Please welcome Jessica of A Little Gray today for our final KNITerview! Jessica’s blog is a fun read, with a great mix of quilting and sewing (much of it for her two kiddos). Her work with knits first caught my eye with an awesome raglan hoodie outfit she made for her son Hendrix for Season 4 Project Run and Play, a season which, incidentally, she won. She also teaches the “Sewing with Knits” class at Sewn Studio in Cincinnati, so I figured she might know a thing or two about sewing with knits, eh? I was lucky enough to be a guest this past fall for Film Petit, a fun series Jessica hosts each month or so with Kristin of skirtastop (by the way, did you check out the Princess Bride outfits last week?? TOTALLY great!) so it’s been really fun to get to know her more this past year. She was recently featured on Sew Mama Sew as one of their 31 Inspiring Quilters. Welcome, Jess!!!
JESSICA: Wow, this has been such an all-star season of kniterviews! I’m going to try not to repeat a lot of the basics already covered about the right needles and stitches to use. But hopefully something about my unique experience learning to sew with knits will be helpful to someone out there. Really, the possibilities without knits are so limited when it comes to sewing clothing, so I’m always happy to help spread the knitty gospel.
RAE: What was the first thing you ever sewed with knits (if you remember?) Was it a good or bad experience?
JESSICA: When I first started sewing, I did a whole lot of sewing things onto existing t-shirts and onesies, but I had no idea that I was supposed to do certain things to be more successful when sewing with knits. The first garment I constructed all together from knits was this hoodie for my son when he was just one, made from the LBB pattern. When I bought the pattern, I still had no idea that sewing it from t-shirt material would be any different, but the pattern included lots of good tips that helped me. I also think it helped a lot that I was clueless about knits, since I didn’t know they were something to be nervous about! (Which they aren’t… but, you know.)
RAE: What’s your favorite thing to sew with knit fabrics?
JESSICA: Definitely kids clothing. They want to live in soft comfy clothes all the time, so I’m happy when I can oblige.
RAE: Do you have a favorite pattern for knit fabrics that you keep coming back to?
JESSICA: It’s probably a tie between raglan tees and leggings. Both are so quick and forgiving and satisfying. They are guaranteed to get worn a ton, and you kind of feel like a sewing magician after pumping a few out. For raglans, I like both the Oliver & S Field Trip tee and the pattern in the Sewing for Boys book. For leggings, both the Oliver & S Playtime Leggings, and the Go-To Leggings by Go To patterns are great.
JESSICA: I love the feel of interlock in the sewing machine, but I tend to just sew with whatever is around. I do a lot of cutting into old grown up clothing, so I’m not always that choosy about the knit. But each different type serves a purpose, so it’s good to get experience with a wide range.
RAE: What’s the trickiest knit fabric you’ve ever sewn with, and do you have any tips for working with that fabric?
JESSICA: The first thing that comes to my mind is the velour I recently worked with for our Zoolander Film Petit! It’s a polyester knit, and doesn’t have a lot of stretch, so it’s really better suited to patterns written for wovens. I learned that it helped to use a ton of pins and to reduce the pressure on my presser foot. If you have a machine that lets you do that, use it frequently! It helps with thick layers or some knits that don’t want to move through the machine as well. Some people use a walking foot with knits, but I much prefer this trick. Anyway, the top I made with the velour had to be jammed down over my son’s head. That collar isn’t pretty. I need to go back and replace it with a stretchy ribbing neckband so it’s wearable. Those are the kinds of mistakes you learn from when sewing for knits. But once you start, you are never afraid to tackle weird fabrics like velour, so it’s worth it!
RAE: Where do you get your knit fabric?
JESSICA: Like I said, I upcycle clothing a lot. (This is mainly because I have a very limited fabric budget and I tend to use it all on my quilting stash.) But I do work at a great fabric shop called Sewn Studio, which carries some very high quality knits. When I need a certain solid color or something weird, I’ll end up at Joann. But I love it when I have a good excuse to buy what we have at Sewn because it’s all made by Michael Miller and Robert Kaufman and the quality is much better. I’ve heard about some really good online sources for knits, but I haven’t tried it yet. I just can’t bring myself to buy a knit without feeling it first! (Says the girl who claims she’s not too choosy.)
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?
JESSICA: Definitely interlock. It tends to be a little sturdier and gives really forgiving results. I sometimes teach classes on sewing with knits at the shop, and the students almost always feel more successful when they use interlock for that first project.
RAE: What kind of sewing machine do you have? and do you recommend your machine for knits?
JESSICA: I have a Brother Project Runway model, PC-420. It’s always been kind to me with knits, but I don’t have much experience with others. (We use similar Brother models at Sewn as well.) It is very nice that my model has the ability to decrease presser foot pressure.
RAE: What’s one tip or trick you wish someone had told you when you first started sewing with knits?
JESSICA: I remember during those first couple projects being so frustrated when that thing happened where the edge of the fabric gets eaten down under the needle plate. Somewhere along the line, I figured out that you can start your seam in the middle of the fabric, sew out to the edge, then flip it around and pick up where you started going the other direction. This way, you never try to start right at the edge. Seems so obvious, but it’s a real life saver!
Another favorite tip of mine: Laziness. I use existing hems when I can, or sometimes just leave things un-hemmed.
JESSICA: Probably freezer paper. Knits can be tricky to cut accurately, so I always cut my patterns from freezer paper and iron the pieces on the fabric to cut around. It stabilizes the stretch and you can use it over and over.
I’d also like to mention embellishing on knits. I love freezer paper stenciling of course, but I’ve also begun to enjoy hand stitching on knits with embroidery floss and perle cotton. All you need is a tapestry needle and some wash away stabilizer for the back- although sometimes you can even skip that. All the hand embroidered projects I’ve done wash up and wear really well too. It makes for a totally unique project and can be done during a couple of tv shows.
RAE: Do you use a serger? Which make/model? Do you recommend it?
JESSICA: Nope. I don’t really have the space for one, though I would like to get one someday. The one up side is that I’m able to tell my sewing students that they don’t necessarily need one to make great clothes. I’ve been doing it for years!
JESSICA: Thanks so much for having me on the Kniterviews Rae!
RAE: So lovely to have you!
And you can find all the posts from the previous series HERE.