Love to Learn – Sewing with knits

Plantain Tee

Hello 2016! Slightly delayed I know – owing to the unusual desire to actually do some housework (I know, very odd) and my husband misjudging his footballing abilities and sustaining a nasty ankle injury last week.

Anyway, despite the lack of activity here on the blog in the lead up to Christmas and since – my actual sewing activity has been fairly frantic. I did (just) manage to finish 3 ‘christmas day’ dresses in time for the girls to have something new to wear and some of you may have seen the Incredibles outfit for daughter number one over on Instagram. I also finished knitting a scarf and hat and finally got around to making some things from my SewBurm stash – one of which I want to share with you today.

Plantain tee - Deer and Doe

Plantain tee - Deer and Doe

It’s been about 10 months since I started sewing and in that time I think I have sewed more with jersey and knit fabric than I have with woven. Knits can have a reputation for being tricky work with – I remember various Sewing Bee episodes where they threw knits into the mix and it seemed to cause chaos! I knew it was a skill I wanted to learn though, as the majority of my wardrobe is made with it – but I confess I was a bit intimidated. I turned to Craftsy for some guidance and signed up for the ‘Sewing with Knits‘ class with Meg McElwee back in April last year. I found this such a helpful class and I would really recommend it if, like me, you are a bit nervous when it comes to sewing with this material. She is a great teacher and guides you through some of the essential and useful tools you can use, from needles and knit stay tape to fabric stabiliser and woolly nylon. The main thing I have taken away from this class has been confidence as she gives plenty of tips for what to do if that seam keeps stretching out or it all goes wrong etc etc. Armed with this knowledge I have really enjoyed delving into the world of knit fabrics and this top has been one of my favourite makes so far! Just to say – my sewing machine is pretty basic, I don’t have an overlocker when sewing with stretch fabrics and it is completely achievable to get a good finish with just the basics!

Elbows on Plantain tee

My favourite tips (all of which I used in the making of this top) have been:

  • A walking foot. I haven’t tried without to be honest. But I love using this little addition to my sewing machine as it almost feeds the material through without my help. It helps avoid stretching out seams and ensures an even feed of fabric as you sew.
  • Woolly nylon. In my Craftsy class Meg suggests using ‘Maxi Lock thread’ in the bobbin. This slightly stretchy thread is usually used in overlockers and this particular brand is pretty expensive to buy in the UK. I found this alternative on amazon and bought a range of colours. You can wind it like normal thread straight onto the bobbin, then use your usual thread on the top. I have found it really helpful – seams are less likely to pop and gives a little more stretch (ideal when you have kids to make for!).

Woolly nylon

  • Twin needle. This certainly isn’t a requirement for sewing with knits but I do LOVE the finish it gives! It is also a very stretchy stitch especially when used with the woolly nylon – ideal for hemming. No-one wants an unravelling hem! Most machines – even the most basic will be able to accommodate a twin needle if they do a zig zag stitch, but check your machine manual first. I did have some issues when I first started using twin needles and I found this blog post invaluable. I also didn’t have a second spool holder on my machine and tried various methods including putting 2 spools of thread onto the same holder. I found this ALWAYS ended up in a tangled mess that made me want to throw a tantrum. Like my 1 year old. I now use my bobbin winder as my second holder and it works like a dream. Every time! I think because I use my twin needle when finishing up, I always feel immense joy seeing a double line of beautiful stiching issuing from my machine and knowing that I am nearly finished!

Twin needle hem

Twin needle hem

The Pattern

I have been really excited by this FREE Plantain tee shirt pattern from Deer and Doe for a while now and I was keen to get another wardrobe basic sewn up quickly before Christmas. I think the shape is very flattering and I wear it loads! The material I got for £2/m from the market. The pattern calls for knit fabric with 40-50% stretch, but the one I used was more like 30-40% and it worked fine.

Plantain tee neckband

I cut a size 38 for bust and graded out to a 40 for the waist and hips. That’s it – no other alterations needed and it fits great. When I make again (another one is waiting to be cut out…) I will slightly raise the neckline as I find it a bit on the low (and wide) side. Oh and I just love the elbow patches! I used a scrap of wool fabric left over from a skirt I made last year. Its nice to have a little detail on what is otherwise a very simple design.

Wool elbow patches

The instructions are in both English and French and are clear and concise, also ideal for a beginner project as there are plenty of tips for sewing with knits all the way through. As you may have guessed I love this pattern and would recommend it to anyone!

Oh and you may have noticed I have finally got a remote to work my camera… need to get better at concealing it though as you can play a game of ‘spot the remote’ in every picture at the moment. Ha! Improving my blog pictures is definitely an aim for 2016 though so watch this space…


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *