Two knit tops in progress, part 2!

I have been SOOO behind with this post!  My first excuse was the holidays.  Then it became “OMG my grand opening is coming!!”  Before I knew it, BAM!  End of January!  Well, better late than never!

So the Strathcona Henley I made for my husband has been complete for a while and had been hanging in the store as a display.  Lots of people commented on it, things like “is this really hemp?”  Yes!  Or, “I could never do it, I don’t have a serger.”  Neither do I!  It’s a great chance to open up the shirt and prove that yes, you CAN sew knits with a regular sewing machine.  My machine has lovely stretch stitches, however even with my first basic machine I was able to sew knits with a small zig-zag.  Using the correct needle (a ball-point, or jersey needle for the zig-zag, and a twin needle for a nice professional looking hem or collar.)

An important thing to remember about sewing with knits is the stretch direction.  This seems obvious, but it can really affect how a garment hangs and fits.  You need to know if you are working with a 2-way or a 4-way stretch.  This is easy to do; give the fabric a tug with the grain (the grain is parallel to the selvage) and see if it stretches, and then tug it across the grain (perpendicular to the selvage).  If it stretched with each tug you have a 4-way stretch, and if it only stretched with one, you have a 2-way stretch.  This will affect how you lay your pattern pieces out, for example with areas like a collar or anywhere that needs good stretch especially.  On the Strathcona Henley pattern pieces these choices (with the grain or against the grain) are clearly marked where it needs the stretch.

It was a bit challenging to get the hemp to lay correctly so the grain wasn’t twisted, because the knit stitches are so small and because of the solid colour.  But it was doable!  Have you ever bought a t-shirt that twisted annoyingly around your body?  That’s because it was not cut correctly with the grain of the fabric!  So this step is very important!

You will spend a lot of time with scraps of your fabric and fiddling with the tension.  Please, do this.  Incorrect tension will either be really ugly or make the thread break where the seam needs to stretch.  Or both.  When you use a twin needle you need to make sure the bobbin thread makes a nice zigzag underneath and the fabric should lay flat between the rows of stitches.  If you find the fabric is puckering but the tension is good, you can either: a) practice guiding he fabric through more gently so the fabric isn’t stretching as it’s being sewn (some machines let you adjust the pressure foot so it presses down more lightly, mine does not so I make sure I’m being gentle); b) stabilize the knit with either hem tape, tissue paper, clear elastic, interfacing; or another method I haven’t tried; or c)give it a good press and see if that solves it!  (I find my iron helps solve a lot of problems when all else fails!)

The pattern was really easy to follow.  If you want a bit extra challenge, do the placket; if not, don’t.  Hurray for designing the shirt however the heck you want!  I mixed the “view 1” sleeves/hem with the “view 2” collar.  I didn’t think my husband would want the placket so I skipped it.  I was able to cut it all out (and I didn’t use any pins, just chalk/pattern weights since my little one has a habit of putting sharp things in his mouth, I avoid them if I can get away with it) and sewed it together within a day, WITH two young kids running around!  (excluding the printing/laying out/cutting of the .pdf pattern, that was done the previous night). The hemp was SO easy to work with!  Though, I found it was a bit susceptible to iron shine, so use a press cloth!

The Sewaholic Renfrew top was a bit more challenging, only because the fabric was more slinky than  the hemp I chose for the henley, and also, the stripes!  I, frustratingly, got everything PERFECT on one side, and slightly off on the other.  For both the side seam and the sleeve.  Whatever it was, maybe the angle at which I cut, just threw it off by a couple mm (or less, or more in one spot)…  Enraging!  I’m a big fan of perfect pattern matching.  But I can’t be too hard on myself, I have limited sewing space at home to lay things out as perfect as it needs to be, and limited time (naptime and after bedtime!  Any other parents can surely relate!)

Another mistake I made was not trusting myself and I cut out a size too large.  I admit that since having kids I have a slightly skewed view of what my body actually looks like. Well, now I’m punished for this by having to take the shirt in, at the sleeves and under the arm.  Even casual knits should fit correctly, and this was my own fault.  I’ll gladly make another though, it was SUCH an easy pattern to follow and it has a lovely v-neck option I’d like to try.  I imagine it making a really cute base for a vintage style screenprint for a truly custom top.

Have you checked our upcoming class schedule?  I’m super excited to host the FBA/SBA class (Full Bust/Small Bust Adjustment).  The bust, as we ladies know, is SUCH an important area to fit!  If there was ONE place to do custom fitting for yourself, it’s this, no matter your body shape!

In fact, a huge motivation for me to learn to sew for myself was how I was “cursed” with an hourglass figure.  Nothing I can buy off the rack fits me correctly.  If it fits my hips, it’s way too large at the waist.  If it fits my waist, there’s no way I’m getting it over my chest.  It’s brutal!  So, I learned to sew!

There is one more class left for January and that’s the “practice makes perfect” workshop this Saturday.  I’ll be supervising your sewing as you practice seams, darts and hems, and offering tips and tricks.

I hope the end of January didn’t sneak up on you all like it did to me!  February is going to be filled with preparation for the grand opening March 1st!  Also in February is Kid’s Clothes Week, though the store will be closed as we move everything over to the new location during that time, so in lieu of that there’s a good chance at a sew-along mid-month!

See you soon!

–Lisa


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