KNITerview with Kristin of skirt as top

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Please welcome today’s KNITerviewee, Kristin of skirt as top!

I was flabbergasted to discover the other day as I read Kristin’s year-end 2011 wrap-up post that she’s been blogging for less than a year! WHA?? After I got over my shock, I was super-impressed. Kristin’s already proven that she’s a skilled and prolific seamstress and is incredibly creative when it comes to sewing for her littles (if you want to see all of her projects from 2011, that wrap-up post is a fun read, this jacket is also a favorite of mine). And you also may have noticed that Kristin’s one of the current Project Run and Play contestants, so be sure to follow her blog and the competition to see more exciting things from her!

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Here’s our interview about knits:

RAE: Did you ever FEAR knits?

KRISTIN: Probably not as much as I should! I seem to have a “trial and error” approach to knit sewing, unlike my normal approach to sewing which is to follow patterns and the “proper” way to do things much more precisely the first time.  With knits, I’ve been content to learn as I go – which is likely a testament to how forgiving knits actually are, though there were some wonky hems and popped seams along the way!

RAE: Do you remember a specific turning point?

KRISTIN: Getting my serger finally threaded and running was a big turning point in sewing with knits more often – it’s so easy to whip something up when the seams are sewn and finished all in one pass, and it feels like I’m doing things “the right way” now.

RAE: What types of projects do you usually sew with knit fabric?

I started by adding appliqué to onesies (a good way to “dip my toe in” with knit sewing), but now have sewn kid shirts, sweatshirts, skirts, winter hats, and pajamas. Kid’s clothes are the perfect chance to sew with knits since they’re stretchy and comfy, and I think pajamas are great to practice on since they’re (usually) not (often) worn out of the house!

RAE: Do you prefer sewing with knits or sewing with wovens?

I prefer wovens for the wider selection of prints and the fact that it’s easier to get a cleaner, more professional-looking finish on a woven hem. It’s sometimes difficult to hem knits without them looking wonky.  I think I’m actually more critical of stray threads and irregular stitches on my home-sewn clothes than storebought ones, so I want to make sure I can get a nice finish on my garments.  I often use existing factory hems when I sew with upcycled knits – aside from saving time, the finish looks great.

RAE: Do you have a preference for sewing with a particular type of knit?

I prefer interlock for its heavier weight and ease of sewing, but jersey isn’t as frustrating since I fired up my serger.  You’ve gotta use lots of pins on knits in general and especially on fleece, but I love it for its coziness and warmth.

RAE: Do you have a place where you usually buy knits?

KRISTIN: BY FAR my biggest source of knit fabric is repurposed men’s sweaters and shirts. My husband has old sweaters and t-shirts that have lost their shape over time, get a hole or a stain, or fall out of favor for some reason, and I consider these gold! He’s given me a few heavyweight brushed cotton interlock sweaters that are especially wonderful to sew with.

If I don’t have sweaters/shirts of my husband’s to cannibalize, I check out the Old Navy or Target sale section (online, too!). I can get an XXXL men’s t-shirt or sweater for $5 or less, and it’s more than enough fabric to make a garment for a baby/preschooler. I bet you could even squeeze a ladies’ size top out of one, if you try. Buy the biggest size shirt you can! It costs no more, but gets you maximum yardage.

I also have trouble finding good prints (especially boy prints) of knit fabric at fabric stores, but can find nice basic stripes or other “boy-friendly” prints on men’s t-shirts and sweatshirts.

RAE: What brand/model machine do you use primarily when you sew with knits? Do you recommend it? Are there things you still wish it could do?

KRISTIN: My sewing machine is an almost 3 year old Brother CS6000i. It gets the job done fine. A ballpoint needle is a must, as is reinforcing seams. You’d think that you should be able to skip that step with knits, but I’ve found that the garment lasts a lot longer if I zigzag seams together, especially on a lighter-weight knit fabric like a t-shirt jersey.

RAE: Do you use a serger? Do you use it more/less/same as your machine when it comes to sewing knits?

KRISTIN: YES! I loooove my serger for sewing with knits – it’s so fast and feels so finished. My serger is a Brother 1034D. I had it for about a year before I finally had space in my sewing room and worked up the nerve to thread it, and now I wonder why I waited so long! Definitely a great birthday/Christmas wish list item.  Positioning them right next to each other is very helpful.

RAE: Do you have a “default setting” that you use when you’re sewing with knits?

KRISTIN: I sometimes lengthen the stitch length to 3.0 or 3.5, but not always. I actually don’t like zigzags showing because I want my knit hems to look like a coverstitch machine did them, so I use a straight stitch on the outside of my garments. The insides are a different story.  Serger all the way!

RAE: Walking foot: yes or no?

KRISTIN: I’ve never used a walking foot for knits – my regular foot works for me.

RAE: Double needle: your thoughts.

KRISTIN: I’ve never used one, but I’d like to try someday. I tend to sew a second line of stitching 1/8” from my first one for a “mock coverstitch” look on hems.

RAE: Do you have a trick or tip for sewing with knits you’ve found helpful?

KRISTIN: The biggest lesson when learning to sew with knits is to just let the machine do the work. There’s a temptation to pull or stretch the fabric as you sew, and this is generally a bad idea (unless the pattern specifically calls for it!).

I think adding strips of fusible interfacing on the wrong side of the fabric before you sew buttonholes is a smart way to avoid stretching.  The Oliver + S sailboat top pattern called for that in the instructions, and the buttonholes turned out great.

I also like either using facings/linings to finish the sleeves and hems, or adding cuffs. Cuffs on knits are so easy to add, and give you a finished garment that looks store-bought (especially on pajamas).  Check out the left sidebar of Piccoli Piselli for a simple tutorial on adding cuffs.

RAE: Thanks for being here today, Kristin, and for all the great tips!

KRISTIN: Thanks so much for KNITerviewing me, Rae!

Visit Kristin at skirt as top today for a project she sewed especially for this KNITerview:
“… an Oliver + S Hopscotch Dress (nightgown) with elephant applique for my elephant-loving girl!  I made it from a sale rack men’s t-shirt and a promotional energy drink tank top.  I took some photos of my process as I made it and I share some additional tips for cutting your pattern on that wily jersey knit and preserving those factory hems!”

{Click on the image above to head over to skirt as top!}

To see all of the KNITerviews and other posts in this series, click here!

12 thoughts on “KNITerview with Kristin of skirt as top

  1. I love this series. Saw your last post and figured I’d comment – I think posts like the laundry chute post elicit an immediate conversational kind of response, whereas – for me at least – posts like this one get filed away in the “refer to, remember, informational” part of my brain.

    But I’m really enjoying the series!

  2. What a great KnitterView! I think my kids are just much harder on clothes than others? Every time I’ve tried a straight stitch on a knit, it pops because it’s stretched beyond recognition. I love the advice on upcycling.

  3. I love Kristin’s idea of buying large size sale clothing for the fabric! Brand new fabric, cheap… hurray! 🙂

  4. Great Kniterview! This makes me want to experiment with my serger more. I just use it to finish edges on wovens…never to do anything with knits. Now I’m excited about it again!

  5. I love all the items featured on this post – especially the girl’s dark blue dress! I’ve just made a few tops with knits and hope to do more. I love the tip on buying men size shirts on clearance. Thanks!

  6. Smart move to use fabric from shirts … and to use their hems as much as possible too. I’ll have to remember that!

  7. I am loving the KNITerviews! It’s fun to see the amazing projects, clothes, patterns and upcycling sewists are creating– along with a glimpse into the process. Thanks so much for putting this series together.

  8. I am loving these KNITerviews!!! I have a selfish request though…I’d love an add-on question of “what are your favorite sewing patterns brands for knits?” I’ve really struggled with this one! Especially for toddler girls.

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