Working with Paper Patterns and Sweater Knit Fabrics

I sometimes find it amusing when people discuss sewing knit fabrics in general and sweater knit fabrics in particular. They usually have very strong views on it. People either love it because it's "so easy working with knits" or hate it because those knits are just so "difficult" and "tricky". If you're one of those in the "difficult" or "tricky" camp, I hope to change your mind.

Though I've had plenty of experience working with knits, this experience has been mainly developing stitch patterns for knit fabrics and creating fully fashioned garments. Studying and practicing techniques for my Crazy Crushed Can Accessory, however, was intriguing. A variety of techniques do indeed exist. And I'm happy to report that a bunch of long lost skills are now fresh in my mind. I learned some new moves too. Below are some of what I found most useful.

I've already gone into the importance of preparing the fabric before the cut. It's also important to be sure you're using a fabric of a manageable length and width. That is, never use a piece of fabric that's longer or wider than your work table. Just cut the fabric into smaller pieces, if necessary. The edges of the knit fabric should never hang over the table. One of the most lovely thing about knits is that stretch, but we don't want the fabric to stretch unnecessarily before or during the cutting.

Ok, so that one may be a bit obvious, but before I continue, I've got to briefly mention seam allowance. If you're using a pattern (commercial or otherwise) that doesn't provide seam allowance, this could be the point where you add seam allowances to the paper pattern. It doesn't have to be. I didn't add seam allowances when I drafted my paper pattern. I added the seam allowance while cutting the fabric and simply cut the paper pattern on what's essentially the seamline. 
I didn't include seam allowances on this paper pattern.
If my paper pattern had folds, this would be the point where I ironed the pattern. Yeah, ironing paper freaks me out -- just doesn't seem right. Just be sure your iron isn't too hot. Use a dry iron with temperature set very low, often the setting for acetate or nylon.

Many people are quite comfortable using pins with their knits. I am not, at least not at this point. Instead of pins, I prefer using weights for holding the paper on the fabric. 
Big washers do the trick.

A glass paperweight and Fresnel lens ended up being my favorites. And not just because the paperweight is pretty!

Big washers, food cans, paper weights and Fresnel lenses (if you happen to have one around) are all fine. I'm sure we've all got something appropriate hanging around the home. My preference is for something low and easy to see around. This makes it a breeze to line up horizontal pattern edges with the rows of stitches and the vertical pattern edges with the wales (columns of stitches). I personally prefer non-metallic items to use as weights. Yes, non-metallic! Why, you ask? I'll show you know in my next post when I write about how I handled seam allowances and cutting the sweater knit fabric.

The pieces of my pattern were asymmetrical and so placing on the fold was not an option. Only if a shape were really simple and uncomplicated (e.g. a rectangular band) would I take the chance of placing a piece on the fold or cutting double thickness. When it was necessary to cut two of a piece, I did it one at a time. 

Next up:  seam allowances and cutting the fabric! In the meantime, if you have any tips on laying out pattern pieces on knit fabrics, please share them in the comments!



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