Sewing With Knits

A couple weekends ago, Tres Bien Michelle & I got together with Professor Meg the Grand to get over our fear of sewing with knits.

Renfrew Tops

My sewing & knitting fears are dwindling fast peeps!

My scaredy-cat list:

  • Colorwork
  • Sock Knitting
  • Sewing with Knits
  • Using Power Tools – primarily saws & blades of any sort

All  that’s now left on my immediate list is using power tools.  heh  Not too shabby & I’ve knocked them all out this summer to boot.  I’m feeling pumped!  :D  (Not quite pumped enough for power tools… but soon).


Meg and I trucked it out to Michelle’s house in the burbs for our sewing class.  Michelle has such a lovely sewing space, it was large enough for all of us to cut out and sew our respective Renfrew tops without toppling over each other. I brought my sewing machine & Meg borrowed one from Michelle.

I can now add that the Renfrew is a perfect pattern for a beginner & fits great out of the package for pears.


The only alterations I made was to remove some length from the waist & grade from an 8 to a 10 at the hips.


So truth time…

I’ve actually sewn with knits twice (for the same dress) last summer.  Both dresses were a fail for various reasons & I felt I was always missing something.  I also attempted to sew up a Renfrew last spring, but the knit fabric was being such pain – I left the project with tears and haven’t attempted it since.  Hence my fear of knits.

For me, I wasn’t as worried about sewing the actual garment as much as I was cutting it out.  You see… I’m really, really detail oriented and know “the rules” of wovens.  Knits are more loosey-goosey when it comes to ‘cutting on grain’ and it just feels wrong.

Hard at Work

I bombarded Meg with so many questions and mini freak-outs over cutting the bodice on the fold & on-grain, I think she wanted to run away and hide in a closet.  She stuck with me though while I calmed down and cut out my bodice.  I just had to let go and assume it was going to work out – and it did!


Michelle, I believe was more nervous about the actual sewing of knits.  I can’t speak for her, but from what I could tell – she did great & was confident by the end of the Renfrew class session.  Her floral knit top is so pretty.

Michelle's WIP

I decided to use a thicker, cotton knit in navy – as this is the fabric that was making me cry last year.  The selvage was all wavy and funky that I just couldn’t find the grainline to cut & had no idea how to even begin.  But with Meg’s guidance – it was a no brainer (when I finally told my brain to calm down & go with the flow).


Alterations for next time (Yes, there will be a next time!!):

My top is pulling a bit around the neckline/ladies.  I’ll probably size up for just the front bodice piece as I’m too petite for a fba.

So I happened to try it on again the other day… I can pull the top down and it fits great with the ladies.  So I may add a bit of length to the shoulders instead, in the bodice front (only), like 1/2″ at most.

My top is a bit longer than I’d like, despite my waist shortening by 1″.  I didn’t realize the bands add so much length – so I’ll alter that for next time also.

My sleeve bands & hip bands are a bit too tight, despite cutting 1 size larger for them in the first place.  I’ll just add some width to them for more ease.

After 1 washing, my armbands loosened up a bit.  Weird right?  But the hip band is still too snug.

All of these adjustments are easy peasy & the top fits pretty well anyhow, even if I don’t feel like making these adjustments.

Thank you, Meg soo much for all your help as our teacher.

Meg, being the silly teacher she is:

Silly Meg

I’m totally pumped up to make all of the pretty knit patterns now!  I got so much sewing mojo to last me till 2015.  heh

And thank you Michelle for the yummy eats & opening up your home to us.  So wonderful of you.


In: Sewing

Blogger for 6 years and counting, I am a passionate creator who loves to tinker.

Comments (20)

  1. llynnda August 25, 2014 — 8:10 AM

    I gather you have used the same fabric for the sleeve and bottom bands. It is possible to use a rib knit instead and it is more comfortable. It is however a more sporty look. I love to sew with knits and all in all I find the fabric more forgiving than a woven one. I must admit that I am now restricting my sewing to t shirts and the odd bathing suit since at 70 my experiments with sewing are finished and I have moved on to quilting as a passion. I used to teach “Stretch and Sew” many years ago and loved it. Have fun with knits, I know I did.

    1. Liz August 25, 2014 — 10:02 AM

      Thanks so much Llynnda for your suggestion with alternative sleeve/hem bands. My fabric was decently stretchy, but not as stretchy as a rib knit would have been of course.

      I made a double knit sheath dress a few years ago, and it is still in my closet rotation every fall/winter. I’m going to have to make more of them since they’re so comfortable & stylish at the same time. Thanks & happy sewing.

  2. Emma August 25, 2014 — 8:46 AM

    “… is so difficult to sew” is such a dangerous statement, isn’t it? It’s enough to hear it once, then you’re terrified for years.

    Story-time: In 5th grade when my sewing teacher (I had to take sewing as part of the school curriculum once per week from 3rd to 7th grade) asked me what I wanted to make that semester, I said “a top”. I setted on a pattern that looked a lot like the V-neck Renfrew, and my teacher helped me pick out a fabric that matched the school’s “per pupil” budget: a ribbed white cotton jersey. A few of my friends were inspired to join in so in the end there were five of us eleven year old girls sewing knit tops. I wore mine until it was completely see-through and stretched out of shape in the seventh grade (by then I wore it over a long-sleeve top to hide the fact that it was becoming see-through, t’was the nineties after all).

    I try to remember that whenever I read about how difficult such-and-such is.

    1. Liz August 25, 2014 — 10:04 AM

      How great! Thanks so much for sharing, Emma.

  3. Love it, navy is such a great wardrobe staple. You ladies all look fabulous. Is that really Michelle’s fabric stash in the pictures? Since my first Renfrew, I made a second that didn’t turn out as well, so I am a bit leery to do more sewing with knits. I need to try again, I think my fabric had a bit of spandex in it, which behaves so differently from other knits.

    1. Liz August 25, 2014 — 10:08 AM

      Yes, that’s Michelle’s fabric stash! I didn’t have time to troll through it, but she’s gotten a lot of fabric the past 2 years from estate sales & such. She has the most wonderful silk jersey in her stash too!

      All of the knit fabrics I’ve worked with so far do contain lycra/spandex. (Not sure what the difference is yet…) But on 2 of the dresses, I’ve had an issue with a limp neckband despite stabilization with clear elastic and pulling the neckband tighter. Frustrating… but I hope to get better with time. Reminds me… I need to email Lladybird Lauren about that. :D

  4. Sarah August 25, 2014 — 10:59 AM

    Hooray for the Renfrew! Your tops look lovely :) As a former knit scaredy cat, I can highly recommend the Lady Skater dress and the Lane Raglan top.

    1. Liz August 25, 2014 — 2:21 PM

      Thanks so much for the recommendation, Sarah.

  5. maddie August 25, 2014 — 11:43 AM

    See! Knits aren’t so scary! Glad you finally turned around your fear of stretchy materials.

    1. Liz August 25, 2014 — 2:21 PM

      Me too! Being afraid of something is so lame. I mean I know why I was… but it’s stupid to let it stand in the way of learning & having a good time sewing. Ya know?! I just made it something harder than it was by being afraid of it. heh

  6. I made the v-neck option earlier this summer and I love it. I found that it ran pretty big and so now I wash it and dry it regular so that the knit will tighten up.

    Knits do have a grain, and things will get wonky if you cut too far off the grain. I learned that the hard way.

  7. I had THE BEST TIME sewing with you and Meg. I think I’m ready to play with a variety of different types of knits now that we have this initial project out of the way. Confession time, though. My Renfrew is on the floor in my sewing space at the moment. had some serious battles with that neckline. I unpicked it twice since we initially met to sew. And, neither of my additional attempts made that neckline lay nicely against my body. It’s all wavy. I’m not sure what I should do. I’m hoping that a stretchier fabric will be the key for a better fit on future versions.

    1. Liz August 26, 2014 — 12:30 PM

      Yeah… necklines can sure be jerks. Ask me how I know?! I’ve just gotten over perfection and have been wearing my two knit dresses anyhow – they’re wonderful in every other aspect.

  8. Meg the Grand August 26, 2014 — 11:03 AM

    This was so much fun! I really loved making you both comfortable with knits, as they are my favorite things ever! Also, I have a knit dress pattern for you, Liz – I think you’ll look smashing in it :) Can’t wait for our next sewing meet up!

    1. Liz August 26, 2014 — 12:29 PM

      Oooh! Thanks Meg; can’t wait to see what it is.

  9. I love how you guys work in a group! I wish I had a group like that here in MKE. I’ll just live through you all, hahaha. Beautiful work!

  10. Tasha September 5, 2014 — 9:46 AM

    I thought I’d replied to this post, but see I hadn’t! I’m so tickled to see all these photos of your sewing knits adventures with Meg and Michelle. I have been feeling the bug lately to want to sew with knits, but like you, I’ve been scared. This does give me some confidence. What I’m doing right now (since I still need to take my machine into the shop) is absorbing as much information as I can. Online, in the Colette knits book, etc. I feel like if I arm myself with a lot of info and the right tools, I’ll set myself up to win and not fail. Looks like you’re off to a great start! :D

    1. Liz September 5, 2014 — 10:33 AM

      For sure! I read up with 2 knit sewing books but I really did need the hand-holding for the cutting of the fabric. I’m always happy to come over and do some sewing with you if you need a sewing buddy with knits (even though I am a newbie too). :D

      1. Tasha September 5, 2014 — 12:13 PM

        Thanks Liz! I may very well take you up on that!! Since I can’t take my machine in until next week and we’re going on vacation for a week at the end of the month, I realized realistically I won’t be trying to sew with knits until October. Gives me plenty of time to obsess in the meantime. ;-P

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