Sewing with Custom Knits… and my first Christmas 2015 sew…

Have you ever bought knit fabric at the store and wondered why the shirt you made just didn’t hang or feel the same as a ready-to-wear tee?

Have you ever been frustrated sewing with knits? Have you watched your feed dogs try to eat your fabric? Or struggled with skipped stitches?

I started sewing 8 years ago (and more obsessively the last four) and I assure you, that I have had all of these struggles.

When I first started shopping for knits a few years ago, I would try to find something that met the two criteria I thought mattered:

  1. Is it pretty?
  2. Does it stretch?

Needless to say, I sewed a few disasters, particularly because I mainly sew for my children. While there are many excellent blog posts on the types of knit fabric and their uses (like this one at The One Little Minute Blog), I want to give you a few of my tips for someone beginning to sew with knits.

  1. Choose a quality fabric (more on that in a bit) and start with a simple project. Raglan tees or dresses like the Grand Slam at PAB are an excellent place to start because the sleeves are sewn in straight seams.
  2. Choose the right needle. Universal needles just do not cut it for me or for my machine. I use a Schmetz stretch needle and I select the right weight for my project. For the quality cotton lycra that I usually use for children’s clothes, I usually use a 90/14 needle.
  3. Take a swatch of your fabrics and test your stitches on your fabric. This will allow you to adjust your stitch length and stitch type without having to unpick stitches on your project, or worse, experiencing having part of your project pulled down into the bobbin case by the feed dogs. If you have a walking foot, consider using it on your knit project. (I usually use a narrow zig zag for piecing seams and then a triple stitch for hemming my knits).

Now let’s talk about quality fabric so I can get to my big reveal.

A few years ago, when I made my first tee using the Easy Cap Sleeve Tee pattern by Jocole, I was happy with the results. It wasn’t perfect, but it was nice having a tee that fit my postpartum body well. My reaction was to grab some cheap knits in the apparel section at Wal-Mart. I paid more attention to the price than I did to whether or not these knits would actually work for what I intended. To this day, the knits still sit in the bottom of my stash drawer room because I haven’t found a pattern for which they will work well.

My cautionary tale isn’t to discourage you from looking at red tag fabrics or at Wal-Mart. I have certainly found fabric there that works well for specific projects. Rather I want to encourage you to give higher-quality knits a try, particularly if you are new to sewing knits. Sewing with the right kind of knit for your project is more likely to lead to success.

I used to see high-quality custom knits in sewing groups on FB and drool, but it bothered me that sewing my own clothes would not be any cheaper than purchasing them. But when I sent back a box of ill-fitting kids’ clothes for the third time, I decided to try a couple yards of custom knits from the Peek-a-Boo Pattern Shop. I finally was able to make my children a few outfits that not only fit them well, but that were easy to sew because the fabric quality was higher. Most importantly, the prints were on trend and the clothes looked close to RTW when I was done. I have since purchased most of my knit fabrics from the PAB shop. The owner only carries high-quality fabric at a variety of price points and the customer service is stellar.

Shortly after my first sewing experience with custom knits, a preorder opened for PAB’s Christmas fabric. My heart literally skipped a beat when I saw the “O Holy Night” panel and Nativity border print.

I knew that retail did not last long last year, so I went ahead and placed a preorder (at special pricing) of the nativity print and it’s coordinates so I could outfit my 4 children in matching outfits for Christmas. There is still some retail left of the fabric if my post inspires you to sew!

Without further ado, I would like to showcase the first creation from the Christmas preorder.

I sewed a slightly modified Gloria for my oldest daughter. The pattern may look familiar from my last post. My variation of the Gloria below is completely and totally inspired by the sample garment made by the PAB shop owner Amy Hindman.

Nativity Gloria 027


  1. I could not fit the size 10 bodice on the O Holy Night Panel. I carefully folded the panel in half and creased it. I modified the bodice piece to have a princess seam at the sides. After much deliberation and consultation with sewing friends, I decided to color block in the Stars are Brightly Shining coordinate rather than a contrast coordinate. I did this because I will not need to color block the smaller sizes.  I also lengthened the bodice about 1/2″ for my tall daughter. o-holy-night
  2.  After washing and drying on hot to prevent future shrinkage, 3 repeats of the nativity scenes for the border skirt print only measured 49″. This was several inches narrower than the Gloria skirt pieces in the pattern for the size I was making. I decided to make the skirt a bit fuller to accommodate 4 repeats, but I still wanted them centered. I cut all of my Nativity repeats apart, and pieced them together. For my front panel, I wanted to make sure the Nativity scene did not get lost in the gathers of the skirt. I weighted the gathers toward the sides and back a little more so the front is less gathered and the Nativity is more visible. Finally, after having my daughter try it on and seeing that I added sufficient length, I decided to do a nice wide hem to give the skirt some weight. The thickness, stability, and excellent recovery of this knit really make a polished dress.

Nativity Gloria 010

I am so thrilled! I have been imagining this dress since I placed my preorder in August. It is so nice to have it turn out the way I wanted!

Nativity Gloria 030


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