Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Simplicity 4020 and Hello World!

Willkommen! Bienvenue! Welcome! C'mon in :)

I'm starting up a bit of a sewing blog, and I hope you enjoy the results. My name is Sara and I like to sew, knit, embroider, weave, spin and crochet. I absolutely refuse to scrapbook. From 9 to 5 I'm a molecular biologist, so probably some science will sneak in here as well.

I learned to sew at my mother's knee many years ago, forgot it all and have been doing my best to relearn. My mother is, needless to say, thrilled. My sewing is done on a Kenmore 19112. I have yet to attempt a zipper.

Yesterday, I finished sewing the Simplicity 4020 view D, a long-sleeved kimono inspired knit top. This was my first project ever sewing with a knit fabric, and I was pretty nervous. But you know what? It turns out that my fear of knits was irrational, and this was the most fun sewing project I've ever done. I thought it would pucker and stretch all out of shape, I thought that since I didn't have a serger I would never get the seams stretchy enough, I thought a knit stretchy enough to fit the pattern requirements would show off every personal flaw in existance... but none of these turned out to be true.

I used a beigey-browny 2-way stretch knit from my local fabric store (mini rant: the only knit fabric they carry is on the sale rack (yay!) completely unlabeled as to fiber content (boo!), minimal yardage (boo!!) and very few and limited choices (boo!!!). Why they can't even have a partial aisle of knits when they have five aisles for quilting cottons is beyond me). Since it was from the sale rack as mentioned in the rant, I have absolutely no clue as to whether it is a cotton, rayon, whatever. It is very nicely drapey, and I am going to call it a jersey for practical purposes (I also have a lead on better fabric stores in the area). I found a matching brown all-polyester thread, which I have been told is important for sewing on knits, and some ballpoint pins and a ballpoint sewing needle.

Since Simplicity 4020 is now out of print, I traced the pattern pieces instead of cutting them out. I'm also still fairly new at fitting pieces, and I didn't want to cut out the wrong size and be stuck with an unusable pattern. None of my local stores carry pattern paper (which is apparently a Thing. I can find it online, but not in local stores), so I bought some fusible interfacing with gridding, and traced onto that. Now I just have to remember not to iron the pieces!

I did some practice sewing swatches on my machine before jumping in. I had done some reading and read a) you could make stretchy seams with a normal sewing machine by stretching the knit fabric as you sewed with a straight stitch, and b) a zigzag stitch and light tension on the knit fabric was the way to go. I tried both, found that a) was wrong and b) was right. Below are, from left to right, variously stretched straight stitches  to zigzag stitches with and without the fabric stretched as it was fed into the machine. I found that no matter how much I stretched the material as it went in on a straight stitch, the finished project had zero stretch. Zigzag stitching made all the difference! I tried various widths and lengths, and eventually settled on the middle range of zigzag stitches available on my machine, with a stitch tension of 4 and a stitch length of 2. I found that by seaming with a zigzag stitch, then overcasting the raw edges with the same stitch, I was able to make seams that had almost the same stretch as the original fabric (3rd piece of fabric). I kept a light, even tension on the fabric as it fed into the machine.

I'll admit, I had the fabric, pattern, thread and all ready to go for 2+ weeks. Then the holidays happened. I cut out the fabric on New Years Day, and had the shirt finished by midday on the 2nd of January. I am NOT that fast, this pattern IS that awesome. there are 4 pattern pieces, 6 total when cut out: back and front stomach pieces, back bodice (listed in the pattern to be cut as 2 pieces, but I cut it on the fold to avoid an unnecessary seam down the middle of the back), left and right front bodice pieces and the neckband. I also changed the order of sewing. The pattern instructions say to sew the top together fully, the bottom together fully, then seam it all together. Based on the very helpful reviews at patternreview.com, I instead sewed the bodice but left the bottoms of the sleeves unseamed, sewed the back and front stomach pieces onto the respective bodice pieces, then seamed up the sides and sleeves all in one go. Since the pattern had gone together so quickly, and I had some extra fabric, I added bands to the sleeves and waist to match the neckband.

The final project: comfortable and stylish! I love this pattern! and I've discovered that I love sewing with knits!