A Stretching Journey

If you have followed my blog for a while, you know I am an addicted seamstress, always trying something new, and driven by an almost insane desire to ‘make it myself‘! (Similar to a three-year-old’s demand to ‘do it myself!’) I have tried couch covers, baby clothes, authentic historic costume, cloth shopping bags, maternity clothes, curtains, curtains, curtains, and more curtainsbedding, and even kilts. I am always looking for techniques and tricks that allow me to recreate a favorite garment or article in my own studio.

One of my main passions in the sewing room in the last few years has been the journey of discovering the secret to sewing with knits. Even to an experienced seamstress (who made her own bathing suit in sewing class at the age of 12), the world of stretch sewing has seemed foggy and mysterious at times. Gradually over the past two years the mist has cleared – I’ve made a little breakthrough here, dug up a great hint over here, and actually had a few successes. I have discovered that sewing with knits (or, ‘stretchy fabric’ like the t-shirt you’re wearing right now) is actually waaaaay easier than creating a fitted garment from woven fabric – once you know the ropes! It’s my desire to share with you the best books and tips and blogs I have found so far, if you, too, want to stretch your skills!

Books

Sew U Home Stretch, Wendy Mullin
This book is a great primer – good for someone who already has some sewing skills, but wants to move further into designing garments themselves, specifically out of knit fabric. It’s an enjoyable read, too, with it’s easy-going conversational tone and friendly tips. Wendy does not assume you already know the basics – she starts from the bottom and works her way up, describing cloth choices, and basic machine use (of sergers and sewing machines) to different edge finishes, and some great tips for re-making thrift store finds. The back of the book contains a folder with multi-sized patterns for two types of t-shirts and a simple dress.She gives you everything you need to know to make a t-shirt from scratch – plus lots of variations.

The first day I had the book and some spare time, I sewed a shirt for Jesse in under 30 min. That’s what I love about sewing with knits – it’s so FAST! And Wendy’s book will give you the tools to start out right. Anything I didn’t like about the book? A lot of the styles – especially the dresses she shows you how to create scream 1980’s, odd, with the book being new in 2008. But anyone with a little creativity can use the instructions and techniques to create whatever style they want.

Design-It-Yourself Clothes, Cal Patch

I loved this book the moment I got my hands on it! First of all for it’s modern, classy styles, captured in clear, inspiring photographs on real models. Secondly (and more importantly) because it succeeded in filling the remaining gaps in my understanding of clothing design, and working with all different types of fabrics (it’s not specific to knits – includes wovens as well). Cal’s book is definitely more comprehensive and involved than Sew U Home Stretch – she doesn’t include patterns – you learn to draft your own from your personal body measurements – talk about a custom fit! This is THE book to get if you are serious about sewing well-made, custom fit clothes for yourself – finished garments that don’t scream “I made this myself”, but rather, “I shop at this awesome boutique!”. I really look forward to returning to my post-baby figure so I can try out a pair of custom made capris, or a bit more of a tailored top or dress. Be aware that this book involves a time commitment – there are no shortcuts to her patterns – you should factor in a whole day of creating the pattern before you are ready to sew your first rough draft. If you are already an experienced seamstress, this book contains enough of the basic techniques for sewing with knits that I would not think another book (such as the above) would be necessary. I’m glad I have both because Wendy’s book spells it out so simply for a beginner – I plan to use it as a text book when I teach sewing lessons.

Blogs and Links
Made
I have a feeling that if I had found this blog a year ago, I would have made a lot more progress in sewing with knits – there is so much information, inspiration and free patterns here (yeah!!), it’s like a book – except it’s free! I really do feel like the content here is so quality that I should be paying something – but, did I mention? It’s FREE! The enthusiasm this gal and her blogger buddies have is truly contagious – hang out here long and you will not be able to help yourself – you’ll be turning every old piece of clothing you have into something cute for you or your kids. That’s the coolest thing – most of ideas are based on re-purposing thrift store finds, so you don’t even have to spend much money! And, she has just as many great boy ideas as girly girl patterns.  Dana states one of her goals at her site is to…

“… Help the Sewer of any skill-level realize that they can sew without a store-bought pattern. It’s not difficult to recreate something that’s already been done or to figure out how to manufacture an idea in your head. You just need to understand some basics of how clothes are put together. And I hope my tutorials help with that process!”

See what I mean? Super contagious. This is the home of the 90 min. shirt pattern and lots of other fun kids clothing tutorials. I could spend hours in the archives – but then I wouldn’t have any time to sew!

Sweet Pea Pilot Hat
I know I’ve already mentioned this great tutorial a few times, but it’s worth repeating. This is such a fun little hat, and would make a great starter project if you’re just getting into knits. If you mess up, you’ve only wasted scraps and maybe an hour. If all goes well, you can make an adorable accesesorie or baby gift in mere minutes with just pennies invested.

Cover-Me-Pretty Cami
Pardon a little self promotion here, but I’ve gotta share the link to my own tutorial here, ’cause honestly, some of the tips I share cannot be found anywhere else on the internet! For instance, this commenter said,

“This is so awesome!! Thank you for the info on binding off the edges on knit fabric. For some reason there’s very little information out there on how to handle the edges.

The basic construction techniques I demonstrate in this tutorial can be used to recreate any of your favorite knit styles, with just a bit of trial and error.

Also, revisit this post on how I converted a favorite t-shirt into a dress for Claire – a more detailed tutorial for this is in the works!

My interests and experience in sewing with knits continue to grow, and I promise more posts sharing my discoveries and tips with you. Meanwhile, check out these resources, and start collecting plus sized shirts at the thrift store so that you’ve got the material you need when you’re ready to sew! 🙂

One response to “A Stretching Journey”

  1. Miki Avatar

    AWESOME POST!

    err… sorry, I got a bit carried away there… But seriously, knits have always scared the life out of me, seamstress-ly speaking. I have a knit dress in my closet that I am wanting to remake a little: a beautiful Eddie Bauer in a pale yellow cotton knit. It has long sleeves and a big poofy 90's looking skirt- I've been wanting to shorten the sleeves and narrow the skirt, but I've been afraid I'll ruin it. I am going to check out your links and (hopefully) get to work on that dress!

    Maybe I'll make a tee shirt for Noah while I'm at it:-D

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