MPB is proud to be the world's most popular men's sewing blog!



Aug 23, 2012

Peter's New T-Shirt or "Down to the Knitty-Gritty"



They say the third time's the charm, which must be true, since that's how many tries it took me to attach my neckband successfully.  Oh, I'm sorry, good morning, readers!



As anyone knows who regularly sews with knits, most (cheaper) knits for sale today are cotton-poly blends with lots of lycra.  They are colorful, but tend to be extremely thin and veeerrry stretchy (stretchier than my vintage patterns are drafted for, actually).  And droopy.  Which means they're unstable.  Feeding them into a sewing machine, or snipping to a line of stay stitching, can be challenging.

My striped knit is like this, and it caused me problems until I had a sense of how best to handle it.  Making the V in the v-neck, which involves stay stitching and cutting to the stitch line, required that I stabilize the area with fusible interfacing.  My first attempt was without interfacing and it was a failure.  At first I thought I'd insert the neckband with the V already stitched.  I couldn't get the V of the band lined up with the V in the garment (you have to pivot your stitching at exactly the right place).

The band looked something like this (this is a sample made from an old cotton t-shirt that was much more stable.



Next, I tried fusing the area, and I had a bit more success.  As you can see, the fabric is already damaged from where I pulled out the stitches from my first attempt.  (Ripping seams in a knit is a knightmare.)





I also stabilized the back of the neck.



The results were OK.  But the V that I stitched (after inserting the band, as per Serger Secrets) didn't look sharp or perfectly vertical.   I'd ended up joining the neckband at the back of the neck, creating another seam (albeit a hardly visible one).  And I didn't like how the blue horizontal stripe at the front edge of the V was slightly raised; I'm fussy.



So I decided to cut the entire neckband out and try a third time.



This time I used Lynda Maynard's Couture Sewing Techniques method, where the ends of the neckband overlap at the V.   I had much more success and I think it looks more elegant.



I stretched the band (and only the band) as I attached it to the neckline.  There's a little looseness here and there, but I'm hoping this will tighten up in the dryer (the neckline has been handled a lot).  I used a folded-over piece of horizontal striping to create the neckband, whose edge I serged before attaching it.  I attached the band with my regular sewing machine.



I like this shirt and it fits well.  I'll probably add a similar band at the bottom and perhaps at the sleeves; just folding up and hemming doesn't look nice on a fabric this thin.  (In retrospect, I should have done this before stitching them closed, with an open strip of fabric folded in half like the neckband).



To make the shirt, I used McCall's 3438, a vintage Seventies mens underwear pattern.





I reinforced my shoulder seams with a strip of pre-shrunk cotton twill tape, and I serged my seams with a four-thread overlock stitch.  The stitching is a little dense (I tried lengthing the stitch but it didn't make much difference; the stretchy knit feeds through the machine slowly, meaning more stitches per inch) and I may go back to three threads.  Since I wanted the stripes to match (and they do), I stitched on my sewing machine first anyway, so I could have simply trimmed the seam allowance with the serger.



There's so much experimentation involved with knits, and I have more shirts to make today -- a tank top with what's left of this stripe (if I have enough) and a solid blue t-shirt.  It does take a little longer to stabilize edges with fusible (or twill tape) but I think the results merit it, especially with a knit this droopy and stretchy.

Friends, am I wrong, or are today's knits incredibly thin and stretchy (more so, say, than a traditional mens white Jockey, Hanes, or Fruit of the Loom t-shirt) and unstable?

What gives?

Have a great day, everybody!



36 comments:

  1. I reject a lot of knits I see because they're so thin - although more due to transparency worries than stability ones.
    That final neckband you settled on looks great! might have to try one like that sometime

    ReplyDelete
  2. Love it. This t shirt looks great. I especially love the overlapped V. I can't get past the curling edges on these thin and stretchy knits, in particular if trying to match stripes!!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Peter - I'm weighing in - regular reader, but not a usual commenter. I sew knits all the time (I LOVE a knit top). So, you are sewing with single/jersey knit (I bet). You might want to look for something I call "interlock". It's got a little more weight/heft to it. Your neckline looks great - I made one like that for my husband - using the Jalie men's pattern. And from yesterday - I usually just put my knit tops together with my serger - haven't had a problem yet with them not staying together.

    Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, yes, it's jersey knit I'm dealing with here.

      Delete
    2. Jodie I applaud you and anyone else who uses a serger to sew a knit shirt. I haven't got the guts......I have one, but I only use it to finish seams. I'm going to have to work on serging a straight seam....I haven't mastered that yet.

      Delete
  4. I love it! I actually like the look of the overlap neckband the best. Is it all worth it though? I have tried knits before and I feel like for the time and effort I put into it, it would have been better spent just buying a new shirt from VOA or goodwill. I don't wear many t shirts anymore but I am in love with bamboo or modal knits. They make the best pajamas and you can always find them super cheap on clearance at kohls or something. I don't think that without a serger I could sew something so thin and soupy. On the other hand I would rather spend my time sewing than shopping so I guess I'm stuck in the knit catch-22.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Love it! I wish I could find knit fabric in more cool prints (like that stripe) where I live.
    I find the more you work with it, the better you get.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Peter I would have half of nerve left after completing that project! The V-neckline is soooooo annoying and aggravating! I make one-piece t-shirt patterns and cut some on the bias.....but I never do that with a V-neck, I'd wind up in a padded room if I did!! LOL!!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Looks fab! My most recent attempt at a V neck knit ended up as a wadder! Yours looks amazing! Good job!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Yeah - there are lots of sucky knits out there. And you can tell when handling. If you want better quality, get your knits from NY Elegant, B&J (affordable, actually!), or try the other stores, like Fabrics World and Rosen and Chadick, hold them up to the light to see the sheerness, stretch them to test resilience, and get swatches to do a home wash test with your next load of laundry. So worth it, if you want to keep your shirts for a decade or so!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Oh and even though I know this one, it still didn't help with the wadder; but you can spray starch and press knits in unstable areas also. It sometimes helps a bit. And it doesn't work on a V, but you can also finish necklines and sleeve hems doing that Hong Kong style of finish. Sometimes I do it sort of backwards. I may be telling you what you already know. If you know what I'm talking about, just ignore my ramblings, and if you don't ask and I'll try to explain what I mean.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Next time you're in for a test, try setting in a normal band as you would in a round neck hole. Then you fold the nackband and stitch a diagonal line from ½" on the top to the corner. Mock v-neck and it looks great. Probably not good for deeeep v-necks.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Looks good. It really is easier to sew better knits. Maynard's methods for knit necklines are really the most elegant and easy to replicate of any I've tried. Glad it worked for you.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hi Peter, I can't believe you ripped out that neckline twice... I've been trying to make a knit tank and didn't have the patience to rip mine out once. I'll definitely try better quality knit next time.

    What stitch did you use on your regular machine? And what kind of interfacing did you use?

    ReplyDelete
  13. Thanks for all your tips and advice Peter. I've been working primarily with knits since I started sewing, mainly because they're what I want to wear. What sort of fusible do you use? I've always found that people talk about interfacing as though its more of an art then a science. It's something I have yet to wrap my head around fully.

    BTW the t-shirt looks awesome. Is it wrong of me to like that it looks very RTW? Obviously the plus here is that it's perfectly fitted and well made. Luckily I have the same pattern you used, so now I'm even more eager to bust it out and give it a shot. I also have a ton of this light-weight jersey knit kicking around, which I was hoping to use more this summer but got bogged down with work and fighting with a lycra swimwuit. Cheers!

    ReplyDelete
  14. I also am not a fan of the thin, stretch fabrics. I'll look at a shirt or dress and like it until I put my hand through for my "see through test", sigh,and then put it back on the rack.

    The shirt looks fantastic. =)

    ReplyDelete
  15. the only knit I like sewing is a good quality double knit.(I think that is the term.) But they are usually found only in little kid patterns. I did accidentally get a really nice pretty one from Canada on ebay, but cannot find anything decent locally, so I have gone back to wovens for my wardrobe.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Peter: don't forget Brian, from Briansews. He has lots of tips for sewing tshirts. Have a great weekend!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Since you're making more of these shirts, could you make a tutorial on how you make v-neck? I'm still struggling with it:(

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'll take more photos next time, though I'm hardly ready to teach! ;)

      Delete
  18. This is so cute! I really, really like it! I hate the super thin, stretchy jerseys, too-- they feel like they're going to disintegrate in the wash immediately, and often they're sheer. Yuck! That's the one thing that really stops me from sewing with knits all the time-- the fabric quality seems so much lower than that of RTW tees.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Your stripey t-shirt looks fantastic, Peter! Well done!

    Cheap knits are just that: cheap, thin, and difficult to manipulate. As a knit newbie, I do invest a little extra money for cotton jersey with a high (min 90%) cotton content. Works like a charm!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Alex in CaliforniaAugust 23, 2012 at 1:36 PM

    Looks great. You smoked it!

    ReplyDelete
  21. Hi Peter - your t-shirt looks great, you have amazing patience! Up in the Great White North we have access to some great t-shirt fabrics, but at $22+/m they are not such a good buy!

    A couple of things to consider, does your serger have a differential feed? The differential feed controls the movement of both the front and the rear feed dogs (from the Brother site http://welcome.solutions.brother.com/BSC/public/us/us/en/faq/faqh/000000/000500/000088/faqh000588_001.html?reg=us&c=us&lang=en&prod=hf_5234eus).

    Depending on your setting, the feed dogs can move at different speeds and that helps eliminate the ruffled 'lots of stitches in not much fabric' look. if you knew that already . . . . apologies!

    Secondly, with regard to the hems (bottom of the t-shirt and the sleeves) you could add some 'Sticth Witchery' (or some other double sided iron on stuff - you can get it on a roll like sticky tape, @1/2" wide) and press up the hem. This gives you a 'no sew' finish that looks good as it is, or you can then sew two rows of top stitching/one row with a double needle for a professional finish. I find it easier to press the hem up, open it up and slide in the Stitch Witchery and press once again.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I don't know about you, but I find knit fabrics incredibly hot. Uncomfortably so in summer, blissfully so in winter. Given how hot it is in your neck of the woods, the lightweightness of these fabrics may be a blessing!
    You can still buy the proper 100% cotton knits with heft, but they will make for better winter undershirts than summer tanks :)

    ReplyDelete
  23. Peter, this shirt looks great. Th neckline came out real nice.

    You are right, the fabric is thinner. I like the way it feels but don't like that you can pretty much see through it. Makes you have to think carefully about your underwear.

    ReplyDelete
  24. I am really keen on knits, but a bit intimidated. being thinner could be okay, if there is recovery (test to see). I only shop charity, and recently ditched a piece of knit, as the recovery had died. BUT, for the most part the knits we find, in pieces of generally 1 meter or less, are terrific, even that covetted 90% cotton, 10% lycra. This post is making me feel braver. As for your T, and the new neck, just terrific, fun stripes too, and well matched. You can steam and finger press to get the knits to "Obey" (test on a scrap). As for hems, the rolling foot helps with creeping, or some stabilizing element of your choice. Cathie, in Quebec.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Peter, I agree with other posters that you need to use a better quality knit. They really aren't that much more expensive, and your shirts will last much longer. I love that you were patient enough to finish that neckline, though!

    ReplyDelete
  26. neckline looks great! thanks for the post - it came at a perfect time. i'm also in the midst of doing a V-neck and used a stretch fusible facing which work really well! ... now if i can only manage the bias strip that runs alone the neck and armholes... (I'm working on a tank top using thin cotton fabric - ack!)

    ReplyDelete
  27. If the fabric is not feeding properly you can adjust the presser foot pressure as well as the stitch length, just as for a regular sewing machine. And the tissue paper strips under the foot trick applies here as well. Machine basting with a long stitch length on the SM will let you feed fearlessly on the serger.
    At the heart of it sewing with knits is a matter of choosing one with good recovery. When it stretches out with handling no amount of heat shrinking in the dryer will give a proper save to a neckline (some yes, completely no.)

    ReplyDelete
  28. One thing I do when sewing knit bands to necklines is to give the band a couple sharp tugs after I cut it out, then cut it (again) to the correct length, then sew it on. This gives me the best results after washing as the band shrinks just the right amount to lay flat against the body.

    I learned that trick sewing lingerie elastic!

    ReplyDelete
  29. I tried doing knits once and my formula for the neck band is to cut the band 1/3 shorter than the actual width of the opening. It works most of the time but not all the time as stretch factor is really important. Hope this helps to someone... Love the top!!!! I remember looking at this fabric when we were visiting the fabric stores ... Didn't buy it as I am not gifted with the 6 pack and slender body like you mate :))))

    ReplyDelete
  30. With any horizontal seams(shoulder, and waist) on knit fabrics, I serge them with clear elastic tape in the width of the seam so that when the seam stretches the seams will go back to its original length. I hope this helps. :)

    ReplyDelete
  31. I have had a different experience with every knit I've ever used. Knits are a strange beast, imo.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Knits are a category covering a variety of weights and types. And like cotton, you get what you pay for. The $1 a yard quilting cottons are as different as day and night from the $8 - $10 a yard versions. The same goes for knits. Spend a little more and you'll get a better quality product. Look to some of the organic blends, like Hemp and Bamboo. You can get a variety of weights with great quality. You'll find great t-shirt weights that sew beautifully.

    Most of your vintage patterns will call for "stable" knits, which are knits that have very little stretch across them. Think double knit, crepe, georgette. Stable knits are knits that handle like woven fabric. Anything with Lycra in the make up is not going to be stable.

    If you want a more active wear style knit, for things like work out gear, or bike shorts, go with an ITY knit. It's got more lycra content and a polished side that gives a great finished look.

    ReplyDelete
  33. You are absolutely crazy….I love it.

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts with Thumbnails