KNITerview with Dana of MADE

Please welcome today’s KNITerviewee, Dana of MADE!

I’m excited to introduce you to our “knit expert” of the day, Dana Willard! Dana’s blog, MADE, is full of inspiration and is one of the most popular DIY sites in the blogosphere. Dana loves the bold colors (yay!), has an amazing eye for photography, and plenty of mad sewing/crafting/cooking skills. I love that she approaches knits with the same “make it as simple as possible” approach she’s taken with everything she does, one of the many reasons her blog has been such a huge success. Her 90-minute shirt tutorial (introduced for our very first Celebrate the BOY series a couple years ago) was an instant hit and turned so many people on to sewing knits, which I think is downright fantastic!


Here’s our interview about knits:

RAE: Did you ever FEAR knits?

DANA: You know, not really.  I remember sewing with some stable knits (non-stretchy) back when I was a teenager to make simple tops.  So I think I’ve always just lumped knits in with all the other fabrics. It wasn’t until I started blogging/sharing projects that I often heard readers say, “I’m so scared to sew with knits!!  Do you have any pointers??!” And I was kind of surprised….maybe because my approach to sewing is to just jump in and try something.  When a fabric catches my eye (especially if it’s a fiber I’ve never used before), I can’t wait to try it out and see what it does. What’s the worse than can happen?  Your machine munches it up into a bazillion ruffles and you have to toss it in the can? Yea, that kind of sucks. But really it’s just fabric. So go for it! If you’re never sewn with knits, put aside any preconceived notions you’ve heard and try it!  Play naive. Pretend no one’s told you “knits are scary” (cause they’re not). Toss it under your machine and start sewing.

Okay, sorry for the pep talk. I just think no one should be afraid of sewing. Think of it more as an adventure.

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


{ShortieSprinkle Shirts : Hobo Sack}
{90 min shirtRuched LeggingsErnie and Bert Shirts }

I love to use knits for kids’ shirts, lounging pants, blankets, small bags, bedding, leggings, dresses, blah, blah, blah.  And I always keep the scraps on-hand to use for T-shirt appliques.  You never know when you’ll need a smidgen of red for Ernie’s nose.

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

DANA: I love them both equally.  But since I prefer simple patterns on fabric, I’m often drawn to the stripes, dots, and solids that knits typically come in.  And sometimes I like to mix knits and wovens together:

If I had to break it into percentages though, I probably sew with knits 1/3 of the time and wovens 2/3 of the time.

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

DANA: I really love all types of knits. And guess what (shameless plug)….there’s an entire section in my new book dedicated to knit fabrics, their properties, and tips for sewing with them:


{Fabrics A to Z }

But here’s the cliff notes version:
Jersey (the standard t-shirt fabric) is used for my kid’s shirts and pants
Jersey with spandex has fantastic stretch and can be a bit slinky.  I used some for my beach cover-up this summer:

Interlock is a bit thicker than Jersey and has less stretch but is great for blankets and lightweight jackets/cardigans
Fleece can be used for so many things…blankets, vests, jackets, pillows, scarves, hats, embellishments.  I love fleece.

Ribbing is used for the cuffs and collars on my kids shirts.  I always love to have a variety of colors on-hand so whenever it’s on sale at the store I buy a 1/2 yard of my favorite shades
Lycra/Spandex is wonderful for swimsuits.

And though you might think it sounds scary…just go for it!  The first time I made a swimsuit I sort of made it up as I went.  And it was really fun!

RAE: Where do you usually buy knits?

Thrift Shops: T-shirts from the thrift shop are a fantastic place to find cool prints for kid’s projects
Large Retail sotres: Joanns, Hobby Lobby, etc often have a decent selection of solid interlocks and some jerseys (little by little they’re getting more)
Online stores: and other large shops carry some knits
LA fabric district: This is where I’ve found the most inexpensive place and interesting looking knits.  The Michael Levine store and the FIDM scholarship shop have a good selection and I love being able to touch/see the fabrics before buying/  Check out my detailed post about fabric shopping and the LA fabric district here:FAQ: Fabric Shopping
Swimsuit Fabric: Spandex World is an online shop with tons of options

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?

DANA: I use a Bernina sewing machine and serger.  My machine is nothing fancy, in fact it’s not even digital!  But it’s sturdy, all-metal, and a good workhorse.  In my opinion all you really need when it comes to sewing (unless you’re into quilting and embroidery) is a standard stitch, zigzag stitch, and button hole options.

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

DANA: Yes, but mostly to finish off the edges of my projects. I actually sew my knit projects with a standard machine. People often ask why I don’t sew exclusively with the serger and skip the machine step all together. The reasoning is this….
When you sew with a serger, the results are pretty final.  There’s a small knife in the machine that cuts and trims the edge of the fabric as you go.  So if you make a mistake, A) it’s much harder to pick out an overlock stitch (which uses 3-4 threads) and B) once the fabric edge is cut, there’s no going back or letting out the fabric.  So I like to sew with my standard machine first–even for knits!–and when I have the project where I’d like it, I serge off the edges for a nice, polished look. You see, you don’t even need a serger to get started with knits…especially since the edges of the fabric won’t fray or look messy.

RAE: Do you have a “default setting” that you use when you’re sewing with knits? (I’m thinking stitch type, length, width here)

DANA: Not really. Again, I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants sewer. I’m supposed to tell you fancy things like use a ball needle or a walking foot but I don’t do either. I just sew with a normal needle, normal sewing machine, standard foot, and get going. And it works!

MY BEST ADVICE though for sewing with knits is NOT to tug on the fabric as you go.  Let the fabric feed itself through the machine.  If you tug it, the fabric will stretch and pucker (unless that’s the look you’re going for).  When using knits as applique (such as the ernie shirt or leaf pillows or knee pads), sew slowly and stop every so often to lift the presser foot and allow the fabric underneath to relax and bounce back in place.  If you try to sew a circle of knit in one big swoop you’ll end up with a wonky looking project.

RAE: Double needle: your thoughts.

DANA: I have one; I’ve never used it (because I hate taking extra steps to do stuff). But I do LOVE the look of a double needle stitch–it looks professional, like retail clothing. So, I just fake it. When finishing off hems on pants and shirts, I sew my first line of the hem then I line the presser foot up about 1/4/ inch over from the first line and sew a second line.  It’s fast; it works.
And that’s about it!


RAE: Thanks so much Dana for all of your fantastic tips. I love your keep-it-simple philosophy!!

DANA: Thanks Rae for having me! And good luck everyone with your knits! Actually, I take that back. No luck needed. You can do it! Start sewing!

You can find Dana over at her blog, MADE. For the rest of the KNITerview posts in this series, click here!

27 thoughts on “KNITerview with Dana of MADE

  1. Look! I’m commenting on a Kniterview post! 🙂 I’ve been reading most of them actually. Shame on me for not commenting on all of them. But it’s made for some fun and educational reading. Thanks!

  2. Your knit projects are *amazing*! I love the photograph of the little blonde boy in the orange/yellow shirt. Thanks for the inspiration to get going. 🙂

  3. I just bookmarked the 90-minute shirt tutorial this week (guess I’m a little late to the party … haha). I have a young niece and nephew who could use some cute shirts like that!

  4. Another great interview! Thanks for the cliff notes on knit fabrics. I want to read more about the fleece coats but can’t find them on MADE…..

  5. Awesome interview! I’m inspired to try knits soon – I totally love the idea of jumping in with my “regular” machine & needle, and no walking foot. Just getting started is a big enough hurdle!

  6. just wondering if the link to is correct? I can find no fabric there! Thanks! And thanks for all the kniterviews…I love trying out new fabric–my next jump is the ruffle fabric, but I’m just waiting to be ‘unpregnified’ so my measurements won’t be all wonky 🙂

  7. Thanks Rae, Thanks Dana for the skinny on sewing with knits.
    In fact, Dana’s 90 minutes TShirt was the first tutorial that tempted me to sew with knits. I made my husband’s Tee into my daughter’s and despite all the flaws, it looked amazingly cute on her. My husband loved it because he felt like a part of him was with my daughter when she wore it ( besides his heart…lol), And I loved it because I made it. Needless to say, it was her most worn piece of clothing during those days. It doesn’t fit her anymore, but I managed to get a cute pic of her as keepsake. It still adorns our dining room wall.
    Sorry, I got carried away, but the mention of this tutorial evokes a really happy memory for me.

  8. I heart Dana! She is always so cheerful, her pics are amazing and she always makes everything look so easy. Great interview! Smiles~Beth

  9. Check the Hart’s weblink embedded in the article. Were you trying to link to Hart’s Fabrics in Santa Cruz? That link is some else. Doesn’t seem to be fabric related.

  10. Love this conversation aout knits. Dana and Rae lured me back into sewing with “Celerate the Boy.” I have loved making things for my now 20 month old son. You both make it so simple and accessible, I have felt empowered to jump in and make mistakes. Dana’s sprinkle shirt was my first knit project, and I got compliments every time my son wore it. Thanks so much ladies!

  11. Thanks for the inspiration Rae. You should start a subsection of your “Rae Made Me Do It” flicker pool dedicated to knits so you can see the impact of your series. I just bought my first knit pattern and (literally) just finished cutting it out. Crossing my fingers that it goes well and repeating to myself “I’m not afraid of knits, not afraid.” haha

  12. I’ve been reading the whole series and it’s going to be such a useful resource. I have loved discovering a couple of amazing blogs I hadn’t seen before too. You and Dana are both so inspiring, I am hoping there’s another ‘Celebrate the boy’ again soon.

  13. I get so much inspiration from your blog and these interviews. However, there are a couple of things that seems to be repeated over and over in the American blogs I read, that I don’t think is true.

    Doing things the “right” way doesn’t make your project take a long time. Skipping some important things, like to not use a stretchy stitch with stretchy fabric, will just make the seams break after a while. I put these three tops together in two hours using a serger and a regular sewing machine, and they still look nice and are in one piece after being used for ages:

    Here are three tees also made in 2 hours:

    It’s OK to pull the fabric if you use ribbing that will make it bounce back. I used straight atitches for the arm and neck openings here, so I had to pull the fabric to get a stretchy seam. Look, it’s still flat:

    Here are my tips for sewing with knits (don’t fear them):
    – Wash new fabrics so you know the garment won’t shrink or have the colors bleed
    – Use stretchy seams for stretchy fabric when sewing across the stretch or the seams will break eventually; zig-zag or some other stretchy seam, twin needles, a serger…
    – If you *do* use a straight stitch where you have to have stretchiness, like a neck or arm hole, you have to pull the fabric. To make it bounce back, use ribbing that’s slightly shorter than the neck hole.
    – Use a ball point or universal needle (a universal needle can be used for both woven and knit fabric). A regular needle punches tiny holes which sometimes becomes visible after a while if the fabric is stretchy.
    – Iron the hem before you sew it and you will only need a few needles and gives the garment a really nice finish.
    – It’s not hard to pick out an overlock stitch if you do it the right way, just consult the manual and use tape to get all the tiny bits of thread off the fabric. Also, the knife won’t cut the fabric if you just put it right next to the knife instead of in front of it.

  14. ah…so timely! i just bought a jersey knit fabric off the remnant pile at my local store and have been dreaming of the ways to use it…but am definitely a little afraid of it. i thought i would check your site for a pattern but instead i got a great tutorial about why i shouldn’t be afraid of knits! woohoo! now if i would only get up the nerve to actually cut my beautiful fabric…

  15. i am lovin’ all the great inspiration from this series of tips and projects…so helpful! I am excited about making my own baby clothes patterns with the knowledge dana and the other ladies have passed along!

  16. have you sewn with organic cotton knits?…..i am sewing with some of the pruinted animal knit prints from a company called Birch (have you sewn with there knits that are printed? i am using a size 80/12 ballpoint needle in my industrial serger and it is making little holes. the needle factory tell me that size is what i should use but suggested if im getting holes to come down to a 70/10 have you experienced the problem im talking about?….thank you sheila

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