I do have a question about finding the grain of knit fabrics at the very end of this post, so if you are knowledgeable about sewing with knits, please help a girl out!!! Scroll down to the ** if you want to skip the alteration details.
I’ve been cutting out fabric for cloth diapers for the past few weeks (more on that in a later post) and consequently have been in a sewing state of mind lately. Maternity clothes are not particularly fitted, and many are made of stretchy knits, so this seemed to be a fairly forgiving wardrobe for a novice sewer. I figured, why not make my nth attempt at sewing garments?
The pregnancy is not really showing yet, but my shirts and pants are starting to get uncomfortable. Matt and I went window shopping (on Black Friday, at the Mall of America, because it’s fun) to look at maternity clothes. The t-shirts that I saw in the maternity shops seemed pretty straightforward. I saw no bust darts, the body shapes sometimes were A-line and sometimes not, and the front hems were curved and about 1/2 to 1 inch longer than the back hems. Some had ruched side seams with matching ruched sleeves.
I began with a basic t-shirt pattern from Burda. You can download it for free here. Click on “Basic” in the dropdown menu, and the pattern is called “Lydia 3197.” It prints out in a tiled array that you tape together. Here’s the basic pattern schematic:
Although I’ve done very little actual sewing, I’ve had an interest in garment construction for years and years – I own at least 7 books on fitting, have been a Threads subscriber for nearly a decade, and even have a fabric stash that is… Well, let’s say it’s about 1/10th the size of my yarn stash. Conclude from that what you will.
I pulled out 2 Sandra Betzina books, Power Sewing and Fast Fit. I don’t have enough experience to know whether these are mediocre, good, or great fitting books… But I have to start somewhere. I began by measuring myself and a shirt that fits well in the upper half of the torso. I picked a pattern size on the basis of the bust measurement and measured the flat pattern pieces to see what needed adjustments. Most of the alterations were made to the front of the t-shirt.
1) The pattern has no bust darts, so I added “contour” by cutting at the bust line, adding 1/2 inch in length, and curving the side for ~5 inches. This curved edge will be ease-stitched and steamed to restore the original length of the side. The results should be very similar to short-row bust increases in knitting. I had some difficulty deciding where the bust line was located. I measured the distance from the middle of my shoulder to the bust point and the distance between bust points and sort of guessed at where these 2 measurements might intersect. I ended up picking a line that was slightly more than 2 inches below the armscye cutting line.
2) I lengthened the entire bodice by 2 1/2 inches. Most maternity tops are tunic style to ensure that you’re not accidentally baring your belly. I cut the pattern at the waist and added the length there.
3) I split the pattern in half vertically (left a tiny bit intact at the shoulder to act as a hinge) and spread it by 1 inch at the bottom hem. This will add up to 2 inches to the front width and allow the hem to curve down in the front. I left the side shaping as it was and did not make it A-line.
4) I changed the front and back neckline. I dislike high crew neck shirts, and I copied the wider and deeper neckline of a t-shirt that I own. I folded the shirt in half, aligned the shoulder seams and the front center of the shirt to the pattern, and traced the line to redraw the curve. I did not add a seam allowance because the edge will be bound (not faced). The neckline is wider than the original, so I placed the front and back pattern pieces together, matching the shoulder seams at the armscye. I marked where the new back neckline began and changed the depth.
Here’s the front after all the alterations:
I used French curves to smooth out the curved areas. I’ve never used them before and am not entirely sure I was applying them correctly, but it seems to be OK.
These are all the pattern pieces:
I’ve had commercial t-shirts with twisted side seams after washing. I assume that is because the pattern was not laid precisely on the grain when the pieces were cut.
** My question **
How do you align pattern pieces on the grain of knit fabric?
The fabric in this project is cotton interlock (double knit), very thin, drapey, and probably prone to stretching. Aligning the selvedges and hoping for the best seemed risky to me. I had difficulty seeing individual columns of knit stitches in the fabric because they were so small, but I tried thread tracing a line of stitches anyway. However, after a foot or so, I realized I had veered off in a curve.
I folded the fabric to roughly the width that I needed and identified a single column of knit stitches. I pushed a pin through at the very edge and caught just the 1 column. I moved down 2 or 3 inches, following the column at the fold, and pinned it again. I repeated this until I had identified enough fabric to accommodate the pattern piece.
I held it up by the folded edge, shook out the fabric, and laid it as flat as possible. I smoothed out the wrinkles in both layers with my hand, trying not to stretch the fabric.
And that’s how I think I found the grain. It was very painstaking and probably still not very precise. Is there a better way?
Print This Post