Another Sweater-in-Progress

Even when my progress is in fits and starts, I enjoy the process of revisiting an old technique and adapting it to another fabric. In a recent newsletter I included two links to previous posts about “taming bulky seam allowances” so, I suppose, that topic has been very much on my mind. It's a common issue when working with bulky sweater knits. One thing I always consider is the squish factor. (Not a technical term, my definition of squish factor is the ability of a fabric to be easily squished or flattened.) The squish factor is usually greater with bulky wool than with bulky cotton. A thick, bulky wool is often full of air. It can have the magic power to squish down really well. It will flatten nicely when sewn and stay flattened.

Cotton, however, is heavier. Lovely as a cotton knit is, there’s often a lot more actual fiber there, not just an appearance of loft. Certain cotton knits have what I consider to be a low squish factor. In other words, they don't squish down well. Finishing a seam allowance on fabrics with this much bulk and a low squish factor sometimes requires extra work, which I rediscovered with this project.

I've been working to complete a sweater in luxurious gray Cobblestone sweater knit fabric. The sweater began as a sample for a cut and sew presentation I made in April. For this sweater I decided to enclose the cut neckline with a double neckband. I’ve found that top stitching when enclosing a raw edge is often useful when there are thick layers. Because I enclosed the raw edge (pictured above), I steamed the seam allowance upward. If I had been using a simple binding at the neckline, I would've started without any seam allowance at all and wrapped the binding fabric closely around the neck edge. In this case, however, I’m making a crew neck with a 1.25” band. After sewing the seam, I sewed allowances together with a 3-step zigzag, in order to make the seam allowance flatter. My intention was for the zigzag to keep the seam allowance flat. I then trimmed the seam allowance close to the zigzag stitches. I now believe that grading the seam allowance (trimming the top layer of the seam allowance a little more than the bottom layer) before zigzagging might have been a better way to go. Don't get me wrong; I’m quite happy with the neatness of the neckline, but I know what I'll do next time.

Enclosing the seam allowance isn't necessary, as I demonstrated in my post Sewing a Finished Edge Rib Band to a Sweater Neckline. For that demo I used a relatively narrow, single band. A neatly finished seam allowance would be quite acceptable in that situation.

Here's the beautifully wide, single band treatment that Debbie Iles of Lily Sage & Co used with cornflower blue Cobblestone. Because it's a single band, there's not as much bulk at the seam.

In her blog post Debbie gives us a peek into her process as she develops her final look. Her finished dress pairs the Cobblestone sweater knit with a wonderful woven linen. Since I love discussing process, I really enjoyed following the documented steps Debbie takes in her project. Check it out. Debbie's final dress is gorgeous

Returning to my sweater-in-progress, I've used a band of self fabric for the sleeve finish. It turns out my sleeve seems a little long. I may be reworking it. Not sure yet.

The sweater's almost finished now. I’ll be sure to post pictures when it's done!


How to Cut and Sew a Sweater - the Online Workshop

Photo credit: Kevin Frest

It was more than a year ago that I decided I wanted to create an online workshop on how to cut and sew sweater knits. Several people had asked me over the years whether or not I had any classes online or any DVD's. Other people (who happened to be Etsy teachers) had suggested I contact Etsy. But I decided that for my first venture into teaching on camera I wanted to produce the workshop independently. As with designing, knitting, and sewing, I think I became very interested in the process.

Just as I don't make all my own clothes, I don't think I'll always go the indie route, but there'll be more videos in the future. And this was indeed a very interesting process. I already had a bunch of experience in front of the camera (from my old showbiz days) and a little experience behind the camera (if we count my old days in animation). And so with a minuscule production team and a small pilot group of sewists, we created How to Cut and Sew a Sweater.

The online workshop officially launched on April 28, 2018! (REGISTRATION IS NOW CLOSED. Click for more info.) I'm so pleased and exhausted (in a good way). Our private FB group has just begun. Those who follow me on FB know my FB game is not strong, but I'm excited and willing to rise to the challenge to provide comments and encouragement. :-)

My goal with this course is to cover those pesky little and big things that can seem unpredictable and unmanageable when working with sweater knits: How do I keep my neckband from being floppy? How can I prevent my seams from rippling? Why does this hem flare out? How do I get my sweater to fit?

I worked to answer all those questions and more and to present the preparation, fitting, and construction of a pullover sweater in a systematic way. Registration is open now through May 5, 11:59 PM ET.  REGISTRATION IS NOW CLOSED. Click for more info.

Or join the future workshop email list to be notified when registration opens again.


Machine Knitter, Why Cut and Sew?

REGISTRATION FOR THIS EVENT HAS ENDED. This post is for the knitter who’d never consider cutting sweater fabric. On April 21st I’ll be presenting “An Introduction to Cut and Sew Sweaters for Machine Knitters” to the Northeast Machine Knitters’ Guild, just outside New Haven, Connecticut (Location has changed from the previously announced site.) I’ll be demonstrating the cut and sew method specifically for the hand machine knitter. Guests are welcome. If you’re interested, please get in touch with the NMKG here.

“Oh, I’ll never use cut and sew [method].”

That’s what I said over 30 years ago in response to my friend and former draping teacher Imogene, when I was invited to see what her brand new serger could do. I had a couple years of machine knitting experience at the time and already quite a few full fashion sweaters (a sweater shaped on a knitting machine rather than cut to shape) to my credit. My dedication and, I believe, my sewing background allowed me to transfer my knowledge of shape and fit to the new-to-me knitting concepts of increases, decreases, and short rows. And I had no plans to ever cut my precious knitting.

However, here I sit decades later, gleefully sharing how I take scissors to sweater knits as often as I can and sew the pieces into a garment. I find it an amazingly, satisfying experience. How things change!

Make no mistake, I believe that nothing can replace the beauty and exquisite details of a sweater that has been well made and fully fashioned to the perfect fit.

The very act of creating a full fashion sweater makes a strong statement. It takes time, and it’s efficient. This type of sweater can be produced without wasting any materials. While simple, the use of a full fashion decrease imparts both texture and shape simultaneously.

Eventually I learned “well made” is not the exclusive domain of the fully fashioned. It's quite possible to have a very well made cut and sew sweater. We’ve all been exposed to cheap, poorly constructed sweaters... you know the ones I’m talking about. Making your own results in something very different.

For example, we aren’t compelled to use serged (overlocked) edges on the inside, though it’s a good, quick finish for those who want one. For the machine knitter who already has a bit of sewing experience, the principles of a clean finish are quickly grasped.

Cardigan with a clean finish on the inside
If you struggle with fit, cut and sew gives you a couple chances to get the fit just right -- without unknitting multiple times! For the machine knitter who also enjoys a little quality time with a sewing machine, you’re able to work with your already knitted panels of fabric to easily construct a sweater that is both well crafted and unique.

Cut and sew is a method worthy of being added to your arsenal of sweater making techniques. And it’s fun! The act of taking something apart and putting it back together in a new way is enjoyable (I imagine this is how quilters feel). The method can be used to fully construct a sweater or applied sparingly in just certain difficult areas. (Necklines and pockets come to mind.) You don’t even need a serger! But be warned, your sweater making activities may increase once you discover how satisfying the results are.

Cut and sew sweater with fancy neckline

REGISTRATION FOR THIS EVENT HAS ENDED. For the upcoming demonstration at NMKG I’ll be covering these topics:
  • Choices to make when knitting for the cut and sew method 
  • The best types of sewing patterns to use
  • Neckline alternatives
  • How to make your sweaters look as neat on the inside as they do on the outside.
Curious? I hope you’ll come by.

Can't make it? Too far away? Get on the list to learn about my next How to Cut and Sew a Sweater online workshop. Created especially for sewing enthusiasts, machine knitters are very welcome. :)