Sew U Home Stretch came home from the bookstore with me a couple of weeks ago.  I read it right away and got pumped up to sew knits.   My experience with knits is non-existent and this book explains it all.  I felt educated and empowered so I went off to the fabric store and bought myself some green cotton jersey to make a dress.

Then I read the pattern.

OK, so I probably should have done that before buying the fabric.  I know, I know.  After realizing that the dress has some trickier things (facings, etc.) and guessing that my first knit garment may not be my best work, I changed my plan.  I decided to make a shirt.

Here’s where it gets fun.  Wendy shows you how to make changes to the basic t-shirt, raglan and dress patterns to make different garments.  I was immediately drawn to this shirt:

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I liked the v-neck and the little gathered bit at the bust.  I didn’t like the sleeves, though.  I know from experience that they don’t really suit me.  I flipped through the book more and came upon the basic tank.

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This pattern calls for ribbing which I didn’t have on hand.  For a second I contemplated going out to find some, but then the light bulb went off.  It was so bright, I swear you could actually see it in the bubble above my head.  I got out the tracing paper and made my own pattern, combining these two tops to make my very first knit tank.  Yup…Built by Erin.

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Feeling part genius and part sewing geek, I got it done.  I would be lying to you if I said it was smooth sailing.  It wasn’t.  But, boy oh boy, I learned A LOT.  First, altering patterns is rather easy.  I invested in a french curve to help with this step – this is crucial.  It makes it soooo much easier.  I followed the shirt pattern and made the deep V and added 2 inches length.  I then followed the tank pattern and adjusted the armhole.  Second lesson learned:  check the size.  I knew from Melissa’s post that the t-shirt pattern that comes with the book runs big.  I pulled out a tank that fits me well and held it up to the pattern.  It was hard to believe, but it looked like I would need to cut out a size small (in store bought t-shirts, I wear a large).  Third:  knits are hard to cut out.  This one is a rayon, cotton, lycra blend.  Super soft, a bit stretch with a lot of drape.  The drape made it hard to lay smooth and after about twenty minutes of fiddling with it, I got the two pieces cut out.  All this before I even started sewing!

When I moved the fabric to the sewing machine(s), I realized I had missed a crucial bit.  The neck and arm edges are bound, much like a quilt.  Back to the scraps I went and managed to eek out just enough to cut 1 inch strips to take care of that.  I used my serger as much as I could, but there were some bits that needed the regular sewing machine, too.  I had to move my aqua thread back and forth.  Next time I am going to buy two spools because it was a pain and a huge waste of time to re-thread both machines multiple times.

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The little gathered bit is done by sewing elastic on the reverse side and pulling it as you go.  It took me three tries even though I first did it successfully on a scrap.  Besides making me cuss like a sailor, ripping out that elastic twice left some tiny holes in the fabric.  Bummer.  I almost gave up, but plowed on.  They are tiny so if I didn’t tell you, I’m not sure you would notice.   The binding part was easy enough – I first tried to attach it with a straight stitch, but it looked super sloppy and it didn’t catch everything in back so I switched to a zig zag.  I think it looks mighty fine.

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The fit?  Well, when I tried it on the first time, it had big gapes under the arms so I took that in about an inch on each side.   The V is a bit too deep for my comfort level.  I think I would make it about 1/2" less than I did.  It is too long – I don’t think I needed to add the length which is unusual because I have a long torso.  It is tight around my hips – making it shorter would take care of that, too.

So will I wear it?  Yes.  Probably as pajamas (it is comfy!) or to the pool over my swim suit.   And I will make it again – trying to adjust the fit to make it better.   I can see this being a summer wardrobe staple.  So now, time for the dress.  I’ll let you know how that works out.

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