Friday chatter: What skills do you want to learn?



I’ve been learning a lot of new sewing techniques lately.

I’ve never been that into sewing with knits before. I’ve always just liked the complexity and variety of sewing with wovens. Knits always felt a bit fiddly, simply because each of them behaves so differently.

Over time, I’ve realized that as much as I like and feel comfortable with wovens, I wear knits constantly. They’re so versatile and comfortable, so easy to layer. On those mornings I’m rushing out the door late for work (that would be every morning), they’re irresistible.

So why not sew the things I love to wear?

My friend Alyson has been guiding my journey into knits, even letting me borrow her coverstitch machine for a few weeks. She knows just about everything there is to know about knits from the industrial sewing point of view, so it’s been interesting to adapt her techniques to home sewing. I’ve been playing with my serger more, and even learning about all the cool stretch stitches my Bernina can do (pictured above).

I feel so much more confident now buying knit fabrics and imagining the right applications for them. I’m really excited about the possibilities, especially for sewing cute and comfortable lingerie and loungewear (my vice).

Are there any new skills you’ve been hankering to learn? Any areas of sewing you feel like focusing on right now?

And to top off your Friday, here are a few good links to check out:

Sarai Mitnick   —   Founder

Sarai started Colette back in 2009. She believes the primary role of a business should be to help people. She loves good books, sewing with wool, her charming cats, working in her garden, and eating salsa.

Comments 45


I’d love to learn more about sewing knits, actually. I don’t have a serger/coverstitch machine but recently acquired a double needle to use on my normal sewing machine for this purpose.

In your last post about a thoughtful wardrobe, I realised that although I love sewing with wovens, I wear knits on a nearly daily basis – tees of various styles are the backbone of my wardrobe. I also find knit dresses particularly versatile for different seasons and settings. I’d love to be able to make these items competently. In other words, instead of buying cheap knits as ‘practical’ items while making gorgeous cotton lawn dresses for fun, I’d love to be able to invest some care and love into making quality knit clothes that are not only pratical but which I also love! In other words, to be able to direct my sewing skills towards one huge area of my wardrobe where I usually rely on ready-made.


I totally agree with this – I love to wear knits (and do sew some) but mostly sew wovens. I think that there isn’t a always a great selection of patterns for knits out there, which doesn’t help!


Maybe a tutorial on how to make a pattern from a favourite t-shirt would be helpful! I’ve done this myself and it wasn’t hard at all. It was also free! You can also deconstruct an old t-shirt that is too worn to wear but fits well.

Rachel W.

Jennifer, I had the exact same realization last week. I love my modal-cotton GAP tees, but I just couldn’t feel good about buying them anymore, and the idea of getting to tweak the fit of such a basic garment enchanted me.

I’m working on drafting my own t-shirt pattern, and I just posted a roundup of some of the resources I’ve found and liked. Might be worth checking out if making your own tee pattern is something you want to do in 2014!

Annette Tirette

I’d love to learn more about embroidery. I’ve dabbled here and there but never took the time to properly educate myself! I have a project planned with a lot of embroidery so that will be a great chance to learn something…


I conquered my fear of knits last Fall but it was mostly plain old cotton. Even my wovens have been mostly easy to deal with cotton. This year, I’d like to learn to sew different fabrics. I have some thin sweater knits that are waiting for me to sew them up. I also make knit fabric on my knitting machine and want to conquer my fear of cutting and sewing with it.

This year, I also want to learn to fit items to my body properly, more specifically pants and shorts. I bought Juniper and Iris patterns late last year and I want to fit and sew them for my body.


I played around with couture techniques quite a bit last year while making my wedding dress. This year, I want to play around with some tailoring, since I need to replace my winter coat anyway. I’m currently working on improving my welt pockets, since I’m making up several pairs of pants from the same pattern.


I feel the same way you do about knits…except about wovens! When I first started sewing, I decided that if I couldn’t sew a t-shirt, then what was the point? So I forced myself to learn knits. Now I love them and sew almost exclusively with knits. It’s one of my goals this year to sew more wovens, so I’m interested in techniques that I don’t encounter with knits–closures, facings, and seam finishes. I can do all of those things, but I want to do them well and with confidence.


I want to learn about dying! Techniques, ideas, brand reviews, whatever. Also very interested in hand-embroidery as a detail.


Me too! Both printing and dyeing. I’ve done a fair amount of dyeing, but I’d like to try new techniques.


Yes to learning more about sewing knits. Seriously that’s all I wear! Would love to be able to sew them with more confidence.


I am starting with minimal skills, so I need to learn pretty much everything. I particularly want to learn how to diagnose and correct fit issues. Another important topic for me is being able to sew/alter knits without a serger/coverstitch machine, and my last issue is answering the “my style for my life” questions. I consider all three of these to be of equal importance. I should note that I prefer wovens, but sometimes you just need a knit!


I refuse to be scared by thread, needles and fabric. I am not afraid to try anything, and this method has brought fair success, but now I’m at a point where I need to refine all my skills and develop/alter a fitted bodice that is repeatable.

My truly large challenge is to explore tailoring. I need a new warm! winter coat and I know that I can almost never find a winter coat that fits me well, like a glove. This is my summer goal.


loved the article on ethical fashion! and that into mind site is awesome too! happy to have found that. thanks Sarai! (and thanks for the mention too :) ) xoxo


Yep, I want to do more knit-sewing too – I wear jersey every day and I hate ironing! Fitting a pattern properly is one thing I really want to crack too, I feel like sewing would be so much more fun if I was confident in that.


I want to learn more about sewing knitted fabrics as well as silks. Any recommendations for patterns? Especially for lingerie?

Rachel W.

I don’t really want to learn it (really, I dread it!), but I feel compelled to tackle pants fitting this year. It seems like a completely differently language from fitting tops and dresses, but it would open up a whole new world of sewing to me! The Clover resources look fantastic, and I think I need to gather my courage and start there. :)


With regards to knit – I have the hardest time ordering online. What do the weights mean? Some online retailers don’t even give fabric weight. The last thing I want is to order yards of fabric and find it to be see through.

Also – what is a guideline (I know preferences vary) for negative ease in knits? The big 4 patterns seem to be sized for woven even if meant for knits.

Hand stitching – how to do a blind hem, a good slips titch, etc…

Wovens – plackets- I’ve had a tough time with those lately.



Hmm. I think I just need to actually get the projects I have planned done. If I get the clothes I have planned done, I’ll learn new techniques and (hopefully) learn to follow directions on a pattern. When someone shows me a step I understand, but just reading it leaves me completely puzzled. I also have a crochet blanket, quilts, and some dyeing projects I’m excited about.

Like others, I would find some tips on sewing with knits very helpful, since I really like wearing them. Especially hints for those without a serger, and resources for fabric. The only knit fabrics I’ve ever seen are really poor quality and ugly, might as well just buy it ready made. What different kinds of knit fabrics are there, what should I use them for, and where can I get them?


I want to know how to make a well fitting pair of trousers. I’ve never had a pair of trousers that fits in my life and the though of attempting to make them myself, for some reason, terrifies me. I think it’s because when I make a skirt, I don’t have to accommodate my bizarrely sticky-out bum and wide thighs to the same extent. I feel like it would be a fitting nightmare. It would definitely be something that would make a big difference to my wardrobe (looking forward to becoming a “wardrobe architect” – love it)

Lady ID

It’s not so much new techniques as much as wanting to get better:
* I took a draping class last summer and want to continue with draping and advanced draping
* Making a coat
* More on working with silk and knits


I’d definitely like to learn about taking an old, much loved garment and using it to make a pattern. I have a knit top this fits me like a glove and a shirt in a really interesting style but made for a smaller busted woman and I’d love to use both of them to make new garments.


Ooo…Well, I’m planning to take part in the Albion sewalong which I am SUPER excited about bc it will stretch my sewing skills alot. I’ve really only done basic dresses and pjs bottoms so this year is all about really learning new stuff. And I’m totally inspired by your wardrobe post,too. It’s time for me to sew things I will really wear and fill out my super sad wardrobe. Now that I do sew I always think “I could make that” instead of buying but then I don’t! So this year…Coat and pants and conquer the tshirt. That and this lovely vintage vogue that’s been a UFO for 2 years.


I’ve been sewing mainly with knits actually! It just makes sense for me to start with the kinds of fabrics I wear most often (that, and my t-shirt collection is just sad, sad, sad, so I might as well make new ones!) They sure can be squirrelly, but between my serger and my (OMGBRANDNEW!!!) Bernina with a walking foot, I am getting the hang of it. Just this week I cranked out 2 knits cardigans and three knit tops and have two more in the hopper.

I also plan to make a knit Laurel. :D

So, what I am most interested in right now is the finishing details – you know, the things that make a garment look really good, professional. I have fallen in love with topstitching! I also want ot learn how to adapt patterns to suit my desires. For instance, I have a great t-shirt pattern, but I want to figure out how to give it a shirt-tail hem, rather than a straight one. It seems simple enough, but I am still a new sewist, so a little unsure how to start that process.

And buttonholes. I have been avoiding them like the plague, but I gotta learn! And my Bernina will help, I’m sure.


1) How to sew a blind hem properly

2) How to do an SBA with french darts/”burrito roll”-type darts/princess seams/any pattern without a side dart

How about a nice and easy pattern for knits that one may sew on a regular machine without a serger? : )


I would love to sew with knits. My issue is not confidence, I have taken in a lot of t-shirts, but being able to find knit fabric to sew with. I always keep an eye out when I’m at the store because I have a couple t-shirts that are favorites and aren’t made anymore that I would like to recreate but I can’t find knits I like. Any ideas? I prefer not to shop online, but I suppose I need to.
New skills – I’d love to get out of the woven rut and try sewing with crepe and other interesting fabric. I have an off the rack crepe dress that I love, but it is getting a lot of wear and will probably need to be replaced soon.
On a non-garment sewing note, I also have a quilt that I made about 3 years ago that I have wanted to hand quilt. It is all basted and ready to go. I just need to figure it out.


Like everyone else, knits are high on my list since I wear them every day. I’ve been wanting to adapt the Chantilly pattern for jersey since I think it would be the perfect blend of dressy and casual, but I haven’t had the guts to attempt it yet.

Learning how to fit properly is the other thing high on my list for this year. And learning how to dye/paint fabric like SallieOh would be awesome too!


I am desperate to know more about grading patterns and getting pattrrns printed. I love making patterns and have a desperate desire to make my passion my work.


I completely agree about knits as well :)

I’m also very interested in the various methods of inserting a lining into a garment, either by hand or with a machine. It’s a process that I can follow every time I go through the steps in a pattern but I don’t feel like I have a comprehensive understanding of the theory behind inserting a lining if I wanted to do one on a pattern that doesn’t call for lining.

And many thanks for all the great work you guys put into this blog, it’s very much appreciated!


Like some of the other sewers before me I just want to get better. I’d like to be able to fit better for my curvier size, be able to work confidently with silks and especially make a nice pair of trousers that look good and are comfortable. I sew because I’m a larger girl and buying clothes is a nightmare and as result I have heaps of things in the wardrobe that fit but I don’t really like. By being able to fit for my shape would be wonderful.


Sewing, already done but I need to improve.
I need to find one or two (or more) tips to sew slippery fabric…
And I really need to have pretty clothes (inside and outside).
Last go on with testing pattern and muslin.


The skill I want to learn is an ongoing one – bra making. I started sewing lingerie about a year and a half ago and I’m still learning the ropes. I’ve never been so challenged in my sewing career and I hope that this year, I can become “good.”


Amen to the knitwear concept. I feel pretty lame about not sewing with knits more… I have a serger, with cover stitch even. I really need to take a class to learn my way around my machine.

I do love the organic cotton jersey knits from Alabama Chanin though. Nice weight and so many beautiful colors. I also love her patterns, etc but I would rather do machine stitching for the majority of my pieces.
(Wouldn’t a Colette/Chanin collaboration be a nifty thing? I can dream, right?)

It would be awesome to never buy another cheap tshirt again!


Bit late replying to this after a hectic weekend but oh well… I would love to have a better knowledge of different sorts of fabrics – woven and knit. I find it difficult to do things like buy fabric online because my knowledge of the sort of fabric isn’t good enough, so I’m not confident enough to buy for a specific project like this.


What about back to basics? We all love learning new techniques, but are we forgetting the basics? One thing I have trouble with is tension.


I think I agree with everyone when it comes to knits. Mostly hemming knits & learning about the pros/cons of a twin needle, overstitch, etc..

Also, I would love to learn more about tailoring; waist stays, boning.

Lastly, probably swimwear. Seems to easy and so tricky at the same time!


I have always sewn with woven fabrics, mainly cottons/ poly cottons, partly due to fear of trying out knit fabrics, but have made a couple of things recently and it’s nice to have the skills to be able to make whatever item it is you want.

I love always learning new skills and always have something on the horizon that I am thinking about. Developing my sewing skills is always something I want to do, but I also love to try new crafts alongside that. (I recently acquired some air drying clay, not that I know exactly what I’m going to make yet, but maybe buttons?!)



I love to sew and have been doing so all my life. (for my children when they were young and my grandchildren. Mostly I make quilts. However, I would love to sew clothes for myself.) I do not have a serger and sewing on knits has always been something I have been afraid to tackle. Also there is not a pattern in existence that will fit me. Everything has to be changed. Bust, shoulders , darts, waist, leg length etc. Each time I have tried alter a pattern and make something for myself I give it to Goodwill! I really need help in this area.


I’d love to tackle making jeans. None of the RTW jeans I have really fit me and I’m tired of spending money on something that’s not just right. I do love to wear skirts and cute pants but, in the winter, when the wind chill is way below freezing and there is 20 inches of snow on the ground, it’s all about jeans.

Margaret Crawford

I just sent an email reply to your weekly informational post. I am very interested in this tutorial. Being retired and with my body type, my wardrobe consists mostly of pants and tops. The pants being mostly jeans and I cannot find jeans that are really comfortable and tops or t-shirts that I see that are unique that I can translate into my sewing.
Sign me up.


Sarai, your post has inspired me. Thank you very much. I love sewing wovens but am such a lazy ironer. I love the ready-to-wear nature of the knit. I have never sewed with knit fabrics before so I’m currently gathering some info and instructions about how to do it. Until that time when I’m confident to get into sewing knits, my goal for this year is to finish garments in a neater fashion – i.e. covering zipper ends and hopefully investing in an overlocker to finish seams.


When and why use the different stitches on my basic machine.


Please help me diagnose fit problems – i have all the books that show me how to alter a pattern to fix issues like sloping shoulders, hunched back or sway back but how do i know if I have these issues from my toile/muslin? The only thing I can diagnose with certainty is the need for a small bust adjustment – because excess fabric on the bust is pretty obvious – but how do I know where to adjust to stop some weird tugging between my armpit and a front pleat f0r example? I have slavishly searched the blogosphere and am having very little luck finding advice on reading toiles/muslins. I would love you forever if you’d help!


It is now official – I love you forever!! My Colette Sewing Handbook arrived today, with exactly what I needed to read my muslin pulls and strains!!! Thank you Sarai!!

We’re sorry, comments for this post have been closed.