This is a test episode to make sure we have set it up correctly! We’re looking forward to chatting about sewing with all of you Twin Citizens and internet denizens!
I’m excited to see those of you who will be joining me for class in about a month. (It’s not too late to sign up!) A big part of any sewing project is just getting ready to sew it! I thought it might help everyone if I broke down what I’m going to do to get ready for class. My plan is to prep both test pieces for class and what I need to actually make my jacket at the same time. You may choose to do almost none of this, or all of it!
Step 1: Prep your pattern
Choose your size. Assemble, if needed, and trace or cut out your pattern pieces. Consider adding a matching notch to the back yoke.
Step 2: Mise en place
This is chef-talk for “make sure you have all of your stuff.” It’s not such a horrible thing to have to order zippers halfway through a project, but it is annoying! If you’re prepping for both class and actually sewing your jacket at the same time, you’ll need:
- Two (or three) plastic standard (not invisible-style) zippers, at least 6 inches long (If you are like me, you’ll want three of these, two for your jacket and one just to try the techniques.)
- A zipper foot that is compatible with your machine
- Ball-point and/or stretch sewing machine needles
- Wash away wonder tape or stitch witchery
- Scraps of lightweight stretch knit fabric, such as athletic mesh or tricot, large enough to cut four or six pocket pieces
- One (or two) separating (jacket) zipper, 24 inches long, #5 weight is recommended (Again, I hate tearing things out, even for a test. If you’re like me, just get two zippers and use one for testing and one for your jacket.)
- Fabric for your project, prewashed
- Optional, but a big help: a walking foot that is compatible with your machine
- Optional, but also a big help: fusible tricot interfacing
- Optional: If you’re not using a serger, consider getting fold over elastic, hem tape, or other trim to add to the inner edge of your hem facing. I tested finishing that edge with a zigzag stitch and I wasn’t happy with the results.
- Optional: A print out of your instructions. We’ll be skimming over them in class, but you may want them handy to take notes or just keep from getting lost.
Step 3: Cut your fabric and prep your interfacing
Cut your pattern pieces according to the pattern, but also cut the following to use in class:
- Four strips of knit fabric, at least 2 inches wide and 24 inches long, cut with the greatest amount of stretch along the narrow edge
- Three front pocket pieces and three back pocket pieces. One set is to test in class and the other two sets are to actually make your jacket.
If possible, keep your pattern pieces with the fabric pieces after you cut. Some of the pieces in this jacket are similar in size and shape, and it would be easy to get them mixed up.
Consider using a fusible knit interfacing in the following areas: bottom hem facings, collar, zipper facing, the front edge of the jacket, and at the bottom sleeve hems if you don’t want to use a cuff.
- Test the interfacing on a scrap of your fabric before you do anything else with it. Always use a press cloth. I like to use tissue paper as a press cloth for fusibles. If you’re sewing along in class, you’ll want to interface two of your 2-inch-wide fabric strips with 1-inch strips of interfacing, so you can use those as your test. Place the interfacing along one long edge of each piece, not down the center of the strip.
- Interfacing for the bottom hem facings could be cut separately or block fuse interfacing to your fabric before cutting those pattern pieces. My fabric is kind of squishy and springy, so interfacing before cutting could help keep the hem facing pieces’ size and shape more consistent. I’ll demonstrate block fusing in class.
- Cut interfacing for the collar using the collar pattern piece, but don’t fuse it, yet. There’s a trick to making the inside of your collar neater that I want to show you in class.
- For the front edge of the jacket, apply 1-inch strips of interfacing just before step 35. You can’t really do it at the cutting-out stage because it extends past the collar/hood seam. Your edge may have stretched out as you worked, so make sure your interfacing strips are the same length as your zipper, then use that to pull your front edge to size as you fuse.
- I like a 2-inch-wide strip of interfacing for a 1-inch sleeve hem.
Step 4: Prep your equipment
Put a new needle in your sewing machine and wind two bobbins of thread. Using a scrap, test your stitch settings for seams and topstitching. On my machine, I liked a 10 sts/inch (2.5 mm) long and 1.5 mm wide for construction and 8 sts/inch (3 mm) long for topstitching. For hems, I liked 10 sts/inch (2.5 mm) long and the narrowest possible zigzag on my machine.
If you use a serger, you’ll still need a sewing machine for the side seam if you want pockets and to sew your zipper facing, zipper applications and for basting tricky seams (the back yoke, the front princess seams and the sleeves).
On my serger, double knits perform best using the four-thread ultra-stretch mock safety stitch. (Boy, does that trip off the tongue!) It’s a two-needle, four-thread stitch. I think it’s also called just a four-thread overlock or a 3/4 stitch. Make sure you test stitch a seam that’s across the fabric’s grain as well as along the grain, to check for stretching. Don’t forget to put new needles in your serger, too!
We love them. We (sometimes) fear sewing with them. In some cases, practice is the best instructor. That helps, of course, but a few well-applied tools can make inserting zippers into a knit garment much easier.
This is what might happen if you just grab a zipper and sew a knit fabric to it:
The clip is holding the fabric to the zipper halfway down the test seam. What you can see just in front of the clip is what I call “the bubble of doom.” Here, it’s showing me that the fabric is stretching as I sew. The zipper tape isn’t stretchy, so, as I sew (and stretch) along, the fabric is growing longer than the non-stretchy zipper tape.
There are a few things I could do to reduce the fabric’s stretching. I could lower the presser foot pressure. I could pin the edge with a pin every inch.
I could also call in reinforcements. In this case, I like to add two helpers to my team, so to speak.
Enter one of my favorite sewing tools: wash away wonder tape.
In my opinion, using wash away wonder tape is like having access to the perfect type of pin or instant basting. It’s perfect because it serves as pins and basting you never have to take out, because it just goes away in the first wash!
Simply stick the tape along the edge of your zipper tape, remove the paper backing, and stick your fabric to your zipper edge. Adjust and readjust until you’re happy with it. Then, sew!
Side note: mark the line where two seams should match up with chalk. It will save you lots of guesswork!
This looks pretty good. The tape helped a lot! To be honest, though, the topstitching was kind of hard to manage and it’s also not laying as flat as I would like.
Enter my second helpful tool. In this test, I’m trying 1-inch-wide fusible tricot strips. I’m fusing with an iron set to “wool” and using a tissue press cloth.
I also switched back to my walking foot for topstitching. I think it made it easier to control. This machine can be set with the needle in the left position, so it makes topstitching with a walking foot easier.
Final results. Wonder tape used on the left. On the right, fusible tricot strips and wonder tape were used together.
I think the one one the left is fine, but the one on the right does look a little neater. Also, the fused edge held the seam allowances more flat as I sewed, which does make that bump easier to stitch over.
One final note: the fused edge did “draw up” a little. It’s still a little stretchy, so just make sure your fused edge isn’t shorter than it should be by comparing it to your zipper tape before you sew. If it has drawn up, you can gently stretch it to the correct length when you baste to the zipper tape using wash away wonder tape.
This is one of the topics we will discuss in class, but if you want to choose your material and cut strips for practice during class, I want to help you get ready!
The notes say that the pattern “…is suitable for medium to heavy weight stable knits like double knits, Ponte de Roma, scuba knit, medium-heavy weight Supplex.”
“Stable knit” is one of those terms that can scare you right off from choosing knits. Basically, it’s a knit fabric that has a little (not a lot) of stretch and a lot (not a little) recovery.
You want a fabric that has at least 25% stretch in the horizontal direction. To test this, fold a piece of your fabric along a top or bottom edge, line it up against a four-inch length of ruler or a gridded surface, and stretch it. It should easily stretch to 5 inches wide. If your fabric stretches a lot more than that, you may want to cut the next size down in the pattern.
In the vertical direction (along a selvedge edge), the fabric should stretch 25% or less.
Test recovery by poking your thumb or finger very firmly into the fabric near a selvedge edge. If, after a few minutes, you can still see where you poked the fabric, your fabric may not have enough recovery for this project.
I’m sewing my samples in Liverpool, which is a very easy-to-sew double knit fabric. (This is the exact fabric. Please note that we are not affiliated with Girl Charlee.) Another good option is Heavy Brushed Athletic Performance fabric from Greenstyle. (We are connected to Greenstyle, but this is not an affiliate link.)
I also love the idea of making this jacket as my first scuba knit project. This one is so great!
Don’t forget that, whatever fabric you choose, you’ll probably want a lighter-weight fabric for your pockets. I’m using nylon tricot for mine. An athletic mesh would also be nice and very RTW.
For more background on sewing knit fabrics, check out this Threads Magazine article by Ann Person, a piece on Ponte Knits by Nancy Nix-Rice (subscription and login required), and Sourcing Scuba Knit by Stephani L. Miller.
I read over the directions for Greenstyle’s Sundance jacket and I felt like I knew where the sewing challenges would lie. I then proceeded to prove to myself that some issues only show up when you’re actually sewing!
Now, maybe some people won’t have trouble with this, but the first time I stitched the back yoke to the rest of the back, it ended up crooked. I picked out my stitching (and topstitching!) and redid it. Here are a few tips to avoid getting tripped up, as I did.
- Instead of stitching from left to right on the yoke, stitch from the center back seam of the yoke to the outer edge of the back, then go back and stitch the other side from the center back seam to the other outer edge. This makes lining up the centers of the yoke and the back piece much simpler.
- After stitching (before topstitching), lay out your back piece on a flat surface and check that it all looks good. If I had done this, I would have, at least, only had to take out the stitching and not both the stitching and topstitching to redo it.
- Add a notch on the back yoke pieces where they should intersect with seam lines.
Adding a notch to make sure something matches is pretty easy. In this case, there’s a seam line I want to match up, so I started by marking out the seam allowances on the back center pattern piece and the yoke piece.
I then lined up the two seam allowances from the center-back seam out, pivoting to bring them into line with each other as they curved, until I found the place the yoke should intersect with the seam between the center back and side back pattern pieces. I then marked that spot.
The little cross you see there isn’t because I did this on Easter. It’s so that, when I cut the pattern again, I know to only cut my notch about halfway into the seam allowance. Sometimes when I see a longer line like the first one I drew, I overcut my notch and that creates a weak spot in the seam.
There you have it! Matching notches are a pretty easy way to see if you’re off track when sewing before you even finish stitching the entire seam.
Curious about sewing your own fantastic athleisurewear jacket? Check out our class coming up on May 22, 2021. If we have time in class, I’ll go over this, again!