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Mar 3, 2010

My terrycloth shirt + "Knit Wit" GIVEAWAY Contest!

My shirt is done!

Let me say that terrycloth is a bitch to work with, pardon my French.  It combines all the worst qualities a fabric can have: it's thick, it stretches, and it's pillowy.  You can't iron it much either.  Need to rip a seam out?  Fuggitaboutit!  Actually, I exaggerate: I was able to open a few wonky seams, but invariably ripped out some loops as well which then required terrycloth re-landscaping to fix the damage.

I like this shirt a lot.  I used Butterick 4712, one of my favorite vintage shirt patterns, and made "Version B" for the first time.  You'll notice I left off the buttons -- who needs 'em?  I prefer this simple look for a terrycloth top.

Layered areas like button plackets and collars are challenging because all seam allowances must be trimmed as much as possible to avoid bulk.  Terrycloth is not like cotton shirting: it doesn't flatten out. Topstitching is also a PITA: those terrycloth loops form a nap similar to corduroy and if you topstitch parallel to the nap you'd better make sure you're exactly parallel or it's going to look funky.  It's like parting your hair -- it wants to fall a certain way naturally.

Sadly this cute little number is not in my palette, but I think it's very becoming on Michael, whose eyes happen to be blue.

While we're on the subject of knits:

I originally planned to make this shirt on my old Viking zigzagger, but it wasn't loving this stretchy terrycloth, to put it mildly.  Here's what it did when I tried to stay-stitch the neckline:


Then I tried the same task on my Singer Spartan 192K straight stitcher:

No problem!

As I mentioned with regard to my 1972 tee shirt, my Singer straight stitcher handles knits beautifully.  I don't use special needles, special thread, or any special techniques other than a little pinning to keep things from shifting excessively.  The feed dogs move the fabric along as smoothly as if it were normal woven fabric.

Maybe this has to do with the straight stitch foot, maybe it's the needle hole being too small for fabric to be pulled through, maybe it's something particular to my Singer -- or a combination of all three -- but I had no problems with this challenging fabric.   Or rather, the challenges I did have had nothing to do with my machine.

On a related note, I have a special giveaway today!

I have an extra copy of Simplicity 6249, a unisex shirt pattern from 1974.   This pattern is complete and is sized for a 36" chest and is especially designed for knits.  Wow!

I can definitely see adding some length and making a cute little shirtdress out of it or just leaving as-is.  How cute is that His n' Hers thing?  You never see that anymore...pity.

Here's all you have to do to enter:  Leave a comment below, telling me your worst knit nightmare story ever, like the time your serger devoured your armscye or you stitched your buttonhole and caught the sleeve in it.  Wait -- those are my nightmare stories; you'll have to come up with your own. 

Gruesome photos are especially appreciated and will count in your favor, of course.  Winners will be announced on Saturday, so you have a few days.  Maybe your knit nightmare is yet to come!

If you don't have a knit nightmare story but you still want to be considered, just share something sewing-related we can all enjoy.  Or just say hi;  I'm an equal opportunity blogger.

Before I forget, for you MPB completists, you can view the entire photo album of my terrycloth shirtmaking process here or read my pattern review here.

Have a Happy Wednesday and keep on stitching!


  1. Your terry towling shirt is FABULOUS.

    TOM (The Old Man)hasn't been a 36" chest for many a year so I won't enter the competition, but I thought I'd share my last experience with my serger. Who thought sewing could be so dangerous? I was serging a seam & one of the needles broke off & hit me in the face (an inch away from my eye!). I need danger money to do this! I was lucky because the broken end hit me rather than the sharp point. From now on though I am wearing my glasses when I use my serger.

  2. No knit horror story - but I will comment anyway....
    Love the terry shirt. Great decision on the interfacing.

    I used to sew knits quite a bit when I was in highschool and college and didn't know any better - my singer 201-2 never knew the difference and I was clueless. Zoom-zoom. Now a lifetime later I have not done much with them. I took a PR class on knits - it was great, but they still scare me. I do have an amazing piece of a knit fabric from Gorgeous Fabrics that I have yet to sew up - I am working up the courage - soon.

    But would love to be considered for the pattern - it is Ds's size and I love vintage (especially the "How To Sew Patterns", and he complains I never make him anything(mostly true.)

  3. We don't have anyone that size here, so I won't enter, but I've only sewn knits a few times and didn't have much trouble with them. I am, however, going to be using some of that spring green knit I have in my stash to make a onesie for the new baby. I'm going to be using Simplicity 2549 and make a matching dress out of a lovely green fabric I have hanging around. (I'm thinking View B) It will be an adventure, that's for sure!

  4. I won't enter your give-away either as there's no-one at my house that is that size.
    However I do have a story to tell you. I had a piece of lovely voile which I knew was going to go close to maybe not enough fabric to cut out a wearable muslin shirt that I was making up for the first time. Everything fitted fine until I came to get the 3/4 sleeves cut out. But I fiddled and got both cut out. Yay!
    Sewed the shirt up, it was coming along beautifullly, only minor tweaks needed as I'd adjusted the pattern beforehand for FBA and then came the time to put the sleeves in. Imagine my horror when I realized I had not turned over the pattern piece when cutting out the sleeves individually. So I had two sleeves the same. OMG what was I going to do. I had no more fabric except for 5" scraps. Rather than wad the shirt up and leave it in the corner, along with tears, I decided I'd fudge the sleeve caps and so turned one sleeve to face the other and re-traced the pattern piece so I now had opposite back and front notches on my sleeves and one for each side of my shirt! Amazingly it has turned out beautifully and the sleeve caps have fitted in and worked fine.
    Lesson learned: always check before cutting out!!

  5. You forgot to mention the shedding that terrycloth does... all over everything! And your straight stitch Singer probably does so well because of the needle hole being small.

    Knit horror story... can't think of one (or any horror story for that matter. I think they are buried too deep in my psyche.) May be that in my almost 4 decades of sewing, I've only made about 5 things out of a knit.

  6. Love your shirt! I think the color looks great on you!

  7. Love your new shirt! It's SO stylish and I'm sure that Michael will LOVE it. So glad you left off the buttons!

    I've worked with terrycloth a few times – the last project was a hot pink track jacket and matching pull-on capris. I can attest to its fiddly-ness for SURE. My Elna tried to eat the fabric three or four times, but the damage was negligible. I kept the super-comfy pants and s%!*canned the jacket after The Boyfriend said I looked like a giant bottle of Pepto. (I dumped said boyfriend very soon after… coincidence?)

  8. Great shirt! and can you believe that I have that same color terry cloth fabric in my stash?

    My knit story... I was just a few months pregnant and was excited about making maternity clothes. I found a great JUMPSUIT pattern and couldn't wait to sew it up. I cut it a size bigger because I wanted it to accommodate my growing figure, it looked big... nah, the seam allowance will take up a lot of that so I kept sewing. After every seam I would hold it up expecting to see the cute outfit on the pattern cover... still not happening. Can we say denial? So, I put in the zipper, hem the sleeves and legs and try it on, I looked like a huge flying squirrel, but it felt good, maybe I'm being over-critical. I run in the den to show my husband. Silence. What? I asked. He says, it's a little big don't you think? No! It's a little oversized, that's the STYLE, besides, I need room to grow. His answer, "Honey, if your a** grows into that then we've got bigger problems than that outfit.
    That was my last jumpsuit and I didn't sew with knits for a LONG time.

  9. These stories are great. Keep 'em coming!

  10. Peter,

    DS (teenager) is a 36 and is fully grown, so this pattern would be great for him. He love, loves, loves vintage looks! Hey, I'm a 36 and fully grown too, so this is a two for one proposition.

    My worst knit nightmare was when I made a long silky knit evening gown in high school. I used a red mystery fabric from the store where I worked. It had been on the shelf for ages and was about to be thrown out for some reason. I talked the owner into giving it to me, and made the dress in three hours using a zig zag stitch from my mom's vintage singer. I would wear it that night to help host a charity dinner our youth group was holding to raise money for a summer missions project.

    Well, Peter, the dress fit gloriously. With my teenage figure (same as as DS is now), it was a winner. I felt like a movie star at the Oscars as my friends took photos of me in my long red gown, my thick brown hair falling in waves over my shoulders. Everyone wanted to know where I got my dress, and I proudly told them I'd made it that very day.

    You would not believe what a boost to my confidence that dress gave me until...I noticed that people were rather staring at me halfway through the dinner as I made the rounds to the tables, asking the guests if everything was to their satisfaction. At first, I thought they just loved my dress, but eventually I realized something was wrong.

    I quickly went into the ladies' room but didn't see anything wrong as I looked in the mirror over the sink. To be thorough, I went into a toilet stall and stood on the closed toilet seat so I could see myself full length in the sink mirrors straight ahead.

    To my horror, the side seams on my dress had developed runs, and the runs were so bad that in one spot over my back right hip, the dress was nearly transparent. My white cotton underwear showed clearly. I was wearing a see through dress at a church charity!

    Obviously, I could not go back out there in that dress. It was about ten minutes before anyone came into the restroom, or so it seemed. The first person, who happened to be the pastor's wife, took mercy on me and ran next door to the parsonage to get me some clothing to wear instead.

    For the rest of the evening, I hosted the dinner in a saggy, baggy gray dress with a cheap looking faux gray alligator belt cynching it at the waist. Gray is not my color. I was a size 4 and the dress was a 12. But, I did get to finish the event.

    The next day at church, several people told me they had heard that I'd been asked to change my dress because it was immodest. Someone had seen the pastor's wife bringing the gray dress inside and assumed as much.

    For the rest of high school, whenever I helped with a event at church, people would tease me by explaining what "appropriate" dress would be for the event. We had a lot of fun with that, though I admit that as a teenager, this was really embarrassing to me.

    I still don't know what kind of fabric that was that ran that way. I just wish I still had photos to share, both before and after. But, then, I am not sure I would want those after photos published on the forevernet (internet).

  11. I am also definitely not a 36 chest, but I did once sew right through my fingernail and into my finger when I was trying to sew an elastic into some stretchy purple velvety material to make a Halloween costume for my daughter. I thought I was going to pass out it hurt so much.

  12. I haven't been a 36 chest since I was 12 (and I'm pretty sure my husband hasn't either), so I won't be able to use the pattern. But I have a story. My knit horror story happened in early 90s when I got caught in the Nautical craze. I decided to make a knit white and navy skirt with thick navy stripes. It was a simple skirt with one seam. I cut out the fabric and qickly sewed the seam, obviously not matching the stripes. (and I knew better!) I ended up with barber shop pole skirt which never saw the light of day immediately landing in the trash.

  13. The terry shirt looks great. Terry is a PITA and unless like you, going for a vintage look....I'm gonna stay away from it. Some of my first sewing projects was sewing terry jumpers for my mom. Somehow I never gave up and finished them though not perfectly.

    Worst knit story of mine:

    You'll want to look at the photo first to get what I mean:

    A client of mine asked me to create a gown resembling the Arizona flag. That in itself sounded like a huge undertaking thanks to the radiating stripes involved. However I was challenged and I almost never pass up a challenge.

    The first disaster of it was there would be 4 very specific colors involved and needed to be very similar stretch. THAT didn't happen. I found the 4 perfect colors but some stretched more than others, in fact the star fabric was a stretch twill while everything else was a stretch knit. (After the fact, it's a good thing it's a stretch twill because look at all the weight of those stones!)

    After days of pattern work I thought I had it masterminded, and timidly started cutting stripes being sure not to get them mixed up. I marked each one with numbered masking tape.

    The next fun part was overlocking each of these stripes together to create a perfect armhole/neck line ridge and a perfect point meeting under the star. Unfortunately 13 panels of fabric lead to a very big lump of seam allowance under the star. So, to remedy this I top stitched the seam allowances in one direction and trimmed them as close as possible.

    Half proud of my self and half terrified, it was time for a fitting. I was confident in my skirt so it was already basted to the bodice part for our fitting.

    :cue dramatic music now: My attempt of cracking the stretch factor code when drafting my own pattern failed. At the time I had no idea how to draft knit patterns from scratch. The bodice was too large but not large like I could take a 1/2" off the sides. these stripes wrapped continuously around the body from the star to the center back.
    The real culprit was that each strip was too wide.

    Sounds easy, just take each of the seams and take them in a bit.
    NOT SO. These seams radiate at different angles all over the torso of the body. If I were to take in each radiating seam, the skirt hem became very uneven and even the skirt hips were being tugged up as a result of the torso adjustments. Honestly IDK how I finally got it to fit. I literally was taking 1/4" off one side and then had to be sure to do something to the other side totaling 1/4" as to keep the hem length correct.

    This is THE MOST asymmetrical out of balance project I've Ever done. Well, that was until somebody saw the AZ gown and asked if I could do a version of the US flag. But with the US flag, I was equipped with better pattern drafting knowledge, and lucked out to find a collection of knits that were exactly the same in the necessary R/W/B colors. The US flag gown was glitter knit fabric though. What a mess!

  14. Don't want the pattern (the story will explain why) but I thought I'd share anyways. I'd been living in Quebec for a month, which is 8 hours away from my boyfriend. For his birthday visit I was going to make him a blue polo (all he ever wears are polos) but all the fabric store had was something more like a basketball short knit mesh fabric. I proceeded anyways. The placket ended up impossibly thick and too short and everything else got stretched out horribly. No birthday gift for him and I've hated knits ever since
    - but now that I know to buy a smaller needle size perhaps that will fix my problems, because I ironically hate wearing wovens!


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