As you remember from my last post, I’m beginning a small, summer series called “The Knit Diaries” to chronicle my exploration into sewing with knitted fabric. Why knits? I love knit fabric because it has low bulk, great drape and a wonderful feel. (No joke, after a recent purchase of several incredibly soft yards of black jersey from JoAnn’s, I just wrapped myself in it while watching TV for the evening. So cozy!) The other really awesome factor in sewing with knits is that they are sooooo forgiving! Having a little bit of added stretch means that your pattern can be a little off here and there, and, no worries! I will now get off of my knit soapbox and get crackin’ on the Sumer Hoodie Tutorial.
Recently my friend, Gwen, added a lot of fun, new knit clothes to her wardrobe from Old Navy. I love all of them. But, the one that really caught my eye, was a super fun, black, knit hoodie.
Inspiration: Knit cardigan from Old Navy
As soon as I saw her wear it for the first time, I began coveting it and plotting how I could “borrow” it from her for a day to draft a pattern from it. Why did I want it so badly, you may ask? I’m sure many of you have this problem, but I am a rather cold-natured person. It can be 90 degrees outside, but if I’m in an air conditioned building, every draft seems to find me. So, I usually never leave home without something long-sleeved. Last summer, while in France, I bought a knit cardigan from H&M that I love. As soon as I put it on, I knew I never wanted to take it off. It afforded me the perfect ‘climate control’ for summer.
Knowing my innermost knit desires, paired with the fact that I now own a serger, meant I was ready for knit action! After several bottles of wine one night (yes, that was intentional), I very easily (see?) persuaded Gwen to part with her dear hoodie for a day. I brought the prized article home and immediately (at 12 a.m.) got to work on drafting a pattern from it.
What would you need if you wanted to steal your friend’s hoodie and also make a pattern, you ask?
Drafting tools (minus the weights, as I just used heavy things)
1) First, drafting paper. I like to use brown paper for drafting patterns. It’s super cheap and very easy to find. I buy it from Lowe’s for about $7/roll. It goes a long way and it has a decent amount of ‘stiffness’ (I said, stiffness) and longevity — if you want to make more than one.
2) Measuring apparati: I used a meter stick and a see-through ruler.
3) Pins, and lots of them.
4) Marking apparati: I used a pencil for my marking on the brown paper so that I could erase as needed. I also used washable fabric markers for any marks I needed to make on the fabric.
5) Fabric weights, or as I used, heavy objects: Knit fabrics love to roll up on themselves, so weights placed here and there help prevent said rolling accompanied by mild swearing.
6) Scissors – both paper and fabric.
After assembling my tools, it was time to begin. First, a word of caution: When using an article of clothing (especially a knit) as a template, you really have to be careful not to stretch it too much as you lay it out on the paper. If you do that, you’re going to add a few sizes to your pattern. I also like to pin the article of clothing to the paper in a few spots to prevent it from sliding around while I’m trying to trace it.
Gwen’s hoodie is fairly simply constructed. Great for my first knit project! The pieces I needed to trace were: a back (1), the hood (x2), the front panels (x2), the sleeves (x2) and the band around the edge of the entire garment. For this prototype, I looked to my mountain of jersey, and chose the navy/white striped. It has a lovely nautical feel and I’ll enjoy wearing it at the beach.
My mountain of jersey
The Pattern Pieces:
So, I laid Gwen’s hoodie on the paper and started by tracing the front panels. This is what they ended up looking like. I included the measurements so that if you’d like to make one of these (in a large — or other sizes by decreasing measurements) you can use my template pieces as a rough guide.
Front panel pattern pieces
Next, I sketched out the back. You’d place it on the fold of fabric to cut it.
Back patter piece
Here is the sleeve piece, which is also cut on the fold.
Sleeve pattern piece
Lastly, I traced the hood. The hood is seamed down the back.
Hood pattern piece
Then, it was on to cutting out the fabric. My fabric is nicely basted down the open side of the fabric. This prevented a lot of rolling while cutting. Thank you, factory! If you are experiencing a lot of roll, just use more weights! You can also use those lovely, little binder clips from the office. They add weight and also keep the edges of the fabric lined up. I didn’t use a pattern piece for the band. I just cut out two strips of fabric two stripes in width, which translates to roughly 3.5″ and stitched them together at their short ends to make a very long piece. You can really make the band any diameter you want. Also, if you are using a striped fabric, you want to make sure that you cut your sleeve pieces so that the stripes will match up with the body. (I learned this the hard way — one side matches, one side doesn’t. Lesson learned.)
Next, it was on to the sewing. I used my Juki 735 serger for this project. (You don’t have to have a serger to sew knit fabric, which is awesome. However, I’ve never tried sewing knits on my sewing machine using a stretch/knit stitch. I’ll have to explore that soon!) I learned a lot of things while undertaking this project that I’m going to share in the hopes of saving you some frustration. This project, was truly a humbling experience. If you’re a pro, you can just skip down to “construction.”
Serger Tips & Tricks, thus far:
1) Use ballpoint needles for knits! They are specifically designed to go through knit fabric without tearing or ripping it. Before I bought these, I accidentally ended up with a small hole in my project. :-( The needles come in different sizes. Look at the packaging to determine which size is best for your particular project. I used size 90 ballpoint needles for this project.
2) Use those thread nets! Yes, they look like old lady salon hair nets, but they really do help with the thread tension. Before I put them on, I was getting some skipped stitches on the underside of my coverstitch.
Thread nets – a necessity!
3) Use serger thread! When I first got my serger, we took it to the beach. I wanted to use it, so we went to Walmart to find thread. They didn’t have any of the “cones” that I’d seen on serger videos. So, we just bought some larger spools of cotton. I quickly realized that cotton 3-ply thread is not serger friendly. Serger thread, which often comes on cones (see above) is 2-ply and lighter, which helps it go through all those loopers.
4) Thread your serger correctly! I had a lot of trouble with this one, at first. Sergers are a beast when it comes to threading. I felt like I was diffusing a nuclear bomb….one wrong move, and, destruction. All I can tell you is, go slowly and really use your owner’s manual. Chances are if your stitch isn’t working, you’ve threaded something incorrectly. Also, there is a specific order to threading — upper looper, lower looper, left needle, right needle. Order matters.
5) Check your settings! (tension, stitch width, cutting distance & differential feed) before starting! Sergers have a lot of dials and knobs. So, getting things set up the way you want them is imperative. For tension, start out in the middle of your tension range and then play with it — small increments at a time. Chances are, you won’t have to go very far (in either direction) from the mid-range for a knit. Also, check that your differential feed, which controls the feed dogs, is where you want it. For knits that have a lot of stretch, you’ll probably want the two sets of feed dogs to be set to take in fabric differently. Thankfully, I didn’t need to change mine for this project. You may also have to play around with your cutting distance. My fabric really like to roll, so I had to set my cutting distance larger that I would normally have liked, to make sure I got a clean cut and that my stitches were perfectly at the edge of my fabric and not hanging off the edge. I definitely had to play around on extra fabric for A WHILE to make sure I was getting the stitch I wanted. So, buy a little extra fabric if you’re a newbie, like me!
For the seams, I used a 4-thread overlock (with safety) stitch. Here is what that stitch looks like on the reverse:
4 thread overlock with safety stitch
For the hems, I changed the threading of my serger to produce a two-needle, wide coverstitch. Here is what that looks like from the front and back:
Cover stitch, reverse
I constructed the whole garment using a 5/8″ seam allowance and a 1/2″ hem allowance. First, I placed the sleeve and front panel, right sides together, and starting at the neck and working towards the armpit, serged the sleeve shoulder seam (See Pic, Seam #1). Then, I placed the other side of the sleeve and the back panel right sides together, and serged the other shoulder seam working from neck to armpit. I repeated this on the other side (See Pic, Seam #2).
Seam #1 and Seam #2
Doing that first, will allow you to stitch the side seams and the seam along the underside of the arm/sleeve as one long seam. (I actually didn’t do this are realized later that it would have been easier!) It also means that long seam will lay better under the arm. So, do that next — place the front and back panels with the right sides together and starting at the end of the sleeve, stitch the side seams to the armpit and then keep going from the armpit to the bottom hem (See Pic, Seam #3). Ta-da! At this point, my hoodie was really taking shape.
Next, place the two halves of the hood, with the right sides together, and stitch the entire length of the back, from head to neck (See Pic, Seam #4).
With the hood finished, place the neck edge of the hoody onto your hoodie, with the right sides together, and stitch the entire length of the hood along the neck (See Pic, Seam #5). Almost done!
Then, take the band, fold it in half and press it. Then, pin the open edge of the band along the entire left, front panel vertical edge, around the edge of the hoodie, and then down along the right, front vertical edge of the other front panel. Serge along the edge, securing the band in place (See Pic, Seam #6).
Now, all that was left to do was to hem it. I switched my machine over to coverstitch, pressed my hem allowance up and pinned it at 1/2″ and then stitched all the way around the bottom edge. Then, I turned the vertical edges of the front panels under by 1/2″, pressed them, and stitched them, too. Lastly, I pressed down all of the serged and coverstitched seams so that they would lay nice and flat. Voila! My hoodie was finished!
My summer hoodie!
Hoodie, displaying hood.
I thoroughly enjoyed my first foray into sewing a knit garment. I hope that this tutorial has inspired you to give knits a try, too! If I can do it, anyone can. So, you deserve a summer hoodie. Go ahead, treat yourself! Up next, is the Knit Diaries, Part 2: a striped maxi skirt. I am also taking ANY suggestions you have for what else I can make with my mountain of jersey. What other striped wonders can you think of?