Sunday, October 14, 2012

KCWC Days 4 - 6 - My First Knit Shirt (aka my little disaster)

I've been wanting to try sewing with knits for a while now, but I'd been scared away from trying by others' recounted fear and warnings of how challenging it can be. I am not usually one to engage in any formal instruction when trying something new, preferring instead to jump right in and learn as I go. So once I'd heard from enough people that sewing with knits is "no big deal", I mustered up enough courage and (equipped with the vast resource that is the internet and all of the helpful, lovely tips that you crafty bloggers offer out to the cloud) set out to repurpose some of my old t-shirts that were in the donate pile. My goal: to make a long sleeve t-shirt for Eli.

Sometimes these first endeavors result in miraculously beautiful results, like with my first quilting project. Other times, however, the results are not so glamorous. As you can guess from the title of this post, this one fell into the latter category. Ok, calling this a disaster is a bit of a misnomer because it fails to acknowledge all that I learned in making this shirt; but I will get to that in a moment.

the 'right' side of the shirt - the pattern calls for exposed seams, which look kind of cool and are extra comfy for baby
When I first showed the shirt to Will he looked at me with a confused look that said, "you call this a disaster?" Ah, but "look closer", I said. The first problem was that my machine refused to feed the fabric without bunching and gobbling it up. When I tried to rip out the horribly puckered and distorted seam I tore a hole in the fabric. At this point I lost my cool, even patience that we mamas cultivate and learn to invoke when our toddlers begin their screaming, flailing fits, and the cursing began. Just as I was about to throw in the towel I had the idea to try my walking foot. Apparently it is fairly common knowledge that a walking foot can be helpful when sewing with knits - perhaps if I had done a bit more research I would have tried it earlier. In any case, this made all the difference for me and suddenly I was sewing knit seams like a dream.

With this issue solved it seemed the shirt could have been salvaged; however I had complicated things further by trying to modify the pattern I was using. Originally I wanted to make the raglan tee from Sewing For Boys, but despite what it says in the instructions the pattern does not go down to 12-18 months. Somewhere in the blogosphere I had seen someone modify the "R" is for Romper pattern from the same book into a simple t-shirt, so I figured I could do this too. Here's what I learned - when trying something new (if you want to succeed) don't unnecessarily complicate things. Take on one new challenge at a time - either try sewing with knits or try modifying a pattern, but not both. Ultimately the neckline turned out wonky because the romper calls for two snap panels, which I chose not to include. This resulted in two strange seams along the collar band and a neck opening that is about an inch too wide. In addition, the lengths of the arms and body of the shirt are arbitrary since the romper pattern had neither long sleeves nor a hemline at the waist - they may turn out to be just fine, but I won't know until the boy grows big enough to try this thing on.

the ' wrong side of the shirt, which in this case looks a bit neater, I think
So Eli may not be wearing this shirt to the ball anytime soon. But no, it is not a complete disaster because:
  • though it may not be so pretty, I made my first knit shirt!
  • I learned that for sewing knits on my machine, the walking foot is the key to success
  • the fabric was from repurposed old shirts - no loss there
  • I now feel more confident that with the right patterns I can produce some knit cuteness - yes, I can!
I'll keep you posted when I try for redemption. I'm thinking I'll attempt Rae's Flashback Skinny Tee next. If anyone has tips on where to find cute knit fabric, I'm all ears - it seems to be hard to come by.


  1. i thought about trying knits for my last project and almost got the flashback pattern, but i am still too shattered from my own shirring disaster. do you know how to do that? did you use a ballpoint needle for the knits, or just the walking foot? i'm too scared to even change my foot.

    try for the knits...most selection i have seen in my limited searches!

    1. disasters must happen for us to learn, no? I've shirred once and it worked pretty well. The trick seemed to be keeping the elastic LOOSE when winding the bobbin. I made this ( and I seem to recall it having some shirring tips.
      Yes, I used a ballpoint needle and the walking foot. Girl, do not fear changing the foot. The walking foot is amazing for all sorts of things.
      Thanks for the knit tip! I was excited to see some ella moss knit fabric in there.

    2. oh, i read that tutorial and many others in my desperation. i tenderly rewound that bobbin several times. i even used the elastic thread she recommended. i think it might be a thread tension issue and i just didn't invest the time in experimenting. there was no puckering at all as i was sewing--elastic thread on the bottom seemed too loose, looked like esses instead of tighter stitches. i would do a few stitches on scrap fabric and it looked fine, then on the actual garment it was a disaster, of course. and now i have an attitude problem about it.