Ballet Dress Pattern

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Whoa! I had a super busy day today – from making, packing and mailing gifts to baking a birthday cake for my boyfriend to going to a sewing party (look! Someone made peanut butter button cookies!).

Tourist Dress

I only got home a few minutes ago and I know I promised I’d post the pattern today so here I am.

In five sizes! Instructions included! Remember to print the pattern without scaling!

You can see more photos of the finished dress in this blog post.

So, when I planned this series and sew-a-long I didn’t realize that it was so close to Christmas (facepalm!).

I’ll start the sew-a-long on Monday, Dec 26.

I’m off! To ice a cake and wrap some more presents! Go go go!

Never Fear Knits Pt 7

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What!? We’ve reached the end of Never Fear Knits?? Well to sum everything up here’s some troubleshooting, plus some good books and places to find knits online.

Troubleshooting 
Below are possible problems you may encounter in your knit sewing journey…

(click on the image for a closer look) 
  1. This is why I don’t recommend using a straight stitch to sew knits. Here I used a straight stitched then pulled the fabric too hard and the thread snapped!
  2. This might look funny but I used a zig zag stitch with a short stitch width and a long stitch length which produced this puckering. Instead you should make your stitch width and length the same or have your length smaller than your width.
  3. Here I stretched my fabric as I stitched which produced this ripple effect. No bueno! You might find the same problem if your presser foot pressure is too high.
  4. On this piece I had my differential feed set to far to “gather.” This made those ripples you see in the fabric.
  5. Here I did the exact opposite. My dif feed was set to far to “stretch” which really stretched out my fabric! As you sew you might notice this problem because the fabric gets pushed around as it goes under the presser foot making it difficult to guide – hence that glitch on the left side…
  6. This is a common problem with twin needles – creating a “ridge” between the stitches. Below is how I fixed it.
  7. I lowered my thread tension slightly and lengthened my stitch length. Then I ironed it which flattened it more. ;)

I hope these help you figure out why your knits aren’t looking nice and flat and pretty!

Books and Resources
Sew U Home Stretch – You all know I love Built by Wendy and I also love her approach to sewing guide books. Even if you don’t like the designs in this book each one helps to teach a technique in knit sewing and pattern alteration. And who wouldn’t want to make their own perfect T-shirt?

Kwik Sew’s Swim and Action Wear – Yeah, this book is from like ’93 (and it shows!) but it has so much helpful information, especially if you want to make swimsuits.

Threads’ A Primer on Sewing Knits – While I don’t agree with all the advice in this article (like straight stitch sewing, and btw, when have you ever seen shoulder pads in a knit garment?) this article does have some good points like making nice, pointy, v-necks

Spandex World – is a great website for specialty knits and hard to find swimwear knits.

Fabric.com, Gorgeous Fabrics and Denver Fabrics, as well as many other sites, all have knit sections.

***Thanks so much for reading. I hope you learned something new! I’m going to launch my new pattern tomorrow so stay tuned!

Never Fear Knits Pt 6

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(top: stay tape, middle: clear elastic, bottom: regular elastic)

Thanks for following along with the series so far! Today we’re talking support systems – stabilizers, elastic, interfacing, etc. To recap, you can read all the Never Fear Knits posts here.

Interfacing
Occasionally you’ll come across a knit pattern that requires interfacing – think wide waistbands on jersey dresses. Yes, they do make knit interfacing and yes, it does stretch.

You’ll find it in the store mixed in with the rest of the interfacings. The knit kind resembles tulle, I think. Tiny threads weaved with space between. The side that’s a little shiny is the side with the adhesive. Knit interfacing gives support but still allows for a minor amount of stretch.

Stay Tape

Even though knits stretch there are certain parts of knit garments that you don’t want to stretch out – like shoulder seams. You can stitch some clear elastic the length of the shoulder into the seam or you can use one of my favorite notions – stay tape. It looks like a small weaved net that comes on a roll and will stabilize your seam. Just feed it into your machine, on top of the fabric, as you sew leaving about an inch extending at either end that you trim when finished.

Elastic
For waists of dresses you’ll probably need some elastic to maintain the shape. Clear elastic is often used with knits but you can also use regular.

If you want the waistband to lay flat you’ll cut your elastic the length of the waist measurement of the dress. That way, the dress will stretch as you put it on but when you wear it the elastic will keep that waist nice and fitted.

Like with Stay Tape you lay the elastic on top of the fabric as you feed it under the presser foot. This time I’ve sewn it on the serger.

As you can see from the above pictures – the elastic (right) stretches while the stay tape (left) is firm.

Sewing Stabilizers
Sulky makes a tear away stabilizer that you stitch right on to your fabric. I’ve never had to use it but it could be helpful to beginners. So if you’re having trouble sewing an especially tricky knit, this might help!

***Phew, almost done! Tomorrow we’ll go over a list of possible trouble spots when sewing knits and what to do to avoid them. I’ll even add a couple places I like to buy knits as well as some extra resources for knit sewing.

After that I’ll release the new pattern and gear up for the sew-a-long where we can put all of this usefulness into action!

Never Fear Knits Pt 5

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Woohoo! Now we get down to the nitty gritty – actually sewing those knit fabrics! Warning! This is a really long post.

Fabric Preparation

Just like with wovens it is a good idea to pre-wash your fabric. Knits are especially known to shrink in the wash. After you’ve washed and dried the fabric according to it’s fiber requirements you should lay the fabric out flat before sewing. It needs to “rest” for awhile. If your fabric is hanging off the edge of a table for an hour or two, for example, it will stretch out too much! All this extra work might sound excessive if you’re impatient like me but you really don’t want your fabric to be all warped, do you?

Sewing Knits on a Sewing Machine

For sewers with a regular machine, don’t fret! You don’t need a serger to sew knits. You have options. First – the narrow stitch length zig zag stitch was made for knits. It is perfect for stretchy seams and since knits don’t fray very much you won’t need much else to finish your seam. If you do want to finish them you can do another zig zag stitch that wraps around the raw edge or, if your machine has one, a faux overlock stitch.

Some machines have a stretch stitch setting. On my machine it is a straight stitch that moves forward, then halfway back, then forward again, and so on. I don’t like this one, though, because I think it takes a much longer time to sew and I think it looks sloppier than a zig zag.

I don’t advocate using a straight stitch because the thread can easily break if the fabric is pulled too hard but some people will sew knits with a straight stitch will pulling the fabric as it goes through the machine.

(my machine has a handy chart with recommendations on sewing different types of fabrics)

Ok, let’s assume you’re using a good old zig zag. There are a few settings on your machine that will need adjusting. These are what I used on my machine, based on personal experience and what my manual recommends.

Set your presser foot presser to 1 or low. For regular woven cottons it is probably set much higher. A high presser setting may stretch your knit fabric out when running under the foot. We want it to glide through smoothly!

(top=stitch width, middle=zig zag setting(#2), bottom=stitch length)

Set your stitch width to around 3 and your length to about 1.5.

 

Set your tension to somewhere nice in the middle. I like 4.

Don’t stretch your fabric as you feed it through the machine. This will result in stretched out and rippled seams, skipped stitches or loose thread tension. Just let it run under the foot and nudge it along gently in the right direction to keep it straight.

You can watch this short video and see how easy I guide the fabric and what the end result looks like. (Thanks for ignoring the TV in the background, ha!)

Do test runs on a few scraps to see if you need to change any thing. I’m using a medium to lightweight cotton jersey in these examples. If you use a very light weight or a heavier weight fabric you’ll need to adjust these settings.

With knits you don’t need to finish your seams because they won’t fray. However if you want you can sew a zig zag stitch close to the edge of the fabric or even slightly over the edge (which will wrap around the fabric making a sort of mock-overlock stitch).

Sewing Knits with a Serger

(everyone’s serger is different so read your manual!) 

For those with a serger, well, you’re life is a little easier.

Serged seams are quick and easy to make. They sew a seam and finish the edge all at the same time.

 (I set my stitch length to 3 and a half)

Like on a regular machine, test your settings on some scraps before you dive in. I like a good middle of the road stitch length and I always adjust my thread tensions for every different fabric.

Sometimes I even make slight adjustments to my differential feed if my seams looks warped.

Sewing Seams

 

Again, don’t stretch your fabric as you sew – gently guide it under the presser foot.

Some patterns made especially for knits have a 1/4in seam allowance – the standard a serger makes. You can still use a zig zag stitch on a narrow seam.

 
(my serger knives desperately need to be sharpened – hence my jagged trimming)

If using a serger for standard 5/8″ seams your throat plate has measurements on it. Line the edge of the fabric up with the 5/8″ line and let your serger knife slice through the excess fabric.

 

Leave a “tail” of threads before and after you serge.

Sewing Hems
 

(left: twin needle hem, right: regular zig zag stitch hem)

For hems you can make a standard hem by folding under the fabric and top stitching with a zig zag or stretch stitch.

 (the back side – left: twin needle, right: zig zag)

I like serging the raw edge, folding the edge under and top stitching with a twin needle. The twin makes two parallel lines of stitches on the right side, mimicking the look of a coverstitched hem.

 

With a twin needle, you’ll have to sew your hem from the right side, not the wrong side. This means you’ll need to pin the fabric from the right side. When you run the fabric under the presser foot you can feel the  folded under edge below. I line that edge up under the left needle. The bottom thread will wrap that underneath edge and prevent it from flopping around.

If may get a “ridge” in between the two lines of stitching, that’s pretty common. Try lengthening your stitches, lowering your thread tension slightly or buy a needle with a wider distance between the needles. Ironing the seam might also help.

If you have a serger you could also sew a rolled hem. Read your manual to see how to make it. You’ll need to make several special adjustments to the machine.

***If you’re having problems with any of these tips, no worries, I’m making a troubleshooting post later. In the mean time, practice practice practice!

Tomorrow we’ll talk stabilizers, interfacings, elastic and more!