We are nearing the end of our KNITerview series with our second to last interview! Today’s guest is someone who always wows me with her knit skills! Cherie of You and Mie creates fantastic knit garments both for herself and her CRAZY CUTE KIDDOS (as you will soon see!). I love that Cherie often chooses sophisticated prints — think Nani Iro — and colors for her children, which gives her blog and clothing a very modern feel. Welcome, Cherie!!!
CHERIE: Ahh, one of the last Kniterviewees . . . not a person that you should envy, trying to follow up all the knit knowledge that the previous guests have already shared. I definitely wouldn’t consider myself an expert at all, but when I was looking back at my history with knits, I realize that I have come a long way. I once suffered from knit-anxiety, for sure, but the more I sew with it, the more I love it! I’m not sure if I have any original information to share, but I’m hoping that just another voice telling you to “go for it” will encourage you to give it a try. It’ll open up a whole new world of sewing for you, I promise!
RAE: What was the first thing you ever sewed with knits (if you remember?) Was it a good or bad experience?
CHERIE: So back when I first start sewing clothes, I just jumped right in with no experience, no patterns or instructions – I would just wing it. I didn’t even bother looking at free online tutorials. I had this striped knit that I thought would make a cute dress bodice for my daughter and since it was stretchy, I figured I wouldn’t need to add any special closures. Well I didn’t know a thing about sewing with knits, so I used a straight stitch along the neckline and when I tried the dress on my daughter it wouldn’t stretch (without popping the thread), so it didn’t fit over her head! I had to cut the neckline open and do some hack job of a button and loop closure to salvage the dress. Luckily, I’ve learned A LOT about sewing with knits since then!
RAE: What’s your favorite thing to sew with knit fabrics?
CHERIE: I love using knits for all sorts of clothes, especially for kids (although I love knit clothes for myself too)! T-shirts, leggings, dresses, scarves, costumes, anything really. Knits are not only comfortable, but they also are so easy to care for. I find that garments made with quilting cottons often come out of the laundry really wrinkly, the gathers flatten and pleats loose their crispness and I have to iron them – and even then they don’t always look as great as when they were first made. Knits usually come out of the dryer ready to wear!
RAE: Do you have a favorite pattern for knit fabrics that you keep coming back to?
CHERIE: Definitely the Flashback Skinny Tee pattern. It’s great for simple short and long-sleeved tees, and a great base for pattern remixing. I used it to make a cardigan, and it’d be pretty simple to make into a dress, or add a placket, change up the sleeves, etc. I’ve found a good legging pattern to be really useful as well. I’ve used the Oliver + S Playtime Leggings (now available as a separate pattern!) and Figgy’s Sunki Leggings – and both are great. I also recently made my daughter a Kitschy Coo Skater Dress and I know I’ll be making many more of these. I feel like there are more and more knit patterns by independent pattern makers entering the marketplace – it’s great!
RAE: What’s the trickiest knit fabric you’ve ever sewn with, and do you have any tips for working with that fabric?
CHERIE: Oh, I’m totally with Tara on this one – striped tissue knits can be SUCH A HEADACHE! Tissue knits can be shifty and super flimsy with ends that curl up like crazy, which makes matching up stripes tricky – but not impossible! I’d say be patient and be prepared to go slowly. I don’t have a ton of experience sewing with tissue knits, but when I have, I’ve used tissue paper (the kind you use in gift bags) to stabilize the fabric. It prevents it from being devoured by the sewing machine and helps move it along smoothly while sewing. The tissue paper can be ripped away after you’re done.
RAE: Where do you get your knit fabric?
CHERIE: I generally get mine at local fabric shops, though I think thrift shops and XXL t-shirts on clearance are also awesome places to get knit fabric. The other thing that I’ve been meaning to do is pick up some cotton jersey bed sheets from Target (or elsewhere). I’ve seen a couple of cute basic prints and you get a lot of yardage for the price of a twin sheet set, especially if you can get them on sale.
RAE: What type of knit (jersey? rib? interlock? etc) would you recommend for someone who’s never sewn with knits before for a first project?
CHERIE: If you really want to start out with an easy knit project just to dip your toe in the water, I’d say try fleece or a sweatshirt knit. These fabrics don’t have a ton of stretch, so they sew up a lot like woven fabric, but still have the perks of knit, like a little stretchiness and edges that don’t unravel. I actually didn’t even realize that fleece was technically a knit when I first started, so I just sewed it up like I would a woven and it was totally fine. I’m sure there are plenty of fleece project ideas online, if you’re looking for a place to start.
RAE: What’s one tip or trick you wish someone had told you when you first started sewing with knits?
CHERIE: I wish that I knew more about selecting the right knit for the right project. I found myself often buying knits that I thought were cute, but they ended up being way too thin and tricky to sew with. You definitely want to use a different type of knit for pants vs. t-shirts, for example. This post about knit fabric by Miranda of One Little Minute is extremely helpful – but I also think you learn by feeling the weight and stretch of fabric in your hands and sewing with a few to get a sense of what is appropriate for different projects.
RAE: What’s the most useful trick in your knit-sewing-toolbag?
CHERIE: My tips and tricks aren’t so much about sewing knits (I feel like that’s been pretty well covered), but about how to treat knits before and after sewing. A lot of this may be common knowledge, but they are so important that they are worth repeating. DEFINITELY prewash and dry all your knits because some of them shrink significantly and will definitely affect the fit and look of your garment, especially if you are mixing fabrics.
When tracing patterns, use pattern weights, a rotary cutter and mat. You want to make sure that your fabric doesn’t shift or stretch when you’re cutting and trying to use scissors to cut the fabric can do just that. Get a tiny rotary cutter like this for smaller curves and corners (affiliate link for Cherie). And I don’t even bother tracing my pattern anymore – I just use weights (cans of food if you don’t have weights) to hold the pattern down and cut around it with the rotary cutter. I like saving time when possible!
And be sure to press your seams and hems after sewing because it will do wonders for flattening slightly wonky or curvy edges.
RAE: Do you use a serger? Which make/model? Do you recommend it?
CHERIE: Yes, I have the ever popular Brother 1034D (affiliate link) and yes, I recommend it! I’ve never used another, so I honestly can’t compare, but it does the job and it does it well. Seems like a good place to start, if you’re looking for a basic serger.
RAE: Did you find it difficult to learn how to use a serger?
CHERIE: I think the serger seems faaar scarier than it actually is. Mine sat around for a year before I worked up the nerve to try it, but once I learned how to thread it, it’s been pretty easy to use and gives garments such a professional and sturdy finish. I use my serger manual often when I need to rethread it or have an issue with tension and YouTube videos can be very helpful as well.
RAE: What’s different on your sewing machine when you sew knits vs wovens, in other words — how do you set up your machine to sew knits?
CHERIE: When sewing with knits, I’m definitely a walking foot believer. At first I avoided it because for my machine it takes a bit of effort, including using a small screwdriver, to switch feet. But in my experience, it’s been totally worth it. The walking foot really helps feed the fabric through without getting pulled into the machine or stretching it. I also switch to a stretch stitch for any seams that need to retain their stretch and I both widen and lengthen it slightly from the default setting.
I also use a ballpoint needle. I kept hearing about both ballpoint and stretch needles, but I didn’t know what the difference was. When I went to the fabric store, I asked two employees and neither of them knew! So I did a little research for you!
A ball point needle has a rounded tip that pushes fabric threads out of the way and slips between them as opposed to cutting them. These needles are appropriate for medium and heavy knits and helps to create even stitches and avoid damaging the fabric.
A stretch needle is similar to a ball point needle, but it is slightly less rounded. The main difference seems to be that the scarf is deeper (if you look at the back of the stretch needle, there is an indentation above the eye, which is the scarf) and this allows the bobbin hook to get closer to the eye so it loops the thread easier and helps avoid skipped stitches in lightweight knits and highly elastic fabrics like Lycra and Spandex. It’s recommended that if you are getting skipped stitches with a ball point needle, try a stretch needle. Check out this picture to see what the different needles look like and this PDF has some helpful descriptions of various needles.
Lastly, I do like the way you can finish hems with a twin needle, but at first I was having trouble with the fabric puckering a little between the two stitch lines. I was using the twin needle that came with my Schmetz combo pack of needles because I just assumed that was the right one. I decided to look for something wider and picked up a size 4/80 twin needle which works SO much better for my t-shirt hems. Be sure to read your manual and thread your twin needle properly or it definitely will not work. I learned this one from experience. You know, I thought I could just figure it out myself. I was wrong.
Whelp, that’s it for me! You know, after looking over all the previous Kniterviews and other posts about knits around blogland, I’ve noticed that there isn’t one magical way to sew knits. Some people swear by a walking foot, others don’t bother. Some change needles or stitches or thread or some combination of the three and others just cross their fingers and go for it. So in the end, I really think that everyone just has to figure out what works for them and their machine. But you’ll get the hang of it and it’s so worth it. Take it from this former knit-phobe! You’ll love knits! Thanks so much for having me, Rae! And happy sewing!
RAE: Thanks for dropping in, Cherie!
You can follow Cherie’s sewing endeavors on her blog, You & Mie. She’ll be posting some tutorials soon, and might even have patterns in the works this year!
And you can find all the posts from the previous series HERE.