Sew, What's New?

Curating sewing and quilting talent, techniques, and tutorials, since 1997.

New Experiences Sewing Garments With Knit Fabrics - Surplice Dress and The BabyDoll

As I said in my last post I bought the book "Sew U Home Stretch" back in February 2010. I read it with great interest, and put it on my bookshelf where it has since gathered dust.

In April 2013 I signed up for the the Craftsy Course Sewing With Knits: 5 Wardrobe Essentials with Meg McElwee.  I started collecting the equipment she suggested, but was so disappointed that the first project was a hoodie, I lost interest. In my defence, the only people who wear hoodies around here are teenage boys.  

Surplice Dress from Sewing with Knits; Five Wardrobe Essentials

As I have recently started to look at making clothes for myself again, I went back to both the book and the course with fresh eyes and a different perspective.  I now habitually use my walking foot, and am comfortable using my overlocker.  As a result I am going to make The Baby-doll from Wendy's book, and the Surplice Dress from Meg's Craftsy Sewing With Knits: 5 Wardrobe Essentials. Both of them encourage you to make the patterns "your own" so I will make some changes to suit my needs (specifically to raise the necklines!)

The Baby-doll - Sew-U Home Stretch


I'm starting with The Babydoll.  I got the pattern out of the packet and decided I needed to cut the Large.  Looking at the pattern adjustments listed, I opted out of shortening the sleeves and I left the back neckline alone too.  On the front neckline I only dropped it three inches instead of five inches.  I made all the other changes and traced it onto a roll of white poster paper. I found that putting a sheet of paper underneath the pattern made the lines show up much better for tracing. Sadly it was far too big for my lightbox!  I labelled my pattern pieces and added the marks.


Before cutting into this pretty cotton lycra viscose jersey I bought on e-bay, I wanted to make a muslin.  The only spare stretch knit fabric I had to hand was one metre of soft "Camel Brown" fuzzy fleece clearance dress fabric I had bought from Minerva Crafts. It will be just enough to make the bodice and sleeves to check the fit, and try the techniques.

I fitted a new blade in my rotary cutter and got out my cutting mat.  I had bought some ballpoint pins, but as I hate pins the idea of using weights instead was very appealing. To save a trip to the kitchen for tins, I used my button jars.  

All the notches are drawn inside the seam allowance so I didn't have to worry about cutting them off.  I was concerned about being accurate as Wendy points out there is only a 1/4" seam allowance to play with, but what do you know, it worked really well.  I didn't shave any bits off the pattern at all, which was unusual good for me, and I have all these lovely smooth edges!


I didn't like the idea of snipping notches in that little 1/4" seam allowance, so I used a water soluble marker pen to show where the notches were (two dots for one notch, three dots for a double) and punched holes through the circles with a sharp pencil so I could mark them too. Much safer!


Another new technique to me is applying elastic around the neckline as a stabilizer.  I had bought some clear elastic for the Craftsy course so I decided to use that.  Wendy says most sergers have a slot in the foot for tape, but mine doesn't.

However, I do have the Janome Taping Attachment instead, which consists of a foot with a slot and a reel which fits on the top to hold the tape and feed it down.  It was awkward to fit to my 9300DX as the spool stand is right in front of the face plate set screw.  It is fitted to a different model in the Janome video tutorial.

I managed to get it on by using the little stumpy tool from my sewing machine (apparently this is called a screwdriver key).  I wound the tape onto the reel, then found the slot in the foot will only take tape up to eight mm wide and the Prym Clear Elastic I had bought is ten mm.  

Not to be beaten, I used the reel and just fed the tape under the front of the foot by hand.  It worked, but it would be nice if I could get a tape that went through the slot! I went looking on-line and found I can get Dritz 3/8" lightweight clear elastic from here in the U.K. so I will get some of that.

You can see the tape stitched in place here.  I used a 3-thread overlock stitch to assemble the bodice and sleeves as this was what Wendy recommended.  After great debate I had removed my right needle to leave a wider stitch.  I may swap it over when I stitch the jersey fabric, as it's finer. When it came to topstitching the sleeves and neckline, I considered my sewing machine's offering for sewing stretch and knits, namely;

#5 the stretch stitch (aka the lightning bolt)

#13 the knit stitch (which is just plain weird)

#18 the triple stitch (aka tricot stitch)

In the end I decided to use my stretch twin needles and do a straight stitch, which with the overlock stitch on the inside, makes a good mock coverstitch.  You can see it here. (Sorry about the lighting, it was bright sunlight but low in the sky)

My finished muslin.  I think the gathering at the top of the sleeves is rather pretty.  I'm happy with the higher neckline and the length of the sleeves.  Now I'm ready to cut out the slippery jersey, and try the stitches on that.  

Sewing Knits That Fit

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