One of the most exciting things happening with fabric right now are all the different substrates included in fabric collections. In just the last year or two, we have seen an explosion of collections that include voile, velveteen, corduroy, linen, or knits along with the the regular quilting weight cottons. While some might be hesitant with these new-to-quilting fabrics at first, I hope you’ll be a bit daring instead. Seeing quilters mix the different textures right into their quilts has reminded me that there really are no rules and that the possibilites are endless for making your quilts more interesting. Right now I’m working on a pieced quilt that has: voile, velveteen, heavy sateen, and quilting weight cottons, all in each block. More on that later. For now, I want to share a few projects we’ve used the interlock knits with.
This quilt, paper-pieced for us by the wonderful Sharon Moran, used the City Weekend collection (by Liesl Gibson for Oliver + S for Moda) of woven cottons on the front. But for the back, we chose a coordinating interlock knit from the collection. We were a bit apologetic to our quilter, Sue Baddley, about sending a knit back for her to quilt on, but she just brushed it off and had no trouble whatsoever. Fabulous! And now the back is so soft, with the kind of comfort you get from flannel, but more sophisticated.
The great thing about these Moda knits is the quality. They are 100% cotton interlock, which is a double-knit, and strong. Interlock is not jersey, which is single-knit and therefore usually thinner.
I was obsessing over the orange-red knit dot from City Weekend, so although I had no pattern and had never really sewn with knits before, I went for it. I only dared do this with the encouragement of my friend Anita who is always able to construct amazing concoctions without a pattern. I had a knit shirt on, so I used it as a guide as I added Dolman sleeves and a couple extra inches since I wanted it to fit kinda loose and I hadn’t pre-shrunk (this is a no-no with knits, yikes!).
I didn’t use a Serger, just my regular machine with a ballpoint needle and a zig-zag stitch. I had to adjust what started out as pretty wild alien shoulders, but that was the only glitch. Phew! In fact, it turned out to fit perfectly after I washed it. Here I am showing off those Dolman sleeves. And I can’t tell you how comfy it is.
After that I felt like I should use an actual pattern for my next project, so I rounded up one I had, written specifically for knits. It’s actually out of print, but I think it’d be pretty easy to draft. It just has a boatneck and Dolman sleeves (which apparently I’m loving lately) and the front piece is exactly the same as the back. (We also have this great knit top/dress pattern for adults, this one for kids, plus this and this from O+S)
It was pretty fast to sew, and I love it more than I thought I would. I ended up using a contrasting woven fabric for the sleeve tabs, because I accidentally stretched my knit tabs too much, but I think it turned out better this way.
All in all, sewing with knits is not the intimidating thing you might think it is if you’ve never done it before. Here’s what you need to know:
- Pre-wash knits first. They’ll shrink more than wovens.
- Use a ballpoint needle, which will keep the fibers from snagging.
- Don’t fret if you don’t have a Serger. Just use a zig-zag stitch, which allows the fabric to stretch without breaking the stitch.
- In general, don’t pull or stretch the fabric as you sew it, or you’ll get a wavy seam. I also found that raising the position of my presser foot slightly can help it feed through more freely. (Hopefully your machine has this feature.)
Be sure to check out the Oliver + S tips for sewing with knits. Patty Young also has some helpful videos showing hemming techniques for knits. Next on my to do list: piece a quilt top with knits. I’ve seen it done and I want one for myself!