***Hope I have these posts numbered correctly.  I realize now, that I think knits are easy because I don’t think about most of the things I wrote.  I just do it.  Including testing my stitches, I just do it and I do something very similar whether I’m using knit, woven or flannel.  If I was just starting sewing, I might be terribly confused and I might think knits were hard.  Point is, I think I understand better the person who feels that knits are hard because I realized just how many decisions are needed to create a successful knit garment.***


Preparation is done. Now, JUST SEW. At your own speed, in your own way. I frequently ignore the sewing directions recommended by the pattern.  I’ve learned that the pattern companies recommend the procedure which fits on a designated number of their pages. They aren’t recommending the best way, or a new way. Heck they don’t always even give you all the steps. They perceive an obligation to give instructions. They give what they can (some procedures are hard to describe and illustrate but easy to do and produce fabulous results); and assume you have the knowledge or resources to figure it out. Also for me, if it’s a TNT, I’ve probably changed something and need to accommodate the change.  If it’s self-drafted, becoming more and more of a reality for me, I make my procedural decisions based on what has worked best for me in the past.


You should find that sleeves are easy to install.  Quite the change from all that had to be done for a woven set-in sleeve; and generally knits don’t need to hang before being hemmed.  I’ve not had the problem of knits growing during wear.  However, if it’s a woven fabric with lycra all bets are off.  In fact woven fabric with lycra content need a whole different set of posts.


Some sewing sessions are Learning Experiences. Yeah they turn into wadders. The question is when to cut and run. You are not alone. I assure you, I have problems with this question too. I don’t mind working out the issues, if I can create a lovely, wearable garment in the end. That doesn’t always happen. I cut and run when:



  • I’ve made a horrible cutting mistake. I’ve seen some people recover from that and all I can say is “I wish I could even think like they do.” I have started putting the item and all it’s pieces on a hanger or some place where I can view it and at least make an effort to recover. But if it sits as a UFO for the rest of the season– it’s gone.
  • The pattern is wrong. Again, I do try to recover and most of the time I can. But one of my wadders this year was a beautiful herringbone wool. The pattern had error after error. The sleeves were too tight. Then the lining was too short. The one that killed me was realizing that the front neckline would gape at least 6 inches on a winter coat – which had already been interfaced, underlined, lined, and sleeves inset. No way I want prairie winds blowing down my front side.
  • I keep making mistake after mistake.  There’s no way around this one, sometimes it’s all me.  It’s like my head isn’t screwed on and my thinking processes are off.  Sometimes I can put this aside and come back later with a successful finish.  But most of the time if it starts badly and continues, I may as well throw it in the trash and start something new.


If the things above happen, it doesn’t matter how much the fabric cost or how much time I’ve put into the project.  I’ve learned not to let these things torture me, but to try and learn lessons.  I do have a CheckPoints notebook.  I’m accumulating notes of things to check to ensure fitting – that seems to be my biggest issue. And I do set goals.  This year I’m working on crepe and slithering, slinky fabrics.  Because it’s a goal, I expect to have errors and disappointments.  The objective is to challenge myself and make myself work at accumulating skill and knowledge.


Good luck with your sewing.  Hope to see your beautiful knit creations at your blog.


Here is the biggest and most important way to ensure success when sewing knits:






When you cut out your fabric, save 3 or 4 pieces of those hand-sized left-overs.


Set up your sewing machine with the needle and thread you think you’re going to use. Stitch a line on a single layer. Does it look alright? Congrats you’re good to go. But what if the holes gap open? Or there are skipped stitches? You need a different needle size. Holes too big, go down a size. Skipped stitches go up a size. Is the line of stitching laying flat or is it bunched, puckering or gathering. This is a little more difficult. Yes it could be the needle size. But if your holes closed nicely and you don’t have skipped stitches, I’d decrease the top thread tension. If you pull on opposite ends of the fabric, do the stitches pop? Try a narrow zig zag instead of a straight stitch. Repeat this for all the stitches you’ll be using on this project. I test my fix stitch, as well as any decorative stitches I may want to use. Repeat again with 2 layers of fabric and this time, press open the seam and see how it looks.


You can SUCCESSFULLY sew knits with just straight and zig zag stitches using a ball point needle. I’m a serger owner. I also test my serger with 1 and 2 layers of fabric. I press the serger seam to one side, press and hold it up to the light.  I want to be sure that the tension on my serger needles are tight and I won’t have an unintentional gap down the seam line.


Now this sounds like it might use a lot of time. If this the first time you’ve done any testing it might take you awhile. But for me I’m pretty confident that my first guesses as to needle, stitch and stitches settings will be correct. Unless I’m using decorative stitches, I’m usually making only 4 6-inch seams (2 at the sewing machine, 2 at the serger; 1 layer and then 2 layers of fabric); and I’m done in less than 2 minutes. YES you will be doing the same after a few testing sessions.


But I said save 3-4 of the hand-sized left overs. What do you do with the other 2? Well sometimes, even I need to test more than once. (Decorative stitches can be a real bear.) Usually I need only the 3rd piece or if my sample is two-handprints large, I can use only the first 2 pieces. I need the 3rd, to test my fusible interfacing,  buttonholes or special techniques like beading by machine. Yep, I nearly always interface my hems. My only exceptions would be narrow turn-up twice hems (Hate ’em. They never stay down.) or serger rolled hems. You might think of something else. You might even not want interfacing in your hems. I do. I like how the extra weight of an interfaced hem helps the garment hang. Some fabrics need a little more weight to hang nicely. You might need more than 4 testing pieces.  For instances , if you wanted to do special seams. Myself I like to test both with and against the grain for a  rolled-hem edge. I’d rather discover the need to change from rolled-hem to flat-turn-stitch hem at the testing stage rather than ruined-garment stage.


Point is, take the time to TEST FIRST all the stitches, all the techniques, everything that your final garment will need TEST FIRST.


When I was in school I thought that we practiced the first few days and after that we were supposed to be able to sit down and sew without ever testing or practicing again– for life. I’ve found that my sample time is the most valuable, most worthwhile activity for any of my sewing. Not only does it tell you if you have the right stitch and  settings correct, but it can help you decide if you really want to do what you thought you did. Maybe I’m thinking rolled hem edges. But I can’t get the rolled hem to clean finish around curves. I’d rather decide at testing phase to switch to a narrow flat serged edge, turn up and stitch, then to ruin my garment. Never resent testing. Never avoid it. Never think it means you are less experienced or less knowledgeable or less anything because you tested first.  Never think that it costs time.  It will save you time in the long run.


Let’s continue right on with more preparation:

Thread selection: I’m sure someone is going to disagree with me, but I use polyester on everything. I”m not a quilter. I’m not recreating historical apparel for any reason.For me it’s a 3.5 hour drive or 1-week turn around via mail to acquire thread. I bought the whole Gutterman In-Home cabinet and replenish as needed. I’ve found I can buy exactly the spool of thread used up at Erica’s. Once a month I sit down and order replacements and check to see if I need a new color for an upcoming project.  You can buy Gutterman threads on-line in several places.  Erica’s is not the only one or even the cheapest one.  But it is the only place I found where I can look at the color number on the bottom on the empty spool and order exactly the same color on her list without any interpretations or hoop-jumping.

I remember being instructed to use natural fiber with natural fiber and synthetic with synthetic  i.e. cotton thread  with cotton fabric;  and silk thread with silk fabric. I probably am close to still following that recommendation. Some of my knits are 100% cotton. But I prefer cotton blends and I think I’ve fallen in love with ITY knits. I haven’t sewn with bamboo yet so may change my mind. And the only rayon threads I’ve found are for machine embroidery.  Not recommended for general sewing.  M.E. threads are too delicate.  I’d have blown underarms if not worse. The key here is:  test before you sew.


Needle Selection: I use a ball-point needle with knits. Every time. I’ve had universal needles poke holes and create runs. I don’t trust anything other than  a ball-point needle. I do vary the size to accomodate the weight of the knit fabric. I usually use a size 12, ball-point needle. But I’ve had some sheers that I’ve used a size 10 and a very, very-beefy double-knit that needed a size 14. They key, here too, is test before you sew your garment.


STITCH Selection: I use a straight stitch, the zig zag hemming stitch and 4-thread serger seams. My HV Ruby, so far, has no problems creating a flexible straight stitch on a knit. I do need the zigzag hemming stitch to have enough give when pulling down over my shoulders and hips. Ruby sews the straight hemming stitch just fine.  But pulling my T’s over the shoulders and neck can be a little challenging. With past sewing machines I have used a narrow zig zag in place of a straight stitch. I mean like .1 or .3 not even a .5mm wide zig zag  OK sing along with me:  The key is TEST BEFORE YOU SEW


OK, so I wrote about Fabric Buying habits (Part I)  Pattern selection (Part II) and little on fit. Umm maybe that was more about recommending altering patterns for fit issues: Now lets talk about:


Pattern layout: Most of the time you will use the layout recommended by the pattern. Why? Because an expert already spent time arranging the pattern pieces on various widths and has the best solution. But from time to time you, I certainly, might want to differ. I prefer vertical strips to most horizontal stripes. It’s probably not going to hurt to change the layout so that the stripes are vertical. I’ve yet to have an issue. I’m not saying I never will, just that so far I haven’t created a wadder strictly because I changed from on grain to 90 degrees cross grain. The other situation I run into, is that I want to make a garment and don’t have enough fabric. Sometimes, laying cross grain will give me enough fabric. Sometimes I replace facings with bindings, sometimes I use coordinating or contrasting fabrics. Sometimes I place pieces off grain and interface them. Fusible interfacing controls a lot of fabric misbehavior, even when the misbehavior is my fault. It’s my choice and it could create a wadder. (Haven’t yet. Knock on wood.) Should you do likewise?  All I can tell you, again, is I’ve been OK.  Your project might be a wadder. But it is still a choice you can make.


Cutting the knit fabric: For years and years and years, I used sharp scissors. Then I lucked into a pair of finely, very finely serrated shears (DH sharpened them for me. No more serration.). I did think the serrated shears were better at least slightly. They tended to grip the fabric just a little. In the last year I’ve been switching to a rotary cutter. I know there are some really good reasons why I shouldn’t use the rotary cutter. But as my skill has increased I find that I’m cutting more accurately. Many fewer jagged edges. Fabrics are not pulled even slightly out of shape by being lifted upon the cutting edge of the shears. I use both a 45 and a 22 rotary cutter. I do like the 22 for curves. But the 45 just slices those long cuts in no time. I think one of the biggest downsides of the rotary cutter, is the tendency to nip the pattern. Both this time and the next time you use the pattern, it is out-of-true. That can mean that you are easing, where you shouldn’t be. You’ll have a bubble, a drag line or even pleat where there should be none. (If you have garments like that now, go back and look at your pattern.  Is there a nip missing some place?  Remember wrinkles indicate a problem, but not necessarily where the problem originates.) Now, some of my patterns are never used a 2nd time. They are no problem in the trash. With TNT’s or pattern I intend to use at least once more, I stop and immediately repair the tissue. I may not be able to fix the garment this time, but I don’t have to repeat the error next time. I’ll also mark the current piece in some way to indicate that it is “off” and try to accommodate that during sewing.  For instance if I clipped 1/8″ off the seam at the hem on the back, that side of the seam will be 1/8″ narrower than the other.   Use what you are most comfortable with.  I mean, if knits are already a challenge, don’t add a rotary cutter to the mix. But if you are a Rotary Cutter Ninja, why not make use of your skill.


FITTING Knits:  I’m addressing fit now rather than later when you can baste pieces together because it is at the pattern stage that I do most fitting of all my clothing.


I’m not really sure I can help the total novice and I think the experienced sewist will be disappointed that I have no new brilliant advice beyond perhaps the first sentence.  I bumbled around for years without really knowing what my fit issues were.  The fitting advice I received was buy your pattern from your bust measurement and then diagnose the fit by the wrinkles.  Unfortunately the wrinkles tell you there is a problem somewhere but not necessarily where you see the wrinkle. Kathleen Frasenella did a post wherein she asked viewers to diagnose the fit of a shirt with many diagonal lines radiating from the shoulders.  One shoulder had more lines than the other.  Many guesses were made.  From the description I gave you, did you guess the armscye was too high?  Neither did I.  But she made the correction and she was spot-on.


I bumbled into discovering my fit issues.  My teacher pointed out that my back waist length was longer than the pattern. This makes sense when you realize that patterns are designed for the 5’5 or 6″ well proportioned woman while I am 5’3″ small on top with a narrow waist.  I always check the back waist length on the pattern and adjust by this amount.  My first teacher told me to just take it off at the hem.  One of my aunts kindly pointed out that I seemed “a bit short waisted, like me” (meaning herself). She suggested I might do better by removing at least half of the total difference from above the waist. I know of others who shorten through the armscye.  From their comments, I think they, too, bumbled into that specific correction. I remove enough above the waist to bring the waist-point marked on the pattern level with my physical waist. Usually, that’s the full difference between my backwaist length and the pattern’s backwaist length.


My other issue is a narrow shoulder.  Long ago, I was made aware that my shoulder was narrower than the standard block.  The solution given to me was “add a small shoulder pad”.  Now there are some real benefits to be had by adding a shoulder pad in most garments.  You don’t need a foot-ball pad.  Just a little 1/4″ pad or even a sleeve head will do the trick.  But the advice to add the shoulder pad, while filling out the shoulder, did nothing for my collapsing front, tight neck, and strained back areas.  Each required a separate alteration.  BTW, I was evaluated as having a hollow chest from sitting and bending forward so much at my desk job.  But that’s not the real correction(s) that I need, although those 3 corrections did create a nice fitting garment.  What I really needed was a narrow shoulder adjustment.  I was amazed the first time I did this.  All of a sudden, necklines lay where they were supposed to and there was no unintended excess fabric across the front.  Surprisingly the “broad back”  (presumably broadened by posture and age), just disappeared.


Point is:  fit is very personal.   The novice will have to do some sleuthing on her own.  My best advice is find a buddy to take measurements.  DH’s and boyfriends are good for this duty.  (But be prepared. They think you’ve invented a new doctor/patient game just for them and want to switch roles as well.)  Also measure your best fitting clothing at the same points.  BTW you may measure hips on a great fitting pair of pants, but waistline of your favorite dress or shoulder length of your perfect blouse.  What you’ll note here is the difference between your body and the garment you love, which gives you  your very own, personally, preferred ease.  Now compare measurements with your pattern. You don’t want your pattern to have the exact same numbers as your body measurements and maybe not even the same as your favorite garment measurements.  There are garments whose style lines demand – and will receive- a different measurement.   Now think this through.  If you are making a full skirt, gathered at the waist, you probably do want the hip measurement to be greater than the hip from your favorite pants but the waistband should fit close to your body. So the waistline measurement will probably equal or be just a little greater than your own waistline.  Likewise, if you are making a dance wear top, the bust measurement most likely will be the same or less than your own bust and certainly less than the bust measurement of your favorite dress.  You do have to use some discretionary judgement and compare between your body measurements, your favorite clothing measurements and the pattern measurements for the style you want to create.


Was that confusing?  That’s why I wrote I wasn’t sure I could help the novice.  To fit knits, you need to already know your fitting issues, what you want in the final garment, and how your fabric will behave.


TNT’s (tried and trusted (or true)) patterns are a big help.  If you lucked out and have a garment you like from one of your patterns, put that pattern  to use.  I routinely dig out my TNT T-shirt and compare with every knit-top pattern. I can see at a glance that the shoulder is too large, the garment too long and the waist of the pattern is much lower than my TNT. And yes, I make pattern alterations with just this comparison.


Generally at this point in sewing knits (i.e. I’ve chosen a knit fabric to be used with the chosen pattern-designed-for-knit-fabrics), I make 2 standard  adjustments.  I

1) remove 1″ from the back waist length above the waist

2) remove 1″ wedge from the shoulder both front and back pattern pieces.


Usually, if I compare with my TNT T-shirt (we are talking knits here), I’ll find that the pattern pieces match up very closely.  I might check a few things that look odd.  A really small looking sleeve will prompt me to reconsider the stretch.  Currently most top patterns are drafted 1-2″ too short for me.  Once I’m sure the waist is correctly placed, I’ll add to the bottom.


I do have an immensely useful and helpful dressform.  When first purchased, I spent two weeks fitting her.  A year later padding seem to have shifted and I had lost more weight.  I remeasured and refit my dressform, Mimie.  Mimie is good for photographs and pinning things on, but my real favorite use is tissue fitting.  After I’ve made my standard adjustments, I pin the pattern tissue together on the seam lines and pin onto Mimie.  Mimie is more than just equal padding to my own and owner of my favorite best fitting bra.  Over the weeks, months and years that I’ve been working with her, I’ve added lines with a black Sharpie.  I noted the lowest and the highest I want my necklines.  Same with armscyes.  Because I used a “fitting pattern” (Butterick 5746 no longer available), my waistline, hipline and bust points are indicated right on Mimie.  I can pin the tissue onto Mimie and see immediately if:

  •   The neckline is going to be too low.
  •   The bust points line up
  •   There is not enough ease across the hip
  •   The hip line matches or doesn’t match
  •   There is too much ease in the waist or not enough
  •   The shoulder straps are placed beyond my shoulder point or
  •   The shoulders are too wide
  •   and most of the other fitting issues that will occur with this pattern.

You can tissue fit without a dressform. I can’t help you. I tend to shred my pattern during the process and miss important issues (like not enough ease in the hip). Good luck. It can be done. I’m tissue-fit challenged. You could be a real Star.


Even after tissue fitting, there can be issues that can’t and won’t be detected until the garment is worn or at least basted together.  I couldn’t tell for instance that the turtle neck on one pattern would stack just below my nostrils, no matter what I did; and I didn’t detect this issue until the first day I wore it all day. (10 hours is a long time; long, l—o—n—g, time to fight with a collar.) Let’s face it: 3% lycra is going to react different from 8% lycra and different from a tissue pattern. Some will lift your bust points up to those on the pattern. Others will only squash what you have into nothing or down your rib cage into your waist. I do stop and make any adjustments indicated from the tissue fit, fully knowing and accepting that I will need to tweak the fit later.


For me, personally, my procedure when fitting is:

  1. Choose a pattern appropriate for my fabric and it’s stretch.
  2. Choose my pattern size by bust measurement for tops or hip measurement for bottoms. (Careful here. Burda uses finished measurements while most others pattern companies show hip measurement and have already accounted for ease. This is not the same as the finished measurement.
  3. Make my standard alterations to backwaist length and shoulder width (I do support the theory that lengths should be adjusted before widths because I’ve had more success moving the waist and hip portions of the pattern into place before changing the width.)
  4. Compare with a TNT – this is usually when I tweak where the hem should fall
  5. Tissue fit on Mimie
  6. Take a deep breath, layout the pattern and cut away.

I’ve written a lot. But I haven’t scratched the surface of the fit topic. There are thousands of books published on the fit concept; from every point of view i.e. the home sewist, RTW, even bespoke. I have an impressive collection of books on fit. It should be a given and forgiven that I didn’t and couldn’t address your specific issues. That is your journey. Go ahead enjoy it.


So to continue I’ve made my disclaimer.  I’m not a self-proclaimed or otherwise recognized expert.  I’m just a sewist who loves sewing knits; thinks knits are easy to sew and one of the most rewarding projects. I’m sharing what I’ve learned and know, hoping you will change your mind about knits and be an accomplished sewist of knits too.   In the first Devils post, I confessed my Fabric buying habits and that I have wadders. But now I’d like to continue my story by detailing steps to success.  Let’s start with:


Pattern: My decision to sew (rather than just buy) is stimulated in a couple of ways. I’ll see something I like in the magazine or mall and want to make that but in my colors. Or maybe it’s 6PAC sewing time again, so I plan a seasonal collection of 6 pieces. Or I want to wear something, but can’t make an outfit because I’m missing a piece. (I’ll make the missing piece.) From time to time, I buy a piece of fabric and can’t wait to sew it. I mean I get it at the store or in the mail and the next day I”m cutting. My point is, that usually my sewing is stimulated by something else which determines the color, type of garment and even shape that I want to create. Sometimes I’m thinking of shape, sometimes color. That’s important. Because if I’m thinking shape I look at patterns first and then shop my stash for fabric. If I’m thinking color, I shop the stash first and then look at patterns.


Either way at some point I’m looking at patterns to see if they are appropriate for the fabric. I have quite a collection of patterns which is very helpful. (So quit regretting your own huge collection.) But I am very particular at this point. If I’ve decided to sew a knit fabric, I look for patterns designed for knit fabrics. I also compare the stretch of the fabric with the stretch guide on the back of the pattern. If I’ve picked a pattern (because of the shape I want), I check to see which fabrics are recommended. I rarely choose a fabric other than recommended. If you are having problems with knits, I urge that you use one the fabrics specifically listed on the back of the pattern.


I’ve read and heard others say, “You can use a woven pattern with a knit. Just go down a size. Or fold out some of the ease in the shoulder area.” Nope not for me. You either, if you’ll take the time to see why. Take out a Tshirt designed for a woven and compare it with a Tshirt designed for a knit. You could choose a pants pattern or something else, but the Tshirt is small enough to get most pieces on the table at the same time. The first thing you notice is that the knit pattern is smaller overall than the pattern for a woven fabric. But if the *pattern was designed for a knit, you’ll also see differences in the shape and depth of the curves as well as the length of the shoulder and over all width. These differences are significant in the fit of the final garment. All knits are not created equal. If you choose a pattern for a 30% stretch knit and your knit has 60% stretch, the garment will not fit as you expect. These things are important. You might be able to “make it work”. Yes I’ve seen those garments at SG that turned out wonderfully well and completely contradict what I have to write here. I’ve even made a few (i.e. the purple drape front cardigan). But I wouldn’t guarantee success and don’t encourage you, especially if you are already having problems with knits.




Bottom line for pattern selection is :


Choose a pattern designed for knits with the same amount of stretch as your knit




Choose a fabric with the same amount of stretch as called for by your pattern.



Ahh I think that’s too many words for one post.  Shall we continue tomorrow?


*Some patterns sold for use with knits were not designed for knits. They will look exactly or almost exactly like pattern designed for wovens


….aka Sewing With Knits




Knits are hard to sew.

I can’t control knits.

Knits are hard to fit.

I hate knits.

Lycra is the devils invention.



I frequently hear and read comments like those above.  Usually in response to one of my completed knit garments.  I’m here to share what I do that makes knits easy for me.  But first a disclaimer.  I don’t claim to know everything.  I am learning daily just from reading other’s blogs.  I also don’t claim there is no other way to handle knits or that other procedures might not produce better results.  I’m just sharing what I do and I think knits are THE easiest garments to sew.  I sewed 3 tops in one 4 hour session.  (I did cut them the night before after drafting, cutting and sewing my last drape front cardigan.)


Fabric:  I buy whatever fabric catches my eye.  Usually I’m looking at color or texture.  I’ve learned, of late, to take note of how much Lycra is in the fabric.  One of my jeans patterns is very specific.  I will confess since I”m excited and purchasing based on visual or sensual tactile appeal, not all my knits work out.  You don’t see the wadders.  BTW, whatever I buy, however it arrives (back of car, UPS, FedEX, DHL, Speedy, etc), I prewash.  I serge the ends and throw it into the next load of laundry. Of course there are some exceptions.  I steam wool but don’t wash.  So far, I’ve washed all the silks, rayons and everything else.  I don’t have a dry cleaner in my little town.  I have a place where I can leave things to be cleaned.  A service comes through periodically picks up and drops off.  Periodically, as in about every 6-8 weeks.  I try to avoid dry cleaning.


As usual for me, sigh, I’ve written entirely too much for one Blog post.   My future posts on this subject will cover at least:

  • Fabric selection (this post)
  • Pattern selection
  • Fitting
  • Layout
  • Cutting
  • Thread selection
  • Stitch selection and settings
  • Testing
  • Just Sew
  • When to quit.