December 30, 2011

Never Fear Knits Ballet Dress Sew-a-long Pt 4

Almost finished! All we have to do now is attach the collar and hem the sleeves and skirt.

Fold the collar piece in half matching up the short ends and stitch across.

Now fold the collar in half long ways and iron/pin together.

With right sides together, match the collar seam to the center back of the neck opening. Then match the center front.

I know that the collar piece is smaller than the neck opening but that's important. The collar helps prevent the neck opening from stretching out. If the collar piece was too large you'd get gaping around the neckline. No bueno!

Evenly stretch the collar to fit the neck opening and use lots of pins to distribute the fabric.

Stitch the collar to the neckline, stretching the collar just enough to fit the neck opening.

Now we have to stitch that collar down so that the seam allowance doesn't flop out.

Iron the collar with the seam allowances pointed down onto the bodice fabric.


Using a twin needle or zig zag stitch sew all the way around the neck opening encasing the seam allowance underneath.

Now for the easy part - hemming. The pattern includes 3/4" for hem allowance.

I'm using my fave technique - serging the raw edge, folding under and top stitching with a twin needle.

If you are using a zig zag stitch just fold the hem under twice, encasing the raw edge and stitch on top.

If you are using a twin needle you'll have to sew from the right side rather than the wrong side. I first measure my 3/4" hem and fold it under and pin. Once I finish all the way around I then transfer my pins to the right side so I can pull them out easily as I sew.

From the right side you can't see the edge folded underneath but you can feel it with your fingers and and guide it under the needle.

Ballet Dress Pattern

Ballet Dress Pattern

Voila! All done! Now you have an easy to wear, comfy but stylish knit dress that you made. I hope the sew-a-long was helpful!

Ballet Dress Pattern

Ballet Dress Pattern

I'll be back tomorrow with my regularly scheduled broadcast aka - more new projects. I'm also making a list of sewing goals for the new year that I hope to share, but first I'm going to wear my new dress!

Ballet Dress Pattern

December 28, 2011

Never Fear Knits Ballet Dress Sew-a-long Pt 3

Today we're finishing the basic structure of the dress and later we'll move on to the final details.

Let's add those sleeves!

First pin and stitch the sleeve seam. Easy peasy, right?

With the sleeve right side out slip the sleeve inside the bodice through the armhole. Match up the bodice side seam to the sleeve seam. Match up all notches and center dot to shoulder seam. See, it's just like a woven set in sleeve!

The one thing that's different is that because knits are stretchy it makes it so much easier to ease the sleeve in. I know I tell you not to stretch knit fabric when sewing but this is the one minor exception. You can stretch the fabric but only until it just fits. If you are having trouble you can always baste the top of the sleeve between notches for some extra stability while easing.


You can also use a bunch of pins to make sure the fabric is evenly spaced.

Stitch the sleeve to the bodice and gently stretch the armhole to match the sleeve curve. Repeat for the other sleeve.


Now, I want you to try the bodice on and see how it fits. You might notice that the top seems a little short. No worries - when we add the skirt the weight of the fabric will help pull the bodice down. But if it feels good across the bust line then we're in business.

Cut a length of elastic that matches the circumference of the bodice's waistline, plus a little overlap. Next, with right sides facing, pin the bodice to the skirt. Put the fabric under the presser foot with the wrong side of the bodice facing up. Slip the elastic under the foot and line up the elastic with the edge of the fabric.

With some scraps you could do a tension test on your machine before you sew.

Stitch your waist seam. Because the elastic matches the waist measurement you don't have to stretch the elastic as you sew.

The end of the elastic will overlap when you reach the starting point. Back stitch here or slide off if you are using a serger.


If you are using a sewing machine remember to trim your threads. If using a serger knot and snip off the strings on the waist and armholes.

Ok, I wanted to let you know that there is another way to attach the sleeves to the bodice but I didn't want to use it because beginners might find it difficult to match up the armhole and side seams, and the traditional way of doing set in sleeves is more familiar. But here's the trick: First stitch the bodice shoulder seams. Next pin the sleeve to the armhole opening (right sides together) and stitch. Finally pin your side seams and sleeve seams and stitch all the way from the wrist opening down the side to the bottom of the bodice.

***Yay! Now the body of the dress is complete! I'm taking the day off tomorrow but on Friday we'll finish with some twin needle hems and the collar attachment. This is a pretty short sew-a-long, I realize, but since this is a beginner level pattern I hope you don't mind the speed.

December 27, 2011

Never Fear Knits Ballet Dress Sew-a-long Pt 2

Yay! Today we get to actually sew something! Let's get started.

I'm using my serger but remember you can always sew knits on your regular sewing machine.

Before you get started it's a good idea to take a scrap piece of fabric to test your machine's tension. Avoid seam ripping with a little prep work!


Pin the bodice pieces together at the shoulders and side seams.

Next stitch both side seams.

For the shoulder seams - you don't have to use Stay Tape but I love this stuff so I'm using it. If you don't have any but would still like to support your shoulder seams you can use a bit of clear elastic instead (which you already have because you need it for the waist seam). Simply lay a strip of elastic/stay tape on top of the fabric edge and stitch over all three layers.

If you are using a serger you can leave your "tails." If you are using a sewing machine go ahead and trim the extra threads.

Now on to the skirt.

Pin the skirt at the side seams and stitch just like with the bodice. I didn't have enough fabric for two whole skirt pieces and I had to cut two halves for the back. So I have a center back seam on my skirt.

One thing to note - it's easy to see which side of the printed fabric is the wrong or right side. However, if you are using a solid color, single knit fabric (like my black jersey) look closely to make sure you know which side is which. It may not be noticeable while you work with the fabric but if you stand back you might be able to see a difference.

For example, the right side of my jersey almost has a sheen to it and the wrong side is more matte. I've used a sweater knit before where the wrong side was slightly darker than the right side. You don't want to go through all that work only to find out one of your pieces is facing the wrong way! Remember, the right side has visible vertical lines.

***Tomorrow we'll attach the sleeves and sew the waist seam. Happy sewing!

December 26, 2011

Never Fear Knits Ballet Dress Sew-a-long Begins!

Whew - I had a crazy holiday but I'm back and ready for business!

First thing's first - the Ballet Dress pattern is now up for sale! I know, I know, you all love free patterns but making patterns is a lot of work! I still have many other patterns for free to download.

In this post we'll print out the pattern, prepare our fabrics, find our size and cut out our pieces.

Print the Pattern
To get started print out the pattern at home. The twenty pages include instructions and sizing as well as all the pieces.

(click for a closer view of the picture)

When printing from Adobe Reader it is important to select "None" in the page scaling section. If you are using a different program or a different version of Adobe Reader it may not look the same as the above screen cap.

Scaling will make the pages print smaller or larger to fit within the printable area on the paper. The printable area size varies on different printers so I have to make the pattern print with a white border around each page. You can check to see if the pages printed correctly by measuring the Test Square.

To arrange all the printed pages you'll need scissors and tape.

The pages line up like a grid with four columns and five rows. The numbered notches go across and the letter notches go vertically. Trim the borders of pages if needed to match up the notches. Tape.

Before we start cutting let's prepare our fabric. I'm using two types - a sweater knit on top (look! deer! or are those mooses? what's the plural for moose, anyway?), and a plain medium weight black jersey for the skirt.

Wash your fabric according to fiber type. Remember, knits fabrics have a tendency to shrink so pre-washing is important! Once dry, iron if needed and lay the fabric out flat on a table so it won't stretch out.

Now, back to the paper - In this pattern I've included finished garment measurements. Why? Because knits patterns for fitted designs are different than woven patterns because they have much less built in ease. The nature of knits means that the fabric stretches over your body (which is why you don't need darts and zippers).

I like using finished measurements as a guide because it allows you to pick the amount of ease you want for your dress. Pick the size closest to your actual measurements or whichever size is larger. Just like with woven patterns, if you are between sizes in certain places you can combine sizes at different points. Say you're measurements are 40/28/39. You can cut a L in the bust, glide down to a M in the waist and cut a M size skirt.

If there is any place you want to be larger than your body measurements (or extra ease) it would be in the hips because the skirt is looser fitting than the bust or waist.

Now that you have your size you can cut out your pieces.

Pattern Adjustments


If you want to shorten or lengthen the skirt, bodice or sleeves you can slash and spread at the gray lines printed on the pieces.

You can even make the skirt looser fitting by swinging out the side seam line and continuing the hem curve.

If you normally need to do a full bust adjustment on patterns then you're in luck. Because knits are stretchy you might be able to get away without one. Try making a muslin of just the bodice. If it feels tight across the bust or if you're getting wrinkles you might want to try an FBA.

FBAs on knits are similar to woven patterns but they have no darts. An FBA will look something like this where the pink lines are cutting lines and the blue lines are where you draw new lines to smooth everything out. Remember, the length of the side and waist seams need to match up with the back bodice and skirt waist seams.

Cutting Fabric
Finally, after all that we can cut out the fabric pieces!

The pattern includes cutting layouts but because I'm using two different fabrics my cutting layout might look different than yours.

Remember to use weights, a rotary mat and cutter (I use jars of buttons as weights, or whatever I have close by). You can use pins and shears but be careful not to accidentally stretch your fabric.

***Ok, I think that's enough prep work for one day. Tomorrow we'll start with the basics - sewing bodice and skirt pieces. Then we'll do waist and sleeves followed by hems and collar. Easy peasy! Probably the shortest sew-a-long ever but it isn't a difficult pattern design.

December 19, 2011


(source: wren handmade)

At this sewing party I attended over the weekend the subject of fabric stash came up and an acronym that I had never heard of before piqued my interest - S.A.B.L.E. = Stash Acumulation Beyond Life Expectancy.

Has anyone else heard of this term? I thought it was hilarious yet probably very true for many.

Some of the women at the party admitted to stashes that, were it food and not fabric, would feed all of North Korea.

One woman had one of those double folding door closets filled to the brim with quilting cottons alone!

This is a surprising thought for me because I am not, in any way, a fabric hoarder. I'll gaze and admire many pretty fabrics on the interwebs but I'm rarely compelled to buy them and I never shop at the big fabric stores without at least a 40% off coupon (which limits my shopping to my number of coupons).

Every fabric I buy I purchase with the intention of using it for a specific project. Even if I don't know the exact pattern I will use I will have already decided if the fabric will become a dress or top or coat or whatever.

My fabric stash consists entirely of fabric about to be used; leftovers from already made projects; and staples like muslin fabric, interfacing, and plain colored batiste for linings. And even still, that amount is a little too much for my minimalist comfort level.

On the other hand I load up on on sale sewing patterns like it's bottled water before a hurricane.

And I'm also guilty of hoarding scraps. Anything bigger than my hand is saved in a bin because I have this delusion that one day they'll be used for some crafty project. I really should stop kidding myself but I don't like to waste anything.

The woman with the closet of cotton also said that sewers load up on fabric most often when they aren't sewing (maybe they're too busy, away from their machine for awhile, etc). Something about trying to fill a creative void with thoughts of sewing. I'm not sure where she learned that tidbit but I think it makes sense. Fabric represents the opportunity to make something be it on a shelf or under a presser foot.

Even though I don't have a huge stash I do envy those with so many options already at their fingertips in their own home. I, too, love browsing fabric sites for inspiration. I've even benefited from some of those stash owners at a recent fabric swap (I got the fabric for this skirt for free!).

So, to the Stashers - those who buy extra just to get free shipping on, those who don't care if their significant others complain about their fabric addictions, those who have kid rooms with closets filled with more fabric than childrens' clothes, those whose hearts swoon at the sight of fine wools and silks, those whose idea of a great trip to NYC would not be a visit to Times Square but to Mood, those who keep little indie fabric stores (like the one I intern for) alive - I salute you!

How big is your stash? And if you are a SABLE person what is your most prized piece of fabric? You know, the one you're saving for something really special. Have you ever participated in one of those stash busting challenges?

***See you next week after Christmas!

December 18, 2011

Gift Wrap Scraps

Christmas Cards using Gift Wrap

If you're like me then you hoard even the smallest bits of leftover gift wrap because some day, some time you know you'll need them for all those super tiny boxed gifts you're going to give (only I never have small boxed gifts! ugh!).

Here's another way to use up those scrap pieces instead of dumping them into the recycle bin.

Use them as background for Christmas cards! I made these cards to resemble wrapped gifts with tags. Inside they'll hold gift cards. And since gift wrap is already holiday themed you don't have to buy fancy Christmas card stock.

I think the last day in the US to mail cards for on time delivery is tomorrow so if you need a quick last minute card (I'm raising my hand!) grab your gift wrap supplies and make one!

***I'm leaving town soon but I'll be back next Monday to start the Sew-a-long! So grab your PDF pattern while you can!

December 17, 2011

Ballet Dress Pattern

Whoa! I had a super busy day today - from making, packing and mailing gifts to baking a birthday cake for my boyfriend to going to a sewing party (look! Someone made peanut butter button cookies!).

Tourist Dress

I only got home a few minutes ago and I know I promised I'd post the pattern today so here I am.

In five sizes! Instructions included! Remember to print the pattern without scaling!

You can see more photos of the finished dress in this blog post.

So, when I planned this series and sew-a-long I didn't realize that it was so close to Christmas (facepalm!).

I'll start the sew-a-long on Monday, Dec 26.

I'm off! To ice a cake and wrap some more presents! Go go go!

December 16, 2011

Never Fear Knits Pt 7

What!? We've reached the end of Never Fear Knits?? Well to sum everything up here's some troubleshooting, plus some good books and places to find knits online.

Below are possible problems you may encounter in your knit sewing journey...

(click on the image for a closer look) 
  1. This is why I don't recommend using a straight stitch to sew knits. Here I used a straight stitched then pulled the fabric too hard and the thread snapped!
  2. This might look funny but I used a zig zag stitch with a short stitch width and a long stitch length which produced this puckering. Instead you should make your stitch width and length the same or have your length smaller than your width.
  3. Here I stretched my fabric as I stitched which produced this ripple effect. No bueno! You might find the same problem if your presser foot pressure is too high.
  4. On this piece I had my differential feed set to far to "gather." This made those ripples you see in the fabric.
  5. Here I did the exact opposite. My dif feed was set to far to "stretch" which really stretched out my fabric! As you sew you might notice this problem because the fabric gets pushed around as it goes under the presser foot making it difficult to guide - hence that glitch on the left side...
  6. This is a common problem with twin needles - creating a "ridge" between the stitches. Below is how I fixed it.
  7. I lowered my thread tension slightly and lengthened my stitch length. Then I ironed it which flattened it more. ;)
I hope these help you figure out why your knits aren't looking nice and flat and pretty!

Books and Resources
Sew U Home Stretch - You all know I love Built by Wendy and I also love her approach to sewing guide books. Even if you don't like the designs in this book each one helps to teach a technique in knit sewing and pattern alteration. And who wouldn't want to make their own perfect T-shirt?

Kwik Sew's Swim and Action Wear - Yeah, this book is from like '93 (and it shows!) but it has so much helpful information, especially if you want to make swimsuits.

Threads' A Primer on Sewing Knits - While I don't agree with all the advice in this article (like straight stitch sewing, and btw, when have you ever seen shoulder pads in a knit garment?) this article does have some good points like making nice, pointy, v-necks

Spandex World - is a great website for specialty knits and hard to find swimwear knits., Gorgeous Fabrics and Denver Fabrics, as well as many other sites, all have knit sections.

***Thanks so much for reading. I hope you learned something new! I'm going to launch my new pattern tomorrow so stay tuned!

December 15, 2011

Never Fear Knits Pt 6

(top: stay tape, middle: clear elastic, bottom: regular elastic)

Thanks for following along with the series so far! Today we're talking support systems - stabilizers, elastic, interfacing, etc. To recap, you can read all the Never Fear Knits posts here.

Occasionally you'll come across a knit pattern that requires interfacing - think wide waistbands on jersey dresses. Yes, they do make knit interfacing and yes, it does stretch.

You'll find it in the store mixed in with the rest of the interfacings. The knit kind resembles tulle, I think. Tiny threads weaved with space between. The side that's a little shiny is the side with the adhesive. Knit interfacing gives support but still allows for a minor amount of stretch.

Stay Tape

Even though knits stretch there are certain parts of knit garments that you don't want to stretch out - like shoulder seams. You can stitch some clear elastic the length of the shoulder into the seam or you can use one of my favorite notions - stay tape. It looks like a small weaved net that comes on a roll and will stabilize your seam. Just feed it into your machine, on top of the fabric, as you sew leaving about an inch extending at either end that you trim when finished.

For waists of dresses you'll probably need some elastic to maintain the shape. Clear elastic is often used with knits but you can also use regular.

If you want the waistband to lay flat you'll cut your elastic the length of the waist measurement of the dress. That way, the dress will stretch as you put it on but when you wear it the elastic will keep that waist nice and fitted.

Like with Stay Tape you lay the elastic on top of the fabric as you feed it under the presser foot. This time I've sewn it on the serger.

As you can see from the above pictures - the elastic (right) stretches while the stay tape (left) is firm.

Sewing Stabilizers
Sulky makes a tear away stabilizer that you stitch right on to your fabric. I've never had to use it but it could be helpful to beginners. So if you're having trouble sewing an especially tricky knit, this might help!

***Phew, almost done! Tomorrow we'll go over a list of possible trouble spots when sewing knits and what to do to avoid them. I'll even add a couple places I like to buy knits as well as some extra resources for knit sewing.

After that I'll release the new pattern and gear up for the sew-a-long where we can put all of this usefulness into action!