Our friend Heather, owner of Girl Charlee, is stopping by today to talk to you a little about sewing knits. Until recently, most CKC patterns have been for woven fabrics, but now we are branching out into knits patterns, and we want to help take the mystery out of sewing knits. To be perfectly honest, I (Robin) was scared to death to try sewing knits for the first time, but Heather sent me a sample of her fabulous knit fabric to try, and so I dove in. I made a pair of Kelsey's leggings, and it was so much easier than I thought. Here's Abby modeling them, not bad for my very first try, right?
If you haven't taken the plunge yet, we hope this post will give you the confidence you need to dive in. To give you a little more encouragement, Girl Charlee is offering a discount code just for CKC fans: it's 10% off of your order if applied before checkout. The code is: CKC10OFFAnd...we've teamed up with Girl Charlee for an awesome giveaway! See the bottom of the post for details!
Now, here's Heather with everything you ever needed to know about knits!
Introduced to the world by Coco Chanel in 1916 knit fabrics is now the most popular fabrics used for children and adult clothing and goods alike. The comfortable, easy-to-wear and care for fabric is available in a variety of patterns, styles and weights, but when it comes to sewing knit fabric a lot of beginners feel intimidated by working with it. Many believe they need special equipment like a serger or the fact that it stretches when woven fabrics do not is SCARY. As a purveyor of fine knits fabrics to the world here are a few facts to help debunk the mystery of sewing with these lovely and versatile fabrics.
Really? No special machine, needles, anything? Nope! I am not saying that there are not specialty machines, needles, threads and more out that that make sewing with knits easier or faster, but to get started all you need is your regular sewing machine. Helpful items to have are ballpoint or stretch needles and pins as these tend not to make noticeable holes in knits and if you start sewing a lot with knits a serger is a huge time saver. While knits do not require the seams to be finished, as they do not fray like wovens, a serger will give that professional look of most commercial garments.
2. Sewing with Stretch
Stretch is the biggest and most important difference in sewing with knits versus woven fabrics so the biggest and most daunting challenge with sewing with knits is learning how to NOT STRETCH IT WHILE YOU SEW. Since knits already have the stretch built into the fabric if you pull it like you can a woven to say go around a curve in a pattern you will distort the knit and your finished product. To learn how to do this I suggest practicing on some different kinds of knit fabrics. Slowly move the knits through your machine to get the feel of how to sew with the different weights and content types of knits without stretching it. The best thing to keep in mind when adjusting to sewing with knits is to take it slow. Speedy sewing can lead to unnecessary stretching which causes puckering at the seams and a lot of frustration!
Once you master the stretch all that is left is the sewing itself. There are a few stitches on your sewing machine that will help with allowing the garment to stretch (or give) but if you have selected the right fabric for the job the good old straight stitch will suffice! The Zig-Zag stitch allows for some stretch and can give a finished appearance. A Stretch stitch, which resembles a lighting bolt, is best used on lighter weight knits that are prone to puckering. A Triple stitch can be used for stress points in your garment, like the shoulders or a crotch seam.
3. Pick the Right Knit for the Job
There are lots of different kinds of knits out there and a lot of technical terms used when describing them that can cause confusion. Generally, the less the fabrics stretches the easier it is to sew, but you want to pick the right kind of fabric for your job and not the easiest. For example, if you are making a maxi dress you don’t want a heavy weight cotton interlock with no stretch, a mid weight cotton jersey or cotton spandex with a good amount of stretch and drape would be more suited.
So what exactly does “stretch factor” mean? Knits are usually classified by their stretch factor and a percentage of stretch. Terms like Firm, Moderate, Two-Way, and Four-Way are used to describe stretch generally but I prefer to go by the percentage. To determine the percentage of a knit lay down a piece of knit and in the middle away from the edges pinch the fabric about 4 inches apart. Stretch the fabric across the grain (selvedge to selvedge) and for every inch it stretches before it starts to distort counts as 25%. This will tell you if your knit has enough stretch for the job!
4. Knit Patterns
A question we get a lot is do I need a special sewing pattern to sew with knits? Again the answer is no! There are certainly a lot of knit patterns out there, especially from independent pattern designers, that are made to sew up specifically with knits but many patterns that are out there for woven fabrics sew up beautifully with a knit. Of course not ALL patterns will work. Sewing patterns that require zippers, buttons, darting, finished waists, or specifically heavy weight fabrics like canvas do not translate well to knits in my experience.
The most important thing to remember when sewing with knits is to have fun! I hope that in reading some of the tips and tricks here that knits have been demystified and you are now inspired to go and sew with these lovely and versatile fabrics.
Keep on Sewing,
Girl Charlee Fabrics
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