I needed to get over my fear of sewing with knits as I’m planning to make my daughter the Kitschy coo little girl skater dress. I’ve started simple with the Maria of Denmark Kimono tee which is a free download pattern. I bought some cotton grey marl single jersey t-shirt fabric for a bargain in Abakan in Manchester city centre. The amount of fabric I needed cost less than £2. Fabrics can be bought by weight, so you have a rummage and get the amount you want cut off. The pattern does suggest to use fabric with some lycra content in, the fabric I bought wasn’t labelled but I think it is just 100% cotton single jersey but I don’t this this has affected the fit.
To start off I read some great tutorials and advice on-line.
I ordered all the right needles. Ball point needles and a twin ball point needle for the standard sewing machine. Ball point needles are a must. The needles have a rounded tip which pushes yarns to one side rather than piercing the yarns in the fabric. Using a standard needle can result in holes along the seam line. Using a twin needle for the hems gives you the effect you see on many t-shirts which would usually be done using a coverstitch machine.
I hoped that I could also try sewing up by overlocking with 4 threads. Firstly I couldn’t get any ballpoint needles for my Singer machine, they only seem to be available in the US and then when I came to add the extra needle and thread up to use as a 4 thread, I just couldn’t get the tension right, so I gave up with that idea.
I used on of the stretch stitch on my machine which is a triple stitch, 2 stitches forward and one stitch back. It’s quite slow going but gives good results. I neatened the seam allowances by using the overlocker on the 3 thread setting. I wasn’t bothered about not having a ball point needle as this was just neatening the seam and not creating a seam where any strain would be placed.
Normally you find that the shoulder seams in knits are stabilised as the weight of fabric hanging from the shoulders can stretch the seam out of shape. There are a number of methods which can be used. Self fabric, twill tape, clear elastic. I tried the clear elastic method, firstly by sewing it at the same time I stitched the seam, this didn’t work and then by sewing it in the seam allowance. This also wasn’t working for me. Even though I was trying to sew the elastic in relaxed without any tension stretching it I as finding it was still puckering the seam. I gave up and found some narrow lightweight petersham type ribbon which worked. Thinking about it afterwards I’m sure my problem was that I was using a standard foot which would have dragged and stretched the elastic. I don’t have a walking foot or a Teflon foot which I think would have helped.
I used self-fabric for the neck band. The instructions in the pattern tell you to cut the length 15% shorter than the neck opening and stretch on, pinning to the centre front, centre back and quarter points of the neck line. First time round I sewed to close to the edge and hadn’t left enough edge to over lock and in 3 or 4 places there were tiny tucks on the body fabric. I didn’t need to unpick the whole thing, just either side of the tucks (which was fortunate as the stretch stitch is a nightmare to unpick). I stitched around again taking a bigger seam allowance and making sure I stretched out the areas where the tucks had been.
When twin needling the hems you need to sew with the right side of the fabric facing upwards. To make sure I caught the fabric in the stitching I tacked up the hems and used the tacking line as a central guide between the two needles.
Because the single bobbin thread on the back zig-zags between the two rows on the front it gives a bit of stretch to the stitch. One tip I followed from ‘Melly Sews’ was to leave long ends, don’t backstitch or overlap and then bring front threads through to the back with a needle and secure.
It’s just two pieces of fabric and a neck band and I have realised there is nothing scary about sewing with knits. I wore it to work the next day and I got a ‘nice top’ comment. Not bad for £2 worth of fabric and thread.