… or, how I learned to stop worrying and learn that knit fabric is basically just fabric.
I have been meaning to have a go with knits for a long time. I have a big knit project in mind that will be awesome, but I didn’t want to go into it blind. I also had a piece of wildly patterned red-black-white knit of some variety (content entirely unknown) sitting in my stash for months, ever since I picked it up on the same Samuel Taylor’s raid that got the wool blend for my first two waistcoats.
Finally, deciding that I needed something small to be working on in between working on the big project (AKA The Quilt I Have Been Sort Of Making For A Year) I pulled out the mystery knit, traced off a pattern from my favourite work jumper, and got to it.
The print reminds me of ski- or sportswear for some reason, hence the name. I recalled only after I cut the pattern that the jumper I copied is a men’s one, and thus was grateful that the fabric turned out to have quite as much stretch as it did. It’s snug, let’s say that. Here it is laid out:
I had enough fabric left over to make a small cowl collar for a bit of extra warmth at the neck:
You can see the cut edge of the fabric there, just about. I didn’t finish the seams (I don’t have an overlocker or the patience to go over them some other way) but the edges don’t fray, and the fabric is soft enough that having the cut edge by my neck isn’t bothersome. I didn’t hem the bottom or the sleeves either.
Because of the shape of the remnant, I made the sleeves in two pieces – they have a seam just below the elbow. With the pattern being so angular it doesn’t really show, and the ridge of the seam just looks like another rumple in the fabric.
I sewed this on my normal machine, with a ballpoint 90/14 needle (the size I stick with unless working with particularly fine or heavy fabric) and used a long and wide zigzag stitch. I had a good practice on some scraps beforehand, which was fine. The actual sewing was … less fine. So much unpicking. I think some of the problem was the fabric and some of it my problems with getting the thread tension just so, but a lot of it was problems with the thread itself. I’ve used the same thread before on wovens – it’s synthetic, I think, and a sort of generic grey-brown that blends into a lot of things – with no issues, but here it threw up every problem I’ve ever had with thread and then some. It ravelled. It snapped above the needle. It got stuck in the bobbin mechanism. It got caught on itself, pulled taut, and made the spool jump hard enough that two or three loops of thread unwound off the top. On one memorable occasion it made the spool jump so hard it fell off.
Anyone got any bright ideas as to what was going on? The signature problem was that after a length of trouble-free stitching there would be a clunk, the thread between the spool and the cloth would go taut, the machine would stop, and when I lifted the foot and got the fabric out there would be eight or ten threads coming out of the hole to the bobbin compartment. I cleaned the bobbin area and it’d been cleaned recently anyway, so I doubt it was lint or thread ends jamming it up.
Edited to add: Since first writing this, a small hole has developed at the point of one shoulder. I realised when looking at it that I’d forgotten to stabilise the shoulders, despite meaning to do so and even getting the twill tape out for this very purpose. I’ve now added a length of twill tape along each shoulder seam (stitched to the seam allowance, so it doesn’t show) which should prevent any further hoels.