Zippers in Knits – Tricks to Try

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!

Much better!

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.


Choosing Fabric for Greenstyle’s Sundance Jacket

My jacket, in progress. I’ll use a solid color in class to make it easier to see details.

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’ve seen lovely versions of this jacket in Supplex and in a reversible knit.

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.


Sundance Jacket Back and How to Add a Matching Notch to Any Sewing Pattern

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!


Making a Pleating Board

We are so excited about the upcoming trim classes with Professor Kenneth King on January 4, 11, and 18, 2021.

Psst. You can still sign up at: https://twinsnneedles.com/january-2021-kenneth-d-king-class-sessions/

One of the notions he uses to create consistent, reproducible pleats is a Magic Pleater. It’s a type of Pleating Board that’s sadly no longer in production. Some people have them in their stash, but for those who don’t, I wanted to share one way to replace the board with a customized tool you can make at home using commonly available notions.

Stuff you will need:

– Scraps of your fabric, cut on grain or on the bias, depending on your planned project
– Strips of paper to test pleat frequency and depth
– A firm backing fabric such as denim, heavy linen, or buckram. I used pieces that were about 12″ X 5″ for my samples.
– Craft freezer paper or brown packing paper
– A pencil
– A clear ruler
– Micropore tape
– Double- sided fusible tape, like Steam a Seam or Stitch Witch
– A tailor’s clapper or block of unsealed wood
– An iron and ironing surface

First, decide what pleat depth and repeat you want. I like to use strips of paper to play around with the repeat.
You can cut your own strips, or you can use adding machine paper.
Once you have decided on your pleats, draw a plumb pencil line on a strip of your freezer paper and pleat it on the matte side using your sample as a guide. I like to tape them together at the edge with micropore tape.
Fuse the freezer paper to your backing fabric, shiny side down. Craft freezer paper has a little “fuse” by itself, but you can add some fusible strips to give it more security. Then you can press your fabric into the pleats in the paper, being sure to use plenty of steam if the fabric needs it and using a clapper to let the fabric cool in the board.
A series of samples using this board, from top to bottom: cotton flannel cut on grain, quilting cotton cut on grain, and silk satin cut on the bias.
If you don’t have fusible freezer paper, you can also use brown packing paper for your pleat board, but you won’t be able to use steam so it is only for fabrics that will take a press with only heat and pressure.
Match your strip of brown paper to your sample, as before. Be sure to press it flat with a dry iron if it is rumpled.
The brown paper has no “fuse” by itself, so be sure to use some double-sided fusible to secure the pleats.
No steam!
Push your fabric into the folds. This is a piece of on-grain silk taffeta.
Give it a good, long press without steam.
Put a clapper on it and don’t move it for at least 2 minutes. I literally use a sand timer and take a moment to sip tea, look around, and notice the plastic horse my family has left out in the dining room.
Lovely, crisp pleats.

How do you decide what depth/return/ pleat pattern to use? What are reliable, stress-free ways to apply pleated trim?

Sign up for the class and find out!


Six Reasons to Sew a Mask in November 2020

We’ve gotten some questions (and a few strange looks!) about why, so many months into this strange year, we’re offering a class about sewing masks. Don’t people who want them have them? Can’t you just buy them, now?

Well, yes and no. Here are some reasons you may want to sew some masks in our Pay What You Can Class in a few short weeks.

Your old masks are looking sad.

Face it. If you’ve been wearing, washing, and wearing your mask for weeks or months, it may start to show wear and tear. If you have more masks to rotate, they will all last longer.

Your current mask isn’t comfortable.

Or, maybe it’s just not as comfortable as it could be. We’ll talk about different styles of masks and their pros and cons for fit and ease of sewing.

You’re tired of nothing matching.

It looks like we may be wearing masks for a while, at least in some situations. Why not sew up a set of different colors so that you’ll be able to choose the best one to go with your outfit?

You want more masks to give as gifts.

It’s very 2020, but masks make great stocking stuffers or just “thinking of you” presents.

You want to try sewing a mask, but aren’t sure how to start.

Our class is for sewists at every ability level. Beginners are more than welcome! Since this class uses a free pattern and uses very little fabric and notions, it’s great for anyone who is just starting their sewing journey.

You have some experience sewing, but want to practice some new skills.

Of course, our class will be full of camaraderie, but there are also several skills to practice:

  • Pattern cutting with precision.
  • Sewing an accurate 1/4-inch seam.
  • Basting to save your sanity.
  • Nesting seams for perfect seam alignment.
  • Two-row topstitching for strong attachment points.
  • Learning new sewing techniques over Zoom.

If you’re as excited about sewing masks as we are, sign up now and let us know you’re planning on joining us!