Thursday, February 12, 2015

Pattern testing and how I sew with knits (and break the rules)

Over the past month, I've had the pleasure of testing a new mini collection of patterns for Jenn of Jennuine Design.

The Havens Acre Blouse, Dressage Leggings and Sweet Pea Hat (sized newborn to 12 years) are perfect together and are all on sale this week! 20% off through this Sunday, February 15th. The patterns were tested extensively, so you can be sure you are getting a terrific pattern! Jenn was great about answering questions, too.

The blouse is really unique and so very romantic. I think I'll make these in every size until Stella grows out of the pattern range. I loved the keyhole and the sleeves and the gathered waist and the flounce. Adorable. It came together really quickly, too. The construction was really well thought out! Definitely one of those easier-than-it-looks sew. I used a really lightweight cotton from my stash for my first version and a cotton/poly jersey without much stretch from Girl Charlee for my next version(doesn't look like they have it in the same color anymore, but they have it in other colors). Both fabrics worked well for the blouse.

The dressage leggings are so fun and the directions include a flat-felled option to make them look even more like the real deal. A basic legging pattern is also included. (I think everyone needs a good legging pattern. Yes, you can hack a pattern from an existing pair of leggings, but this takes the guesswork out!) I used two ponte de romas, again from Girl Charlee, and while I would recommend sewing these up with a ponte, I wouldn't recommend these. They pilled terribly, even though I hung them to dry. Has anyone found a source for ponte de romas that don't pill?

The hat was also adorable. This was made for Stella, but she refused to wear it after I made it. Ugh. So nevermind that it doesn't fit Charlotte, and that she's making that face. It was surprisingly quick to sew, and I loved Jenn's tip on improvising a tailor's ham. I used corduroy from an old pair of cords, and scraps from my stash. I used Pellon 72F for interfacing the brim, and it was sturdy enough for me.

Now a few words and a picture about how I sew with knit fabric. After a couple tries, I wasn't satisfied with how my garments looked with the zigzag method, didn't like how difficult it was to keep the top and bottom fabrics feeding through the machine at the same speed and I hadn't gathered the motivation to learn how to run my serger yet. Then I stumbled on a blog post (maybe on Burdastyle? I wish I'd saved it) that said to use a long straight stitch and just stretch the fabric as you go. Since everything I'd read said be careful not to stretch the fabric I dismissed it and carried on with the dissatisfying zigzag method. Finally, I tried it. And I love it.

Guys, I sew my knits with a long straight stitch while stretching the fabric.

Crazy, right? Well, I've been doing it for 6 months and many pairs of leggings, a coat and a few shirts and it's been fine. No popped stitches and it looks so nice. (I also lower the presser foot tension and use a ballpoint needle as generally recommended.)

The seam stays stretchy because when you pull on the fabric (about as much as it comfortably stretches, just sew a pair of leggings to get the hang of it), it makes the long stitch on the stretched fabric that then gets shorter when the fabric is at rest. It looks like this on the backside.

See how the stitch is all wobbly? That's where the ease in the seam is. (And, by the way, I sew with regular polyester Coat's thread.) The topstitch looks normal, not wobbly at all.

I have discovered a downside: The stitches can get really short depending on how much the fabric needs to be stretched and it's a paaaain to rip the stitches out if anything needs changing. I would recommend zigzagging to baste a seam if you aren't sure about fit. Another caveat is that I haven't tried this method with extra-stretchy lightweight knits and I imagine those seams could get a bit wavy.

Let me know if you try this method out or have any questions! And don't forget to check out the Haven Acres Collection and the other blogs (Annika and Chelsie) on the tour today.


  1. Great post! I love those navy and purple leggings - I had pinned a pair like that to my idea board on Pinterest but could never find the right fabric. Yours are adorable.

    1. Thanks, Bethany! Even though they're pilly, she's still got a lot of use out of them!

  2. These pieces are all so cute! The leggings may be pilly, but they look adorable in the photos. I'd love to give them a try, but I'm not sure what fabric I'd use - I find it difficult to find good slightly heavier-weight legging fabric. As for your method for sewing knits, I'm going to give it a try - I don't really like the zigzag method either. My machine does have a stretch stitch, but unpicking it is a nightmare, usually resulting in holes in the fabric. Thanks for the suggestion - I'll feel slightly rebellious while I'm stretching the fabric ;-)

    1. PS. My blog is sewsnippet on Wordpress, but for some reason Blogspot won't let me comment using that profile.

    2. I was just checking out your blog the other night! You sew some really amazing clothing! Ponte works really well for leggings, it's just been hit or miss for me on quality. "Performance" type knits work well, too. One of the neat things about the dressage leggings is that you could mix up a less stretchy knit (I was contemplating sweatshirt knit) with a good and stretchy knit. Let me know how the long straight stitch method goes for you!