias binding.
And that’s it! Wow. When I sat down to write this I didn’t expect to write so much! I did not write my latest essay for uni this quickly! haha. I guess I’ve just learnt a lot on my journey with knit fabrics. I felt a little overwhelmed when I first tackled this fabric so I hope I might have helped some of you that might have been scared to give it a go. Please do it’s the best ever! Have a play with fun prints, there are so many wonderful jerseys out there!
I’ve got a couple of other outfits I made that I’ll share will you this week and show you how to make. I hope you like it!
Seeing as that was so easy, perhaps Ishould do something a little more creative next time. Perhaps something more like this?
This one might be a bit too adventurous, but I’m interested to see if I could make something similar work:
More ideas to add to the ever growing list!