TERMS AND CONCEPTS
Since we set out to sew a knit shirt, we will want a knit pattern! As I mentioned in my Boxers: Week 1 post, you will want to select your fabric to your pattern, and your pattern to your fabric. Using only fabrics that are recommended on a pattern envelope is a hard rule you should not break unless you really know what you’re doing.
With knits, this goes double. Knits pattern are crafted with the stretch of the fabric in mind; each pattern has a special bar marking, right along the edge of pattern envelope, to make sure your fabric can stretch the necessary length to accommodate the project.
To test the stretch of your fabric, hold the selvage edge of your fabric against the indicator bar on the pattern envelope. Holding the fabric against the envelope with one hand, use your free hand to grasp the fabric at the “non-stretch” end of the bar. Then, pull the fabric horizontally. You should be able to stretch the fabric to the end of the entire bar without damaging the fabric.
SELECTING YOUR FABRIC
Since we are making a knit, we will obviously want knit fabric. Knits are fabrics that can be stretched, in one or both directions, and can come in a wide variety of fibers and thickness. Clothing items like t-shirts, sweatshirts, and yoga pants are commonly made from knits. If the clothing item has to stretch in order to fit on your body (doesn’t have any closures, ties, sewn-in elastic, etc) it’s probably a knit.
For this project, we will be using a one-way stretch knit. Jersey or interlock (a light to medium fabric with a fine rib on both sides) would work. The important thing is that the fabric have 35% stretch. For now, stay away from two-way stretch fabrics like spandex.
For a great detailed account on different types of knits, check out this webpage from Denver Fabrics. Don’t let all the different types confuse you; for right now, all you need is a jersey or interlock knit, in the length appropriate for what size you are sewing.
I will be sewing a size Small, in View A (the long sleeve), so I bought a little over a yard and a half.
This is the first project in which we will be working with interfacing. Interfacing is a stiffer type of material used to stiffen or reinforce different parts of a sewing project. Interface is hidden, adhered to the wrong side of the fabric, usually through heat bonding (heat-adhesive interfacing is called fusible interfacing. I far prefer it to the sewn kind.) With a sharp eye, though, you can still spot when interfacing is used-in a crisp collar, on a button hole, or to help hold the shape of a sewn wallet.
You only need a very small amount for this project. 1/4 of a yard of light (but not featherweight) or medium weight fusible interfacing should do it.
A big advantage of knits is that they are incredibly easy to take care of, at least for people who do their own laundry. I can wash my knit fabric just like I would all my other normal clothes. (This isn’t universal, of course; always make sure to double-check the fabric care instructions on the end of a bolt.)
Best of all, knits don’t have to be ironed! I iron mine anyway, because I’m obsessive about wrinkles, but once your fabric comes out of the dryer, you can pretty much get straight to pinning and sewing!
Sewing tools are essentially the same as with other projects, EXCEPT the needles.
- Sewing needles. You will want to match the needle to your sewing machine. I have a 1970’s Singer, and the Singer needles still fit it perfectly.
- Pay special attention to the size of the needle you get. Choose the size of the needle based on the weight of fabric. You’ll probably be sewing either lightweight or medium weight fabric, so choose either a 11/80 or 14/90 needle size.
- When sewing with knits, you will want to use a Ballpoint needle. If you use a regular point, you will ruin your fabric. Use a Ballpoint Needle. (I am emphasizing this because I once forgot myself. Bad things occurred.)
- Seam Gauge. I usually end up using my tape measure if I need to hem something. I’m sure a seam gauge is handy, I just haven’t figured out how yet.
- Rotary cuter and cutting mat. My quilting friends swear by these, but I don’t have a surface large enough in my house that I could use a decent-sized mat on. Hopes to use this in the future, though.
- Thimbles. I don’t use these when hand sewing, because I take the saying “put blood, sweat and tears into your sewing projects” literally. Especially the tears part.
The very last thing we’ll discuss is the Right/Wrong side of fabric. This is something we’ll be coming back to over and over again, so best cram this last term into your head before we turn our gaze to next week, when we’ll start laying out the pattern and cutting.
Prep for Week 2: Buy your pattern and fabric, wash your fabric, and assemble your sewing tools.
Next Week: Ironing, Laying Out The Pattern, Pinning and Cutting