Making Laurel in a knit

45

knit-laurel-full-02

I’ve been meaning to share this dress forever, as evidenced by my long hair and bare legs in these photos.

If you’re in the northern hemisphere, bear with me and maybe try to pretend I’m wearing tights and boots. For those in the southern hemisphere… hey, perfect timing!

I made this version of Laurel because (1) knit striped shift dresses are just about the easiest thing in the world to wear, (2) no closures, and (3) I wanted to see how Laurel would do in a knit fabric.

It’s not a fancy dress, but it’s a good workhorse for those lazy days. And I have plenty of those. The other cool thing is that since Laurel doesn’t have front darts, it works well in stripes and other prints.

knit-laurel-full

knit-laurel-hem

knit-laurel-neckline

Here’s what I learned:

  • Use a stable knit. This is a fairly stable, thick baby rib knit so it held up decently and has pretty good recovery. I think these kinds of knits are the best choice for converting patterns designed for wovens, especially a dress with structure. A doubleknit would be ideal, because they can basically be sewn like wovens.
  • Cut it smaller. I cut this a size smaller than my usual size to make up for the stretch, and it was still very big. I’d recommend sizing down at least two sizes. I ended up taking it in another size or so at the side seams, which brings me to the next point.
  • Sew the sleeves flat. I found this helpful, because I could sew the side seams last and thus take it in quite a bit there as needed.
  • Get a twin needle. I use a twin needle to hem knits. I serge the raw edge, turn, then use the twin needle to stitch the hem. If you don’t have a coverstitch machine (I don’t), it’s a nice way to finish a knit hem with a plain ol’ straight stitch machine.

I used a folded self band to do a clean finish at the neckline, like the ribbing on a t-shirt. It’s really pretty easy. This entire dress took me only a couple hours, start to finish.

I’m thinking for my next one, perhaps a heather grey double knit with patch pockets.

Anyone else have tips for sewing patterns designed for wovens with knit fabrics?

Edited 11/21:

Some of you asked about how I removed the bust dart. here’s a photo of what I did. Pretty simple, I just folded the dart out of the way, all across the bust:

pinch-out-bust-dart

Pattern: Laurel by Colette Patterns
Fabric: Cotton baby rib in camel and white stripes

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.

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Comments 45

Nina toftsnummulite.blogspot.co.uk

Very nice! Did you eliminate the bust dart?

I used a twin needle recently to hem an interlock nightie, and the bobbin thread breaks somewhere every time I turn over in bed! I couldn’t get the tension quite right on the machine – even with the upper thread tension as high as it goes, the bobbin thread still wasn’t forming a proper zigzag. Any tips?

Adri H. adriprints.blogspot.com

I’ve used the twin needle with knits, but not for a zig-zag stitch. My understanding is twin needles are for straight stitching. Do you mean on the back side of the twin needle’s stitching? If so, I wouldn’t made the top tension higher which is maybe why your threads are all snapping. Using a scrap bit of knit, I’d test lowering the tension… here’s a possibly helpful video from youtube: http://www.craftsy.com/blog/2012/12/how-to-use-twin-needle-to-mimic-cover-stitch-hem/

Sunnie Mitchell

I’ve only a had problem zig zagging with twin needles when I’ve forgot to adjust the stitch width – wider is better with twin needles, as is loosening the upper tension when stretch/zig zagging with single, twin, or triple needles.

Sarai colettepatterns.com

Ack, this is what happens when I wait 4 months to blog something. I’m glad you mentioned it.

Yes, I eliminated the bust dart by pinching it out. I also eliminated the back darts by just leaving them out.

Sunnie Mitchell

I’ve found when sewing knits (or a zig zag seam on wovens) using looser upper tension makes a real difference in keeping stitches from breaking. That test swatch has been a real fabric saver for me – I test my seams by ‘snapping’ the test seam to see if it breaks and if it does I loosen the tension one more number. Usually going down one notch is all it takes but I’ve been surprised when sewing my test swatches that on some fabrics I have to go down as many as 2-4 numbers on the tension dial to get an unbreakable seam.

Sofia sofiablake.wordpress.com

I’d still call myself a novice, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned… If the pattern calls for a zip, don’t even think about it. One, it’s not necessary and two, it’s a nightmare to attempt on knits. You should be able to pull most everyday designs over your head with the stretch provided by the knit. Simple sew up the seam where the zip was supposed to go, or cut the piece on a fold and omit the seam entirely.

Kathy kathhhhhysews.blogspot.com

I’ve sewed up a number of patterns with knits meant for woven. Among the great suggestions you and other folks have made, also make sure to stabilize your shoulder seams. Even with a very stable knit the material will tend to get droopy with wear. Those with easy access to Vilene Bias Tape, just use that. There are a variety of different materials that you can stabilize with (clear elastic tape, a self made version of Vilene Bias tape from interfacing meant for knits, even a strip of bias cut woven fabric if you’re in a pinch, etc.) I have been using a product marketed to quilters called Pellon Easy Knit Tape (easily found in a big box sewing retailer.)

Use a zig zag stitch when sewing up seams if you have only a regular sewing machine are not using a coverstitch or serger. Keep the zig zag more on the straighter end then on the severe zig zaggy side. A little zig zag-iness goes a long way to allow any stretch to occur while wearing. Too deep of a zig zag stitch will make your seams look bumpy and sloppy.

You can stabilize you hem as well by applying a Vilene Bias tape (or the Easy Knit Tape) and then sewing with your twin needle. It can help give you a beautiful and perfectly flat hem. This works best for knits with some weight… it may be too much for lightweight knits and it ends up sloppy looking.

Lizzy

Can you explain the technique for stabilizing the shoulder seam just a little–I’m new to knits. I assume you cut a piece of bias tape and stitch it over the seam, but is that right? Do you run it along the seam from the neck to the sleeve or around the sleeve? Do you put the tape over the seam before you stitch the seam?

Thanks!

francesca

I use narrow twill tape for shoulders and it works a treat. I love the idea of making Laurel in a knit, thanks Sarai! BTW – I eliminated the zip on my Laurels since I discovered on making my musling that I could just pull it over my head :).

Melissa

When you say “sew the seams flat” for the sleeves do you mean to attach the sleeves to the bodice THEN sew up the bodice’s side seem & keep right on going down the sleeve as one long seam?

Also, do I need a special foot for knits? I’ve never sewn them before. I have the standard straight, zig-zag & zipper feet, plus Teflon, free-motion quilting, & narrow hem feet. I do not have a walking foot which I’ve heard a couple people say can be helpful for knits, but it didn’t sound like it was required.

Jenny jennysews2.blogspot.com

Yes, that is how you sew your sleeves in flat. I really love this method, it’s simpler I think. I don’t use special feet for sewing knits but everyone is different. I usually use a slightly longer straight stitch (but not my basting length) although I would try a narrow zig zag to see which you feel comfortable with.
I’m curious about the walking foot too – I sometimes get a little trouble with knits because of the tension and the top layer may stretch a bit too much but it usually turns out fine – I wonder if a walking foot would help with that? Or is that the tension that I need to mess with?

sewintheforest

You don’t need specialty feet at all to sew knits-zigzag foot is really all you need for the whole thing. Depending on your machine, some of the stretch/overcast stitches-in-1 are fun to play with and match with the best quality stitch for your knit. Ones I like look like this (because each machine seems to have a different name for them): a) a long straight stitch line with diagonal lines coming down, kind of like a stick-drawing of a tree b) same stitch but with dotted diagonal lines, c) regular zigzag W2.5/L2.0 d) a single straight stitch up and down then a zigzag then single straight-repeat e) line of straight zigzag stitches that look like a vertical line of complete triangles. I usually use the one that sucks down the fabric or stretches it the least! For hemming, I usually use a straight stitch L3.0 and the triple stitch (usually some width alteration of the triple zigzag stitch, again, depending on your machine) has lots of stretch in the ‘straight’ form at L3.0. I have a walking foot and love it for really wonky fabric that just won’t do anything or paper knits that stretch if you breathe on them! Not necessary but if you have one, you’ll be surprised at how much it can help!

Sara

I’m wearing a knit Laurel top right now! I used the gathered cuffs, but made them in a woven. I wear this top once a week, every week.

Amanda symondezyn.wordpress.com

Great idea!!!! I love the Laurel dress; it’s so effortlessly classy, and making it in a knit is a great idea for a comfy option!! I have to pick up some ponte now; it’d be perfect with tights and boots for this cold weather we’re having ^__^

Myra

I made a Laurel in a ponte for work. Just make sure you prewash your fabric as for some reason when I rewashed my dress (maybe I carelessly put it in a warm cycle?) it shrank in the length and now doesn’t cover my bottom :( I had to cut the length off and made it into a top.

Maddie madalynne.com

I’ve been meaning to make this dress, but I’m waiting to find an outstanding print to showcase it in. Knowing that it can be make with a knit (duh! why didn’t I think of that before?!), that opens my possibilities and some of the crazier prints are on knitted fabric. You look great, BTW.

Sandy

Looks great, but how do you get around not having the bust darts? I love this pattern, just cut out my third version! they all look so different!

Michelle

From the pictures it looks like you eliminated the darts. Could you tell us how to do that? Thanks! Love the dress, it looks fantastic!

Sarai colettepatterns.com

Yes, I forgot to mention that. All I did was fold them out of the way, so basically there would be a fold going across the bust of your pattern piece when you cut.

I seem to recall taking some photos of it, I’ll see if I can find them and update the post if I do!

Ingrid

Love! Can you say more about what exactly a stable knit is? I have some tissueweight knit cotton that I would love to use for something like this.

Sarai colettepatterns.com

In general terms, a fabric’s stability refers to its ability to maintain its original size and shape.

In practical terms, this usually means you want to look for sturdier knits with a bit of body to them.

Grace restlessgrace.blogspot.com

Looooooove it! I have a silk print jersey that I’ve been wanting to make a shifty dress out of for summer. It might be too slinky for Laurel, but this post got my mind flowing in that direction again.

Alexis

Love it! Would you still suggest going down a size if you use a double knit or ponte? They seem to have much less stretch than other knits, and I’ve seen people use them in place of wovens without any pattern alterations.

Sarai colettepatterns.com

For those kinds of knits, I’d probably not go down a size, but still construct the garment in a way that would let me alter it easily.

Grace restlessgrace.blogspot.com

For girls with larger busts another way to eliminate the bust dart would be to simply ease in the dart intake at the side seams. That way there would still be the needed extra length and the hem won’t hike up in the front.

Alice

Thanks for pointing this out. I was just about to add this tip. Some of us still need that extra length in front!

Stephanie erniekdesigns.blogspot.com

Nice choices here! I like this much better in the knit, but I would stay away from patch pockets on a knit dress, unless they are purely ornamental. Easing the dart for a full bust will only go so far (C cup I thinks) but a dart with easing could work (you’re on the side seam, it’s not the first place anyone is looking) for a smooth transition. This comes from using darts in elastic waist pants for my spacious backside. It works for me.

Debbie Iles lilysageandco.blogspot.com.au

Thanks for the tips on converting to stretch, and also the comment on ponte knits. So useful!

Liz

I’ve always wondered this – why don’t you sew woven sleeves flat? Most knit dresses I’ve seen patterns to say to, but woven patterns don’t. I find it much easier, but I worry I’m forgetting something?

Your knit Laurel is gorgeous!

Kristen

It’s common with knits because there often isn’t ease included in the sleeve cap; the measurement of the armscye on the sleeve is exactly the same as the armscye on the bodice. You can install the sleeves of a woven garment flat if there isn’t any ease in the sleeve cap. Negoni uses this method!

Kat coutureacademic.wordpress.com

I’ve *always* thought the Laurel would look great in a knit…what a versatile and comfy addition to your wardrobe that must be! My fav sewing with knits tip is to integrate a length of clear elastic into the shoulder seam to stabilize it. Saved me many a stretched shoulder!

Anne moramora.weebly.com

My first Laurel was made in a heavy jersey fabric, and I recognize all your issues! I also sewed the sleeves in flat, and needed to take the sides in a fair bit. And I used a twin needle for the hems. Also I made bias tape of the fabric which was quite challenging as it was quite hard to iron it. I decided to leave out the zipper after I cut the back panels, next time I would definitely cut it on the fold.
But I do love the result and wear it a lot! I agree that you should use a heavier weight knit as it doesn’t cling and show every underwear marking :)
You can see it here: http://moramora.weebly.com/1/post/2013/05/laurel-dress.html

rbjaneite

Sarai – I’d love to see some pictures of how you pinched the bust dart out, and also see the back of the dress. Did you use a CB seam or just cut it on the fold? It looks great!

Myra

Can you tell me how I would remove some of the ease (or puff) in the sleeve cap? Kristen mentioned that knits quite often have the bodice and sleeve armscye measuring the same.

Margaret

Is there a good source for stable knits? Also, what size needle did you use?

Nancy sewnancy.blogspot.com

The dress looks really nice in this knit. Would you mind sharing where you purchased it?
Thank you.

Sarai colettepatterns.com

I bought the fabric locally here in Portland, at the Mill End store.

Anne moramora.weebly.com

Hello! I’m sorry, but I’m still struggling to pinch out the dart.. When I fold it like you say I have this excess piece on the fold I’m not sure what to do with. Is the second fold parallel to the one you make if you follow the lower kind if the dart? Or do I need to fold it into a point? Or cut the excess off? That would distort the neckline right? Help!

Sarai colettepatterns.com

You can just fold it straight across, perpendicular to the fold. If you do that, you shouldn’t have any distortion at the center front. You might need to alter the side seam curve a little to straighten it out, but that’s all.

Anne moramora.weebly.com

Thanks a lot! That makes sense:)

Mary Lou Hart

Any suggestions on how to size down if I’m already using the smallest size in a woven?

Sarai colettepatterns.com

Hi Mary,

You can look for books on grading if you really want to get into the nitty gritty of it. But what I’d do is simply use the existing pattern grading as a guideline. So, for example, measure between the size 0 and size 2 in various areas, then redraw the lines of the pattern the same distance from the size 0, but making it smaller.

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