Tag: sewing

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.

FO Friday: Cowl Neck Ebony Dress

FO Friday: Cowl Neck Ebony Dress

Pattern: Ebony T-Shirt & Dress by Closet Case Patterns

Fabric: ponte knit in olive (sorry y’all, I never look at the end of the bolt)

I saw a dress in a store window a few months ago, and immediately started planning my own sewn version of it. It was a sweater knit swing dress with a huge cowl neck that looked comfortable and cool. I stopped by my local fabric store and picked up a beautiful olive ponte knit to get the weight and drape I was after and started poring through my pattern collection for a match. The very next day I saw Heather Lou’s Ebony Dress on Instagram, exactly what I was looking for! I just needed to draft my own cowl.

I am pretty new to drafting anything myself, but adding a cowl to this pattern was easy. I chose the scoop neckline so the cowl would be loose, rather than a turtleneck. Once I had sewn together the shoulder seams I measured the circumference of the neck opening. I also measured the height of a favorite cowl on a ready to wear tunic. Then I cut a rectangle – the circumference wide x twice the height (with seam allowances). Then I folded the height in half, sewed it into a tube and attached the tube to my neckline.

I really love how this dress turned out – it swings wonderfully when I move and makes me feel cool. This is the sort of dress I never would have bought in a store before I started making, because it “isn’t flattering” to my figure. But my wardrobe priorities have shifted as I make my own clothes. I bought clothes based on “the rules” of to mask my flaws and highlight the parts of me that were acceptable. Now making something that I enjoy the look of, that feels good on my body, and is enjoyable to make feels more important than dressing to look as thin as possible. It does a better job of making me feel good in my clothes. Every time I wear this dress I think about Erin McKean’s well-known blog post You Don’t Have To Be Pretty, which now 10 years later I am finally starting to believe.

Do you make different clothes than you would buy? Has making changed your wardrobe priorities? Let me know in the comments below!

FO Friday: Because I Own a Serger Napkins

FO Friday: Because I Own a Serger Napkins

Pattern: None

Fabric: A tea towel from the dollar store

Started: January 2, 2017

Completed: January 2, 2017

My daughter needed to bring cloth napkins to school when she returned in January. It would have been simple to buy them, but of course I wanted to make them. I am always looking for an excuse to get to know my serger better, so I decided I would cut up a tea towel and apply a rolled hem.

Serger have a reputation for being hard to thread, so I go out of my way to practice every time I take it out. I regretted that decision this time – I spent as long getting it threaded as I did actually serging the napkins! The rolled hem went okay, but you can see I had some areas where the napkin would slide away from the needles and not get captured in thread. Ironing them probably would have helped, but I was being lazy. The corners were a struggle for me – I find it really hard to turn a corner on a serger. Is it possible? Do you turn when the fabric hits the knife or the needles? It’s something I’d like to practice more.

After getting the hem applied, I wanted to personalize them even more and add a few designs to the corners. I did these free motion on my sewing machine. They did not turn out particularly well. The weave of the napkins is so loose, and again they were unironed, that they were pretty out of control. But my 5 year old likes them and has favorites (the lips), so that’s a win.

These napkins are already stained, proving they are hard at work keeping my girl clean. If she wears through them, I’d be happy to rev up my serger again and make some more! Do you have any projects you’ve undertaken just so you could play with a new tool?

Crafty Reads: How to Speak Fluent Sewing

As a self-taught sewist, I know I have gaps in my knowledge. I can muddle along, figure out unfamiliar terms when I come across them, but I often wish I had a stronger foundation. So, when I saw the book How to Speak Fluent Sewing by Christine Haynes, I thought it would be just the background I am missing.

How to Speak Fluent Sewing is a reference book – there are no anecdotes or patterns – separated into sections to define 300 sewing tools, techniques, and terms. Each item has an illustration, definition, and explanation. It starts with the tools section, which added a ton of notions to my wish list. Coming from knitting, it feels like sewing has a lot of extra tools, so I really appreciated the the explanations in this section for what different tools are used for.

The other highlights for me were the fabric terms and the embellishments. I am still trying to understand different substrates and the illustrations and explanations of different weave structures and their properties are excellent. The embellishments section is a place I know I will return when looking for inspiration, it has wonderful examples of techniques to add to your work.

Sewing is a giant world and the book could easily have been twice as long, but the selection of terms seemed pretty good. The section on garment details is focused on a few areas – sleeves, collars – and leaves more distinctions to other reference books.

I have several new sewing patterns on deck, and I am glad to have How to Speak Fluent Sewing in my library to refer to as I work on them. Do you have any helpful reference books in your library? For next month I am going to be reading Norah Gaughan’s Knitted Cable Sourcebook if you want to join me. Please let me know if you do!

WIP Wednesday: Thistle Quilt

WIP Wednesday: Thistle Quilt

My husband loves thistles. They’re his favorite symbol of his Scottish heritage, and in his favorite color, too. So when I saw Elizabeth Hartman’s Thistle Quilt pattern I bought it immediately, intending to sew it up for my husband for his 40th birthday. That was in October 2015, so I missed that deadline. Last year I got as far as falling in love with the Dapper Wovens line and purchasing it for the quilt. But my husband’s 41st birthday came and went with no progress on the quilt. So, over my Christmas break my very first task was to cut all the pieces for this quilt.

I’m making the large size quilt, which has 24 thistles on it. My plan was to make 12 out of the houndstooth print and 12 out of the plaid. I quickly whipped up one of each to learn the rhythm of the block and see how they look.

I am so glad I did those test blocks, because it turns out that I don’t like the plaid block at all. The pattern is too big for the scale of this block, and it looks bad to have none of the pattern match. Luckily I have enough of the houndstooth to do all the flowers out of that. So, I have more cutting to do. Then my plan is to work assembly line style – sew all the outermost flower parts, then the middle flower parts, etc. Even though I know it will be faster to work this way, I may bail and make them one block at a time so I feel like I’m making progress. Oh, and I’m going to hold onto the leftover plaid – I might make a giant flower head for the back of the quilt in a scale more appropriate for that pattern.

I want to believe I am going to wrap up this quilt quickly, but realistically I know it’s going to take a while. I’ll follow up as I make progress. I hope you enjoy a closer look into my process! Are you taking on any long-planned projects this year?

My Year in Crafting 2016

I have been sewing and spinning and knitting for years, but this was my first year blogging everything I made. Along the way it has been about having the record, and sharing my thoughts through the process of making a wardrobe at home. Today looking back at what I created this year I am realizing that I accomplished more than I give myself credit for.


I have 13 knitting FOs this year (2 of them not yet blogged here, you’ll see them in the new year). They’re split among:


I have 12 sewing FOs this year. They’re split among:


I had 4 spins this year, including a sweater quantity. They were:

Other Crafts

I tried two other crafts this year. They were:

The Best Thing I Made This Year

Without a doubt, my Advent Garland is the star of this year’s creations. The colors, the designs, everything about it makes my heart sing. I hope it will be part of my family’s traditions for the rest of our lives.


Looking at the mountain of work I completed this year, I see how much time I have been able to carve out for making this year. I make room for knitting and sewing more naturally, other crafts only happen with concerted planning or as part of social crafting. Most of my projects are for myself, with my daughter as the next most common recipient. I work mostly with pink, green, and blue.

That wraps up my look back at my making in 2016. Are you pleased with what you made this year? What was your very favorite project?

Daisy’s Sweater’s Alteration

Daisy’s Sweater’s Alteration

I am a very impatient person as a rule and you see this the most in my attitude around presents. I hate having to wait to open mine, and to see the people I’m giving to open theirs. So, when my Dad was visiting this past weekend I made him open Daisy’s Sweater early. And he loved it! He lay it over his hands and imagined it on his little pup and it brought exactly the smile to his face that I had hoped for. And then in a small voice he asked, “I’m not sure if this is okay for me to say, but would it be possible for there to be a leash hole?”

Obviously I said yes! And then I set out to figure out how to make a leash hole in a finished sweater.

My first thought was that cutting knitting means a steek, and I got excited to do my first one on a real project, not just a swatch. After refreshing my memory with some tutorials, I grabbed the appropriate crochet hook and prepared to reinforce. But as I planned where I would reinforce I thought about the kind of facing I would make and how to make it pretty over such a small area. My Dad indicated that the ideal length of the hole would be 3-4 stitches. Any of kind of facing on both sides would overlap, not to mention the fact that my steek would have a top and bottom to face as well.

At this point I entered the period where I remembered how the steek tutorials all make a big deal about how knitting doesn’t want to unravel. They had photographs of swatches they had snipped and then carried in their purses without any unraveling. This sweater was made of handspun BFL that was plenty sticky. Maybe I could just cut the hole and it would be fine?

I took to the internet to ask my knitting friends. I am thankful that they reminded me how much abrasion a leash would put on the hole and that this was a recipe for a ruined sweater. Laura Chau suggested I make it like a buttonhole, which were just the words I needed to hear. A tiny hole in your knitting is a buttonhole, not a steek. I decided to give it a shot on my sewing machine, using my swatch for practice.

The first sample was a great teaching tool. My method would definitely work – the ribbon facing was invisible enough on the right side for my purposes and the automatic buttonhole worked a charm on my handknit. I also learned how hard it is to nicely line up a sticky knit with a slippery woven. I did a few more samples to play around with my stitch settings.

These buttonholes were perfect! Using my walking foot helped move the sticky knit fabric smoothly through the machine. I had thought the default buttonhole settings made a pretty wimpy looking buttonhole. I increased the width to 7mm and decreased the length to 0.2mm. This more substantial buttonhole really stood out on the knit and seemed like it would have the integrity for the job of being a leash hole.

And there we go, the final product! My Dad apologized for giving me another project when he saw me researching and testing. He didn’t realize how fun an experiment like this can be! Have you ever cut your knitting using a steek, a buttonhole or another technique?