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.
Check out what others are sewing and wearing for Me Made May on Instagram at #memademay. See more Blackwoods at #blackwoodcardigan.
Since I mentioned them, here are a few of my favorite garments that I made for the kids years ago: