Sewing with Girl Charlee: Tips and Tricks for Knits with Genie and Eleri

Have you put off learning to work with knits? Do you struggle with wavy hems and uneven neckbands? Whether or not you are experienced with knits or a brand new beginner, we hope we share some tips and tricks with you today that help you get the finish you want on your knit projects.

 

Eleri and Genie from the Sew and Tell Project are sharing projects made from two excellent knit patterns made with Girl Charlee BOLT for this tutorial.  Both PDF patterns are available for instant download on the Girl Charlee website.

First up, Genie is going to share her tips, including how to make a hem facing, for sewing with the Hey June Aurora Tee. She is using beautiful BOLT cotton spandex from the Homestead Collection.

A facing is a relatively simple finishing technique, and is especially useful on a curved hem or neckband. It creates a nice, smooth curve without waves or bunched fabric. I’m going to show you how to create a facing piece using any pattern, and how to sew and finish the facing in two ways. I’m using Homestead Life Tiny Tweed for my main fabric and Homestead Life Linear Diamonds for my accent. This fabric has vibrant colors, very little shrinkage in my pre-wash, and it’s so soft. It already feels like my favorite old tshirt, but it certainly doesn’t look like it!

A facing basically traces the hem (or neckband…I suppose you could even use the technique on a pant leg, sleeve, or skirt if you really wanted to) for about two inches. This is a neck facing, and this particular pattern includes the pattern piece. You simply sew the pieces together at the shoulders, and then attach to the neckline right sides together. Flip the piece to the inside, and press. Voila!

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If you have trouble with the neck facing lying flat, there are several techniques that can help. First, you could top stitch. It’s more visible than just the facing, but not as visible as a neck band or binding would be. You could also understitch, which is a technique where you sew the seam allowances to the lining (or, in this case, the facing piece). Finally, you could sew the facing piece to the shoulder by stitching in the ditch (sewing right on the seam so that the stitches are virtually invisible).

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And here’s the final product, a neat, clean hem. I understitched mine and sewed the facing to the shoulder seam.

I made my own hem facing for this top. Lay your pattern piece out (this one has two pieces because of the insert at the hip; if you use a pattern like this, be sure to overlap your pieces using the appropriate seam allowance so the measurement is correct). This pattern uses a curved hem, so I only had to trace it, but it’s pretty easy to make your own curved hem. The bottom center should extend a little bit below where a straight hem would hit, and the sides will come up from there. You can find a hem you like from another pattern or experiment. Remember–it’s much better for it to be too long than too short, because you can always trim it shorter!

After tracing the hem, measure about two inches up and carefully recreate the hem. Don’t forget to add a hem allowance at the side seam! For a neck facing, you’ll measure DOWN, for a hem facing, measure UP from the curve you traced from the pattern.

From here, cut your piece out and label it so you can use it again.

You’ll cut your piece out on the fold, sew it into a band with right sides together, and then sew to the hem of your shirt, right sides together.

Flip to the inside, press, and sew 1″ from the edge.

This is such a great technique for a smooth, clean finish and will work with many knit patterns!

Eleri used the La Bella Donna Top and Tunic pattern to create a work appropriate tunic that can be styled with ponte pants for a comfortable all day look! The La Bella Donna is a dolman sleeved pattern which has simple assembly for those who are new to working with knits. It is also a very fast sew for more experienced sewists.  She will show you how a cowl (pattern included in the La Bella Donna) is a lovely substitute for a neckband.  She will also show you my trick for getting nice hems on my home sewing machine.

This La Bella Donna is made with the Homestead Life Bluebird Garden BOLT cotton spandex. I LOVE this print, and I think the dusty rose tone complements many skin tones and hair colors. I sewed the pattern according to the instructions  except that I omitted the sleeve cuffs. I also sized down one size because I prefer my cotton spandex clothing to be more fitted. If you have larger arms and choose to size down, you may wish to keep your sleeves the original size so they are not too tight.

Prepare your pattern pieces and follow the directions to assemble your shirt or tunic. I made sure to cut my cowl pieces upside down so they are facing the right direction when folded over. In this picture you can see the back seam of my cowl piece. The back seam will help us line up our cowl piece to evenly stretch over the neck opening.

I use a Frixion pen or other disappearing ink pen to mark my quarters on my bodice. I repeat this with my cowl piece. I will match up those marks (making sure the back seam of the cowl is on the back of neckline).

I usually prefer pinning my pieces together, but because I will serge this cowl on with my 5-thread serger, I am using Wonder Clips.  Wonder Clips do a great job holding several pieces together without shifting. In this image you can see that my cowl piece is slightly narrower than my neckline. I will have to gently stretch my cowl piece to fit the neckline. The goal is to do this has evenly as possible to avoid puckers or distortion.

If you are new to working with knits, you can also do a long basting stitch to attach your cowl before serging or using a stretch stitch on your sewing machine. In this image I am serging and gently stretching the cowl evenly between each set of  Wonder Clips. Be careful that you are not stretching your neckline as you sew/serge.

Voila! No puckers or gathers!

Since I opted to skip the cuffs on my La Bella Donna  for an elbow sleeve look, we now need to hem our sleeves and our tunic. I am sharing pictures from hemming the tunic below. You will use the same method for hemming your sleeves. Fusible hem tape makes all the difference for me when hemming knits. It helps prevent a wavy hem, and puckers. The brand I use is 5/8″ wide which helps make sure I’m pressing a nice even hem along the bottom of my garment.

 

There are multiple types of fusible hem tape. My favorite to use is Pellon Wonder Under which irons on and is machine sewable.  I let the paper back cool before I peel it off to avoid residue sticking to the tape.

After I peel off the paper backing, I flip the hem up and press, easing gently through the curved portions of the hem. After I iron it in place, I know it will not shift along my feed dogs as I sew!

I select the triple stitch which is labelled #2 on my sewing machine for topstitching my neckbands and hems. It looks like one nice thick line when I am done but the stitch has a back and forth movement which allows it to stretch.

I always topstitch my knit hems from the right side of the garment. I think it is easier for me to keep an even hem allowance. I keep washi tape on my machine as a helpful guide!

And now my tunic is complete and ready to wear!

 

 

4 COMMENTS

  1. Diane | 20th Feb 17

    Great looking outfits, Genie and Eleri. Smooth hemlines and necklines are often evasive in off-the-rack clothing. The exra steps you took really keep your knits looking sharp. Thanks for the tips to make that happen.

  2. Felicia | 20th Feb 17

    Great, helpful tips! I’m going to need to switch to 5/8″ tape once I run out of what I have now.

  3. Mary | 21st Feb 17

    love that tunic on you Eleri!

    • MadebyEleri | 22nd Feb 17

      Thanks, Mary!

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