Crafty Reads: The Colette Guide to Sewing Knits

I have never understood why knits have a reputation for being hard to work with. Maybe it’s because my first garment sewing was with knits, maybe because as a hand knitter I am intimately familiar with the characteristics of knit fabric, but I have always felt like the rumors are undeserved. This month’s crafty read is The Colette Guide to Sewing Knits by Alyson Clair, an incredibly informative book that makes knits seem just as accessible as I have always found them.

Reading the introduction made me want to throw out my woven stash. My wardrobe is overwhelmingly made up of knits, and Clair made me feel so inspired with ideas to play with. The first few chapters focus on the materials of sewing with knits – different kinds of knit fabrics, appropriate needles and thread, trims and notions. One neat concept she introduced that I hadn’t seen in those terms is mechanical stretch vs yarn stretch. Mechanical stretch comes from the structure of knit fabric, while yarn stretch comes from the yarn itself being stretchy. 

The next section of the book is about machines used in sewing knits. Of course she describes sergers and cover stitch machines, but she also gives great tips on sewing knits with a regular sewing machine. I understand my serger on a whole new level after reading that chapter, and really really want a coverstitch machine! The part I know I will refer back to is a great chart with suggested stitch widths and lengths for different stitch types on a sewing machine. I have been inspecting seams on my ready-to-wear a lot more since reading this section.

The final section is techniques – for laying and cutting, for fitting, and for stitching and finishing. I had never thought of adjusting knits much beyond taking in and letting out seams, but she has great instructions on how to alter for fit at the bust, waist, hip, and shoulder. I definitely want to try the shoulder adjustment on my next Ebony Dress, as my last one sits just a little off my shoulder point. I really appreciated the focus on finishes, including how to apply different types of elastic. It looks so fancy that I had assumed it was complicated, but now I feel ready to tackle some stretch lace!

Overall this was just a fun, inspiring read. Clair has so much excitement for sewing with knits, and so much experience to share. Throughout the book she pointed out techniques that are trickier at home than with commercial machines, which is nice as I know comparing our work to ready to wear is common among sewists. Let me know below how you feel about sewing with knits – do you find it scary or exciting? If you want to read along with me next month, I’ll be tackling The Spinner’s Book of Yarn Designs by Sarah Anderson.

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