OK, so maybe I’m a little late to this party! Despite coveting (and subsequently buying) the Tilly and the Buttons book Stretch! on sewing with stretch fabrics since its launch, I have actively avoided any type of knit! But in the interest of upping my sewing game I decided it was time to at least have a go...
As a relatively new sewist, the world of knits and stretch and overlockers seems like a rabbit hole that’s hard to navigate! So when I spotted that the New Craft House were hosting Emily of Self Assembly Required teaching a ‘sew your own slogan tee on a regular sewing machine’ workshop I didn’t hesitate in booking a spot.
The instructions for the workshop required me to buy and prewash the fabric before the day, and the fabric suggestions were ‘jersey fabric with at least 25% stretch, ideal fabrics include light to medium weight single knit jerseys or interlock jersey’, simple right? Oh no! I couldn’t seem to find anywhere the amount of stretch for any of the fabrics I looked at on-line, so there was only one thing for it – a trip to Fabricland so I could look at (and stretch out) the fabrics in person! With my logic hat on I set about looking for jersey fabrics that looked like you could make a t shirt from, stretching them out to see if they actually stretched, until I finally found a pretty aqua leaves fabric that seemed to stretch quite far.
I thought it would be best to double check the fabric length requirements first and so didn’t buy the jersey when I saw it. I went back a few days later and yep you guessed it – gone. Not only gone but sold out completely! I ummed and ahhed about it for a while, found a pretty sage coloured jersey that would be a good alternative, and then didn’t buy that either…
On my third trip back to Fabricland there was a power cut in the shopping centre, but I had limited time as I was on my lunch-break from work, so I ended up shopping by smartphone torchlight. The pretty sage green fabric which I had finally settled on was nowhere to be seen, it seems jersey sells out fast in this town! After pacing the shop back and forth hoping something would suddenly appear out of the darkness. I finally settled on a bright pink jersey, although to be honest by this point I was running out of time and I would have taken anything! est by this point, and with less than a week until the workshop, I would have taken anything! Its funny the things that can spur a decision!
It turns out I needn’t have worried about what fabric to buy as the workshop ended up being cancelled. I was disappointed, and I did wallow for at least an hour, but I then decided that since I already had the fabric why not just make the darn t-shirt myself! Although at this point, after the fabric fiasco and now the cancellation of the class, I was not really expecting this to end well…
First stop – I emailed Emily, who was super helpful with tips and ideas! Then I did a quick google search for more t-shirt patterns, now that I wasn’t limited to the one selected by Emily, and there are some great patterns out there. Here are just a few of the patterns I considered;
I spent a lot of time on Instagram checking the hashtags for these patterns to see which would give the best shape for me and be the best match for my fabric. That’s when the Tilly and the Buttons Agnes top caught my eye. The Agnes has a ruched sleeve variation that would really help balance out my narrow shoulders, and I could really see it slotting into my day to day wardrobe easily. The bonus was that the pattern clearly states no overlocker required! Phew!
Next, I had to consider what supplies I needed – a ball point needle, a twin needle and the thread. This all sounds straight-forward right? Of course not! Both Hobbycraft and John Lewis were out of Singer needles…and the nice lady in John Lewis told me the range had been deleted from the store!
Honestly – you would think this would be a good time to give up! But the universe had other plans and was clearly keeping me distracted, as just a week after the date of the cancelled workshop I entered a Tilly and the Buttons competition on Instagram and won tickets to the Handmade Fair. All you had to do was share your funniest sewing story (see mine below). I was thrilled to have been picked, and over the moon to find out that Tilly herself would be running a super-theatre session giving tips and tricks for working with knit fabrics!
I decided to try out the Agnes top before going to the fair, in the hope that any insights about sewing with knits might make more sense if I had a little bit of experience that I could relate to. Reading through the instructions made me feel a little silly for shying away from stretch fabrics for all this time – Tilly gives clear directions and handy little photos and hints throughout.
So finally, after a lot of palaver, a lot of umming and ahhing about patterns and then running around finding supplies I was finally set to sew my first knit garment! Cutting the jersey was super easy with a rotary cutter and before I knew it I was ready to stitch. I remembered that Emily had advised to sew slowly, so I turned my machine speed down to half and began.
What can I say, it was easy! I was worried I might stretch the neckline out as I had seen many people online having this problem, but I was so careful handling the fabric and the neckline sits perfectly. I did however manage to sew the top with the fabric inside out and melt the elastic casing on one sleeve ruching, but other than that I’m suitably impressed for a first go! The finished article is wearable, I don’t think anyone will notice the fabric is the wrong side out and the other mishaps are all hidden! The fabric is probably a bit too stretchy for this pattern for my liking, the drape combined with my narrow shoulder means the sleeve puff drops rather than holds its shape, which is a shame as it’s a really nice detail.
This has been a huge learning curve for me, and I’m glad I’m over that first hurdle! When I sat down in the Super Theatre at the Handmade Fair I felt much more confident about sewing with knit fabrics, and I could relax and enjoy the banter between Tilly and Kirstie (only in a room full of sewists could you have such an in-depth conversation about irons!) while soaking up Tilly’s handy hints and tips.
I think the Agnes has won my heart. It’s still high on my list of things to make but I would like to do a better job, iron out all those little niggles and hopefully make it a regular wardrobe staple!