12 March, 2015

Knits, the Linden Sweatshirt and Thoughts from a Beginner Sewer

If you've read this blog for a while you will remember that I've said many times before that I don't sew clothes. I'm a quilter, not a sewer.

I stand corrected.

Behold my first sweatshirt. When I told my SIL that I was sewing a sweatshirt for fun she commented that she hadn't even seen me wear a sweatshirt aside from a hoodie at the campfire. Quite true. But I picked up this dressy one from J Crew last year and fell in love. Then, at QuiltCon, I finally caved on some gorgeous Nani Iro double gauze I've been admiring for a few months online. Those two loves collided when a friend pointed out to me that they just saw a Grainline Studio's Linden sweatshirt in double gauze. Sold!

Not only was I keen to make this sweatshirt, it was actually serving as my reward. Some selfish sewing after basically 2 months straight of work. Something is clearly wrong with me.

Okay, so this pattern is rated for a beginner. While it is true there are not major technical skills required to make this, it certainly reminded me that I am indeed a beginner when it comes to garment sewing. A few Staple dresses does not make a seamstress. The last time I sewed with knits was a pair of sweatpants in junior high Home Ec.

The pattern is pretty straight forward and well illustrated. It provides a few hints and tips on sewing with knits, like what stitches and needles to use. I felt much more prepared, however, after spending some time on line searching out more tips, tricks, and guides for sewing with knits.

There were a lot of little things that flew under the radar. An experienced sewer would probably just chalk them up to common sense, but it was spots that a beginner would perhaps struggle with. For example:

- Knit is stretchy, this works to your advantage when attaching your cuffs and bands, but against you when cutting.
- When attaching the wrist cuffs, take off the table around the throat of your machine, it pretty much made it perfect for attaching the cuffs. If you don't, you are trying to manage all the material, the stretching, and a good seam allowance without catching the other side of the cuff as you sew.
- If the fabric isn't moving for you under the presser foot, you can raise it a bit.
- There are different settings required for your machine, very different ones if you are used to quilting.

I spent a lot of time trying to figure out stitches, speeds, and settings on my machine. In fact, the machine was my biggest frustration. Rather, my ability to work it with this material. With the help of a strong Campari and Soda I found the patience and the rhythm required.

It really got me thinking about beginners and the assumptions I make regarding terminology and basic skills. I write patterns and assume a certain level of knowledge. Now I realize I can't write for every audience - if I broke absolutely everything down the more experienced quilter would be driven bonkers by the detail. There is likely more of a middle ground, however. Especially when marketing to beginners. Definitely something to think about.

I love, love, love this sweatshirt. I like the fit on me. I went for a size 16 based on the pattern measurements and adjusted nothing other than the length of the neck band piece. (I found I liked the wide opening and wanted less of a gathered feel, so I added a few inches to the band). The sweatshirt is loose, almost blousy.  The bottom cuff doesn't get tight around my hips, which I prefer to the alternative. If you wanted it tighter you would just have to make the band a bit shorter. The arms are pretty much perfect for me. This will be a good layering piece as we head into spring.

The material is from Birch Organics, the Elk Grove knit line. I picked it up at a local store. Selection was limited locally to a lot of cute little prints, but I don't do cute on my clothes. So ridiculously soft, the flowers were worth it. I was paranoid about stretching it out before I finished sewing so I was super careful, then someone else commented on an Instagram photo that it wasn't very stretchy! Perhaps it was just paranoia on my part?

Now I am very excited to tackle a double gauze version. For that one I am going to lengthen it a bit so it is extra slouchy. I need to pick up a knit or a ribbing for the wrist cuffs and bottom band. Hopefully I can find something that coordinates nicely. I may switch out the neck band for a bias binding, but I haven't decided on that yet.

Look out world, I'm a sewer now.


floribunda said...

LOL... I find that a good Campari & soda helps with lots of things!

mjb said...

I'm so glad you're starting to sew clothes! It's such a fun hobby.

Karen said...

Way to go, Cheryl! It's too cute! Even experienced sewers have to be careful with knits, plaids, bias, gathers, . . . I've sewn clothes almost all my life, and it feels so weird to be a beginning quilter. All these new things to learn! Any new skill takes time and care--even though they are in the same family like sewing!

house on hill road said...

Love it!!!

Miggsie said...

Cute sweatshirt! And cute dog!! What kind is he/she? Looks a lot like our Australian Kelpie.

Suzanne said...

Fantastic job! I can appreciate the point about how much info is taken for granted on pattern writing.

Patti said...

Your sweatshirt turned out beautifully! Love the fabrics. You are far braver than I. I'm not sure a Campari would bail me out. If it's not rectangular and flat I'm in trouble at the sewing machine. :D

Goldogmom said...

Garment sewing is hard and your sweatshirt looks great. I've not sewn garments for years and am trying to get back into it. I applaud your courage and will remember it when I tackle my knit project sitting and staring at me. LOL

Anonymous said...

I'm loving this. And gotta check out your Creativelive too!

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