Thursday, September 24, 2009

New Sewists Thursdays is back!

Yes, I've finally gotten around to writing another New Sewists Thursdays post!  However, this post is a collection of information aimed at answering two specific questions.  The first question is from Elizabeth,

"I need a little encouragement. I am despairing that I will never reach tnt status with any pattern. Let me preface this with the fact that I am known for being a little impatient. Ok, a lot impatient. I know the fitting process is necessary but sheesh could it be a little faster please? Any helpful hints for us beginners that are not straight out of the envelope gals?"

I've written extensively on my blog about my journey with TNT patterns.  But the number one thing you must realize about tried and true patterns is that you HAVE to sew that pattern a multiple of times to end up with a well fitting garment and a TNT pattern.  You must be willing to wear the garment, figure out what you want to improve and then tweak your pattern.  And you must make it again and again...especially if you are not a wear it out of the envelope girl...oops person!  This is a process...sort of like a long distance marathon...not a sprint!  You may find immediate success with one loop around the track or you may need to run numerous loops around the track before you are satisfied with your final garment but in no way is this a sprint!

Here are the links to the previous posts:

The series on how my TNT Dress Pattern came to be is in three parts - Part One, Part Two, Part Three

Would you please TNT with me? - is about the reasons to develop a TNT pattern

This post details the list with a brief description of each one of my TNT patterns - 12 on a Desert Island

Various garments are detailed in some of the posts that I've labeled TNT posts.  You can scan through the search to read specific posts on construction or not!  *LOL*  I have to admit that TNT patterns are my thing!  Everyone has some specific sewing techniques that they are good at...this is mine.  Each person finds their own in their sewing journey but I believe that all sewists can develop a TNT pattern.

Okay next...

Karen asks, "I'm actually not a new sewist. I've been sewing for quite some time, but I'm new to knits. I desperately want to learn to sew knits, but I am afraid! I don't know where to start. I don't know what pattern to start with and what type of fabric to use. I have a serger and a regular machine with zigzag capabilities. Any suggestions/guidance would be appreciated!"

First, Claire who authors the blog, "" has written an amazing series of blog posts on fabrics which I think is a must read for anyone new to sewing or just getting back into sewing.  You can read her posts here!  They are detailed, include illustrations and should be bookmarked!

There are also several really good books that I would recommend you borrow or buy to learn how to work with fabrics and knits in particular.  They are:

Specific to knits:  The Stretch & Sew Guide to Sewing on Knits by Ann Person
Sewing with Knits, Classic Stylish Garments from Swimsuits to Eveningwear by Connie Long

General fabric books:  Claire Shaeffer's Fabric Sewing Guide and
Fabric Savvy and More Fabric Savvy by Sandra Betzina.

But Karen didn't ask about books did she...she wanted tips!  And after Lindsay's post today...I'm sure more of you are wondering if you can make knits work?!

So my tips...because I've sewn quite a few knit garments...

1.  Choose your knit fabric carefully.
I am really, really picky about what knit fabrics I work with...most of my garments are made from a knit with a little lycra in them...rayon/lycra knits being my favorite.  Now this is for closer fitting garments.  I've used more sweatery knits for cardigans.

2.  Stabilize key seams
I always, always, always stabilize the shoulder seams with twill tape, rayon hem tape or the selvedge edge of a woven garment.  I don't want them sagging from the pulling on and off or the day-to-day wearing.

3.  Use the correct needle and thread for the garment
Both Claire and Sandra's books give detailed information on what type of needle, thread and length to set on your sewing machine to use with knits.

4.  Learn to use the best techniques that you can! 
Again I'm going to refer to the books referenced above.  I read and sewed based upon the information gleamed from the books above.  You will be amazed at how many little tips you pick up!  Or if you are a more visual learner try Nancy's Notions..."Sew & Go Knits DVD".  She offers her show online at Sewing with NancyTV.  If you click Nancy's Favorites, there are two shows on Knits - Easy Fit, Easy Sew that you can watch at home at your convenience on your computer!

5.  Keep working with the garment until you get the fit you want! 
Oh drat there I go again not encouraging quick and fast results!  *LOL*  But seriously, how do you know what works for you if you don't experiment and then try again when something doesn't work?  Remember my earlier analogy a marathon...not a sprint!

Now a few disclaimers...being a plus size girl and liking a looser more relaxed fit, I don't have some of the stretch and recovery issues that someone desiring a closer fit might have. My garments typically don't lay right against my skin as many of the tees and tops that most women/men sew.  Let me emphasize again that this is my preference.  I don't like overfitted, too tight tops or dresses...they make me uncomfortable, however, someone else may be more comfortable.  So I tend to treat knits like wovens...the point is for them to glide over my body but have a little more stretch than a typical woven.

I also only sew a few types of knit garments...cardigans, loose fitting tees, tanks and dresses.  You have yet to see me make a wrap dress...can't figure out how to make one without looking like there is a war going on beneath the dress in the back!  I haven't made one of those wrapped/knotted front tops that are everywhere...another popular sew.  My pieces are more classic in nature and I've been sewing them for years.  BUT, I've had my share of disasters, oops and garbage pitches...again, you just have to get up dust yourself off and try something new.  Or if you truly don't want to work with knits...let it go!  There are so many other things to sew and adventures to's a personal decision.

Can I also note here that I've been sewing since I was 11 years old and that I've learned much of what I know through books, TV series, videos and DVDs and from a few sewing classes that I've taken.  The reason I emphasize books and sewing shows is because I've learned so much from them. 
Sorry that this post has been more of an encouragement post than one chock full of information...but sometimes I think that's what we sewists need!  A pat on the back...a word or two of encouragement, understanding and support...and a shove back into the game!

Please continue to send questions to me for future blog posts...and I will share my next finished project with you soon!

...more later!


  1. Wow! This is a great post. Thanks.

    I left you an award on my blog.

  2. Excellent post. I am like you with knits, looser fits, but like the softness and ease of a knit. I use fusible stay tape to stabilize from Steam a seam in the 1/4" roll helps with hems. I, too, like the rayon/lycras. I have not had good luck with rib knits, better luck with interlock and jersey. Like yousaid, trial and error, try, try again, etc. to develop TNT's.

  3. Great post! I just love your blog! You are a wonderful inspiration for me. It has been a while since I have sewn garments for myself. I plan to alter some key patterns to fit,by laying my pattern on a RTW garment with simiilar lines (and in styles that I know will work for me).

    (Did I say how much I love your blog..?)

  4. I'm in the middle of my first TNT (the quest for the Perfectly Fitting Shirt), mostly because I was inspired by your prior TNT blog posts. (Well, that and the fact that I have only a handful of shirts that fit/flatter me!) I'm also terribly, terribly impatient, but I guess my impatience has finally been outweighed by my total annoyance at not having clothing that I LOVE to wear.

  5. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I actually bought some knit fabric and I'm going to give it a whirl!

  6. I do love reading what you put together for your Thursday instructive posts.
    May I also suggest, for a beginner sewist who really is not an "out of the envelope" fit in any way shape or form, that a private lesson with someone who specializes in fitting patterns might be a great investment in both developing the start of a TNT, and in learning what figure issues there are and how to deal with them in the flat pattern stage. To find an instructor I'd first suggest asking at the independent fabric store in your town - if there is one. They know who sews and who teaches and can point you in the right direction. If there isn't an indy fabric store, then check the national list for the Professional Assoc of Custom Clothiers - again a good dressmaker may be willing to give a private lesson, or else they'll know of someone who might. Failing all of that, post a message on PR or SG asking for teachers for your particular geographic area.
    As a beginner, 2 hrs with a private instructor may save you months of trial and error.

  7. Thanks for another great post. Two weekends ago I made three muslins for a sheath dress and thought I had the fit perfect. I made the final dress and although the fit is good all over, after wearing all day I've decided I need to brind the armholes in about 2cm at the shoulder. The dress fits and is comfortable, but that little tweak is something I would only know from actually wearing the dress all day. You are so right about TNT patterns needing time and patience, but it will definitely speed up sewing once you have those patterns down pat.

  8. Thanks so much for this great post. I was really interested to read your suggestions for references and tips about working with knits. I love knit dresses but I want to be able to make them as perfectly as possible - your advice will be really helpful to me.

  9. This post was fantastic. Thank you so much for sharing your tips and giving us all this wealth of information and reference material. You are truly an inspiration to us all.

  10. I had a huh moment when I read the title of Connie Long's book here on your blog. I have that book and have read that book and had no idea it had that long title. LOL

    I'm not a fan of the fitted knit either. Love knits, but not tight fitting.

  11. I agree about picking knits, rayon lycra being my favorite. I have the Connie Long book too and love it. One point I'd like to make is that you should figure out the amount of ease you like in your knit tops. When I first started sewing knits I made a total wadder after making a knit muslin too with a Christine Jonson pattern. Her idea of ease and mine just were not compatible! Sausage casings are not my ideal type of top.

  12. I would like to add one more tip to those unfamiliar with selecting knits is to avioid (like the plague) Purchasing any knits with 'acrylic' fiber content. Acrylic knits stretch out and never recover their original shape.

  13. THanks for answering my question!!!

  14. Thank you!! I am a beginning sewist and read your blog religiously since I found it this summer. This post was especially helpful- are you clairvoyant? ;) I had a new nightgown pattern and 2 yards of a nice knit fabric taunting me from my sewing area. Your post gave me some tools before starting and the courage to give it a whirl. While my first knit project will not win any awards (and I want to re-do the sleeve seams), it is wearable!! Thank you for your blog- it is so inspiring and informative!

  15. Would you believe I am only halfway through reading this post and I had to stop, so I could leave a comment just to say - Thank you!

    The quality of information you share on your blog is just sensational! It goes to show how strong your passion (and skill) is for the art of sewing, and we're all just very lucky to have people like you sharing your knowledge and interests online. It makes me just want to go and sew something!!

    But first I should get back to reading this rest of this post; I was up to the 'Fabric Savvy' part...


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