Chestnut Sew Along – Cutting and sewing with knits

So… it is your first time sewing with knits and you are basically… well, scared, right? I totally get it! But fear not. I remember the first time I sew with knits and yep, I was scared and even though I had an overlocker I didn’t dare come close to it. So, whether it is your first time using jersey fabric, or you have a bit of experience or you are a pro (well, maybe if you are a pro then you may not need this guide, hehe), I’ve collected from my own experience, specialized books and sewing bloggers and teachers, a few tips that will help you along the way both cutting and sewing with knits.

Cutting

So, cutting knit or jersey fabrics can be a bit tricky, but if you have the right tools it will be a piece of cake. Also, because the type of knits used for the Chestnut Sweater and Top pattern are not very stretchy at all, the cutting part will be much easier 🙂

My main advice would be for you to get a rotary cutter, a cutting mat and some pattern weights (these can go from proper sewing weights to a lentil can!). If you don’t want to invest on a rotary cutter, you can of course use your regular and trusty tailor scissors.

cutting-tools-cocowawa-crafts-sewing

A few more tips? Don’t get very enthusiastic when cutting notches. As the seam allowance for this pattern is 3/8”/1cm, the notches should not go far from 0.5cm. You can also use a fabric pen to mark them on the pattern (test it on a scrap to make sure it disappears with water or after ironing).

The most important tip before cutting? Wash your fabric before using it. You don’t want your lovely brand new handmade garment to shrink afterwards, right? 😉

Sewing with knits

I’ve divided the tips in two blocks. The first one if you own an overlocker or serger, the second one, if you are going to use only your sewing machine. Either way, you will find on the instructions that you can make the pattern with one, the other or both machines working together. Good, right? Let’s start.

If you own an overlocker/serger:

•To find the 3/8’’/1cm seam allowance mark on your overlocker measure from your left needle (on two-needle machines) to one of the marks usually placed to the right of the needle plate, if it doesn’t say it already. That will be your seam allowance. If you don’t have any mark, measure with your seam gauche, tape measure or small ruler from your left needle and make a mark with tape or a pen on your machine.

overlocker-cocowawa-crafts-sewing

•For the type of fabric required to make the Chestnut Sweater (little stretch and medium to heavy-weight), the tension dials of your overlocker threads (tested on 4-thread sergers) would sit between 4 and 5. If you are making the Chestnut Top (little stretch and medium-weight), your tension would be between 3 and 4.

overlocker-tension-cocowawa-crafts-sewing

Stitched, an overlocked seam should look like this.

overlock-thread-inside-cocowaw-crafts-sewing

Check on your overlocker’s instructions for more examples of right and wrong tension and adjust.

•The differential feed is also key to help with unwanted gathering, stretching or puckering on seams and hems. For the Chesnut Sweater and Top, set it out at 1.0 or less. Regarding the length of the stitch, go for the one that comes by default, between 2.5 and 3. Do the same with the width, leaving it at 5.

overlocker-dials-cocowawa-crafts-sewing

•To secure your thread tails after overlocking a seam, don’t cut them. Use a fabric fray check glue (apply a drop at both ends of a seam and let it dry) or tack them inside the actual overlock stitch so they don’t come undone. You can do this while you sew by changing the position of the garment to the opposite side.

fray-check-overlocker-cocowawa-crafts-sewing

•Don’t get pins near the blade as they will ruin it and always start with your blade up at its highest position to facilitate the first stitches and keep the work in place.

blade-overlocker-cocowawa-crafts-sewing

•Finish your neckline and/or hems on your regular machine using a double/twin needle.

double-needle-cocowawa-crafts-sewing

•Always check on a scrap how your fabric behaves with the different tension options and adjust accordingly.

If you are using a regular sewing machine:

•The best needle to use with knits on a regular machine is a ball point or a “jersey” needle (don’t choose a “stretch” one as they are made for very stretchy material).

ball-point-needle

•When sewing, select the zigzag stitch, preferably with a width of 0.5mm and a 2.5mm length. It is also recommended changing the presser foot dial to 1.

zigzag-stitch-cocowawa-crafts-sewing

dial-sewing-machine-cocowawa-crafts-sewing

A good zigzag stitch on a seam on a knit fabric should look like this on the outside (pic below) and like this (second pic below) on the inside.

overlocker-thread-outside-cocowawa-crafts-sewing

zigzag-stitch-2-cocowawa-crafts-sewing

On the second picture you can see a ‘normal’ zigzag stitch with a longer width compared to the one you should use on the Chestnut Sweater and Top (the one on the left). The longer one would not look ok on the right side of the garment because the thread would be visible along the seam.

•Invest on a walking foot as it will make your work so much easier. The walking foot is designed to provide an extra set of feed dogs for the top of the fabric being sewn (apart from the feed dogs underneath) helping with difficult fabrics (slippery or fragile) and with knits as well. It can be a bit pricey, if you get the real deal depending on your sewing machine brand, but trust me, you will love it.

walking-foot-cocowawa-crafts-sewing

•You don’t need to finish your seams with knits but if you want them to look a bit neater, use pinking shears.

pinking-shears-cocowawa-crafts-sewing

•Finish your neckline and/or hems using a double/twin needle.

double-needle-2-cocowawa-crafts-sewing

double-spool-holder-cocowawa-crafts-sewing

•Always check on a scrap how your fabric behaves with the different tension options and adjust accordingly.

And that’s it! Now, practice, practice, practice! Take a scrap of the fabric you are going to use on your final sweater or top and play with the tension, your walking foot, your overlocker… till you are entirely happy with it. And remember, the instructions on your machine, sometimes forgotten on a box, are very useful!

Happy sewing and now… for some real sewing!

xx

Ana

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