“Working with Knits”

Now that the jelly roll throw has found its way to Richmond and the table runner is safely on a table in Michigan, I have begun to make some new garments for myself. Today I was cutting out a new knit top and thought I would share a couple tips for cutting and working with knits. Many of the customers I teach in the machine classes find sewing on knits to be rather intimidating. If you follow a few simple guidelines, it’s not as tricky as one might think. First of all, you may want to consider cutting out the knit using a rotary cutter and mat rather than using scissors. Knits tend to migrate in different directions when they are cut with scissors, so using a small rotary cutter gives much more control over the fabric. This does take a bit of practice, but if you use a rotary cutter often, you will quickly get the hang of it. Also, the way the material is put onto the bolt is not necessarily the way in which you want to cut it. The fabric will come off the bolt with the selvages on one side and a fold on the other, just like every woven fabric, but knits do not give up the imprint of that fold as they are pressed and worked with. Therefore, the fabric needs to be re-folded so the selvages meet each other in the middle.

This allows the pieces that need to be cut on the fold a fold that is not “set in”. Nothing says “homemade” like a permanent crease down the front and back of a garment! With the fabric selvages meeting each other in the middle, the front and back of the garment can be pinned across from each other. 

(This also helps with pattern matching, which we’ll talk about next week.) Once the front and back pattern pieces are cut, re-fold the fabric so the selvages are on one side and the fold is on the other (just the way the fabric originally came off the bolt). 

Now you are ready to cut out the sleeves. 

(If you had kept the fabric folded the way it was folded for the front and back pieces, your fabric would not have enough width to accommodate the sleeve head.) Since knit fabrics are usually 58”-60” wide, there is usually more than enough fabric to make these folding modifications. Almost all knit patterns will show these folding modifications in their cutting layout directions. Next week………….matching patterns!