Merchant and Mills Bantam + tips for sewing with jersey on woven patterns.

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I’m back with another Merchant & Mills workbook project. I made another Bantam but this time I used cotton knit fabric.

When I started sewing the first thing I heard was that “you shouldn’t use knit fabric with woven patterns”. Well, rules are there for a very good reason but it doesn’t mean they cannot be broken once in a while.merchantandmillsbantanjersey

Let’s explore first how knits differ from wovens. Knits don’t have selvages, instead of a lengthwise and crosswise grain they have lengthwise loops and crosswise rows of loops. And similar to woven fabrics they stretch more in one direction. While wovens have the greatest amount of stretch on the bias knits are stretchier crosswise. Since the amount of the stretch varies depending on the fabric characteristics you can take advantage and explore both woven and knits with similar behaviour.

There are a few things to consider when swapping fabrics. I’m not an expert by any means. These tips are based on what I learned over the years as I been swapping patterns and I hope you will find them useful.

Fabric.

When picking fabric it’s very easy to be persuaded by the colour and “prettiness’. However If you intend to use knit fabric on a woven pattern you should base your purchases on the weight, thickness, drape, fibber content and degree of stretch. Getting the right amount of stretch is very important. Avoid anything 4 way stretch/ lycra. Try to match those requirements as close as possible. Is your woven pattern requires drapy-ness or stability? And so on.


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Size.

Depending on the pattern you may not need to change from your correspondent woven size or even adjust/reduce the seam allowances. Generally oversize garments will need to be adjusted because of the ease. To be sure measure the pattern flat to determine what will suit your taste and style better. I normally will go a size down and still adjust my vertical alterations like dropping darts or adding length.

Not every pattern will work as is; some details need to be adjusted/ re-drafted.

Unstructured styles work best but don’t be scared to try styles with darts etc. Just be mindful that depending on the knit fabric used you may have to adjust the pattern. Pattern has facings? Consider dropping it and use a band or ribbing to finish the neckline. Pockets? Pockets aren’t necessary a no-no on knits but their placement and weight need greater consideration. Do you need to keep the original closure? If so, be sure to stabilise ( interface) your zipper area. Avoid details that require crisps edges etc.

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Substitute constructions and finishing methods.

  • Single knits can roll and be fiddly. Why not consider narrowing your seam allowance. You will find it this simple change will make it a lot easier to sew and will looks a lot neater.
  • When you fold your fabric to fit the layout, place a lenghtwise rib of the knit along the folding instead of lying up the lenghtwise cut edges as you would the selvages on woven fabrics.  Measure any grain lines on the pattern to the folded edge, since that edge has the straight grain, than square the crossgrain to the table.
  • Knits can shrink more than woven, trust me I had many fabric horrors so I highly recommend you to pre shrink your fabric before cutting.
  • Stabilise the shoulder seams with clear elastic.
  • You can use twin needle for a very nice hem finish.
  • Pressing still very important step. Don’t skip it.

Gather the right tools:interfacing, needles, etc.

If the pattern requires interfacing you should continue using it but adapt to suit the stretch of your fabric. You will be surprise how useful interfacing is to help controlling and retaining the garment shape. Specially avoiding stretching when sewing.  Non-woven interfacing is best for small areas that you want to keep stable like patch pockets. Large areas I use fusible tricot.  Change your universal needle for a ball point one. As for needle size it’s pretty similar smaller numbers for finer fabrics and large numbers for bulkier fabrics. ( 60-90 respectively). Match the thread: polyester or poly cotton works well. About stitching: zigzag stitch or straight? Oh! there are two teaching camps on the subject. I have used both methods with success. I recommend zigzag if you haven’t sewn much with knits. There is a ‘way’ of sewing with it straight and not done well can pop your seams.  I have used stretchy thread with success over straight stitch too.

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There are a few patterns on the market that encourage you to swap: Myrtle from Colette, Inari tee from Named comes to my mind. Those patterns include both their instructions on how to make a successful project in knit or woven fabric. So why not have a go.

Bantam: Merchant & Mills // Cotton Jersey.

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  • A very interesting post! Thank you! I haven’t dared swap from woven to knits but have seen a few patterns where i wondered if you could, i might be brave enough to give it a go now……….

    • Houseofpinheiro

      Fab. Do share which ones. Happy sewing

  • Thank you for this post ! I love your bantam.

  • Really useful advice, I am currently making the Sugarplum dress from Lolita Patterns but flipping it my top is knit & the skirt woven. To make it more complicated I decided to add the Sorell top pattern into the mix. Do you have any advice for joining knit to woven as I am having trouble with my collar facings: I applied the knit rules regarding needles, thread and stitch type when joining seams?

    • Houseofpinheiro

      I personally never mixed both in the same garment but I think if I was that’s what I would do. Get a knit stabilising tape ( clear elastic would work too- without stretching) and use to stabilise the knit bodice hem before joining the woven. I would place it along the bottom edge of the top and overlock it in place.You don’t want your bodice to distort so protecting your knit from the weight of the skirt would be a consideration to take. About using sewing with knits rules, why not make a sample and test both straight and Zizzag methods. Without having the fabrics it’s hard to advice.
      Hope it helps. Xx

      • Thank you for the advice, particularly the stabilising tape tip I had forgotten all about its existence!
        X

  • Love your necklace!

  • When I make a woven pattern out of knit fabric and I’m unsure how well it will work, I usually try to find a cheap knit fabric with similar properties as the one I’d like to use and make a muslin. Especially lengthwise stretch can make your garment really long. In spring, I made a wonderful knit dress out of a woven pattern, and I loved th result! If you’re interested in some construction notes and progress pictures, you can find it on my blog.

  • Great post – working out the type of interfacing and support needed when making something from jersey can be tricky!

    • Hi Rebecca, indeed thats why sampling is so important.

  • What a great post! I’ve converted woven patterns using knits before but didn’t know there was a book explaining a little more detail…nice! I plan on getting them and noticed one is on pre-order on Amazon. Your beautiful bantam helped me to make my decision! Thank you!

    • Hi, the book doesn’t have any details on converting their patterns, those are my own tips and advice. The book has nice woven patterns that you can use with knits if you want and the designs are lovely

  • Janet

    Thanks for these tips, Rachel. I’ve never considered using a knit for a woven pattern before but now I’m going to give it a go. One question though – where do you get your tricot interfacing from??

  • Great tip! I haven’t tried this myself yet. Loving that crisp white tank look.

  • Very practical tip when using woven patterns! I agree that it is risky to “not follow the sewing rules” because you have a 50/50 chance of failure and success. But imagine the joy you will feel when your project turns out fabulous, right?

  • This is an excellent article with brilliant advice and tips Rachel. I think a lot of people can be scared by using knits in any form, let alone for woven patterns, but your post shows that anything is possible! Our tip would be that double knits like our http://bit.ly/pontederoma are more stable, but still give that stretch and soft hand that other knits offer

  • Skink? Knits can skink? What is that and how do we avoid it?

    • Lol.thanks for the lighthearted tip that I misspelled shrink. Fixed now