Yaaay guys, I finally got my paws on Tilly’s new book Stretch and at last made a garment from one of the patterns offered in the book. I decided pretty much when she first teased us with a glimpse of the cover that I wanted to make the garment she was wearing. At the time I thought it was a top, but what a wonderful surprise that it turned out to be a beautiful dress pattern. The past week is basically me lost in the Stretch book, enjoying my project and loving how my dress shaping up. Here are my thoughts so far.
Just like Love at First Stitch, this book holds your hands throughout all the projects. Although this book is aimed at… errr… knit virgins, I think it still has plenty of tricks up its sleeves to entice the more experienced knit sewists.
First of all I’d like to say that this book is every bit as beautiful as her first book. I love how she stays consistent with her styling and aesthetics. This book is colourful and filled with beautiful photos, just like her previous book and individual patterns. It is printed on lovely thick and rather glossy paper, while the patterns are printed on regular paper (no flimsy tissue paper here) and are also printed back to back so you do have to trace the pattern pieces.
The book is quite comprehensive I think, without being overwhelming for those who are new to sewing knits. She doesn’t list the gazillion kinds of knit fabrics available to us today, instead she walks you through the bare bones; how to tell the difference, how to calculate the stretch of the fabric and its uses. She also lists all the supplies you need as well as items that would be nice to have. The first chapter talks about all the basics about knit fabric, how to prep and cut, also tips on matching stripes, we know Tilly loves her stripes. Second chapter is about all the stitches, how to sew knits using domestic sewing machine and also how to use an overlocker or serger. I don’t own an overlocker, so at least for now this section is irrelevant to me. But, as Tilly said in her book, you don’t need an overlocker to make any of the projects. As I mentioned in my Jan -Feb 2108 Makes post, I actually started sewing knits this year, so I do have a bit of experience with knits, just about, and my knit garments are wearing just fine. There are however a few things you must be mindful of when using a domestic sewing machine to sew knits, such as different needles to your regular sharp ones that you use for sewing woven fabrics, and also of course fabric handling – especially when dealing with stretchy and lightweight knits. But worry not, the book actually has a troubleshooting section to help you with any stitching problems you may encounter. The rest of the book is filled with all the projects; 6 main patterns and also the hacks, for example turning the Bibi skirt into a pinafore dress. How lovely is that? You can check out the patterns included here – mind you this is not an affiliated link. The patterns are laid out in a way that helps beginners grow with their skills. It starts with the easiest; utilising a stable knit that is very much beginner friendly, and then levels up with every project. The first project, the Bibi skirt, only requires 1m of ponte roma or double-knit, and 2 pattern pieces to trace. The skirt looks simple but oh so versatile and you can easily dress it up or down. I’ve seen versions of it already on Instagram including the pinafore hack, oh they’re all so lovely. The last pattern being offered is the Joni dress, the dress that Tilly wears on the cover of the book, also the garment I made for this review.
The Joni dress
I fell in love with this pattern instantly. I love just how elegant and feminine this dress looks. The detail on the bust just had me at hello. Being barely a cup B, I need all the help I can get, so I thought this was perfect.
For my elbow-length sleeve version, the pattern calls for 2.1m of fabric, but I only bought 2m and it was sufficient. The project in the book uses stretch velvet for a luxurious party dress, but I made mine in cotton rayon blend jersey and it’s a lovely day dress. There are also versions in plain knit, and stretch velvet bodice with sequin skirt (swoon!). If I had a party to go to, I would definitely make the velvet-sequin version.
I found the process of sewing this dress pretty much smooth sailing and surprisingly quite straightforward and simple. The only thing that slowed me down was actually the twisting process as I kept fiddling with it trying to make it neat when it wasn’t really necessary. But once that was out of the way everything was easy peasy lemon squeezy.
I made mine in size 5 and it fits ok, although for the next one I’m going to adjust and go down one size on the bust. That’s the thing with knits, I like how even with fitted bodice the chance of ruining the garment by choosing the wrong size is not as big as it would’ve been with woven fabric. I cut the skirt length by 4cm (I am 5ft 3′) and the hem hits me right at the knee, which I like.
The fabric I used for this project is from GirlCharleeUK, here’s a link to the exact fabric (again, not affiliated) http://www.girlcharlee.co.uk/fuchsia-orange-floral-on-pink-cotton-jersey-blend-knit-fabric-p-17490.html?cPath=193 They specialise in knit fabrics, and they have very nice selection of them. I have purchased from them before, and I have no complaints whatsoever about their service and quality of their fabrics. I do wish they would sell in 0.5m increments though. I mentioned in my previous post that I was going to wait until I got the book to buy the fabric for this project, I did the right thing because after the book launch, the kind people from GirlCharleeUK and The Fold Line offered 30% off to celebrate the launching of this book. Hurray!
The samples of Joni dresses in the book were all made in pretty much plain fabric. And that’s great really, but I wanted something different. As I knew I was going to write a review for this book, I wanted to be able to offer a different look. I opted for floral fabric, usually not my go-to, but I did think it’d be perfect for a Spring or Summer day dress and I think this fabric delivers. I just need the weather to cooperate with me now. Ironically, we have been having snow the past two days.
The fabric has 55% stretch which makes it perfect for the Joni dress as it is fitted on the bodice and sleeves with negative ease. It is light to medium weight, so wonderfully soft and drapey. To be honest, I’d never sewn with rayon before, granted this is cotton and rayon blend, but I was still expecting to make a lot of booboos. But lo and behold, I didn’t even touch my seam ripper at all! I have sewn a handful of knit garments before, and the last one was an Art Gallery Fabric jersey with decent amount of stretch. What I’m saying is, I’m not unfamiliar with wonky wavy seams, twisted garment pieces from not cutting the fabric on grain, and fabric disappearing into the needle plate. I’ll share my little additional tips on making sewing with knits easier later on in this post.
All in all, I think this is a pretty solid book. It is filled with tips, tricks, and techniques that I know I will refer to again and again in the future. For a beginner, this is absolutely perfect – a knit bible. I can see myself making more Joni dresses, as well as the other patterns. I think the patterns in this book are perfect for building a knit capsule wardrobe, and I love how she showed that with different fabrics you can basically change the look completely, turning them casual or smart. Definitely a valuable addition to my sewing library.
My additional tips
Now, Tilly’s book is already bursting at the seams (pardon the pun!) with useful tips. These are just some additional little tips I gathered from basically a mixture of internet, other books and experience. As a disclaimer, I’d like to say that I’m not at all an expert, these are just my way – it may not be the best way but they work for me.
1. Avoiding wavy seams and fabric disappearing into the needle plate.
I read that walking foot or dual feed foot can help with these problems. I don’t have one, and last time I checked a walking foot that’s suitable for my machine is £37. A bit steep for me, so I did a bit of research and found that baking paper could help with this. This is what I do: I line the fabric with strips of baking paper. I position a strip of paper on the stitching line, right under the fabric so that the feed dogs aren’t touching the fabric, but grabbing the paper instead. This trick is enough to avoid the fabric being “eaten” by the machine, and also to avoid wavy seams! My strips of paper are 2.5cm wide, wide enough so that I don’t need to be too fussy about the placement of the paper under the fabric. Once you’re about to reach the end of the paper, just add another strip, and so on to the end. I use quilting ruler and craft knife to speed up the cutting process. The caveat to this method is that you do need to be extra careful when taking the paper off the fabric after sewing. I mean really careful, as baking paper is a bit thick, you don’t want to rip the stitches you’ve just done. I use this technique on all of the seams and hems, and my seams and hems are straight. I haven’t tried using tissue paper, I’ll try next time. I have tried using Wundaweb for hemming, but I find that it makes the hem very stiff.
2. Avoiding twisted garment or garment pieces.
I cut my fabric on single layer. I don’t fold. I hate twisted garment, I get them from RTW sometimes, ugh! To avoid this, I spend the time finding and aligning the grain carefully. This tip may not be for everyone, it really requires patience, at least for me. What I do is position the pattern piece on top of the right side of the fabric, see roughly where I’m going to cut, and then find the grain and start marking the grainline with dots using water-soluble pen. Meticulous? Yes, but trust me, it’s worth it. I have seen other methods by folding, using pins, or thread (basting stitch by hand), but I find the pins and needles easily distort the line, and I don’t really like folding jersey fabric, it sticks. Just make sure you’re using a marker that wouldn’t leave a permanent mark on your fabric. Mine is from Clover and it works great.
3. Positioning the stabiliser.
Before adding elastic or stabiliser, I draw the seam allowance first, again with water-soluble pen. This is useful to know where you’re supposed to place the elastic or stabiliser, you want the stabiliser to be just inside the seam allowance. If the stabiliser falls on the seam line it will add unnecessary bulk and it will be nearly impossible to keep the seam open later.
So that’s all from me today. Thanks for reading and happy sewing.