(Last night at dinner, Sophie volunteered to take the stitches out of the Imke hood; I’d decided to re-do the hood in the larkspur knit rather than the 100% cotton in oatmeal colorway, because the latter had rippled too much in constructing the pointed hood.)
In the case of sewing, I’ve learned there are no real rules. Whatever you can find to work, works.
I know this doesn’t sound like earth-shattering knowledge upon first read. But keep in mind I’ve been sewing for some years now. In the townships I’ve lived since I began my sewing craft in earnest, I’ve yet to find a real-life sewing community, people who get together and sew and share with one another (I’ve found lots of quilting groups, doll-making groups, embroidery goups and even knitting and crocheting groups – but no groups that revolve around garment-making). Therefore most of my sewing hobnobbing has been through online groups – the place I go to show off my latest creation (rare, these days – I’m not clicking with anyone online), or get help when I’m stuck on a technique (about once every two months).
Concomitant to online sewing enthsiast verbiage and the occasional library book or Threads article comes a kind of elitist or rules-based vibe. So in searching for how to add bust darts to a t-shirt, say, you end up reading about how “so many women don’t know basic principles of fit”, and how this-or-that pattern isn’t flattering and how this method of FBA is superior to the slash-and-pivot, and one should purchase this-or-that book and go through all the excercises to get a greater understanding of the whole business.
Ugh. No really, I just want to make a pretty good shirt that fits my (sizeable) bust. And now I’m tied up in knots thinking about the “right” way to do it!
Let me break it down in a way that will hopefully be less indimidating.
As you sew your garment, your goals should be:
1. Wearability (the garment fits you and is sturdy enough to stand wear)
2. Style (you – or your intended – has to want to wear it)
And that’s just about it! In whatever ways you accomplish this goal, you are doing it right.
That means if during construction you “cheat” by using hot glue, or by having a tailor insert a zipper – because you simply can’t do it yourself – or buying a kit of some kind of where the thing is half-made-up from the get-go, or using a bedazzler, it doesn’t matter. It’s better to have a success on your terms than a bad experience on someone else’s.
With respect to this stage of the Imke hoodie, I’d like to address the novice or intermediate sewist who is tackling a knit project.
Knits can be tricky. They can stretch unbecomingly as you sew – and refuse to bounce back, leaving rippled hems and wavy seams. They can get sucked into the feed dogs (those are the jagged little teeth on the throat plate that move fabric along as you sew). They can sew up beautifully only, when you attempt to wear the garment, you find threads mysteriously popping.
Should the potential pitfalls of knit fabrics deter you from sewing with them? Heavens, no!
As relatively seasoned as I am, when it comes to sewing with knits I am not above using Technology, or that is to say, products with fiber and glue that help secure, either temporarily or permanently, knits and their seams, hems, or trims and appliques applied. Most of these products are inexpensive ($2/yd or less) and you only use little bits of them. I used four such products in the construction of Imke:
1. A water-based stabilizer – This product allowed me to sew even stitches on my knit, then could be washed away after the garment was finished. This product is also good for putting a small 1″ square underneath a knit seam as you begin to sew; it keeps the knit from being dragged under (so annoying!).
The water-soluble stabilizer ensured my grosgrain ribbon “floated” on the top of the knit, as opposed to compressing or dragging while sewing. That white-looking webbing? Instantly dissolves in hot or warm water.
2. Wonder Under, a Pellon product – Think of a gossamer-thin sticky glue you iron to your applique or patch, then iron onto the garment. It is not enough to hold it for duration of wear – you have to stitch down the patch or applique. But it holds it in place long enough to be able to top-stitch with good effect. Yesterday’s post included a picture taken after I’d fused one side of the product to my applique fabric and traced the shapes I’d be cutting.
3. Some nameless fusible tape similar to the Wonder Under, but less elegant (Walmart FTW!) – I used this for securing the grosgrain ribbon to the knit before I topstitched it down with a zig zag. I am super-proud of the ribbon effect, which I pulled off more beautifully than most anything else in this project.
Use the fusible tape to secure (temporarily) the grosgrain to the knit. Loosely pin the stabilizer under the ribbon just before sewing. Then topstitch with a zig-zag that does not interfere with the desired color effect you want from the ribbon.
Eagle-eyed viewers may notice I added cuffs to this garment. The construction of cuffs is simple and rather satisfying – look how nicely they turned out! If you click on the above picture you will be taken to my Flickr page with a few details of cuff construction. And that brings me to:
4. Knit interfacing. “Interfacing” is a term for lining parts of a garment with either body or stiffness – like one would do in a button placket on a dress shirt, or a collar. When it comes to calling a fabric “interfacing”, this usually means a thin fabric, either fusible or sew-in, that adds strength and/or stiffness. Interfacing is a good idea on cuffs because they see a lot of wear. In the case of the cuffs I constructed above, I used a knit interfacing with a bit of give. However, the interfacing is stiff enough to pull the looser-knit sleeve in, leaving a deliciously sturdy and, dare I say, professional-looking effect.
Getting back to the issue of sewing with knits, my readers ask: can you sew patches, appliques, and trims to a knit fabric without the use of fusibles and stabilizers? It depends largely on the knit – but, in theory, you can. As I said in my last post, when messing about with knits you need to practice. If you can make it work, go for it.
How do you know which products to use, and when? Think about the parts of the garment you are embellishing or strengthening. Because most trims, patches, and appliques are rigid, so sewing them to the knit may impede the stretch at that point in the garment. Example: if the garment is a loose-fitting cardigan, sewing patches or trims anywhere won’t make much of a difference to the fit and function of the garment (and you may not need a stretch knit at all; an interlock or non-stretch knit may suffice – a recent coat I made my daughter was sewn in a knit, but underlined with a woeven, as it did not need to stretch to fit or wear properly). But let’s say, as in the case of Imke, you are making a pullover hoodie. You should not then trim the neckline with an inflexible ric-rac or ribbon – because it has to stretch to go over the head. Do you want to trim the sleeve cuffs or leg hems? Careful how you proceed: hands or feet need to comfortably slide through and wrists or ankles need to be able to move in comfort. If the cuffs/hems are loose-fitting, then add trim as you see fit.
So, adding patches or trims to knits is no rocket science. In the case of Imke, since the body of the hoodie is a relatively loose fit, I didn’t have to worry about restricting stretch with the large patch I applied to the back.
By the way: I ended up loathing the cotton rib knit, colorway oatmeal, that I’d initially felt so positive about (and got on remnant sale – $3 for a 60″ yard). I cannot wait to pass it on to someone else, as I have a significant amount of yardage left. I wish I could have made friends with this rib knit – which is soft, thick, and a lovely color – but as a 100% cotton it keeps stretching and stretching as I sew despite a handful of tricks I employwed. One sleeve was more than enough exposure; I had some colorful words at the sewing table, which I will spare you here.
Finally: I tend to enjoy lots of decorative topstitch, even when it’s more or less lost on a rather busy garment. Let’s face it, kids’ clothes are all about expressiveness, not sophistication (and I wish more adults would take this to heart in their own stylistic endeavors). Employing topstitch details to delight my son’s searching eyes feels like Love to me.
Tomorrow: finished Imke!