Sewing hems of items made in stretchy fabric can be fraught with problems. Luckily there is a simple way to avoid this. I use iron-on hem tape on all my hems including sleeves and inserted bands. It is quick, easy and works extremely well.Read More
This is post that I have been itching to share with you. As an avid watcher of sewing You-Tube videos (and by "avid watcher" I mean addict), I have noticed many people discussing the woes of an over-stretched, saggy neckband.
Thankfully, there is a way to avoid the neckline problem. Its does involve a little bit of maths but I promise you, it is all worth it!
Follow these steps to achieve the perfect neckband:
Step 1- Measure the % stretch of your fabric
Work out the percentage stretch of your fabric. If you are not sure how to do this, I have created this fabric stretch chart to help you. Print it out and keep it accessible so that you can quickly refer to it everytime!
Step 2- Measure the length of your neckline
Measure the total length of you neckline where you will be inserting you neckband.
. Do this by folding your garment along the centre front and centre back. Align side seams. Measure using a flexible tape measure. Make sure you measure along the stitching line and NOT the edge of the seam allowance. You will only have measured have the neckline (half the front neck and half the back neck).
To get your TOTAL neckline length, double the number you measured above.
Note: The sweater I have used in the sample above is a raglan sleeve which is why you are seeing two seams lines.
Step 3 - Do the maths!
This is the formula. I have used example measurements for clarity.
Step 1: Percentage stretch of fabric: 25%
Step 2: Total Length of neckline: 66cm
**therefore according to the rules on the fabric stretch chart, we must shorten the neckband by 5-10%. We will use 10% for this example.
Step 3: 10% of 66cm is 6cm (rounded down to the nearest whole number)
Therefore 66cm - 6cm = 60cm.
Add 1cm seam allowance to each end of the band as you will be stitching the ends of the neckband together.
60cm + 2cm = 62cm.
Step 5 - Cut your neckband
Adjust the neckband pattern piece that comes with your pattern to the length you have calculated above. Cut out your neckband out and assemble.
Step 6 - Check your neckband is perfect
Before you finish the seams and top-stitch your neckline, be sure to try the garment on to ensure the neckband has worked out.
Step 7 - Press and top-stitch
One you are happy with the band, give it a good press. You can choose to overlocker the seam allowances if you wish.
Topstitch around the neckline using a twin needle or zig-zag stitch. This helps the neckline sit really flat.
Troubleshooting your neckband
If your neckband is loose or sitting up on your neck, you need to reduce the length of your neckband.
If your neckline has a gathered appearance, you need to lengthen your neckband.
Another reason I love sewing with knits is that they are so easy to fit. This is because the stretch is a lot more forgiving on the body. There is nothing worse than putting so much effort into making something only to have fit problems. I always make a test garment for any new pattern that I sew but there are some differences between knits and wovens.
When choosing you size, you need to think about the negative ease.
Ease is the difference between a garment's measurements and the body measurements.A garment with positive ease is bigger the body and a garment with negative ease is smaller than the body.
When you sew with stretch fabric, the fabric will stretch slightly and result in the garment being slightly bigger than the original pattern. Most knit patterns will indicate what % stretch the pattern has been drafted for. Try to stick to their what they recommend.
You can download and print this fabric stretch chart that I have created to work out how much stretch your fabric has.
Every stretch fabric you buy will behave in a different way therefore you need to make your test garment in exactly the same fabric to get a reliable idea of how the garment will fit. Now fabric is not cheap so it is not practical to make two items of everything just to check the fit.
To get around this, make up your garment in the your fabric of choice but baste the garment together in a large zig-zag stitch. This will allow you to fit the garment and make any necessary adjustments. If your pattern only has a 6mm seam allowance, then I recommend adding extra seam allowance so that you can let the item out if you need too.
Once you are happy with it, can use your overlocker (or serger) to go over the basting stitches to ensure your seams are strong. Be aware that you may have to do a little unpicking where seams cross each other to ensure everything is neat and flat on the inside.
You don't need an overlocker to sew with knits though! A smaller, tighter zig-zag is more than fine to complete the job. And best of all there is no need for any further treatment of the seam edges because knits don't fray. Yippee! In fact, when I am feeling lazy and don't feel like setting up my overlocker (a.k.a changing the thread!), I just use the zig-zag stitch and it always works out beautifully.
Welcome to the first instalment of the Sewing with Knits Series. I have put together this series to help you build your confidence and skills in the realm of sewing with knits.
There is nothing to be scared of. I have heard this said many a time by both beginners and those who have been sewing for years. Once you learn a few of the basics that I will highlight in this series, you will be pumping out plenty of beautiful garments with neckbands that sit just right and hems that remain straight and flat.
I love sewing with stretchy fabric. The makes are quick, comfortable, easy and best of all, simple to fit!
Preparation is key. Here are my essential tips:
1. Use the correct needles
Set up your sewing machine with stretch/jersey or ball point needles. The shape of the needle point prevents skipping of stitches as well as damage to your fabric. It will make a big difference to the quality of your garment.
Use a stretch twin needle to finish your hems neatly. This will give them a similar finish manufactured knit garments which are sewn with a cover-stitch machine.
Check out this chart by Schmetz which gives an overview of the different types of needles and what they should be used for. (No affiliations just a great resource)
2. Presser feet and Pressure
It is important to minimise the stretch your machine places on the fabric whilst you are sewing.
I use my regular general purpose presser foot however if this is not working too well for you then use a walking foot or teflon foot to help minimise the drag on the fabric.
The other very important thing to check is that the pressure of your foot has been reduced. This adjusts how firm the foot is pushing down on your fabric as it feeds through. You may need to consult you manual if you are not sure how to do this on your machine.
Also, ensure your fabric is not hanging off the machine as your are sewing because this can lead to unintended stretching. Here I have made a DIY solution using some of my larger sewing books to elevate the fabric off the table.
4. Check the Seam Allowances
Check what seam allowances are included in your pattern. Some knit patterns are drafted with a 6mm seam allowance because they assume it will be constructed on an overlocker, not a sewing machine.
If you are not comfortable with this or you plan to construct your item on a sewing machine, I reccomend that you add the extra seam allowance onto your pattern before cutting. Extra seam allowance is also a bonus if you need to let your garment out during the fitting process. Check out the Fitting your Knits post for more about this.
5. Use a zig-zag stitch
Owning an overlocker is not required for you to be able to sew knits successfully!
Use the zig-zag stitch function on your sewing machine for construction. A straight stitch is not used as it will not accommodate the stretching of your item when you wear it and will lead to popped/snapped stitches.
Hint: When using a zig-zag stitch, don't backstitch!
6. Sewing Darts
Darts should be sewn (with a straight stitch!) in the opposite direction than your woven garments. This means you start at the dart apex and finish at the darts legs (or side seam).
--Printing your PDF Pattern--
Open the .pdf file that you have downloaded.
Click File, Print.
In the Print Box, make sure ACTUAL SIZE is checked OR select the scaling to 100%. Most printers default to Fit To Page – if this is checked your pattern will print smaller than the actual size
Ensure your page format is set to Portrait. In my Printer Settings, I select Auto Portrait which ensures the document is centred on the page.
Note: Our patterns have been formatted to be printed on both A4 and US Letter size paper so shouldn't need to make any changes here if you printer has been setup for your PC.
Once you have printed the file, measure the test square that you will find on each page (you do not need to measure them on every page if you have printed them all at the same time) and make sure it actually measures 3cm x 3cm. If not, then your pattern has not printed in Actual Size.
Trim the bottom and right edges of each page.
Stick the pages together aligning the circle guides. You can use tape or glue-stick to stick the pages together. I prefer glue-stick as it is quicker and easier. For more tips on how to easily assemble PDF patterns, read this blog post.
Now that you have assembled your pattern, you are ready to cut your size out and starting creating you item!
Tip: Trace your size from the original using tracing paper or pattern-making paper. This allows you to go back to the original pattern if you need to make another size or if you need to grade between sizes.
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