Nowadays many sewers prefer to use only jerseys in their projects. In some ways jerseys are easier: the stretch makes fitting easier and there are no need for darts. However, knitstend to be more casual and less hard-wearing than wovens. The wovens make it possible to tailor the garments to flatter your body the best ways and they tend to look sharp and polished.
1 The difference between knits and wovens
- made of continuous yarn that is looped
- stretches in all directions
- casual and comfortable
- relatively inexpensive
- wrinkle resistant
- edges curl easily
- can cling to wrong places
- tends to look shabby much faster than wovens
- made of criss-crossing threads
- less stretchy than knits
- sharp and tailored look
- look pristine longer
- more classic look
- look nice when pleated
- edges unravel easily
- needs pressing
- sometimes feels restrictive
Jerseys suit well for children’s clothes and they are available in thousands of different prints and colours. However, they are quite limited what comes to the availability of different styles. The use of wovens makes it possible to tailor the garments to flatter your body. A well fitted blouse doesn’t cling to your lumps and bumps but skims your curves and looks smart. With wovens you don’t need a serger and the
2 Use a lot of pins
Wovens don’t stretch that much. Especially when sewing curved seams together, you need to use lots of pins to keep the edges aligned properly. The best way is to add pins perpendicular to the stitch line to prevent the fabric from slipping. Just be careful and remove the pins as you go. I often sew over pins but I do try to slow down to make sure that my needle doesn’t hit the pin. I must admit that, despite trying to be careful, I have broken quite a many machine needles when doing this.
3 Measure, measure, measure
The woven fabrics are unforgiving. If your shirt is too small you cannot button it up! So measure yourself and your pattern to make sure that you will fit inside your garment. In addition, you will have to take into consideration the amount of ease you need. For this, I recommend taking a similar kind of garment that fits you and measuring it. Again, compare the measurements to your pattern.
And… this is important! Do not trust the sizing charts that come with the patterns! They may give an idea of the size you might need but check the actual size of the pattern pieces! I have pattern envelopes that recommend the size 14 for me and I have ended up making the size 8 that fitted me well. Furthermore, it is not unusual for someone to be a size 12 at the bust, size 14 at the waist and size 10 at the hip. You can easily join different sizes together and make a size that is You.
4 Make a toile/muslin
If you want to make something different or if you need to be sure of the fit, a toile is necessary. It allows you to try the fit and to make the necessary adjustments before you cut into that precious silk-cashmere-bouclé that costed a fortune. Take an old bed-sheet or buy some cheap cotton and make trial garment. You can leave out the details such as pockets and collars and machine baste using the longest stitch length in your sewing machine. As there is no need to finish the seams the toile is actually quite quick to make and it is worth it!
5 Add extra length
This is something that I often do. I add about two inches extra to the sleeves and shirt hems when I cut the fabric. (Not with trousers, but I have short legs!) This leaves me room to adjust the length to my preferences.
6 Iron is your friend
Press each of the seams after you have finished it. Firstly, it is easier to do, when the garment is still unfinished and secondly it allows you to get that beautiful crisp look you want. A correct way is to first press seams flat to meld stitches into the garment. Only after that you’ll press seams open or to the side, depending on the instructions.
7 Learn to use your sewing machine feet
If you want to get rid of that “home-made” look of your garments, there are plenty of tricks that you can use. The first thing I recommend is to open the manual of your sewing machine and finding out what all the presser feet that came with your machine actually are meant for. Make a cup of tea and take a piece of scrap fabric and try using the feet to find out their uses.
8 Don’t be afraid of hand sewing
Sometimes hand-sewing is the best way to do it. Hand sewing doesn’t mean that you have somehow failed in finding a way to machine sew the garment together. I recommend thinking of hand sewing as a way to add some real couture touch to your makes. There is a reason why the most expensive designer evening gowns are hand-sewn! Make hand-sewing fun by inviting some friends over to chat with you or choose an interesting TV documentary or a podcast to entertain you while your hands are busy.
9 Consider learning some nice new finishing techniques
The woven materials offer an infinite number of new techniques for you to learn. For example, consider seaming your garment using French seams. Or make your jacket seams pop by using patterned bias binding and Hong Kong finish. Whatever the technique, nowadays googling the technique name practically always results in dozens of tutorials for you to watch and learn.
10 Good easy patterns to try
Sew over it: Pussy Bow Blouse
Colette patterns: Zinnia skirt
Pauline Alice: Camí dress
Lekala: 3 seam skirt (free!)
Deer and Doe: Mélilot blouse
Lekala: Dress with flounces
Very Shannon: Sally dress