If I am honest I avoided projects that require knit (or stretchy) fabric for quite a long time. I was nervous about it. I didn't want to add an extra complication into my projects. I was a pretty competent sewer before I braved them at all and then totally messed it up (I didn't then know the 3 things I am about to tell you). But recently I have made a few things from stretchy fabric and I have had much more success. I found them so easy I don't know what all the fuss was about before. In fact I now love these items most out of all the clothes I have made for myself so far. I want to share with you the few tips of sewing with stretch fabric, because really there is nothing to worry about.
Number 1 // Use A Ballpoint Needle
If you want to have any success sewing with some stretch fabric, you will need to invest in a ball point needle for your sewing machine. These inexpensive, less pointy needles are designed so that they will push through the spaces in the threads of your fabric rather than making a new hole, this prevents your fabric from having little holes all the way along the seams, something you definitely won't want.
Number 2 // Sew With a Zigzag Stitch
On a normal sewing machine, a straight line of stitching won't stretch. If you do this on a stretchy fabric then you are fighting a losing battle, the fabric will stretch but the seams won't. To overcome this you can simply sew with a Zigzag stitch instead. This way your seams have the same flexibility as your fabric. There are other stitches that work too but a Zigzag stitch is the simplest.
Number 3 // Don't Stretch the Fabric as you Sew
When you feed your fabric into a sewing machine, the fabric will be pulled through automatically. When you are sewing with stretchy fabric this can mean it stretches on its way in unintentionally. This results in a really uneven edge- bummer. To avoid this try and hold your fabric up level with the needle and feed it in with you hands. It is actually pretty easy to do this once you have had a little bit of practice, so just test it out on a sample bit first.
These three things are the only 'rules' for sewing with knits. But there is something else I would say if you are only just learning. Look out for something that is not too stretchy. This is kinda tricky if you are buying your fabric online. But next week when I start going through how to make a stretchy circle skirt I am going to talk about what kinds of fabric to look for for your first few stretchy sewing projects, why not have a go with me? Zoe x
plantain tee pattern (it's free to download) and then adapted it to make myself a dress. I wanted the skirt to be circle skirt style but I didn't want to have to sew a waistband. So I just extended the top pattern down into a circle skirt dress:
It was my first attempt at sewing a stretch neck line too and I think I did pretty well:
I am not there yet, I wear handmade most days but rarely an entire outfit. But I have made a good start. And I love it. It is so satisfying wearing something you have made yourself. But there is more to it than just that satisfaction. So here are 6 reasons why you should start thinking about making your own clothes too (just one item at a time).
It's 100 times more versatile than shopping on the high street
One of the greatest things about making your own clothes is the endless possibilities open to you. There are literally millions of options for fabric you can use for any one garment. Then there are thousands of patterns available to make from your chosen fabric. Plus if you learn to draft your own patterns you are totally unlimited as to what design to go for. So I underestimated, there are way more than 100 times more options than the high street. Maybe high street fashion is your thing, or you like more simple styles (I do), well you can make those too. If you see a skirt/top/dress you love, chances are you can probably make it for a similar amount or maybe even less.
You don't have to have a particular body shape to make it work
I don't know about you, but I am not skinny. I am not fat either but I have bumps and lumps and curves and you know what, that's normal. I tend to fit somewhere in between sizes in most shops, my hips are wider than my bust and my tummy isn't as flat as it once was. They don't generally make clothes for people 'me shaped'. I would be willing to bet that many of you have been into a shop to discover the item you really want is too big in one size and too small in the next one down. This is another HUGE advantage of making your own clothes. You can make any size you need, you can mix and match the sizes available on the pattern and you can learn to make adjustments to any item of clothing to get it to fit you. No more feeling like your body is somehow 'wrong' any more. Winner.
It's much more sustainable than buying 'disposable fashion'
Sure you can buy yourself a cheap tee in town that looks good today and you can throw out tomorrow. But fabric is not a very 'green' crop. In fact cotton is responsible for 25% of pesticide use in the world (see here)! Not to mention that most of us have got into a habit of throwing things out when we no longer have space for them which increases out waste. Wearing handmade doesn't irradicate this problem, but it makes you think about where your fabric is coming from, teaches you how to repair clothes that are broken so they last longer and makes you more likely to keep hold of it for longer since you put the effort in to creating it in the first place. Of course wearing second hand and upcycled clothes can also really help with this one so you can always start with this simple step and work towards sewing your own clothes later.
Sewing clothes is a skill so something to be proud of
Learning to sew your own clothes does take time and practise. There are loads of simple ideas to start with to set you on the right path towards making your own couture ball gown. But learning a skill is not only incredibly satisfying but also seriously useful. You'll be able to sew your own clothes, decorate your home, make yourself some amazing fancy dress costumes. What more could you want in life? (Well quite a lot actually but in terms of material possessions it's a good start.)
A Skill shouldn't be undervalued
If making your own clothes takes time to learn and perfect, buying a t-shirt for £4 can't be right can it? The fabric alone would cost you more than that. But out of the £4 you are paying for the raw materials, the shop assistants wage, the shops rental and running costs, the cost for it travel from the factory to the warehouse and then to the shop, the running cost of the warehouse and the wage for the person that made it. Does that seem like a fair wage to you? Sounds to me like someone somewhere is being exploited. One way to make a stand against this kind of exploitation is to stop shopping in this kind of shop. My suggestion is to start making your own clothes. I can't afford to buy all my clothes fair-trade, but I can afford to make them. Probably you can too.
It is so much fun!
If all the above reasons weren't enough to persuade you, you will just have to give it a go and see how much fun it is. Start browsing now through some fabric shops and you will begin to see the endless possibilities open to you. You can literally create your own wardrobe from scratch, and actually wear something that you have made yourself. Go on, have a go. Zoe x
PS The photos here are just some random ones of items I've made. Take a peek at the 'Sewing Projects' tab above to see the original posts about them.