This week I sewed my first practical article of clothing, which also happened to be my first experience sewing with knit fabric. Last winter, I picked up a yard of organic jersey fabric on a shopping trip with my mom. She offered to make me one of her knit hats and would give me the remaining fabric. (I had bought the fabric with a different shirt in mind, but never got that pattern from my mom and my itch to sew was too intense to pass up.)
I used the Simplicity 2261 pattern, View C (minus the lace), and modified it slightly due to a lack of fabric. This pattern instructs that you cut 2 Front pieces (one will act as facing that also stabilizes the front neckline). I only had enough for one Front piece.
At this point in my sewing “career”, I still have trouble understanding ease and pattern sizes. For another pattern (a woven-cotton tunic, Simplicity 2262) I used the pattern size that matched my measurements, but the shirt ended up HUGE. I think was the flowy design of the pattern is partially responsible, but it still was at least 2 inches (on each side) too wide and made me look heavily pregnant. (Alternatively…that may end up being a useful maternity pattern one day in my future.)
For this knit shirt (Simplicity 2261), I held a storebought knit shirt up to the patterns for comparison and decided I would use the smallest pattern size (two sizes smaller than what my measurements indicated (which was STILL larger than my storebought shirt, even when seam allowance and ease factored in. Thankfully I did not need a larger pattern size, because I had just enough fabric to cover the basics of this pattern. I should note that I also used 1/4 in. seam allowances on the side seams
Because I had no front facing, I improvised a front-neckline stabilizer based on the back-neckline pattern. Based on the pattern, this “stabilizing-trim” is stitched to the outside of the shirt, then folded over itself inside the shirt and topstitched in place. It is meant to be hidden inside the shirt, but when I was folding and pressing it down, I found that I liked how the trim looked “standing up” and it was less bulky. I topstitched 1/4 in. from the seam to hold the raw edges in place inside the neckline. The neckline gapes and puckers in a few places, but I hope it goes unnoticed to the casual observer on the street.
I do not own a serger, though I can see why someone who works with knits ofter would want one. Thank goodness of the internet and sewing blogs which reassured me that I COULD sew knits with a regular sewing machines. I zig-zag stitched the raw edges of each seam allowance, and then top stitched along the side seams and hem to add support. These sewing blogs tell me that some threads are better for knits than others, and there are tricks to keeping one’s stitches from puckering. One day I’ll get there.