Cutting Knit Fabric and Fiskar Giveaway // Stretch Yourself

This series is sponsored by Baby Lock. For over 40 years,  Babylock has been dedicated to the love of sewing by creating machines for sewing, embroidery, quilting and serging – all with ease-of-use, high quality and a touch of elegance.

stretch-yourself-logoTo begin our week of knit sewing tutorials, Miranda is gonna tell you everything you ever wanted to know about knit fabric and selection, and round here I’m going to show you how to cut knit fabric properly. Of all the steps involved in garment making, I’ll admit that cutting is my least favorite. It just isn’t as fun as fabric selection and design, nor is it as rewarding as the actual sewing.  Here are some key steps to cutting knits that are quick, easy and accurate, so you can move on to the fun part!

Prep the fabric:

  • Pre-wash it! It saves you from heartache and misery later! Just do it!
  • Find the grainline. Square up your fabric by folding it in half lengthwise (or perpendicularly  to the greatest degree of stretch), and then holding each all four corners separately i.e. your palm, pinky and ring finger hold one side, and your thumb, index and pointer hold the other. Gently shift the front and back from side to side until you have no diagonal pulling or distortion. It should be smooth and straight.  The fabric is now ON grain.
mad-mim_stretch-yourself_cutting-knit-fabric07 finding-the-grainline mad mim_stretch yourself_cutting knit fabric06

Another way to accomplish this—especially if you don’t want to fold the fabric in half down the middle (to minimize waste), is to eyeball about where you’ll need to fold, and then carefully place a long ruler down (Fiskar’s 3X16 is perfect) so that it’s exactly parallel to the rows created by the knits. While holding you’re ruler in place, fold the fabric over it, and then carefully slide it out.

Prep  the pattern:

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  • Determine size based on your measurements, and cut pattern out  (you may want to trace the pattern onto tracing paper first, so that you may use again in a different size–I’m a tracer! Sunni has a great post about tracing patterns, fyi.) If you do trace, be sure to clearly mark the pattern name, size, pattern piece and cutting instructions.
  • Iron on a low, dry heat if needed.
  • Determine whether or not you need to add a seam allowance (usually not necessary, but for instance, Ottobre patterns require you to add your own SA.  It will probably be indicated in the cutting instructions).
  • Reference the cutting layout to maximize your yardage.

Prep  the surface/tools, you’ll need:

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  • A good hard surface like a dining room table, and make sure that none of your fabric hangs off the table as it will distort the fabric and prevent accurate cutting.
  • A good self-healing mat and sharp rotary blade cutters (my preferred method by FAR, it’s so fast!)
  • OR a sharp pair of dressmaker’s shears and pins.
  • Pattern weights or equivalent . I use large (1 ¾”) metal washers, but you can also use cans of tuna, butter knives, or baby food jars. Use what you have!
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  • Marking tools i.e. water soluble pen, tailor’s chalk, your kid’s washable markers (never actually tried that one), or my favorite—a sliver of soap.

 Cut:

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  • Arrange your pattern carefully on your fabric according to instructions, and then either set pattern weights, or pin securely.
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  •  Regardless of whether you are using a rotary blade or shears, you need to position yourself correctly.  You want your left hand stabilizing the fabric, and your right hand positioned upright  with your cutting tool (no angles). Reverse if left-handed.   If you are using scissors then use long even snips, and if you’re using a rotary blade then go slowly, and use scissors for corners.  ALWAYS close your blade when not in use, and ALWAYS keep your cutting tools far away from children.
  • Move yourself around your cutting, (or if using a cutting mat, you can rotate it) but never move the fabric once you start cutting.
  • Transfer all notches and markings onto wrong side of fabric. For notches, making a small snip is sufficient.
  • Finally, I like to fold my pieces together with their patterns, just in case I need to check or re-mark anything before sewing.

Now you’re ready to construct!

**We are so excited today to offer a giveaway from Fiskars–the world’s #1 scissors brand! They are generously offering one lucky sewist a rotary cutter starter’s set, which includes an 18″ X 24″ cutting mat, a 45 mm rotary cutter, and a 6″ X 24″ acrylic ruler, three sewing tools I couldn’t live one day without! Like I mentioned above, cutting knit fabric is so much easier and faster with a rotary cutter and mat, and if you don’t have or have never tried these tools yet, they have the power to change your sewing life completely. To enter, simply leave a comment in this post! You can enter until next Sunday (1/13/2013) at 6:00 pm MST, when we’ll draw a winner to announce on Monday. NOW CLOSED**

Be sure to check out the counter-part tutorial for today knit fabric and selection over at Miranda’s blog, it’s an amazingly informative and comprehensive post, and one that I will definitely be referencing in the future! 

More Stretch Yourself:

Making a Pattern from a Tee Shirt at OLM // Drafting a Tee Pattern from Measurements at MM

Basic Tee Shirt Construction at OLM // Finishing Details for Knit Fabric at MM

Tee Shirt Dress Variation at OLM // Peplum Tee Variation at MM

Drafting and Sewing Leggings at OLM // Drafting and Sewing a Maxi Skirt at MM

Serger and Coverstitch Techniques at OLM // Baby Lock Diana Threading and Coverstitch at MM

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149 Comments

Cindy

I have never heard of getting knit fabric on grain by shifting it back and forth like that. It would have come in handy yesterday when I was working with a dodgy tissue thin knit.;) I’ll have to give it a try next time!

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Kathryn

I’ve just started sewing with knits and would welcome all of those tools into my arsenal!

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Kristie

I have one of their rotary cutters and I love it. And I am also forever misplacing it. This would be awesome to win!
And thanks for the tips. Knits are not my favorite to sew with, as my machine hates them. Hopefully some day I will get brave and get over it. :)

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Laura

These are wonderful tips! I haven’t sewn much with knit fabrics in the past, and I’m excited for this series! Thanks for the chance to win the tools!

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Ricki

Yay! Knits demystified! I have just been trial and error-ing my way through some rather sloppy looking garments. Thank you!

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Jen

I am sooo excited about this whole knit sew-a-thon. I’ve been completely intimidated by sewing with knits, but this post has me all revved up. Keep ’em coming! Thank you!

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LindaC

This is a great tutorial and tips. I especially love your little demo video of how to find the grain. I am going to link to this page every time I see anyone ask a question about how to cut knits or find the grainline on their knit fabric. Thanks.

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Miriam

That’s a great question, and I can think of a couple of things I might try. I just read about a technique where you cut freezer paper templates from your pattern pieces (MINUS the seam allowance), and then carefully iron the paper shiny side down to the wrong side, and sew just outside of it before gently removing. You don’t have to cut the entire piece, but especially use it around the sleeve caps and armholes. Also make sure you garment is very basic with little seaming, and stick to only vertical seams, as sweater knits stretch horizontally. Another idea would be to add soft knit stablizing tape to your seam allowances directly after cutting. This would make construction easier, and prevent the fraying. Stablize your horizontal seams like the shoulders with twill tape for sure. It’s really beautiful fabric, Gwenan, hope that helps!

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Gwenan

That’s so helpful, thanks! I was wondering if I could somehow sew around the shape before cutting to stabilise it, but the freezer paper idea sounds much easier and more effective. I didn’t know there was such a thing as knit stabilizing tape either… Thanks!

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Renae

Hey, I can always use a new pair of scissors and a cutting board. With many seamstresses at my house it would be quite helpful. I just love sewing with knits.

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Susanne

I’ve bought a bunch of knit fabric recently but have been a little intimidated to cut into them. I need to suck it up and go for it, thanks for the tips!

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Jillishness

Love the tips! I’ve been sewing lots of rayon lycra, but I’ve had issues with neckline stretch. Any suggestions on how to stabilize a neckline on really lightweight knit? (I use a babylock evolve, and fold over then coverstitch).

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Miriam

Yes! And if you can just sit tight, I’ll be covering every single finishing tip I know (and then some) on Wednesday! Stay tuned!

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Kaydee

Thank you for doing this seris! I can’t wait to read all of your and Miranda’s posts!

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Meg

I am so excited for this series. Made a goal this year to learn to sew with knits! Thanks so much for the great info.

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Erin

Me again! I am excited to read about this series. I am one who is still intimidated by sewing with knits…slippage…twistage…stretchage…turns into not-awesome-age. I’ll be looking to be converted here. :)

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Leanne

Standing ovation on this one! Great job Mim! Really clear and thorough. Too many times I just want to dive right into cutting the fabric, but this makes me want to prep everything first…I’m just so dang impatient and always on some kind of sewing time crunch 😉

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liza jane

I would LOVE a rotary cutter and mat. I’ve always wanted one but the price of the mats has put me off buying one for years. Awesome giveaway!

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Faye J

This is a great tutorial and at such a great time! I belong to a great sewing group of 15 ladies and we are starting a serger class this month and going to learn about kits….You rock for sharing this! I would love to have a new rotary cutter to share with the group!

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Kristin L

These are fabulous tips! I’m just learning to sew and of course the first thing I want to try is a knit, but I’m a little intimidated! I’ll be sure to follow your and Miranda’s blogs for more great suggestions on knit fabrics this week!

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Ashley Jeanne

I was just getting ready to buy the mat and rotary cutter after reading the this post when I came to the drawing. So count me in!

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Linda

Another thanks for this great tutorial, particularly finding the grain and trueing the fabric. Would love to add some fiskars tools to my arsenal :)

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Kristi Dennis

I have tried to sew with knits before but did not have much luck. I am hoping that this informational series will help me a lot. It is so informative already and it has just started. Thank you.

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Barbara

Thanks for the tutorial and Fiskars for the giveaway! Hope to win. My cutting mat has curled and is hard to use.

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Destiney

Thanks for all the wonderful information! :) This novice sewing is trying to soak up as much as she can online and your blog is very helpful.

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kristin

Great post! Cutting knits is always tricky, and new scissors/rotary cutters/blades are always welcome, so thanks for the giveaway too!

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Anouk

I am really looking forward to this series. I have made quite a few garments with knits but have always used basic, medium weight, medium stretch knits. I have just started using knits with lycra\elastane and really slinky, stretchy knits. I am finding them a little more challenging but I am getting there slowly. The more I sew with them the better I get.

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mom of many

I just bought a bunk of knit on sale and can’t wait to start sewing. Thanks for the great tips.

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Teresa

Thanks so much for doing this series! I would love to be entered into the drawing.

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Aly S

I’ve not yet gotten up the nerve to try sewing with knits, but I’m pretty excited to see how this week of tutorials progresses. Maybe this will be the year for knits and me!

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Debora

I am just returning to sewing after a long absence. Sewing knits are new to me! Thank you for the two great tuts! I have never used a rotary cutter for patterns – just crafting. A new adventure awaits!

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Narelle

Thanks for the post! Would love to be entered for the giveaway also…recently bought a bunch of knits!

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Martha Patterson

Love the tips. No matter how long you have been sewing you are always looking for new tips to help with your sewing. I have several Fiskars tools and love each one of them. Use them every time I cut a new pattern.

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Chris

I always want to skip the first stage, prewashing the fabric. I am always in a hurry to get the project done. I have learned some new tips from you and am looking forward to sewing a new project soon.

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Steffanie Bowen

Thank you for the refresher. I’ve just started sewing again after a long absence and I need all the help I can get!

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Chrissie

I, too, like the grain tip, Mim. I’m a novice sewer with all of two projects under my belt, one a garment and the other a project bag with zipper. I’m having such trouble with the rotary cutter. It seems to have a mind of its own! I’ll position it aside my ruler and begin to cut and then the thing just hares off to the right and I’ve cut my fabric in the space where the pattern lies. I’m determined to keep practicing, tho’.

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Jayne Castillanes

The information on knit fabrics was so informative! I received a sewing machine last year and a Babylock serger for Christmas so I am trying to learn as much and as fast as I can. Love this blog.

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OBcean

I have a love/hate relationship with knits. Love to sew and wear them! Hate trying to find the straight grain. Your tutorial, especially the tips for establishing grain, is great! Thank you and I look forward to continuing the series.

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Elaine Stevens

I will be taking my first sewing class in a few weeks! This information is so helpful. Thanks, Elaine

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Patti Christman

I have sewn with knits since the 70’s (when it was all the rage) and never heard of setting the grain that way. Wow, huge help! Any hints on cutting out slippery fabrics?

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Emily K

I love sewing with knits! I just started last year and am completely hooked. I am always looking for more tips and tricks, so thanks!

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Lu

Thank you so much for the tutorial. I want to try and sew a little girls dress with knit and this will help me get started. I will be sure and bookmark this.
Thank you for the chance at some great prizes.

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Bella

I’m new to sewing and have only undertaken small projects so far! But this is such a lovely giveaway with some much needed items that could be added to my sewing arsenal! Lovely tips and tricks! Thank you for an informative and interesting post!

Take care,

Bella

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Lisa G

I’m new to sewing. As in I’ve watched my dad do it a few times. My great grandmother owned a semstress shop during the depression. A great aunt, both grandmothers and several cousins sew and I’d like to learn, too. I love the smart clothes Sally Fields wore as Gidget. Would love to be able to recreate them. The Fiskars starter set would definately help!

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Emily C

Great tutorial. Just starting pieced quilting, could really use a good set of tools. Thanks for the giveaway.

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Tishh Hanson

I’m LOVING this series! I was given a pile of jersey knit and, having never sewed with it before, really needed this! Thanks for all your hard work putting it together!

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Kristonlion

Thank you thank you thank you! Love knits, but am properly scared of them! I’m pretty sure you should write a book with all of this info! What a great series!

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Tammy Hempel

I have used a rotary cutter before and I agree they are GREAT!! I am just recently getting interested in working with knit fabrics. My idea of knits are the old fashioned double knit that is heavy and thick, itchy you know the type. I have come to realize that this is not the case any longer. Thank you for the giveaway.

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Honora

I was just about to head out to the fabric store in hopes of finding a knit to make a skirt. I’m just a beginner, so I’m glad I stopped by first!

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Ingrid

Part common sense, part skill – thanks for making it all so clear! My old Fiskars could use a break…

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Katie M

Well as you know, I’m really only a beginning sewer but thought I would enter this competition. Those tools would be handy to have :)

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Cheryl

Thanks for this tutorial. I would love to have new Fiskers tools. Thanks for the opportunity. Cheryl in San Diego

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Linda

Great post and very timely for me. I just found some vintage knit in a beautiful coral color. I’d love to have those tools to get started on this project. Thanks for the chance to win.

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Gwen

Thanks for this! I never thought about using soap to mark the fabric, that’s a neat idea. Lots of good info here, pinning this for future reference. :)

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Michelle H.

Thank you for the informative tutorial…knits always spook me. Adding a quality rotary cutter to my sewing arsenal would help immensely I’m sure.

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Deb C

I don’t sew often with knits because I didn’t know how to handle them properly. This tutorial has been great for me.

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Amy

Thanks for all the great tips! I’m new to knits and you have helped so much. So would the Fiskers stuff. 😉

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Katy

Thank you so much for this series! I just started to learn how to sew and love knits but have been frustrated with my results. Now I know where to turn next time I have questions!

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Maren

You and Miranda are two totally talented ladies. What a great resource this is (even for a super sewing novice like me).

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Melissa Carlson

I have been sewing with knits for about 18 months, but I still learned a lot from each lesson!

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Gretchen

Love the tips, and the straightening of the grain idea, which I realized I knew, but had forgotten. But while I love using a rotary cutter, I have never been brave enough to do so cutting out a pattern – how do you keep from cutting into the pattern and accidentally taking bites out or taking off the seam allowance? Maybe it’s just going really slowly? I just like the flat of the ruler to run the cutter along, I guess… But thanks!

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Miriam

You know, it’s really not bad. Occasionally I slice a sliver off the pattern, but I’ve never really had a problem. I would say, just try and you’ll be surprised at how easy it is! Also, of course take it slowly and I think most important get your positioning right. Also position your body right over where you’re cutting, you get into problems when you start reaching! good luck!

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Candy

Great tips on the grain and making sure the fabric does not hang before cutting. I am slowing working up the courage to sew some knit items and love all this info!

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Ellen

This is a wonderful series! You both have a great knack for teaching what I have always dreaded. You have taken the dread out for me and replaced it with “I can do this”! Thanks.

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Gina M

Thank you! I have been sewing most my life (I turned 65 last year!), but somehow ‘missed’ learning to sew on knits! I guess, as they say, you are never too old to learn! I do have a Babylock serger… and I am ‘ready’….

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Lynn Swanson

My scissors are dull I need some new ones as there does not seem to be any place near me that will sharpen scissors anymore. I do like using my rotary cutter for cutting strips for quilting – never thought I could use them for cutting patterns.

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Tina Estrada

This is SO informative. I feel like I can actually do it. So I’m going to try. I’ve got several pieces of knit fabric in my statch, so I think I’ll just jump right in and get started.

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Judith Clauss

Great information. Even after years and years or sewing, I am learning from this series! Thanks!

Judith

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Donna

Just getting back into garment sewing after diving head-first into machine embroidery and embellishments. I just purchased a great “idea” book for embellishment with embroidery, and realized the ideas and techniques would be much easier and effective on garments I sew rather than on purchased garments. Thanks so much for the helpful information!

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Krista P

Thank you for these tips – I’m really looking forward to sewing with more knits, both on my machine and my serger, and appreciate all the information!

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Kim W.

I’m intimidated to sew with knit simple b/c my mom didn’t sew much with it and I haven’t practiced much with it. I’m excited to give it a try now with your tips! I just need tips on sewing it now!!

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Sandi Best

These tutorials are just great, I look forward to more on sewing knits.
I just bought a Baby Lock Serger and it will be ideal to sew knits.

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Connie

I am really enjoying the training. Purchased the Babylock Evolution last year. I have taught myself how to use the serger by reading posts on the internet and books. I have made 3 dresses and a prom dress for our niece. Can’t wait to begin working with knits and this will help. Tried to make a swimming suit last year for our younger niece and really struggled with getting the elastic attached. I appreciate all the time you’ve each taken to provide such wonderful training. Babylock, thank you for offering this course!

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Patricia Ozment

I find that the information you are providing very useful. thank you for taking the time to do this.

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Eleanor

It’s never too late to learn! I’ve been sewing for years and still appreciate the opportunity to learn a better way. Thanks.

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Cordie

I just got a BabyLock Evolution for Christmas, and I am looking forward to ventruing into making clothing with knits (now that I can trust my serger!) Previously, I used a serger for basic overlock seams on woven fabrics. Now I will be able to do cover stitch and the “wave.” I am very excited to use this forum to learn more. I do have a question about cutting and determining seam allowances for serging. If I have a pattern that is designed without seam allowances, and I plan to serge the seams, how much seam allowance should I cut; and how much should I allow the serger to cut? (I hope that makes sense.)

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Miriam

So I just make a 1/4 seam allowance for the serger, and then I just “drive” with the fabric right against the knife so that I try to not really cut off anything. I usually just end up with shavings. Does that make sense?

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Cordie

Yes! I think I will also trim patterns that normally call for 5/8″ seam allowance to just 1/4.” I do not mean to be cheap on fabric, but do not want to feel like I cut off too much. I do see a point for trying a 3/8″ first cut and serging off 1/8″ just to get perfect stitches, but either way I am concerned with accuracy of the actual seam line. I wonder if there is a benefit to marking where the stitching line needs to be? Am I being too particular for knits (since they are forgiving?)

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Miriam

Well, knits are very forgiving, but I do give myself a generous 1/4″ just so I do have a little sliver to shave off, because the serged edge will be so much tighter that way! I wouldn’t worry about the seam line, what allowance your decide just do your best to stick with it, and you’ll be fine!
xo

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Judy T

Have learned so much from your tutorial. I want to be able to sew some knit garments for a very special great nephew due this summer. I would also love to win the Fiskars set.

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Judy T

Thanks so much for the tutorial. I have been wanting to learn to sew with knit fabric. I have already learned so much. Also, what patterns do you recommend especially clothing for infants and children. Would also love to win that Fiskars set.

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Miriam

Well, I’m a huuuuuuge Ottobre fan, and we’re having a review about it next week. I really love Sew for Baby the fun way by Kerstin Martensson (ebay), and Sewing Clothes Kid’s Love by Langdon and Pollehn.

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Lynn

I always wondered how to find the grain for knit fabrics. It’s my pet peeve when my storebought shirts are off grain!

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Tina

I use Crayola washable markers for sewing and crafting. I’ve tried other brands with some success (some colors did not wash out completely) but I have never had the Crayola washable stay in fabric. I have avoided knits because no one ever showed me how to square it up. GREAT tip!
Thanks bunches.

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Mary Murray

I have not sewn garments in years, but now have a Baby Lock serger and look forward to sewing some knits. I know nothing about the fabric or the technique, so this tutorial is perfect timing. Thank you, mary

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Pat Beesley

I am just learning to sew knits and finding your posts so very helpful. Thank you very much!

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Christy

I’ve always been afraid to try to sew knits. I’m determined to give this a go. Can’t wait to read more about the techniques. Thanks for writing them.

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Sandy Chavez

Great Tutorial, especially the section on making sure you fold on the straight of grain; that one always has eluded me. Thank you for the give-away oppportunity and thanks to both of you for this great series.

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Grace Lively

Great information. Many years ago, I made clothes from cotton knits for my daughter. I took Stretch n Sew classes and learned a lot aboutmsewing with knits. Now I am making knit clothes for my granddaughter. Thanks for a great refresher.

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Lila

I’m an oldie sewer, but a newbie to serging. Just purchased a Babylock serger and am excited to learn how to sew with knits. This blog is so helpful. I guess a rotary cutter would be too!

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Michelle H.

Thanks for the tutorial and tips…I need all the help I can get as a brand new sewing enthusiast

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Yvette Lopez

I feel like I have just joined a club with so many smart folks out there who all love what I love, sewing! These tutorials make it easier and reading the posts makes it fun. The prizes are icing on the cake. Bravo

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Cammie

I wish I had found this last week before I mis-cut my knit fabric for a skirt. I’m glad I found this before I restarted the project; it’s a great resource!

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carol

I love your work. Will be doing a sewing retreat on the Central Coast California and would love to have you as a teacher. It would be in November 2014

805-481-7000

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Marilyn

I have been sewing for years, including some costuming but have little to no experience in knits. Great tutorial, esp using weights on the pattern.

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