Growth Pond Wrap Dress

This item began with the fabric. Browsing Fabric HQ after the free motion embroidery class in January, I found myself at the counter buying two meters of Art Gallery Fabrics knit. I knew from the first touch that this was destined to become an Ultimate Wrap dress. 

Sew Over It Growth Pond Ultimate Wrap Dress 2.jpg

The fabric in question is Growth Pond from the Bound collection by April Rhodes - it is spring like and the print gives a sense of being in the peaceful outdoors overlooking a large pond full of grass. As we have come to expect with Art Gallery Fabrics, this knit is of high quality. It is wonderfully soft, lightweight, and lovely to work with. 

The only change I made to the pattern was to lengthen the sleeves as this is what I notice the most when wearing my original. The main difficulty I had centred on the facings. This fabric likes to roll and not necessarily in the same direction! I couldn't get the facings to lay flat towards the inside of the dress - stabilising the seam with clear elastic, under stitching, and hand tacking in key places didn't solve the problem. Eventually I ripped the facings out and replaced them with knit bias tape. The problem was solved instantly. The bias taped is stitched down with a purply grey thread and is barely noticeable from a distance.  

Sew Over It Growth Pond Ultimate Wrap Dress 3.jpg

I'm completely in love with this dress and it will definitely be one that is worn to death. The smooth fabric feels wonderful against the skin and it's lightweight nature makes it perfect for a spring day. Although it doesn't hold up well in the wind, as shown in the photos, it is fabulous to wear - like wearing an all day hug and I'm not sure there is much more I can ask from it. 

January

Over the past few years, January and I have not been friends. It is the month that I find the most difficult and it isn't helped by the fact I normally have to a work trip to Switzerland where I can't find a quiet space for nearly a week. I had hoped for this January would be different and took steps to help by planning some new activities to help me relax and distract me and I've a rather productive month in between long hours at work. I also got a very welcome surprise when the work trip was cancelled for me and I'm delighted that I'm now writing this from my lounge in my dressing gown with a vanilla coffee rather than freezing my toes off making my way through the Swiss alps. 

The first new activity I've picked up is English Paper Piecing which I have wanted to try for a while. When you move into a new house, everyone tells you that you will go through your first winter saying you'll do things differently next year as you'll know the quirks of your house. I'm already there! As delightful as our house is, being built in the 1930s and being open plan, it is a little chilly especially during a cold snap. I've stolen Adam's fleece blanket for evenings on the sofa while he wears a thicker fleece. I feel a little guilty about this but not enough to buy another blanket right now. Instead I've used it as an excuse to make myself a quilt using English Paper Piecing. I've decided to keep it simple by using hexagons and have been slowly working my scrap box to get a variety of colours and prints. I don't have a set design in mind, just a vague notion that I'll work out over the next few months as I stitch the hexagons together. I've found the process so far to be very relaxing for the evenings - the repetition of folding over fabric and long basting stitches soothes the mind after a busy day. I'll have to find somewhere else to store these as my side of the sofa is filling up!

English paper piecing hexagons.jpeg

Last Saturday I visited FabricHQ for a free motion embroidery class taught by Sam. This is another craft that I have been wanting to try for a while and when I realised they were only a 45 minute drive from home, I immediately booked. It was a great morning and it was lovely to finally meet Sam, who patiently took us through doodling on a scrap through to completing a picture. Moving the fabric around without the help of the feed dogs was a little strange to begin with but doodling my name and a few flowers helped me to get the feel for creating curves. I chose to make a pair of shoes and I'm happy with how they came out, especially for a first attempt. I'll be putting them up in the office next week now I've photographed them for this post. As it is so quick to make a small picture and is a great scrap buster, I will definitely be giving this a go from home. I'm just waiting for payday so I can buy a darning foot and some bondaweb.  

Free motion embroidery shoes.jpeg

My poor sewing machine has been feeling a little unloved while it has been trapped by boxes but I have had use of my overlocker. I could have moved the boxes to get to my machine but I decided against it and saw it as an opportunity to finally get to grips with sewing with knit fabrics. Last January I traced the Ultimate Wrap Dress by Sew Over It and then put it away for some reason and forgot about it. I now have a nearly finished dress to share soon. I honestly don't know why I waited so long to start with knits - strange how a delay in starting a project can become an unhelpful mental block. 

Finally, the cancellation of my trip meant I secured the last place on the trouser drafting course run by Darn It and Stitch. Over four weeks I'll have a block to fit me and the skills required to draft some basic trousers. I'm really pleased to have got on the course as trousers are the most difficult item for me to fit or buy due to my body proportions being different to the measurements used in ready to wear. In the first class we drafted our block and I could see this difference clearly on paper. Homework for this weekend is to trace the block and toile them ready for fitting on Wednesday. I also need to decide on what style of trousers I want to draft over the coming weeks. I have few ideas as you can see in the photos below. 

Trouser drafting plans.jpeg

Learning new skills and trying new crafts/fabrics has been a lot of fun the past few weeks. Combined with an amazing mattress and some black out blinds for quality sleep, I honestly think they have helped my to get through the month and stay more positive than I might have been. Long may that continue! How has your January been? Have you been learning anything new?

Notionally Speaking: Knits

Do you sew with knits or tend to avoid them? I fall in the latter camp but can't quite pin point why. This month's Notionally Speaking comes from Kelly at Make, Sew, Do who discusses this particular type of fabric and explains why they are like spiders. Read on to find out more...

Notionally Speaking.jpg

I am delighted to be taking part in notionally speaking today - I've really enjoyed reading all the previous posts. I picked the number 14 from Claire's list and was given 'Knits' as my topic, so here we go..

Knit fabrics seem to be a bit like spiders - many people seem to have a fear of them, but it's a fear that often seems to have little rational basis, and seems to be learned from other people. 

Who knows where knits got their bad rap from, but they're really not that scary. 

However I, like many sewists, seem to have fallen into this fear of knits trap, and I am determined to get out of it. It is most definitely a learned fear - the second item of clothing I ever sewed was a swimsuit! A Swimsuit! And it turned out brilliantly, I absolutely love it. I used an overlocker for the first time, I had no major issues with any of it and I wondered what all the fuss about knits was all about.

Closet Case Files Bombshell Swimsuit

But since then, I seem to have developed a bit more of a fear - I've only made one knit garment since (a wearable toile of the Lady Skater dress). It's daft, especially as such a high proportion of the RTW clothes I wear on a regular basis are from knit fabric - especially dresses - probably 90% of the time I wear a dress to work it is a knit dress. I have the fabric for two more lady skaters lined up, but even though I know the fit is right, I still have this bit of underlying fear which is preventing me from just getting on with them.

kitschy-coo-lady-skater-11

Yes, there are some things that can make sewing with knits more tricky than sewing with wovens - the fact that they stretch and can be a bit slinky means that it can be harder to line pattern pieces up correctly, and, if you're not careful, the fabric might stretch when you sew. You're not going to have those issues with a nice crisp cotton.

You also need a little (and only a little) specialist equipment - while an overlocker is great for sewing knits, and makes things a bit easier, your can also sew them perfectly well on a normal sewing machine. The only special thing you really need is a ballpoint needle for your machine and, if you want to hem your items, a twin needle also helps. Most knits don't even fray, so hemming is optional anyway, or using hem bands is another way of finishing the edges like the sleeve and neckbands on the lady skater. That's it, nothing else is needed. You'll probably need to use a different stitch on your machine, to make sure the seam will stretch - a normal zigzag stitch usually works great.

sleeve band

And then you look on the flip side - there are so many benefits to sewing with knits. For starters, knits are SO much more forgiving to fit - the need for an FBA is, in most cases, completely eliminated. Given the negative ease often written into knit patterns, you can get a nice, tight-fitting garment with no pattern alterations at all. Slightly looser fitting patterns will also be so much more forgiving to fit, due to the stretch in the fabric.

Fastenings can be pretty much done away with as well. I don't think I know a single sewist who hasn't at one point been cursing a zip that just won't go in, or buttonholes that are not behaving themselves. With a knit, you don't have to worry about fastenings - most of the time you can just pull them on. Given my recent run in with an invisible zip, and repeated issues with buttonholes, this is something that I love about knits.

Another benefit of knits comes when you're trying to line up your pattern pieces on the grain - and figure out exactly where the grain is. With a knit fabric, you just follow the stretch! Much easier than trying to work out exactly where the grainline is on a woven fabric.

And when it comes to wearing knits - no need to iron! That is always a bonus! Much as a lovely cotton dress is lovely for the summer - the chances of me ironing something when I pull it out my wardrobe as I'm getting ready for work…not so much. Until I started sewing, I don't think I'd ironed anything in a good few years...

If you are a sewist who is yet to tackle knits, but wants to try them out, I challenge you to give it a go! I for one am going to make it a goal this year to sew up more knit pieces, so why don't you join me? There are loads of great beginner knit patterns out there, which can all easily become wardrobe staples. I can highly recommend the Lady Skater:

lady-skater

And then there is the ever-popular Sewaholic Renfrew:

sewaholic-renfrew

And Tilly's newly released, and already taking the sewing world by storm, Coco:

tilly-coco

If I've convinced you to give knits a go, but you need a little handholding to get started, there are lots of brilliant resources out there on sewing with knits. 

Lauren has written a great post on conquering knits, with lots of useful tips. Tilly has a list of resources on sewing with knits and a whole load of posts on sewing Coco, covering lots of techniques you need for sewing knits. Tasia at Sewaholic also has a big list of tips for sewing with knits and Colette have been doing some great posts recently as well, to tie in with the release of their first knit patterns and their book on sewing with knits

So let's all give knits the love they deserve - they make excellent comfortable, everyday clothes, and I look forward to having more homemade knits garments in my wardrobe.