Do you need a serger?

As we get closer to launching Jade, my next pattern for knit fabrics, I thought I’d recommend my (new-ish) serger for those of you looking for a good recommendation. I know it can be a bit overwhelming to wade through all of the options and figure out how much is reasonable to pay. There’s also something quite intimidating about the multiple cones of thread on top and the fact that it has knives (insert silent scream emoji).

Juki MO654DE / serger recommendation from made by rae

I’ve been asked whether you really need a serger to sew knits, and I know that it’s all the rage to say that you can sew knits without a serger, but once you’ve tried it, you wonder why anyone would ever want to. Every knit sewing book and pattern I’ve ever read dedicates a section to patting you on the back and saying you’ll be just fine with a standard machine…but if you’re on the fence and you’re not on a super tight budget, I strongly recommend that you GET ONE. I might even say that if you are on a budget, saving up for a serger makes more sense to me than spending that money on knit fabric, since you can easily harvest knit yardage from thrifted or second hand garments and then you’re off to the races.

I got my first serger (a Brother 1034D, shown below) back in 2009, but my new favorite is the Juki MO654DE (shown at top of post), which I upgraded to a couple years ago, though it’s definitely still not pricey (it’s about $340 on Amazon at the time of this writing) when you look at the range of sergers out there.

Brother 1034D serger

When I got the Brother serger, I was unsure if I would possess the mental capacity to figure out how to operate it, so I went cheap and simple. This is, incidentally, why I still end up recommending this one to people; it really is a nice machine for someone who wants to learn how to use a serger with pretty small investment. I struggle a little bit with this, though, because I normally don’t subscribe to the “buy cheap stuff just to try it out” approach to purchasing in general, since it’s not nice to the earth and clutters up my life, but on the other hand, my Brother lasted quite a long time and is still going, so it definitely isn’t a disposable purchase. Mine is still in fairly good working condition, and that’s with pretty heavy use for almost a decade. I’m just reaching a point where I can tell it wasn’t meant to be used to the extent that it has, if that makes sense. It’s getting temperamental, even after being serviced, (differential feeds don’t seem to work well, tension iffy, etc), and it’s also VERY NOISY, though to be fair it was pretty noisy from the get-go. Like, can’t carry on a conversation while you sew, noisy. The new Juki, on the other hand, is really quiet, and the action is sooooo smooth. I’ve used it for over two years and it’s still just so very lovely.

Note: I chose the MO654DE over the MO644D (which is cheaper that one’s designed for only lighter to medium weights and I wanted it to work with all weights of fabric)

overlock seam sewn with serger

Just in case you need a bit of an intro, a serger is a machine that creates a multi-thread overlock stitch around the edge of the fabric as it sews, using two (but sometimes just one) needles and at least three (but usually four or more) cones of thread. It goes only forward, not in reverse, and it has a pair of knives that trims the seam as it sews. It also has two feed dogs under the presser foot that can be adjusted to go different speeds to can prevent the fabric from stretching out or gathering, which is especially handy for sewing knits.

What I use my serger for:

  • ALL knit sewing. I sew all my knit seams with the serger, with the exception of neckbands or ribbing, which I always baste on first with a sewing machine to make sure it’s even.
  • Finishing edges of delicate and loose-weave fabrics before prewashing. Before I throw my new fabric in the wash (and I always prewash any fabric that will become a garment if I intend to machine-wash it, to prevent shrinking), I like to finish the raw edges so they won’t tangle and fray as they get tossed around in the machine. Usually I just use the zig zag stitch on my sewing machine over the raw edges. For fabrics like linen or double gauze, a serger is nicer because it finishes the raw edges very securely with the four-thread overlock stitch.
  • Finishing edges of delicate or loose-weave fabrics after cutting/before sewing. Similarly, if I’m sewing something really delicate, I sometimes run the cut pieces through the serger to finish all the edges before I start sewing. This helps prevent the edges of the fabric from stretching out while they’re being sewn, similar to stay-stitching.
  • Seam finishing for woven garments. I love a good seam finish (see this Super Seams post for a few examples/tutorials), and it’s super fast to run a seam through the serger after first sewing the seams on the machine (note: I don’t use the serger to sew the seams for woven clothing, though I do for knits). I was recently asked via email why not just sew all woven seams with the serger (a great question!) and the reason is that with woven garments, you often need to be able to adjust fit even after sewing seams, and that is really difficult to do once you’ve sewn a seam with a serger.

Since I use my serger constantly, I’m happy to have one I really love. It’s become an essential part of my process for sewing clothing and I can’t imagine sewing without one. Do you have a serger you love? And if you have any questions about sergers, I’m happy to answer them in comments!

PS. If you can find a local Juki dealer (you lucky ducks in Columbus have Sew to Speak), it’s so worth it if you can purchase a machine at a shop that will also be able to service it. Plan for the inevitable.

PPS. If you want a more thorough review of the Juki, check out Heather’s post.

Rae’s Quick Guide to Knit Fabric

One question I get quite frequently is where to buy knit fabrics (actually: any apparel fabric — but let’s stick to knits for now). Lacking a local fabric shop that carries apparel fabrics is a common issue for many of you, but I think another issue is figuring out what the difference is between all of the types of knit fabrics.

In this post I want to go over some of the knit fabrics that I recommend (ones I have tried and liked) for Flashback, Isla, or Jade, my knit sewing patterns.

I’ve tried to include as many types of commonly-found knits as possible, to help you to become more familiar with the verbiage of knit fabric. Most of the time, the name includes information about the weave (jersey, interlock, rib knit – this describes how it’s woven) and/or the content (cotton, modal, rayon, bamboo, lycra — this describes what it’s made of) of the knit fabric.

I’ve also included some links to where to buy them online and locally.  Here are the swatches, so you can have a visual. Some additional closeups are shown below the descriptions.

how to find knit fabric

TOP LEFT: Dana cotton modal jersey (“Dana” by Robert Kaufman)
description: light weight jersey, 55% cotton, 45% modal rayon, a bit of stretch (not super stretchy), soft and light. Modal is a semi-synthetic cellulose fiber made from cellulose that is often derived from beech trees.
notes: this one doesn’t have lycra so it doesn’t have much stretch,, but it’s nice and soft and light and has a nice drape. I’d recommend for Jade but probably not for Isla (due to stretch)
see it in action: the main shop image for Jade (the green tee)
source: Imagine Gnats

TOP CENTER: Striped tencel jersey
description: silky, light weight, super stretchy (4-way stretch), tons of drape
notes: Tencel is an eco-friendly form of rayon, so it has the silky and super-stretchy properties that bamboo rayon and other rayon jersey would have, without the possible horrific processing chemical by-products
source: La Mercerie

TOP RIGHT: Cotton-lycra jersey (“Laguna” by Robert Kaufman)
description: light weight, usually has a 95/5 cotton to lycra ratio (also called cotton-spandex, same thing), good stretch and strong recovery, curls at edges
notes: Allie of Indie-Sew once described C/L as the quilting cotton of knits; it’s easy to work with and easy to find because manufacturers like Robert Kaufman (“Laguna knit“), Art Gallery, and Cotton and Steel all print their knits on C/L blends.
see it in action: the top half of this Isla dress is Laguna
source: Pink Castle Fabrics

MIDDLE LEFT & RIGHT: Double brushed poly spandex Jersey
description: suuuuper stretchy (4-way stretch), medium weight, thicker than tencel jersey but with similar drape and stretch, very soft (“brushed”)
notes: this stuff really feels like secret pajamas, and it’s very forgiving to work with; I will add the caveat that it’s unlikely to be the most eco-friendly material out there.
see it in action: my Grid Jade+Isla dress
source: Raspberry Creek &  Imagine Gnats

MIDDLE CENTER: Indigo cotton-lycra jersey
description: medium weight, lycra gives it nice stretch  curl at edges
notes: when I found this indigo slub knit at Fancy Tiger (see below) it was like spotting a unicorn in the wild; I am always on the look out for slub knits but haven’t been able to find very many out there despite slub being pretty popular in ready-to-wear garments (my favorite JCrew tees are slub knit). Let me know in comments if you have a favorite slub source!!!
sourceFancy Tiger Crafts

BOTTOM LEFT: Stretch bamboo rayon jersey (Telio)
description: light weight but somewhat heavy (I know that sounds like a weird combo but it’s true), super stretchy (4-way stretch), somewhat shiny, silky
notes: While I did not love the solid Telio bamboo jerseys (I made a ton of Jade samples out of various solid colors) because they showed every wrinkle and line from my body and undergarments and were impossible to photograph, I did like the heather gray one shown above (I’m wearing it here). I really love the softness and stretchiness of bamboo knits, but I try to source them from places that sell overstock or deadstock, due to the horrific environmental impacts of the manufacturing process for bamboo rayons.
see it in action: Heather Grey Jade tee

BOTTOM CENTER: Striped organic interlock (by Cloud9)
description: 100% organic cotton, medium weight, stretchy, soft
notes: so lovely and soft, due to the lack of lycra, this knit has less recovery and is less suited for leggings, for example, as it tends to grow a bit as you wear it until you throw it back in the wash, however, I couldn’t miss a chance to toot the Cloud9 horn a bit as I LOVE this new striped knit they have out, and it’s the same interlock that my Sidewalk knits are printed on (note: NO ATTEMPT TO BE UNBIASED HERE!). See yesterday’s Flamingo tee post as well.

BOTTOM RIGHT: Organic striped baby rib knit
description: 100% organic cotton rib knit, medium weight, stretchy, soft
notes: similar to organic interlock, above, but even more stretchy due to the 1×1 rib weave (2×2 ribs are also nice!). Again, not suited for leggings, but have a nice comfortable ease
see it in action: the navy striped Jade in this post
source: Organic Cotton Plus

Ready for a closeup?

Double brushed poly jersey:

double brushed poly jersey

These Art Gallery jerseys weren’t shown in the swatch section, but this Isla Dress was made with the bottom one, and the photo gives you a good idea of the curl you get with Cotton/lycra jersey:

Art Gallery cotton-lycra jersey

Organic baby rib knit:

organic cotton baby rib knit

Indigo Cotton/lycra jersey:

Striped Tencel Jersey:

More knit sources
In addition to the sources listed above, a few more places I like to hunt for knits:*
Hawthorne Threads (big selection, cotton lycra and cotton modal jersey, interlock)
Indie Sew (great curated source for overstocks! rayon spandex jerseys, rib knits)
Simplifi (all organic!! interlock, cotton lycra jersey, hemp lycra jerseys)
Stone Mountain and Daughter (huge selection of every kind of knit you could imagine)

*Please note that this list is nowhere near comprehensive NOR is it unbiased as some of these shops were previous sponsors of this blog and/or carry my patterns and/or Cloud9 knits which is the company that licenses my designs. However, I think the best way to do posts like this is probably to keep them simple and do them frequently, rather than try to maintain a current comprehensive resource list.

Learn more
If you’re not that familiar with knit fabric or shopping online, consider taking my Creativebug Trace and Make Tee and Leggings class where I dive into knit fabrics, stretch, and how to sew knits, or check out this “Rae talks about shopping for knits online” post, which covers some basic online shopping tips and information about types, weights, and swatches you might find helpful.

I also like these two posts from Oliver+S: types of knits and where to find knits, and this article all about jersey from IndieSew.

Navy striped Flashback tee

Hugo Navy Striped Flashback tee

Time for a Hugo Wardrobe Update! No big surprises here: I made him a new striped Flashback tee in size 3. Though, he is already starting to creep into size 4 territory, esp in pants. Can you believe it?? Waaaaah.

Hugo Navy Striped Flashback tee

I omitted the cuffs and folded the ends of the sleeves under instead (the pattern has a few different sleeve options). Um and I don’t mean to brag but hello check out that underarm stripe matching. Totally unappreciated by the toddler crowd, I’d wager.

Hugo Navy Striped Flashback tee

Also: I made sweatpants with cuffs and waistband from the same striped organic rib knit (I love these striped baby rib knits). He still fits into the green fleece pants I made him last year so now he has two very similar pairs, which is just fine because he has an unusually strong relationship with the color green.

Hugo Navy Striped Flashback tee

Sometimes I think if he and Elliot could have been the same age at the same time I wouldn’t be able to tell them apart except for their haircuts. He’s eerily similar in personality to Elliot at this age, though overall I think Hugo is a bit less high-intensity. Though…yesterday — despite skipping his nap — he ran 50 laps around the kitchen after dinner, giggling. So there’s that. I thought I was due a “quiet” kid with Kid #3 but oh no. It is rarely quiet at our house. All three of my kids are loud. I have no idea where they got that from? *looks around*

Hugo Navy Striped Flashback tee

This tee gave me a chance to try out the Eloflex stretch thread Meg has been raving about and I do have to say I like it a lot more than stretch thread. It’s smooth and very strong and a bit stretchy, but I did have a little problem with my machine tension and a tiny part of the shirt hem stitching has popped already, but I’m pretty sure I know why. So I’m hopeful but not 100% certain that this is the end of my quest for the perfect Coverstitch Machine Alternative (sidenote: Tori just posted about her new coverstitch machine this morning and I’m intrigued).

Hugo flashback tee

This is where I  say something corny like “look how much Hugo loves his new tee!” Too easy?

Hugo Navy Striped Flashback tee

The Flashback Tee sewing pattern is available in my shop in sizes 1-14 years!

Flashback Tee for Hugo

Flashback Tee for Hugo

Hey! This little monster turned three last week. THREE! Can you believe it?

He’s such a hoot. This really is the cutest age, I swear. I feel like I’m constantly writing down the hilarious things he says. And he’s still small enough that he’ll wear all the clothes I make for him (unlike his older siblings, who naturally have their own opinions, sometimes strong, about the things I sew for them. Ahem, CLEMENTINE. *coughs*). He definitely has his favorites though, and this Flashback Tee is one of his current favorites.

Flashback Tee for Hugo

I’m sure it helps that this rib knit is crazy soft. I made this tee from the leftovers from this tank dress, so yes, that means we can be (and are often) outfit twins. I never manage to snap a pic on the days we’re both wearing them at the same time, though. You’d think I was busy or something…hahah.

Flashback Tee for Hugo

Flashback Tee for Hugo

Flashback Tee for Hugo

Hugo’s Pencil Shirt and Fleece Parsley Pants

Flashback tee + parsley pants for Hugo

Here’s my little monster in a few new things I’ve made for him recently: a Flashback Tee in Sidewalk interlock and some fleece Parsley Pants. It could hardly have escaped anyone’s notice that now we both own knit pencil tops (here’s mine)…which means a pretty awesome photo shoot needs to happen soon. Twinsies with a toddler, YEAH!

Flashback tee + parsley pants for Hugo

CHEESE.

Flashback tee + parsley pants for Hugo

I love making Parsley Pants in fleece since it adds a bit of stretch and makes them super cosy to wear. I made two pairs for him: the blue pair he’s wearing in these pics, and a green pair which are a lovely quality Mill End fleece and therefore even more cosy. The green ones I accidentally pressed with the iron on the cotton setting (oops!) and melted, so I had to put in a separate waistband. Which actually looks really cute, though it’s more work.

Flashback tee + parsley pants for Hugo

Flashback tee + parsley pants for Hugo

I’ve been adding elastic to the cuff (like I did with these Big Butt Baby pants awww tiny baby Hugo alert!!) because I think it’s cute when they’re cinched in at the ankle. I also added some tags — gifted to me from past sponsor Custom Labels 4U — to the waistbands and neckband of the tee. I don’t know why I didn’t start doing this sooner; it’s so helpful to know the size of handmade stuff, and I love having my logo tag in there too. I did previously use a handful of size labels I bought from an Etsy shop (you can see them in this post ACK another adorable Hugo post!!!); those were also great but weren’t woven and so those ended up curling up after washing which made them harder to read. Super handy though, no matter what you do.

Flashback Sidewalk Hugo tee - labels

New clothes for Hugo

My one complaint with these tags is that Hugo does have pretty sensitive skin and the edges of the logo tags are a bit scratchy (I don’t notice this with the size tags), so I think next time I’ll try putting them on the outside instead of inside the garment; maybe at a side seam or something.

Flashback tee + parsley pants for Hugo

He is perpetually sick and rosy-cheeked these days, poor babe. I love love love this age so much — he is saying the most ridiculously adorable things to us, every day, but I also hate how he is sick all of the time. It can be so trying. I had terrible sleep last night because he slept in our bed all night and was up coughing at regular intervals.

Since I took these pics a couple of weeks ago, I painted the wall behind him with chalkboard paint (so fun!! here’s a peek) and cut his hair (which you can see in this post). And, my Sidewalk knit fabric is now in shops! Here’s a list of Sidewalk stockists if you want to pick up some for yourself. Be sure to add the #sidewalkfabric hashtag if you post pics to social media because I would really love to see what you’re sewing for yourself with these knits!

Monaluna Flashback with skirt

It’s Friday, friends. And what a week. Let’s talk about something fun, like this cheerful knit top I made for Clementine!

Monaluna Flashback with skirt

I started with my Flashback Skinny Tee pattern in a size 7/8 (how is she so big? WAAAAAH *weeps into coffee cup*), cut off the bodice halfway between the armpit and the hem and added a gathered skirt to the bottom. I made the skirt twice as wide as the bodice and about 11″ tall. Everything else is exactly the same as the original Flashback pattern (cuffs, neckband, fit, etc). I’ve made Flashbacks with skirts before (here and here), but as dresses instead of a top.

Monaluna Flashback with skirt

This awesome fabric is a Monaluna knit in Groovy Lotus and I love how it has a very Scandinavian-esque vibe, kind of like something you would find in Hanna Andersson. I’ve always loved the feel and modern designs of Monaluna fabrics (owner Jennifer Moore is a friend and so lovely), so I almost can’t believe this was the first time I sewed with one of the knits. Verdict? Nice and soft, nice amount of stretch, yet still very easy to work with. Love that it’s 100% organic, too! So nice that I went out and bought a bunch more from her shop last month when she had a knits sale (hint: get on the shop email list!).

Monaluna Flashback with skirt

Monaluna Flashback with skirt

And here is my little goofball illustrating her favorite poses:

 

Monaluna Flashback with skirt

Some serious walk-off fodder here.

Monaluna Flashback with skirt

And…cross-eyed. That’s my little lady.

Monaluna Flashback with skirt

Have a wonderful and relaxing weekend, everyone!

Sidewalk Flashback Tees

Here’s a little more Sidewalk cuteness for you today! These Flashback Tees are all samples that Jess sewed up for last spring’s Quilt Market. As with the two Isla samples I posted last week, the designs were printed on Spoonflower fabric so we would have samples in time for the show, which means that they are a little different from the final prints. I think the most noticeable difference in color is that the samples have a more citron yellow, while the final prints definitely have a more sunny yellow. The sample fabric also ended up being less stretchy and soft than the Cloud9 interlock, so they worked nicely for photographs even if they won’t end up being worn.

Sidewalk Flashback tee

Hugo is wearing the Flashback Skinny Tee in size 2T in the “Bus Stop” print with “Art Class” collar and cuffs. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to include a bus print in this knit collection for Hugo. He gets excited and yells, “Oh!! BUS!!” whenever he sees buses drive by.

Sidewalk knits

Made by Rae Sidewalk knits for Cloud9 Fabrics (Fall 2016)

This Flashback is made with the “Red Rover” print with cuffs and collar in “Off the Trail,” a print that features cute little snakes. It’s a little crazy with the snakes as contrast, but oh well. Red Rover originated as a print in my Small World corduroy collection, and has been so popular that Cloud9 also released it on cotton laminate this fall (raincoats, anyone?) and now it’s making its reprise on interlock for Sidewalk with black instead of blue as the secondary color. Made by Rae Sidewalk knits for Cloud9 Fabrics (Fall 2016)

The “Bug’s Life” print in white and green makes for a pretty cute little shirt, too! I think this would be perfect for a pair of pajamas!

Flashback Skinny Tee in Sidewalk Knits

Sidewalk is my new line of interlock knits for Cloud9 Fabrics. It will be be shipping to retail shops soon!

Fall clothes for Hugo

Array

I made a few more things for Hugo to wear this fall (and soon winter). You’d think he would have enough hand-me-downs from his brother and sister to deter me from sewing more but…nooope. I just can’t help myself. His clothes are so small and cute. I realized after I took the photos that they coordinate in a way. Accidental color scheme. I’m not sure I’d mix and match them together into outfits though Mr Rae would probably beg to differ, but they all looked nice together so I thought I’d put them all in one post.

top left: a Charlie Tunic, size 18-24 mo in double gauze from Cotton and Steel (yes, that’s fabric left over from my Luna Pants whee!). Facings on the inside, curved hem like the gingham one.

bottom left: a Flashback Tee, size 18-24 mo in a striped knit purchased years ago from Organic Cotton Plus back when it was Near Sea Naturals

top right: a pair of drawstring sweatpants (made up the pattern) in mod fleece by Birch Fabrics from Fabricworm

bottom right: Parsley Pants, size 3, shortened so that the inseams measure 11 inches. This was an experiment to see if I could get the Parsley Pants to fit Hugo, since his hip measurement with diaper on is about 23 inches (previous experiments had found the size 2 was a bit too tight). Turns out the size 3 fits a cloth-diapered 20 month old pretty well. I still think Big Butt Baby Pants fit better, but you can see in the photos below that it’s not bad.

Here are some pictures of my Hugo-boogo wearing them. It’s getting harder to get him to stand still for the camera, but I figured out how to stand him up on our entryway bench so he can’t run away mwuah hah hah. I also may have resorted to mini-marshmallow bribery the likes of which this blog has seen before (many times, as you may well already know).

fall outfits for hugo

fall outfits for hugo

fall outfits for hugo

flashback tee

fall outfits for hugo

fall outfits for hugo

fall outfits for hugo

fall outfits for hugo

I always enjoy seeing my children wearing things I’ve sewn for them. Over the years this blog has given me an additional treasure: a collection of really nice photos of them that I love to look through and enjoy. It really doesn’t matter to me now what they were wearing in the photos, I just love looking at their little faces. It amazes me how much they’ve grown. I’m just so glad that I had a reason not only to take pictures of them on a regular basis, but an excuse to buy a good camera and learn how to use it. Crappy phone pics can capture the memories too, but there’s something special about these.

And I’m so glad that you, dear readers, can enjoy them too. Have a happy weekend!!!

fall outfits for hugo

Striped Flashback Tee for Hugo

blue flashback tee for Hugo

It’s been a while since I posted pics of le bebe, so let me show you the latest Flashback Tee I made for him!! It’s a whole new world of clothes-making for Hugo now that he’s fully into the 12-18 month size I tell you. Now I can make him Charlie Tunics and Flashback Tees since both patterns run size 12 mo – 5!! I had a few small scraps left over from a Lillestof knit I used to make this Flashback henley for Elliot, perfect for a tiny tee. I think it looks particularly cute paired with these mini Boden pants. Unfortunately the pants don’t fit over his cloth diapers very well, good thing they make up for their illfittingness (new word alert) with cuteness. I really should have made some yellow twill B3Ps!!

blue flashback tee for Hugo

He is teething in a major way right now: currently his third and fourth teeth are pushing through his upper gums, so this banana toothbrush has been in constant use as a teething toy.  blue flashback tee for Hugo

I added a little pocket, which is completely cosmetic and totally not useful (like pockets in baby pants. what are those for anyway? storing their baby credit cards?), but in my opinion make it 100% cuter. I really must show you my easy-peasy knit pocket trick someday.

blue flashback tee for Hugo