Well, we sure had fun today, didn’t we? Oh wait, no we did not. I mean, things started well enough. I got up and began to work on Imke, the hooded sweatshirt that is the first-listed project in the Farbenmix book.
Provided you have the pattern and the fabric, the general order of embarking on a sewing project is as follows:
1. Select fabrics
2. Sketch design
3. Trace pattern
4. Cut fabrics and begin construction
Nels and I fell in love with a lovely rib knit, color name “larkspur”. It is 96% cotton and 4% spandex, I believe – the perfect rib knit for a natural feel but enough recovery to sew and wear well (all-cotton rib knits, someone tell me what these are good for? They stretch like mad and end up rather saggy. Give me a wee bit of creepy, petroleum-based fiber technology any day). The rib knit was on sale a few days ago and we picked up about a yard and a half; at home I had a handful of knits and some trims / panels that I knew would look good with the lovely blue color:
“Larkspur” is there at the lower-right. Isn’t it lovely? From the left we have an all-cotton whale print rib knit, a dark blue (it looks black in the photo) cotton lycra knit (this was too lightweight for the body of the garment; I figured I could use it for a hood lining), an oatmeal cotton rib knit (I have more to say about this fabric in my next post), a grosgrain ribbon ($2 for a roll), a few miscellaneous fabric panels and a robot patch (the latter from Etsy!), and a woven cotton stripe remnant – high quality, and on sale for $1.50.
It’s funny the “easiest” project in the book is a knit project. I think this is actually not a good jumping off point for beginners (I will be talking about sewing with knits in my next post). While one should not be intimidated at the thought of sewing with knits, it’s best to go slowly when you first start. There are pitfalls in sewing with these seemingly friendly fabrics.
That said, knit garments often have simple design lines and lack darts, collars, cuffs, etc. Therefore the customization of this piece would mostly be in the contrasting appliques and trims added. Fortunately, my partner in design woke right as I was getting started and came right back to the sewing room to help sketch the garment design.
There were only four pieces to trace, so this only took about ten minutes, even considering I needed to add my own seam allowances (in purple, below):
What’s funny is, I was thinking I’d be writing today that tracing mediums don’t matter much: you can buy something renowned like Swedish Tracing Paper, you can use non-fusible interfacing (do not use fusible; you will be ironing the tracings now and then) or even trace with cheap tissue paper (be careful using this as you must not allow it to get wet). I was feeling very sanguine about tracing mediums, but this Pellon product ended up warping under the iron’s heat so it wouldn’t lay perfectly flat. A minor annoyance, to be sure – I am very exact. My tracing and cutting usually never allows me off more than 1/8″, so I am not too concerned about inexactitudes. Still, the warped nature of the medium was a bit annoying. If you need any more information about tracing and how to go about it, don’t hesitate to email or, better yet, post here in the comments. Make sure to label the size you’re tracing on the pattern piece for future reference (in the above photo, upper left – Euro size); I put traced sizes in their own envelope, labeled.
Most natural fibers need washing and drying if they are to be washed and dried during their life as a garment (if you are making a quilt, and certain other projects like a potholder, it is sometimes desirous to not pre-wash and -dry your cotton, velvet, what-have-you). 99.9% of my garment-sewing involves wash-and-dry care; I’m not interested in the expense or trouble of dry-cleaning. Last night I washed and dried all my fabrics (the quilt panels had been washed and dried years ago, when I used the rest of the fabric to make baby pants), and piled them up more or less folded along my ironing board (folding or draping fabrics fresh out of the dryer often eliminates the need for ironing). This morning I found the grain and cut my pieces. When finding the fabric grain and cutting it, make sure to support the yardage length on the table; otherwise it can pull and distort the fabric and you won’t be getting an exact cut. This is particularly true for a loose weave or, as in my case here, a stretch-knit.
Time to get started on the applique pieces and the trims! Here is a preview – as it happened, the first time I’ve used Wonder Under, a light double-sided fusible:
I think your average beginner could use a mentor for this project. Sewing patches/appliques and trims on a knit with 25% or more stretch? Not exactly super-easy. One thing I’ll say about knit sewing – and the book mentions this a bit – is practice, practice, practice. Keep the little scraps from after you cut your garment pieces. Before you think about sewing the garment, select the proper needle and thread (more about this in a minute) and sew a few pieces together. You will begin to get a feel for how easy the knit will be or how much trouble it will give you (in the case of one of these fabrics above – lots! Any guesses as to which one?). Again, a stretch knit with a bit of polyester, spandex, or lycra can be easier to sew with than an all- cotton/hemp/silk/wool may be. A non-stretch knit is easier to work with in any case; but careful here. Patterns will tell you if a stretch knit is required and for the most part, you can believe the pattern on this one.
To sew on a knit you often need a ballpoint needle in a size appropriate to the fabric (for these slightly beefy rib knits, a size 80/12 worked fine). Polyester thread is a good bet. Practice on your scraps and in tomorrow’s post I’ll be showing some of the blood, sweat, and tears of constructing with a stretch knit. If you’d like to read ahead you can check out the photo notes in my Farbenmix Imke tagset.
Today I almost finished the hoodie – and it’s quite an embellished little thing, as according to my son’s design! – but, predictably, I sewed right up until bedtime and ran into trouble at the end. A new start tomorrow!