How not to sew knits

Last winter, I believe… I bundled up this milky merino and dyed it.  Actually, I cut and dyed two different garments, and when I stitched the first one, I found the fabric had shrunk in one direction.  I think this was the appalling realisation that led me to put this garment aside for at least a year.

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One weekend a while back, I had a new sense of the possible.  If it has shrunk, waiting won’t make it grow back and I’ll just have to figure out what to do then, I thought.  I measured it against the pattern pieces.  I has indeed shrunk–but I pressed on.  I sat down to sew and that’s when I realised there was another profound sense of foreboding involved in my reluctance to start stitching this together.  Step 2 of Very Easy Vogue 9904 involves setting in an invisible zipper.  Suggesting Vogue’s idea of ‘very easy’ may have as much in common with mine as ‘the Vogue body’ has with my body shape!  I have applied a lot of zippers, albeit intermittently, but not into a knit fabric.  And not with any real pretence to invisibility.  I won’t catalogue all the things that went wrong.  I’ll just sum up by saying that sometimes a sense of foreboding is your subconscious letting you know–ahem, you don’t have the skills for this to go well!

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I set the zipper in by machine the first time and it was truly appalling.  In the end, I did it again by hand.  Decent!  I won’t bore you with all the missteps–in the end I hand stitched the hems as well, and I like them too.  Perhaps I should have dyed the thread, but I quite like the luminous stitches. I used dyed thread for the zipper after all the chat in the comments and so much practice sewing with embroidery thread.

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Speaking of which, right now… no wool garment story could be complete without darning.  Sigh!  I spoke to another friend who has been doing unprecedented levels of darning at her place this morning at Guild.

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In fact–I needed about six darns on this garment. Without washing or wear.

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Never before have I needed to darn prior to completing a garment!  But… I like the garment.  I would prefer it hadn’t required darning!  I’d make this pattern again, and the fit might be smaller than I intended and snugglier than I prefer… but it’s decent.  Even if it ends up being an underlayer, that’s better than staying on the chair where the moths found, it, not being finished!



Filed under Leaf prints, Natural dyeing, Sewing

10 responses to “How not to sew knits

  1. Pia

    I absolutely hate installing zippers, anywhere. Large part of why I don’t sew much.


    • horrible things to put in, and yes, a very neat job done! I would only put a zip in as a statementy kind of thing, so it would be on the outside!


    • Buttons, anyone? I have made peace with my zipper foot and have had largely happy times setting them into woven fabrics for a long while. But I do prefer a nice sturdy fabric. If I don’t like the first attempt I can pretty literally snip a few stitches and rip the whole thing out ready to try again. This kind of ruthlessness does not work on silky merino knit, needless to say!


  2. mstery

    You are very brave. I would never attempt putting a zip in knit fabric. Turned out very nicely!


  3. oh dear, beastly moths! 😦
    after trying to make garments with in jersey with an ordinary machine I say – never again! there are hand-sewing techniques which are relatively quick and much more pleasant than working against the grain with a machine. I have developed a whole new attitude to finishing – courtesy of Alabama Chanin’s books – – where they use cotton jersey and a lot of raw edges. needless to say, it was in India’s book Second Skin that I discovered them 🙂
    I tested the silk merino for shrinkage this time, and it seems to have shrunk lengthwise about one and a half inches in a longish dress length. and a little widthwise too, so perhaps the answer is to dye first … which then gives one a whole new attitude to pattern cutting!


    • I haven;t gone for Alabama Chanin’s methods yet but was delighted to learn and now be using some of India Flint’s approaches to hand stitching. I am a very lousy,m and lazy, embellisher… The detail on Chan in’s work is amazing but the thought of approaching doing it scares me!


      • oh, well, it’s not the embellishing that I took for a lesson from Chanin, but their basic stitching. they seam everything by hand, and say to use a button thread, doubled, and running stitch, or an embroidery stitch to make a simple felled seam, raw edge on the outside, and mostly no hems, just raw cotton jersey! I actually found the knotting they use to start and end a thread looked messy to my eye, and I prefer to stitch a seam with a finer thread as per normal, but with 2 running stitches and a back stitch. then stab stitch it down with running stitch on the outside with a thick thread like the very fine merino I use for the knits, it’s 2/30’s, mostly I double it. then if the piece is dyed after making the merino jams itself into the holes and is firmly embedded! I find it quick enough and relaxing.
        the probelm with all this hand sewing is when i want to make some pieces in silk – as for summer collections just coming up, and I can’t face the sewing machine with silk …. lots and lots of fine stitch with french seams … 😦


      • That all makes sense! French seams…. I love them, but there is no doubt they are a bit fussy! Wishing you luck!


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