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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Adding Custom Shapes to Knit Clothing

A few weeks ago my son put on his first Liam's Layered T-Shirt that I made for him.  He loved it and and jumped around excitedly (that's his response to almost everything) and then he suddenly paused. 

"Is it for my birthday?" 
 Me: "Um, sure! You can wear it on your birthday." 
Him: "Are you going to put a big five on it?"  
A long pause...  
Me: "Does it need a five on it?" 
Him: "A really BIG five since I'm turning five!"

That's logical. Plus he gave me a really sweet hug which pretty much sealed the deal. Our shirt must have a five on it!

So that's what we did. I took pictures during the process (of course) so today we are all going to learn how to make and add our own custom shapes to a knit shirt using a regular sewing machine.  It's not difficult at all - we just need to make sure we have the right supplies so our knit doesn't stretch or pucker while we sew. We want our shapes to be perfect the first time! 

Here's what we will need:
  • Paper shape to use as a pattern piece  (I printed my 5 and cut it with scissors.) 
  • Iron-on adhesive (mine is Heat n Bond lite)
  • Tear-Away Stabilizer (mine is Stitch n Sew stabilizer) 
  • Knit shirt and a scrap of fabric

First we will pin our pattern piece to the knit we have chosen and carefully cut it out. 

Now we will flip our shape over so the wrong side is facing us. Cut strips of the iron-on adhesive and lay them out on the shape, shiny side down, until it looks sufficiently covered. I try to get into all the corners. When it looks good, we will iron the strips in place according to package instructions. Do not remove the paper backing yet.

 (Rather than using strips, we could also use a sheet of adhesive and cut the whole shape out and iron it on before cutting, but I like doing it this way - mostly because the strips take up less room in my sewing stash.)

Next we will take a piece of sew-in stabilizer and slip it inside the shirt. Slide it up to where it will be backing the shape and pin it to the front of the shirt. I like to put my pins near the outside edges of the stabilizer so they won't get in the way while I sew. 

We are now ready to remove the paper backing from the adhesive strips on our shape. 

The shape will be shiny like the picture above but not sticky because we still need to iron it in place. 

Next we will lay the shape on the shirt exactly where we want it, inside the pinned area. It never hurts to measure!  Then we will iron the shape in place as directed on the package.  It should be securely stuck in place when we're done.

We are now ready to sew around the edges of our shape. There are several ways we can do this. For a clean look we can do a satin stitch or embroidery stitch around the edges of the shape (after practicing first!).  We could also do any sort of stretch stitch or zigzag stitch around the edges. A third option, and my favorite on boys' knit clothing, is to use a regular long stitch around the shape, leaving a small amount of raw edge that will fray a bit after washing. I think it's a really cool look and I see it a lot on store-bought boys' clothing. I also recommend this method if it is your first time doing it because the longer stitches allow us to predict the next stitch better so we can follow the contour of the shape easier. Once we decide which method we want, we can sew around all edges of the shape. 

We're almost done but not quite yet! 

Once our shape is stitched in place, we will turn the shirt inside out and carefully tear away the stabilizer. To do this, I start by making a tear toward the shape and then along the stitching, holding the stitches in place with my thumb so they don't stretch the knit too much. The stabilizer should tear fairly easily but don't rush it. I usually pull it off in several pieces, doing the outside of the shape first and then the inside. (Confession: This is my favorite part.) 

When our stabilizer is removed, our stitching is all that will be left. This is definitely a kid-approved method because there is nothing left to be scratchy on the inside! 

And now we're done!  It's time to turn our shirt right side out and admire what we just did! 

We have our BIG five now and life is good.  I can't wait to see what shapes you come up with to add to your shirts. 

Let's Create! ~ Kristen 

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