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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.