Sew U Home Stretch came home from the bookstore with me a couple of weeks ago. I read it right away and got pumped up to sew knits. My experience with knits is non-existent and this book explains it all. I felt educated and empowered so I went off to the fabric store and bought myself some green cotton jersey to make a dress.
Then I read the pattern.
OK, so I probably should have done that before buying the fabric. I know, I know. After realizing that the dress has some trickier things (facings, etc.) and guessing that my first knit garment may not be my best work, I changed my plan. I decided to make a shirt.
Here's where it gets fun. Wendy shows you how to make changes to the basic t-shirt, raglan and dress patterns to make different garments. I was immediately drawn to this shirt:
I liked the v-neck and the little gathered bit at the bust. I didn't like the sleeves, though. I know from experience that they don't really suit me. I flipped through the book more and came upon the basic tank.
This pattern calls for ribbing which I didn't have on hand. For a second I contemplated going out to find some, but then the light bulb went off. It was so bright, I swear you could actually see it in the bubble above my head. I got out the tracing paper and made my own pattern, combining these two tops to make my very first knit tank. Yup...Built by Erin.
Feeling part genius and part sewing geek, I got it done. I would be lying to you if I said it was smooth sailing. It wasn't. But, boy oh boy, I learned A LOT. First, altering patterns is rather easy. I invested in a french curve to help with this step - this is crucial. It makes it soooo much easier. I followed the shirt pattern and made the deep V and added 2 inches length. I then followed the tank pattern and adjusted the armhole. Second lesson learned: check the size. I knew from Melissa's post that the t-shirt pattern that comes with the book runs big. I pulled out a tank that fits me well and held it up to the pattern. It was hard to believe, but it looked like I would need to cut out a size small (in store bought t-shirts, I wear a large). Third: knits are hard to cut out. This one is a rayon, cotton, lycra blend. Super soft, a bit stretch with a lot of drape. The drape made it hard to lay smooth and after about twenty minutes of fiddling with it, I got the two pieces cut out. All this before I even started sewing!
When I moved the fabric to the sewing machine(s), I realized I had missed a crucial bit. The neck and arm edges are bound, much like a quilt. Back to the scraps I went and managed to eek out just enough to cut 1 inch strips to take care of that. I used my serger as much as I could, but there were some bits that needed the regular sewing machine, too. I had to move my aqua thread back and forth. Next time I am going to buy two spools because it was a pain and a huge waste of time to re-thread both machines multiple times.
The little gathered bit is done by sewing elastic on the reverse side and pulling it as you go. It took me three tries even though I first did it successfully on a scrap. Besides making me cuss like a sailor, ripping out that elastic twice left some tiny holes in the fabric. Bummer. I almost gave up, but plowed on. They are tiny so if I didn't tell you, I'm not sure you would notice. The binding part was easy enough - I first tried to attach it with a straight stitch, but it looked super sloppy and it didn't catch everything in back so I switched to a zig zag. I think it looks mighty fine.
The fit? Well, when I tried it on the first time, it had big gapes under the arms so I took that in about an inch on each side. The V is a bit too deep for my comfort level. I think I would make it about 1/2" less than I did. It is too long - I don't think I needed to add the length which is unusual because I have a long torso. It is tight around my hips - making it shorter would take care of that, too.
So will I wear it? Yes. Probably as pajamas (it is comfy!) or to the pool over my swim suit. And I will make it again - trying to adjust the fit to make it better. I can see this being a summer wardrobe staple. So now, time for the dress. I'll let you know how that works out.