Friday, June 12, 2009

Flashback Friday - 1976 and learning to sew knits

I admit it. Knits scared me. Oh sure, I could whip up a dress for myself in an evening. Sew a leisure suit for my father in a weekend. Hand-embroider bibs and blankets for my baby while watching a sitcom.

But knits? Well, the thought of sewing with knits made me break out in a cold sweat. After all I didn't have any of those new-fangled fancy-dancy sewing machines. You know, the kind with a stretch stitch designed for sewing with knit.

However, after years of sewing I realized it was time. Time to conquer my fears and move forward.

Pattern of choice? McCall's 4551. After sewing myself a pair of the jeans (woven fabric - piece of cake) I tackled the top.

McCall's 4551 c. 1975 vintage sewing pattern

After carefully using the stretch guide conveniently printed on the back of the pattern envelope, I choose a golden tan cotton knit. The fabric was surprisingly easy to work with, the shirt went together quickly and I accented the seams and collar with brown topstitching.

Life was good. No need to fear the knit. Until I wore the shirt and the seams started to pop. Turns out if you don't use a small zig-zag stitch you need to stretch your fabric ever so slightly to allow for the stretch of the fabric. If you don't? Your seams will pop when you move.

And lucky me, it was captured for all eternity in this photo from 1976.


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  1. I remember getting over my fear of knits, but I conquered it and love them now.

  2. When Stretch and Sew first came on the sewing scene, I was there. I took every class offered. It was a great learning experience. I learned to sew knits, literally, from underwear to coats.

  3. Gwen - that would have been wonderful to take those classes. As a teenage mother not only were finances tight, but I had no idea sewing classes were even available! I bet you learned to sew knits beautifully.

    Meg - I'm glad I got over my early fears of sewing with knits as they are wonderful. Although everytime I sew something with a knit I remember that I need to get my serger fixed...

  4. I had no fear of knits when I first started sewing them. I didn't know that I should until about the third garment I made and all the stitching popped when I pulled the top over my head. The others were loose enough to not have that happen. Like you I did not know to use a zigzag stitch. At that time, my machine did not have a zigzag stitch. It was an old,old Singer that sewed well, even knits.

  5. Oh, the popped stitches! I think we've all experienced them.

  6. I had no fear of knits when I first started sewing...I feared nothing, which was probably stupid!!! Sure learned alot that way though! :)

  7. About that time I wanted to sew on knits too. I blamed it on my machine and bought a new one. Now my DIL uses that machine and it still won't sew knits. So it wasn't just us, those old machines, even with the zigzag, weren't always up to the new fabrics.

  8. Anonymous1:32 PM

    Hope this isn't a double post but I lost my first comment! Sharon, the first knit shirt I ever completed was constructed with Wally World table fabric that cost $1/yd. This is important because I was so frustrated I went out and got a serger to complete it, meaning I was then afraid of two things - the fabric and the serger - and that this cheap shirt is now worth the moon. I still have it though and the seams ain't goin' nowhere! I love it!

    I might not have begun collecting sergers if I'd had Sew U Home Stretch: The Built by Wendy Guide to Sewing Knit fabrics by Wendy Mullin with Evianna Heartman. Its in a great lay flat format and includes very specific instructions for sewing knits on a sewing machine as well as on a serger.

    So glad I found your blog - you've got me sewing again!

  9. bernadette9:49 PM

    YAY! - You are probably close to my age. I had a newborn in '76. This is my first visit to your blog.

    Soon after getting married at a young age, I bought my first sewing machine: a rock-bottom-of-the line Kenmore because it had the hot new ZIG-ZAG stitch. I taught myself to sew garments on that thing. It had no light, no off switch, an exterior, belt-driven motor, was army green, and had no special stitches, but I figured out that if I used a tiny zig-zag stitch on knits, all would be well. It was only $48 including the cabinet!

    Plus, every machine I have had since has had a free arm and I now miss that flat bed and the nifty sewing cabinet.



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