The thread featured in this post was given to my by Aurifil.
Seven years ago, when they were small, I started making garments for my children. They were fun little projects and much faster than making and finishing a quilt. These clothes were all made out of quilting cotton, though once I made a satin skirt for a friend's daughter. Quilting cotton is easy to sew with.
For years now I've been wanting to make garments for myself. In August of 2017, I started listening to the new, weekly Love to Sew podcast. Co-hosts Helen and Caroline are an inspiration as they "engage with the global sewing community and encourage listeners to create their dream wardrobe by sewing their own clothes." But still, I didn't sew myself a single garment. In January 2018, Caroline's shop, Blackbird Fabrics, offered a black and white bamboo jersey knit (95% rayon from bamboo/5% spandex). One of the things I love about her shop is that the fabric listings include recommendations for what types of garments a fabric is suitable for. This information is gold to a newbie garment sewist! And I'd been wanting to make a Blackwood Cardigan. So I ordered the fabric. And I love it. The more than two-year procrastination of actually making said cardigan was some combination of not liking the size I am, intimidation about sewing knits, and living an overextended/busy life. As an Aurifil Artisan for 2019-2020, I was delighted to see Me Made May as the May Artisan Challenge. I seriously thought I'd get it done way ahead of time and then share it in May. Nope. True to form, I was still sewing at the 11th hour. Last Friday, I started cutting out my fabric.
This project was the perfect opportunity for me to try out Aurifil 40/3. This thread was created with longarmers in mind, but I'd heard of other garment sewists who prefer this weight for their garments. It worked well for me. I pieced my cardigan using a zigzag stitch with a stretch needle. Due to my inexperience with sewing knits, during my test sewing I struggled to get a nice topstitch that didn't create puckers. So I opted to leave the pockets off (where will I put my M&Ms!?) and I should add topstitching to the front band later (the final step). I'll continue with the trial and error of finding the right settings/needle combination to get a result I like for topstitching. More needles are on the way!
My 8-year-old daughter took photos of me in the cardigan.
The pattern was clear and easy to follow. It certainly could have been sewn in a day or two. My cardigan is the long view in XXL of the original version of the pattern (equivalent to a 20/22 B-cup in the current version). I added 2" of length since I'm 5'7" and like my cardigans long. I don't think this was necessary, but I figured that I'd rather it be too long than too short for my liking. :-) It was hard for me to measure myself to really understand how long the pattern would be on me... and I failed to take into consideration that it would stretch a bit when it was on from the weight of the fabric.
Tips from my experience sewing my first knit garment:
- Be really careful of fabric stretching when you lay it out to cut.
- Mark notches using a marking pen.
- Pin liberally.
- Do a lot of test sewing to find a stitch that works well. Label each sample with your settings/needle. (See above.)
- Maybe don't choose stripes for your first project. It added a level of difficulty.
- Try stretch, jersey, and ballpoint needles (as the pattern recommends) as you may get different results with each.
Since I mentioned them, here are a few of my favorite garments that I made for the kids years ago: