Today Laura of Craftstorming is here on the blog for another fun KNITerview! Laura’s sewing first caught my eye when she helped test the Flashback Tee a couple of years ago and subsequently produced a bunch of amazing versions. By the time she posted this incredible bike jersey tutorial it was clear she was a knit-sewing pro. It certainly doesn’t hurt that she has two adorable boys to help model her latest projects. Welcome, Laura!
RAE: What was the first thing you ever sewed with knits (if you remember?) Was it a good or bad experience?
LAURA: The Urban Unisex Hoodie from Heidi & Finn. I think it was also the fifth thing I ever sewed and I didn’t have a serger at that time. Before I started I searched a few blogs for some tips and I used cheap jersey from Fabricland. It took a while and wasn’t perfect but it wasn’t difficult either. I was very happy with it and it is still being worn by my younger son now.
RAE: What’s your favorite thing to sew with knit fabrics?
LAURA: I love sewing anything with knit fabrics. Patterns come together quickly and the clothes are really comfortable for children to wear. There is also a lot of upcycling potential from old T-shirts and hoodies. You can also combine small scraps of favourite fabrics with more basic knits.
RAE: Do you have a favorite pattern for knit fabrics that you keep coming back to?
LAURA: I always love making T-shirts. My favourite patterns for these are the Flashback Skinny Tee and the Banyan Tee from Figgy’s. They’re easy to adjust to get the fit you would like and to personalise with stamping, appliques, fabric paint and even puppet sleeves.
Another pattern that I’ve made as much as T-shirts is my own Fancy Pants Leggings pattern. It’s another really quick and easy sew and the panel is a great place to personalise them. I also have a tutorial on how to ‘brand’ your own elastic if you are adding an exposed elastic waistband.
RAE: What kind of knit fabric do you like best?
LAURA: I used to favour interlock as it’s so stable but lately I much prefer a jersey with a cotton / elastane mix. It is less bulky than interlock and has wonderful stretch recovery, making it perfect for anything close fitting like leggings. The Nani Iro double knit is lovely to sew with and I also like making sweatshirts and hoodies with sweatshirt fleece.
RAE: What’s the trickiest knit fabric you’ve ever sewn with, and do you have any tips for working with that fabric?
LAURA: I think buying cheap, thin knits can be a false economy and they can be some of the hardest to work with. That doesn’t mean all cheap knits are poor quality, just that it helps if you know what to look for. I think the fabric I found the hardest though was a lycra I used to make cycling jerseys for both my sons. It took a while playing with my machine and serger settings but once I’d discovered what worked it really wasn’t too bad.
RAE: Where do you get your knit fabric?
LAURA: One great source is thrift shops, especially if you’re sewing clothes for small children. They can be a bit hit and miss but I have found the odd gem.
I buy most of my fabric online. I try to buy from the UK or EU as much as possible. Some of the US shops are very tempting but by the time I add postage, customs and other fees something that started as $5 per yard can easily end up at $25 per yard! I have recently discovered a co-op though and that has made purchasing overseas more affordable again.
UK / Europe
Raystitch – has some lovely striped jerseys and bamboo knits. A lot of organic fabrics.
Tissu fabrics – a good source for basic solid knits in jersey, interlock, lycra and sweatshirt fleece. The jersey tends to be 100% cotton so isn’t really suitable for leggings.
Dots n Stripes – I have bought a lot of ribbing from here in all colours of the rainbow.
DaWanda is a bit like Etsy and has a great selection of Euro knits. Their payment system is a bit annoying though.
US / International
Miss Matabi – has some beautiful knits, including Nani Iro double knit. Brilliant service.
Print Knits Studio – stocks a good mix of prints and Nur is always helpful
Etsy – if you have something particular in mind this is a great place to search.
Fabric.com – a good source for all knits but particularly sweater knits that aren’t as common in other shops.
If you are ordering for a specific pattern then always add a little extra to allow for shrinkage when you wash it the first time. I always pre-wash knits before sewing with them.
RAE: What type of knit (jersey? rib? interlock?) would you recommend for someone who’s never sewn with knits before for a first project?
LAURA: I would either suggest an interlock or a very stable medium weight jersey. The Nani Iro double knits are also wonderful to work with but not cheap so maybe you’d want to save that for a later project. Basically something that isn’t too thin and doesn’t curl up at the edges.
RAE: What kind of sewing machine do you have? and do you recommend your machine for knits?
LAURA: I have a Pfaff Ambition 1.5 and it’s wonderful for sewing knits. It has a built in walking foot and adjustable presser foot pressure. As long as I use the right settings and needle my knit seams and hems don’t end up looking puckered and stretched at all. It can also handle a lot of layers.
RAE: What’s one tip or trick you wish someone had told you when you first started sewing with knits?
LAURA: If you are having trouble starting a seam because the machine keeps eating your fabric, start a little further down the seam and back stitch.
RAE: What’s the most useful trick in your knit-sewing-toolbag?
LAURA: This has already been mentioned by Vanessa but I always use a rotary cutter and cutting mat to cut out my pattern pieces. It is so much easier to cut a stretch fabric this way so you don’t distort it. I’ve also heard that some people cutting their pattern pieces out of freezer paper so they can iron them on but I usually just place mine on top and use whatever I can find nearby as pattern weights.
RAE: Do you use a serger? Which make/model? Do you recommend it?
LAURA: Yes, I have a Brother 1034D and would definitely recommend it. When I first started sewing I borrowed my mum’s sewing machine for a while and actually bought a serger before buying my own machine. I kept reading about them on different blogs and couldn’t resist. I chose the 1034D because I don’t have anyone local to ask for help and there were so many tutorials online for that machine.
RAE: Did you find it difficult to learn how to use a serger?
LAURA: There was a bit of a learning curve and a few tears of frustration but I absolutely love using it now. Craftsy now has a beginner serger course that would be a great place to start and the 1034D is one of the machines they teach on. Once you’re up and running there is something so satisfying about serging.
RAE: Any tips for sewing with sergers?
LAURA: If you have to re-thread and the quick technique (tying threads on) hasn’t worked then make sure you re-thread in the correct order. You will save yourself so much time in the long run.
Another important tip is to be very careful when using pins. If you still want to use pins then place them so they run parallel to the seam edge and are far enough away to miss the blade. If it’s a fiddly seam then one option is to baste before you serge. It only takes one pin to break your upper blade and they’re very expensive to replace. You might also have to take your machine to a sewing shop to get them undo the screw so you can change the blade…I am speaking from experience here.
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?
LAURA: The first thing I do is change to a ballpoint or stretch needle. Ballpoints are better for heavier weight knits while lighter weight knits or those that contain elastane or lyrca are more suited to stretch needles. If you are getting skipped stitches with a ballpoint needle then try moving to a stretch needle.
I make sure my walking foot is on and reduce the presser foot pressure. I will do a test with a scrap of fabric on both my sewing machine and serger. For the serger I might need to adjust the differential feed, depending on the weight of the fabric. I also check the serger seam will look ok from the outside. If it’s too loose then I adjust the tension of the left needle.
I sew as much as possible on the serger – so I would serge all the seams, including attaching ribbing. This is a great tutorial for finishing the starts and ends of serger seams so you don’t need to pull the thread back through with a needle.
I only use the sewing machine for things that can’t be serged. For hemming I love using a double needle and you’re far less likely to get popped stitches.
RAE: Thanks so much for joining our KNITerviews, Laura!!
You can find Laura over at her blog, Craftstorming, and shop her online patterns at Titchy Threads. She just released her Small Fry Skinny Jeans pattern last week. Check out her patterns that are suitable for knit fabrics: Fancy Pants Leggings and Little Kid Kimono Set (a free pattern in size 0-3 months only). These patterns have a lot of tips for working with knits!
Laura is also part of Willow & Co., a pattern collective that will launch soon; her two contributions to the first collection will be knit patterns!
And you can find all the posts from the previous series HERE.