Sewing with Knits

Yesterday, while all my sewing friends were at the Sewing Weekender (at least, that’s how it seemed!), I was having my own sewing weekend.

I signed up on Thursday night for the Thrifty Stitcher’s workshop on Sewing with Knits this Saturday. It was an impulse purchase, based mainly on the fact that I had 3m of dark pink double jersey in my stash. The universe conspired to encourage me in this, and I generally tend to go along with what the universe tells me. And let me tell you, the universe wasn’t wrong on this one. I learned SO much.

The teacher was Layla Totah, and I would heartily recommend her classes. She knows so much and was a really giving and generous teacher.

We learned about how grainlines work with stretch fabrics, how massively varied stretch fabrics are, how temperamental they can be with different needles (just because it says it’s a jersey needle, doesn’t mean your jersey with accept it!).

I learned about some excellent gizmos: we were using chalk wheels for marking fabric so I’m definitely getting myself one of those babies. My neighbour on the sewing machines was having difficulty keeping her seam allowances even, and Layla offered her a magnetic seam allowance thingummajig, which also looks like a useful thing.

We learned how to add a neckline binding, and why it’s essential to get the amount of stretch right. We learned how to use a twin needle (and I LOVE it!).

I did a banging neckline binding, both on my practice piece and on my garment.

Here's my practice piece

Here’s my practice piece


And here’s my neckline binding in action on my working project

About that finished garment… We were working with a New Look pattern, 6301, which is a pretty cool pattern, a fake wrap dress- all the benefit of cleavage enhancement, with none of the risk of accidental leg or undies flashing.

NL 6301 wrap dress pattern - I like it a lot

NL 6301 wrap dress pattern – I like it a lot

Layla had graded it for me, beforehand (which meant she was working on it on the Friday night, bless her heart), but there wasn’t any time to do proper toiling and fitting, so it was a case of seeing how it went. And it was all going fine, apparently, until it came to adding the skirt to the bodice. I don’t know how, because it just doesn’t make any sense, I cut the patterns correctly, but somehow my skirt pieces seemed to be way bigger than the bodice pieces, I had to take them in by an inch or so on each side. And then as if that had triggered my project to start playing me up, when I tried it on, the wrap element which had behaved perfectly fine before I added the skirt was pulling the side seams forwards badly, it just wasn’t stretching enough. My personal theory is that it’s a bit like when you try to pull one elastic, it’s good & stretchy, but if you pull ten elastics together, it’s much more difficult. I think the combination of several layers of jersey which wasn’t massively stretchy in the first place, made it stretch even less. It seemed evident to me that my back pieces need to be narrower and my front pieces wider. The pulling was making holes in the fabric at the seams, and while everyone was saying it was ok and wearable, I knew fine well it wasn’t.

I was disappointed, I won’t deny it. The other ladies in the class all had lovely wearable dresses that they were going home with. I kept assuring Layla, who felt dreadful that I wasn’t happy, that it was ok, I’ve learned the skills, I can treat this as a toile, and make the dress again, with changes, so that it works. But it stung!

I think I can salvage a skirt out of it, and practise my new twin needle stitching skills when I hem it. It’s going onto the To Be Fixed pile for now, and we all know by now, that it’ll be a fair while before I get around to fixing it. But it *will* get fixed, I am determined.

A bit of news

The more observant, ummm, observer may have noticed there’s something new on this blogsite, a new widget or two over there to the right.

I’m only one of the new intake of Simple Sew Bloggers!!!
Simple Sew patterns

I’m beyond thrilled to have been invited, and I have to confess,  a bit nervous. There are some seriously awesome people in this network, whose work I admire enormously and I know I’m going to have to up my game to feel worthy!

I hope there won’t be any doubt as to the honesty of my opinions. For the record, I will be receiving patterns from Simple Sew and fabric from White Tree Fabrics in order to make garments for the blog. (I say “will be”, I already have). The main post on those makes will be on the Simple Sew Blog site, rather than here.  I’m due to add my first blog post in mid September, so I’ve got a little while before you’ll see me there. The hardest thing is going to be keeping my makes under wraps until they are up on the blog. Actually, scratch that – the hardest thing is going to be working to an actual deadline!

And finally… a bit of holiday knitting

Once I was finished with the Holiday Sewing, I had my final project to deal with. A couple of years ago, I started on a Hetty cardigan, which I got almost all the way through knitting (and I knit *really* slowly), before realising that it didn’t work for me and my figure, and I don’t have the knitting skills to grade on the fly. It just didn’t look right. So this summer, I bit the bullet and ripped the whole thing back. The. Whole. Thing. I was gutted.

But I had another pattern to work with, for a straightforward raglan cardigan, one which I have already used, so I knew it reasonably well, and would feel more confident adapting to my own particular shape. And I really love the colour of this yarn, so I’m glad it’s going to be becoming a better thing.

And I was doing some hard-core adapting! The pattern is drafted for a pair of needles, and I’d only brought a circular needle (because that’s what the Hetty had been knitted on), so I was pulling together all the body pieces, to knit them as one piece, from the bottom up, and then I had to work out how I was going to add the sleeves, which again, I was knitting in the round rather than flat. That took me a while to figure out, but I got there. I was also knitting a smaller size than I’d used before, because my last one of these cardigans was very slouchy and loose, and I wanted something a bit more close fitting. I had to do a lot of maths to get it to all work out.

A little over half way

A little over half way

I decided to take out the little bit of raglan lace patterning that is in the original pattern, because I didn’t see the point, I like a nice clear raglan decrease. But I added some patterning in the body and sleeves to make sure it wasn’t all plain.

I generally get very bored with knitting because it’s so slow, but I can quite a lot done on holiday. The challenge is to keep going once I’m back from my hols. I managed to get about 4/5 of the body & sleeves done while I was away, including while I was waiting at Calais to be let into the check-in queue at the Eurotunnel.

Car knitting

Car knitting

I’ve now finished the body, and I need to get the collar and buttonbands done. I’ve got some lovely buttons lined up for this, so I’m posting this very much as a driver towards me actually finishing this cardigan.

Wish me luck!

More holiday sewing


My Second Holiday Make – and by the way, I can remember that tree being planted. OMG I’m older than that tree!

I decided on the day I was leaving for my holidays that I should have a second sewing project with me, as the first one wouldn’t take long to complete. I didn’t have one handily ready to take along, so of course I started a brand new one. It’s not quite as bonkers as it sounds. I wasn’t due to leave the house until about 9.00pm. I also have a broken up work day on Thursdays, so I had about an hour of spare time in the early afternoon, and I finished my afternoon job at 5.00pm, so I had a fair amount of time spare to sew a simple dress together.

My holiday wardrobe was lacking in summer sundresses, so my project was to make one that I could finish by hand out there, and then wear once it was done. I picked out a stripy jersey, which has been in the stash a long time. It’s got some lycra in it, which makes it quite bouncy. I didn’t mess about with anything so fancy as a pattern, I just took one of my t-shirts and traced around it, then took one of my straight skirts and traced around that. I didn’t cut any neckline, because I could sort that out later. I just did a sort of slash neckline and capped sleeves, that I could cut away when I decided what finish I wanted. I sewed the shoulders and side seams using the stretch stitch on my machine. I don’t know how that works, but it certainly did the trick – the seams are good and stretchy. Since the fabric is jersey and unlikely to fray, I didn’t bother to neaten them. I bundled everything into my sewing and knitting bag, and headed on out…

Once on my hols, I finished the Grey Birds Skirt, as mentioned in my last post, and this was the next project to work on, especially as I wanted to wear this dress. I asked the nieces to suggest what sort of neckline I should aim for, and we agreed on a scoop neck and reasonably narrow straps. I pinned to check the shape, then cut (generously, just in case I’d got it wrong). The pinned shape worked well, so I tacked it down, and started to sew.

All tacked up

All tacked and ready to stitch

I was using a herringbone stitch, and however careful I might be, the stitching was bound to show on the right side of the fabric. That meant being very *very* neat. I think I did ok.

Again with the afternoon refreshments

Long shadows = evening refreshments…

Unfortunately I ran out of white cotton, and I asked my sister, who was going to the supermarket, to try and get me some white thread there. The thread she came back with was thick upholstery type cotton! Oh well, it still worked as thread…

I got some pretty sweet stripe matching action in the shoulders, not so much in the side seams, but it was close enough for me.


You win some…

This dress got a lot of wear on holiday, because it was perfect for those long summer days. What I did find, which came as no surprise, was that it was a little bit gapey around the armholes, but it’s nothing that a bit of clear elastic won’t sort out.


But other than that little bit of fixing to be done, I love it!



This entry was posted on 12 August, 2016. 4 Comments

Holiday sewing

Grey birds 1

Holiday sewing – it must have been in the morning, because it’s coffee!

I’m just back from a holiday in Vendée (France). It was a lazy kind of a holiday, in that we didn’t do a whole lot- no paragliding, no white water rafting, no visiting museums… Visiting relatives, and having them visit us was the full extent of the activities. Oh, and going to the beach.

Which left me with plenty of time for sitting around and keeping myself busy. I took along a couple of sewing projects which I could finish off by hand, and a knitting project.

My first holiday UFO was a skirt which I’d originally cut out over a year ago, in an attempt to kickstart my sew-jo, which went completely awol in 2015. I got this fabric from Ditto in Brighton. I couldn’t resist the birds. The fabric was going to do all the talking – it was going to be a very straightforward pleated skirt. A waistband, a zip, a tube of fabric to pleat and a hem. There was nothing simpler, but it had been hanging around making me feel guilty for all this time, and I decided I could get it to the hand finishing phase before I left and finish it while I was away. It would fit in well with my pink/grey/black/white holiday wardrobe plans.

I had a bit over one metre of the fabric. I cut the waistband, then cut the remaining fabric in two, so that I had a front and a back. I sewed them together, making sure my birds were more or less in line, to create a tube. I made two inverted pleats front, and two back, because that’s what had been in my head. I’d forgotten just how wide the fabric was, so the box pleats are pretty big, but that’s fine.

I did a pretty hot zip insertion – I think I’m getting over my aversion to machine sewing zips! It’s a lapped zip at the side. I don’t know what the conventions are on which side the zip should go, but it seemed right for it to be on my right side. Then I sewed on the waistband. That left me three sewing jobs to complete on holiday – hand-stitching the waistband down, sewing in a hook and bar, and hemming.

Boom! That was the work of but a morning, and I was wearing the skirt the next day!

Honestly, the hem is straight. There's a breeze blowing it backwards.

Honestly, the hem is straight. There’s a breeze blowing those big box pleats about, is all.

This was a nice simple sew, nothing fancy,but it’s a nice summer skirt that I’ve already enjoyed wearing, and I’m hoping will see me through to the end of September or then-abouts.

Grey birds 3

Oh look, the sun’s over the yard-arm!

The Refashioners challenge


I’m so very tempted to try this challenge. I’ve got at least 2 pairs of jeans that haven’t seen the light of day for a couple of years, so I have the basic materials. And it would really tie in with my stashwatch aims.

I’ve committed to another project just recently (of which more later) and I need to see how that will work out, before I go bonkers on this one, but I’ve definitely got ideas paddling around in the inspiration pool. Mostly involving embroidery, it has to be said. It’s not going to be anything prizewinning, but that’s not the point – the  point is to take something you don’t wear and turn it into something you do.

And I’m pretty sure I can do that!

Edited to add…
Holy moly! Have you seen the prizes?!

Falling Blocks T-shirt


The Falling Blocks t-shir refashion

The Falling Blocks t-shirt refashion

This is a t-shirt refashion that has been dictated by sloppy eating habits, and an unshiftable grease-spot right in the middle of the chest. It has been languishing in the UFO pile for at least a year and a half, probably longer.

I was starting with a basic lavender Primark t-shirt, and some black jersey fabric from a pair of cheap leggings which had finally worn so much at the thigh that they were way past saving. My initial plan way back then was to make a sort of flutter effect appliqué and I cut out a load of rectangles in the black jersey intending to machine them onto the neckline. I got started and immediately hated it. Maybe I should have powered through, but I didn’t have any major vision to pursue, so it went into a bag with all the bits, and sat in my UFO pile, just staying there, gathering dust and making me feel guilty.

So when I was working out what UFOs I actually had, for the purposes of stashwatching, this one came out of hiding, and looked hopefully at me. I took it out of the bag, to see what was there, and unpicked all the sewing I’d already done, and put aside in disgust. I was wondering if I should try some other kind of technique to mask the spot, and then realised I could easily use the black rectangles I’d already cut, but apply them flat. I aimed for a falling blocks design, keeping it random, and mostly trying to zig-zag the blocks and slightly overlap them with each other. I pinned all the pieces on, then repinned all the ones I’d pinned with the wrong side of the jersey showing. A quick mirror check indicated the placement looked ok, and didn’t create any unfortunate boob-frames, so I went ahead and tacked everything down. It reminded me of those Alabama Chanin appliqués, which in turn reminded me that I really want to try that some time.

Alabama Tackin’

Then I started machining all the blocks into place, using a zigzag stitch. I think I must have been tired because I had two mishaps in one evening. Firstly, I managed for the first time ever, to do something so stupid, and such a childhood fear of mine, that I can’t believe it actually happened – I sewed through the side of one of my fingers! There was quite a bit of blood but it was only a flesh wound, no actual damage. After recovering from that, I started again, only for the second disaster to befall, catching the fabric in the feed-dogs, and ripping it when I at last got it out. At that point, I decided to stop machining, tacked an additional block into place to hide the rip, and put it away for the night. A few days later I managed to finish the rest of the sewing with no further injuries or accidents.

Looks better on!

It looks better on!

It looked a bit rough and ready, so I’ve trimmed some of the gnarliest edges, but it’s all going to stretch out in actual wear, and I wasn’t going for geometric exactitude.

I’m very happy that I’ve managed to retrieve an unwearable garment, that I’ve finally finished this long-standing UFO, and that I’m moving forward in my Stashwatch plans to fix/mend/refashion things.

And talking of appliqués, on the day I took these pictures, my dad posted this picture of me and my sisters on Facebook:

Ah, the seventies...

Ah, the seventies…

The second one on the right with the patched up jeans is me. Yes, it’s another garment upcycle involving appliqués!