Knits vs Woven. What’s the big deal?

It’s a simple truth that you can’t swap a woven for a knit when making something.  Knits stretch.  Wovens don’t.
True, some wovens are blended with spandex (registered name:  Lycra) to make them stretchy.  But they still won’t stretch and behave the same way as knits.  So if you substitute a knit for a woven, you’ll find the final garment is way too big.  If you substitute a woven for a knit, you’ll find the final garment way too tight.  That’s also why it is so difficult to sew a knit to a woven without the knit rippling.
Let’s take a look at the basics of how each is made.
WOVENS:  In a basic plain weave, warp threads are laid vertically.  Weft threads are woven horizontally through through the warp threads using a shuttle.  Warp threads are very stable and do not stretch.  Weft threads are looser and will have a bit of stretch.
KNITS:  With knits, the fibers are looped together.  That gives the stretch. Stretch also makes knits harder to sew and control.  The vertical column of loops is called a wale.  The horizontal row of loops is called a course.
In a WEFT KNIT, such as hand-knitted fabric, a single yarn is looped repeatedly to create horizontal rows, or courses, with each row built on the previous row.  This makes for a looser knit.
A WARP KNIT is made with multiple parallel yarns that are simultaneously looped vertically to form the fabric.  This makes for a tighter knit.
A two-way stretch knit gives significantly along the width of the fabric and a little along the length.  Four-way stretch knit gives significantly along both the width and length of the fabric.  Most often, four-way gets its stretch by adding spandex.
Knits, unlike wovens, do not fray.
The amount of stretch varies greatly depending on the knit.  To assess the stretch, test a fold of the fabric on the crossgrain.  Take a single layer between the thumb and forefinger of the left hand.  Hold the fabric in the same way in the right hand three or four inches away.  Lay the fabric on a ruler with the left hand at zero.  Pull the fabric along the ruler with the right hand.  Stop just at the point that you have to exert any effort.
The amount of stretch determines how you use the knit.  The words you find on a pattern tell you what kind of knit to use.
Stable.  4 inches of knit stretches to less than 1 inch (called 18% stretch ratio).  Use this for jackets and pants or firm skirts and dresses.  Typical fabrics:  Weft knits such as Ponte, french terry and double knits.
Moderate.  4 inches of knit to 1-1½ inch (called 25% stretch ratio).  Use this for dresses, beefy t-shirts.
Typical fabrics:  Interlock
Stretchy. 4 inches of knit stretches up to 2 inches (called 50% stretch ratio).  Use this flowy tops and dresses, thin t-shirts.
Typical fabrics:  Jersey, ITY
Super-stretch.  4 inches of knit stretches another 3 inches (called 75% stretch ratio).  Use this for very stretchy clothes such as activewear or cuffs and waistbands.
Typical fabrics:  Performance, matte jersey, rib knits
The tools and techniques you use to cut and sew knits are special to them.  Most have been created since the 1970s when knits first became available to the sewing public.  Look for those in the next blog.
We’ll follow that with a blog about the many kinds of knits you can find today.
Want know more knits? Sign up for Sewing Knits with Lisa.  Choose either the morning or evening class.  Next classes start in September.  Click here!

Sewing Tip: SHORTEN A LONG COIL ZIPPER

1 – Place zipper stop at bottom of opening so excess is at top. Sew zipper.

2 – Unzip zipper below waistline.


3 & 4 – Sew forward and back through teeth on each side of zipper (don’t worry; this won’t hurt your needle).

5 – Make sure your new “stop” actually stops zipper.

6 & 7 – Cut excess zipper tape

 

Want more sewing tips? Sign up for Apparel Construction with Lisa.  Choose either the morning or evening class.  Next classes start in September.  Click here!

Sewing Tip: MAKE EVEN RUNNING STITCHES

Use a wooden coffee stir stick as a guide to make even stitches and even spaces between stitches.

If needed, chalk the sew line & on either side of the stir stick.

Pull the thread taut to show the beauty of your straight line of even stitches.

Want more sewing tips? Sign up for Beginning Sewing with Anne, Britta or Suzi.  Or Apparel Construction with Lisa.  Choose the class that’s right for you.  Next classes start in September.  See you there!

Sewing Tip: MAKING EVEN BLANKET STITCHES

 1.  With a marker, turn your thumb into a ruler.

2.  Make marks ¼” or ⅜” apart.

3.  Hold your thumb at the same level to get even stitches every time.

4.  Stitch up through the top loop front to back to get a straight line across the top.

I had a friend who tattooed a ruler on her finger. The marker is cheaper and less painful.

Want more sewing tips? Sign up for Beginning Sewing with Anne, Britta or Suzi.  Or Apparel Construction with Lisa.  Choose the class that’s right for you.  Next classes start in September.  See you there!

12 hems in a hurry

Is it Summer? Do you want to finish that hem so you can wear that dress? Check out these 12 hems in a hurry for any garment. Then sign up for a sewing class so you can perfect that technique for your own clothes.

Hems are one of your final touches – whether on the sleeve or body of the garment.  They are also one of the things you hurry through so you can wear the garment.  Why leave hem choice to chance? After spending so much time cutting and sewing, why ruin a garment by choosing the wrong one?

When in doubt, I pull down my brief dictionary of hem finishes.  These are samples I’ve sewn to show me how a hem will look and behave on a variety of fabrics.

For you, I’ve chosen 12 of the most reliable.  I’ll show you how to make them and how to choose the right one for your garment.

THREE BY MACHINE:  Use these on straight or slightly curved hems for woven fabrics when you don’t mind seeing a stitch line – or can turn it into a design element

  • Double turn. Allow for turn of cloth; e.g., hem allowance for shirts = ½” while hem allowance for jeans = 1¼”.  Press up full hem allowance then tuck under the raw edge.  This creates a straighter hem.  Tip for shirts:  Spray hem with starch and let dry before pressing.
  • Press up a ¼” hem to the right side.  Cover with lace or ribbon, ¼” or wider.  Three-step zigzag (aka “elastic stitch”) in place.
  • This is best on transparent fabrics as an alternative to the rolled hem. Run a straight stitch 1/8” parallel into the hem allowance. For example, if your hem allowance is 1” away from the raw edge, sew your stitch at 7/8” away from the raw edge.

Fold on the stitch line to the wrong side of the garment and edgestitch.  Use appliqué scissors to trim to the edgestitching as closely and evenly as possible.  Fold the edge to the wrong side again.  With the wrong side up, stitch on top of the first stitching. Overlap your beginning stitches with your ending stitches.  Do not backstitch.

FYI:  There’s a fourth machine hem:  The blindhem.  This is a popular finish for pants.  But most blindhem feet have a plastic gauge that gives an uneven stitch.  Here’s how to conquer your blindhem woes.

Press up the hem allowance then press under the raw edge by ¼”. Press the garment back exposing the hem an even 1/8”.  Use a metal edgestitch foot.  Set a stitch width of 3.5 and length of 2.5.  By pressing and using a metal foot, you’ll keep the stitches even.

Why are blindhems on ready-to-wear pants so clean? Industrial machines stitch hems in the flat – no folding needed.  The hem edge is serged with a narrow stitch or covered with hem tape.  The hem is pressed up and placed on the machine bed, hem side up.  A curved needle grabs a small bite of both the garment then the hem.  Bite depth and stitch length change to match the thickness of fabric.  Manufacturers routinely use invisible polyester monofilament thread.

THREE BY SERGER.  Use these on wovens or knits when you want the stitch line to be part of the look of the garment.

  • Also called an overedge, it is used for wovens.  It’s particularly attractive on wools.  Cut corners into curves.  Set up your machine for 2-thread serging.  Don’t have 2-thread?  Use 3-thread and run Pearl Crown Rayon in the upper looper.  This is an easy hem for a fleece blanket for a football game or baby shower.
  • Also called a serger rolled edge.  Remember to “feed the knife.”  When merrowing soft transparent fabrics such as chiffon, set the machine for the widest rolled edge possible, disengage the knife and guide the fabric’s raw edge to the inside edge of the presser foot.  On knits, change the differential feed.  Use higher numbers to keep the edge flat.  Use lower numbers to make a lettuce edge.
  • Standard finish for a knit hems.  Press up ½” or 1” hem.  Stabilize with a ¼”-wide strip of fusible web.  Coverstitch from the right side with two needles.  Don’t have a serger?  Use a 3.0 mm stretch twin needle on your sewing machine.

THREE BY HAND – Use these stitches on the straight hems of finer garments when you absolutely do not want see a stitch line. For all, press up the hem allowance 1¼”. Press under the raw hem edge ¼”. Use a single thread in a size 8 or 10 Sharps needle.

  • Work from left to right (or right to left if you are left-handed!). Catch a small stitch on the top of the hem allowance then pick a small bite of the garment about ½” to the right.  Your stitches will create a series of “Xs”.
  • Work from right to left as above. Stitch inside the fold, out of sight, for about ½”.  Come out to catch a small bite from the garment.  Go back into the same hole in the fold.  Continue.
  • Position the hem vertically. Pick up a small bite on the hem allowance then pick a small bite of the garment about 1/2” up.  Repeat, alternating between the hem and the garment to create a series of diagonal lines.

 

THREE ON THE BIAS – Use these finishes on curved hems that won’t turn up without puckering.

  • Use on wovens.  Cut or buy 2″-wide bias strips of tightly woven but thin fabric such as cotton broadcloth.  Piece them together to match the length of your hem length plus 2”.

Machine stitch the strip to the bottom edge of the garment. Leave the first 1” of the strip unstitched.  Start sewing ½” from a side seam.  Finish by matching the beginning and ending of the strip so it is the same length as the bottom edge.  Place right sides together matching raw edges.  Stitch and trim excess.  For a better look, place right sides together with one end of the strip at a 90°angle.  Stitch on the bias.  Finish sewing the strip to the bottom edge.

Press seam allowances toward the facing. Understitch. Press the facing inside with 1/8” of fashion fabric showing beyond the bias strip at the hem edge.

Press the raw upper edge of the facing under by ½”. Attach the facing to the garment with a loose row of hand stitches.

  • Use on knits.  Press under ½”.  Insert a ¼”-wide strip of fusible web under the raw hem edge.  Fuse.  TIP: To copy the look of ready to wear, finish from the right side with a zigzag stitch, 1.5 stitch length, 1.5 stitch width.
  • Use this on heavier fabrics.  For wovens, use woven bias strips.  For knits, use crossgrain strips of knit.

For wovens, cut strips 1-3/4” wide by the length of the hem.  Press under one long edge 3/8”.  Place the right side of the unpressed edge of the bias strip against the wrong side of the fabric, raw edges together.  Stitch a 3/8”-wide seam allowance.  Press the seam allowances toward the strip.  Don’t “unpress” your previous pressing!

Wrap the strip around the raw edge of the fabric to the right side of the fabric.  Line up the previously pressed edge of the strip so matches the stitch line.  Edgestitch the bias strip from the right side.

For knits, cut strips 2” wide by the length of the hem. Place to the garment, right sides together.  Sew a ½” seam allowance.  Wrap the binding over the seam allowance to the wrong side.  On the right side, stitch in the ditch or edgestitch the fold or zigzag across the fold.  Trim excess binding close to stitching line on wrong side.

Want more?  Try our Beginning Sewing, Apparel Construction or Splendid Mending classes.  Like our Instagram page for sewing tips.

———

Sharon Blair owns and directs Portland Fashion Institute in northeast Portland. PFI’s 24 instructors work in the apparel industry and teach classes from sewing to design to patternmaking to business.  Look for PFI’s line of patterns and ready-to-wear at PFI_Supply and Fade to Light Fashion Show.

Pattern Tip: ADD SEAM ALLOWANCE TO A PATTERN

 


1 – Weight pattern to a clean piece of paper.

2 – Join two pencils with a rubber band.

3 – Trace around pattern.

4 – Remove weights & pattern.

5 – Reveal tracing.

Want more?  Sign up for Patternmaking with Anne.  We have four levels of patternmaking; choose the one that’s right for you.  Next class starts September 9.  Click here!

Sewing Tip: Quick & Easy Gathering

At PFI, we aim to make your sewing easy and professional.   Here is the latest in our series of sewing tips everyone should know.  Just one of the many we share in our classes.  Enjoy!

 

1 – Put heavy cord centered under machine foot. 

2 – Zigzag over cord (SL 3.0, SW 3.0). 

3 – Tie off one end.

4 – Pull cord to gather.

Men’s Trends for Spring/Summer 2020

Italy may be the first to show new directions in menswear but Portland is — for the first time — fast on the heels of these trends.  Our senior designers, Charlie Ryan and Viola Pruitt, are feverishly working on their menswear collections for the September 18 Fade to Light Fashion Show.  In can you want to get ready, here’s the latest in looks, fabrics, prints and colors.

(left to right)

STARK UTILITY

Utility is taking on a new modern look with clean, sharp lines and geometric cutouts. A play with monochromatic styling allows the look to usher in a strong Sci-Fi element and hint at futuristic workwear influence.

MODERN ZEN

We loved this modern interpretation at zen style, with raw simplicity and fanciful details showcasing a new way to do bare essentials. Unfinished edges, mismatched threads, and pleats make this all about repurposed comfort.

FUTURE SAFARI

The utility vest has been one of the biggest street style trends at all the fashion weeks. When paired back to a neon tee or worn with wrap around shield sunglasses, there’s a retro future vibe that takes it beyond basic workwear.

COSMIC CAMO

Camo never really goes away, but there is a new version that comes rendered in sheer fabrics and faded, dusty colorways. This cosmic twist has completely transformed this traditional military motif to resemble some kind of spaceage uniform.

TRADITIONAL TECH

Traditional menswear motifs received a refreshing update with unexpected fabrics such as sheer organza and cool-casted blues and purples in place of traditional navy and grey.

POWDERY PASTELS

Powdery pastels were spotted throughout Florence, often worn in a monochromatic way that added much-needed dimension to minimal yet retro tailored basics. The addition of details like pleats or utility pockets made these sweet hues even more interesting.

SPLICED

Pieced construction is taken to a whole new level with a kind of haphazard chaos that creates a kaleidoscope pattern of classic plaids and stripes.

IN BLOOM

Florence always has plenty of dandies to see. Really impactful florals were growing on everything from suits to tropical shirts, and all with a more realistic painterly effect and oversized scales to make the ultimate statement.

HORROR PLAY

B-movie horror was all over last season’s runways and now the look is being seen on the streets. With a low brow take on monster-inspired whimsy, there were Frankenstein prints, as well as studded embellishment and metal trim.

Courtesy of our friends at Fashion Snoops

5 Easy Ways To Go Sustainable

Fresh off its successful April Eco-Month, PFI pulled comments from its Advisory Board members and asked new teacher Annin Barrett from the Textile Hive to a new class on sustainability.  Look for Barrett’s Sustainability Tech class this Fall.

Meanwhile, why wait?  Here are five tips from long-term fashion designer Nicole Miller for keeping things green.

1. “I’ve been involved with Riverkeeper and Rocky Mountain Institute for many years, so saving the planet has always been a top priority for me.”

2. “Our recyclables used to be overflowing at the end of the day, and now it only needs to be emptied once a week. When anyone puts plastic in their trash, it will not be emptied at night.”

3. “Years ago, I started implementing better practices in my showroom, studio, and home. I stopped buying bottled water and switched to filtered water. We stopped buying plastic cups and dishes. Everyone here uses their own reusable plate, mug, and cup.”

4. “We reuse everything from plastic bags to hangers. We also recycle our fabric scraps—nothing goes to waste here. We have upcycled vintage cashmere and denim. We have eco-made jeans with fibers from recycled plastic and plant-based materials. Recently, we made an anti-plastic T-shirt and our own water bottles that say Bring Your Own Bottle on them. I also do an online newsletter to bring a lot of these issues into light. Recycling is important, but it’s better to use less in the first place.”

5. “I designed a whole line of carbon-neutral ties—each one with a message on the back. I found that it’s really important to get the word out, but it is often frustrating. I go to the gym and spin class and people are not bringing their own water bottles. I always bring my own reusable cup to Starbucks or any place when I am getting coffee, and my employees do the same.”

Courtesy of our friends at Fashion Snoops

Fabric of the Month: Linen

One of the original natural fabrics. Linen comes from flax – from the Linum genus native to the middle East. To turn flax into linen, the stalks must be threshed, retted, broken, scotched, hackled, carded and spun.

HOW TO USE:

Linen is best on loose-fitting, simple, boxy garments.  As a natural fiber, it should be preshrunk before cutting.  Wash gentle, hang dry to limit wrinkling.  Zigzag (SL 3.0; SW 3.0) the cut edges before washing.

It can fray.  So either cut it with pinking shears or zigzag the edges (SL 3.0; SW 3.0) right after cutting.

Wrinkles are part of the linen’s beauty.  To limit them, spray garments with sizing or Grandma’s Wrinkle Remover (available at PFI supply).  Hang garments where they won’t get smashed.  Hanging them in a steamy bathroom before and after wearing also releases wrinkles.


BACKGROUND

Linen may be the oldest natural fiber.  Fabrics dating to about 8000 BC have been found in Swiss lake dwellings. Dyed flax fibers found in a prehistoric cave in Georgia suggest the use of woven linen fabrics from wild flax may date back even earlier to 36,000 BC.

Linen was sometimes used as a form of currency in ancient Egypt. Egyptian mummies were wrapped in linen as a symbol of light and purity and as a display of wealth. Some of these fabrics, woven from hand-spun yarns, were very fine for their day, but are coarse compared to modern linen.

Linen comes in a variety of weights and can be used for such items as handkerchiefs to heavy suitings.

It is cool and comfortable to wear in warm climates. It absorbs moisture easily but dries quickly. It is lint free, averse to static electricity, resists clothes moths and harsh chemicals in laundry detergent. It can be damaged by silverfish and mildew.

Linen is notorious for wrinkling, even when treated with a wrinkle-resistant finish. As a natural fiber, linen shrinks so it should be washed before cutting. It also frays badly so edges should be stitched, preferably with a zigzag stitch (SL 3.0; SW 3.0) before washing.

When laundered, linen loses some of its crispness and surface luster. Some linen is so loosely woven that it loses it shape when washed so test a 3″x3″ square before laundering yardage. That’s why some linen garments are dry clean only.

Iron from the wrong side. It can get shiny when pressed on the right side without a press cloth. A good trick is to hang the garment in a steamy bathroom. Ultimately, embrace the wrinkles as part of linen’s natural look and use it only for looser garments.

Can you dye linen? Yes. But it does not dye as easily as cotton. Darker colors “crock” easily (the color rubs off) and fades at fold lines and edges. So hang garments flat and don’t crowd.

Linen garments keep their shape well but have poor elasticity. They shed surface dirt, resist stains and sun damage but they yellow with age. They are strong when dry and stronger when wet. That’s why 3rd Dynasty Egyptians under the reign of Pharaoh Snefru could use them as clothes one minute and a fishing net in the next.