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Sewing Garments with Knit Fabrics - The Surplice Dress

I was pleased with the results of my first experience sewing with knits, so I decided to get straight on with my next project, the Surplice Dress from Meg McElwee's Craftsy Course "Sewing with K...".  I had printed off the pattern pieces and cut out my size.  I had nothing to make a muslin with this time, so I simply compared the pattern with the ready-to-wear surplice top I already have, and decided it was near enough. The only change I made was to cut the sleeves full length.  

I went on-line to e-bay to find another knit and picked up a bargain, this navy and white abstract rose print, for just £1.99 a metre. It is "a light-mid-weight jersey/viscose/elastane fabric", but what I didn't know until it arrived was that it has four-way stretch! It's not slippery like the one I used for the babydoll dress, but the edges curl up more, and it feels heavier.  Fingers crossed the extra stretchy-ness isn't a problem!  I cut out the pattern pieces using weights and my rotary cutter, only then realising I had not pre-washed it.  More finger crossing.  

Having fit my walking (even-feed) foot and a stretch needle, I started off by trying out the stretch stitches on this new fabric. I did opt for navy thread rather than white, as it looked more discreet in case I messed up!

I had decided to remove the left needle for my three thread overlock instead of the right one this time, to get a narrower stitch.  I had also managed to buy some of the right width clear elastic (1/4"/6mm) from Plush Addict and wound it onto my overlocker tape reel. Meg said it was best for the needle to go right over the elastic and into the fabric when it swung to the left, and I worried mine might be too narrow, but the sample I tried looked fine.  

Unfortunately when I applied it I missed the edge of the fabric altogether for the first couple of inches, just stitching through the elastic.   However,  the rest of it caught, and looked neat, so I just attached the loose bit using the tricot stitch on my sewing machine.  Once the neckline was folded over and top-stitched it looked fine.I chose to top-stitch the neckline with the tricot stitch this time as I liked the effect.  I had used twin needles on the babydoll, so this let me try a different method.   

I fitted my full-length sleeves, using the stretch stitch. I overlocked the seam afterwards, and pressed it towards the sleeve.  All looking neat so far. 

I started to do the sleeve and side seam but the stitches started to bunch up, so I switched to a zig-zag (1 width, 2.5 length) and put tissue paper underneath.  That solved the problem.  Then tried it on.  The bodice needs to overlap a couple more inches to fit me properly, and the sleeves are too close fitting.  I spent a quiet afternoon unpicking.  

I re-drafted the sleeve by adding an inch at the hem and grading it up to the underarm seam, and overlapped the front a bit more.  Left it short this time.  Everything else went smoothly, even though I wasn't sure how much to stretch the clear elastic!  Meg leaves the choice of hem finish up to your personal choice.  As my fabric rolls annoyingly, I chose to use Lite Steam-a-Seam 2 tape to stabilise it and hold it in place, then used the tricot stitch to match the neckline, and did the same for the sleeves.

My finished Surplice dress! Well top really.  It feels lovely, soft and feminine.  It drapes well and flutters!  It's a bit summery for this time of year, but I'm determined to wear it today, so I've got put a white v-neck long sleeved t-shirt underneath, to keep me warm, and I'm loving it.  I've ordered some heavier jersey knits to try next!


Sewing With Knits: 5 Wardrobe Essentials

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