We’re here today with the first installment of the Lark Sew-Along talking a little bit about working with knits. We’re not going to touch on every aspect of working with knits since we’ll be getting into that during the sew along, but there are a few things I wanted to touch on before we get started. This way you can get your machines tuned up and ready to go! If you still need the pattern, you can get the Lark here.
We had a few questions about picking your knits after the last post, how to order online and what types of key words you’re looking for when ordering. Generally speaking if you see the word jersey you’re on the right track. Jersey knit is a fabric that is knit on one side and purled on the other, and usually has a pretty good amount of stretch. As far as the fiber content of the fabric, that’s a bit harder. In the photo above we have two cotton/hemp blends, a poly/lycra blend, and 100% cotton from bottom to top. All of these fabrics have made excellent Larks and have at least the 20% stretch recommended in the pattern or higher.
If you’re worried about a fabric you’ve seen online, we recommend contacting the seller, they may be able to either test the stretch for you or send you a swatch. 20% stretch is less than it sounds like as well. In the photo above you can see what 20% stretch looks like, our 5″ swatch is stretched to 6″ without over stretching.
Additionally 20% stretch is a guide, we found that this number resulted in consistently successful tee shirts, which is why we recommend it. If you have a bit less stretch you’ll end up with a Lark that has less drape and is more structured. A fabric that has more than 20% stretch will likely end up having more drape and will cling a bit more. Experimentation is always a good way to figure out what you like and what works for you style wise. You’ll be able to catalog that information for later projects building on what you learned by experimenting with different fiber contents and stretch percentages.
Another question we get a lot of is “Can I make this pattern if I don’t own a serger?” The answer is yes! We have guidelines for both a serger and sewing machine in our instruction booklet, but here’s the lowdown on using your machine. We recommend using a jersey needle and either reducing the pressure of your presser foot or using a walking foot. Jersey needles are different than regular needles in that they have a rounded tip which helps the needle to pierce the knit fabric without breaking any of the fibers. Reducing the pressure of the presser foot or using a walking foot will help to reduce the amount that your jersey stretches, making sure that you don’t end up with a wavy seam.
When sewing the actual seam on your garment you’ll want to use a narrow zig zag stitch. This allows the fabric to naturally stretch as it was meant to without breaking the stitches. If your machine has a stretch stitch you can also use that, you’ll need to consult your machine’s manual since each machine has a different variation on that. We recommend testing your stitch out on a scrap of fabric first since different fabrics may require slight adjustments due to their fiber and stretch content.
If you’re using a serger, you’ll of course want to make sure you’ve got good tension on all your threads. Each serger is different so you’ll want to consult your manual on that. There’s one additional thing you’ll want to double check before you start serging away on your tee though, and that’s the differential feed. This is a really important step to ensuring that you don’t have wavy seams when using a serger which I find particularly noticeable around the armholes and necklines of a garment.
On your serger there are two sets of feed dogs, a front and back set, which move independently of one another. You want the front feed dogs to travel a greater distance than the back ones which fall on the other side of the needles. This will allow the front to take up enough fabric so that the rear feed dogs don’t stretch the fabric while you serge. In the photo above you can see the effects of setting the differential feed too low for a knit fabric from left to right, with the right fabric having the correct setting for the fabric. You’ll want to test this out on a scrap before you start as well since the amount of stretch will affect the setting.
That’s it for now, we’ll be addressing more tips and techniques throughout the sew along, but these are the most important things to consider before getting started!