Friends, despite my having made some cute knit cotton jersey underwear recently, I'm not a big fan of sewing knits. Maybe it's because I'm not really that excited about making the kind of garments one makes with knits: for men, we're talking tee shirts and underwear.
For all the time and energy it takes to make a decent-looking knit tee shirt, I'd rather buy one ready made. There, I said it.
But Michael had chosen a rayon knit for his summer ensemble and I was committed to making him a tee shirt with it. Rayon knit -- or at least this rayon knit -- looks and feels fragile. Whether it proves to be a durable garment over the long term remains to be seen.
I made a decision at the fabric store that helped tremendously on this project: along with my rayon knit, I picked up half a yard of a very durable, high quality solid cotton knit for the neck band, arm bands, and waistband too. The cotton knit provides durability at some of the shirt's primary stretch points and was (relatively) easy to work with.
I thought about using clear elastic, among other things, to strengthen the seams, but decided against it. None of my RTW knit shirts have clear elastic in the seams and the shirts hold up just fine.
At first, I stitched my seams at my sewing machine and then serged over the stitched seams. This was helpful particularly on curved seams. For the sleeve and side torso seams, I went directly to the serger without pre-stitching. I serged slowly and very carefully. The rayon knit is a difficult fabric to work with. It tends to cling to itself, so I had to check and double-check to make sure the layers were feeding into the serger perfectly flat. (BTW, I prewashed and dried everything.)
To make the neckline, I followed Lynda Maynards instructions from "The Dressmaker's Handbook of Couture Sewing Techniques." I am happy with the results even though I wasn't quite as careful laying one layer of my neckband over the other as I should have been so they're not perfectly even in width at the "v" point. But I'm not complaining: the shirt looks good.
Because the fabric is slightly transparent, you can make out the serged seam of the neckband that is turned under and topstitched. That's just the way it is.
Now let's talk spray starch. Lynda Maynard has you apply interfacing to the neckline edge to stabilize it before attaching the neckband, but I didn't have any knit interfacing. Instead, I used spray starch. Below you can see the starched knit swatch (left) next to the unstarched knit swatch (right). The starch makes the knit much less likely to roll up at the edges, which knits have a tendency to do. NOTE: It does not make the fabric stiff, just flatter and easier to handle.
I made a LOT of samples before starting my actual shirt. I probably spent as much time testing the fabric and my sewing techniques than I did making the shirt. But I think it paid off.
I can't show you the shirt on Michael yet, but here's a shot of the shirt on Roy (before I added a narrow waistband). Roy wears clothes so well but then, that's his job.
In closing, friends, have you ever used spray starch on knits? Has it helped much? Any other knit-related helpful hints you recommend?
I'm a native New Yorker and sewing fanatic! I started sewing in 2009 and today make all my own clothes using vintage sewing machines and vintage patterns, in addition to sewing for private clients. Welcome to the warm and whimsical world of Male Pattern Boldness, where the conversation is sewing, style, fashion, fabric, and more!