Monday, September 27, 2010

Why Can't a Knit Be More Like a Woven?

Even though I don't agree with his opinion, I totally get Prof. Henry Higgins's frustration when, in My Fair Lady, he asked why a woman couldn't be more like a man.  I feel the same way about knit fabrics.

 Why can't a knit be more like a woven?
Wovens are stable, they're so easy to square.
A joy to sew! There's nothing to compare.
And when you move it, it's likely to stay flat.
Why can't a knit be more like that!
(Apologies to Alan Jay Lerner)

Knits and wovens are definitely different.  Sewers who can crank out knit garments are a mystery to me.  I can't get my knits to behave.  After successfully sewing a knit dress, I wanted to make a top from the February 2010 issue of BurdaStyle magazine.  I bought a red 2-way stretch knit that coordinated beautifully with a black and red denim print from my collection.  When I was ready to lay out and cut, the knit just would not cooperate.  I know (because I read it in Sewing with Knits by Connie Long) knits curl up at the edges and that they are supposed to curl toward the right side.  This knit curled toward both sides!  The curling subtracted 3 inches from the width of the fabric.  The pieces barely fit on the fabric!!!!!  In certain light, one side looked like the right side;  in different light, the other side looked more like the right side.   Even folding the fabric was a problem.  It was impossible to fold the fabric squarely because the edges were so rolled-up I coudn't find them, much less align them.  Grrrrr!

After about 15 minutes of trying to fold the fabric and cursing under my breath, I gave up.  Maybe I should have been more patient.  Maybe I should have researched ways to handle 2-way knits.  But, I was too frustrated to be patient.  I solved the problem by ordering a different knit, an interlock from Gorgeous Fabrics.   I've sewn interlocks before and I don't remember cursing so much and being so frustrated.  The new red fabric was easier to work with and was a better match for the red in my denim print.  Gorgeous Fabrics saved the day!


  1. Knits have a mind of their own. And some are very frustrating. You are not alone.

  2. If you pull the horizontal (crosswise) edge, the knit will curl up along the right (knit) side. Vertical or selvege edges curl back towards the wrong (purl) side. You can use this to determine the right side of your fabric/pieces when both sides look alike - hope this helps!

  3. I have the best luck with rayon knits. The 11 oz weight that Emmaonesock sells is one of the easiest to sew. However, not when I started! I don't sew interlock ever. It stretches and doesn't return. I do think that cotton without lycra is probably the easiest for a beginner to sew with. I don't square up knits because they don't have a real selvedge. I take a magnifying glass and painters tape and mark the edge of a knit line and use this to line up my grainline to. If you have problems with curling like the one you showed, lots of pins at the edges will help. Starch helps somewhat. It just take some practice.

  4. Single, or Jersey, knits curl just as Christine described. As with sheers, a spray starch press may help you control that roll.
    I'm afraid that Nancy is right... Practice the word.

  5. Some knits are just annoying. Nice knits are lovely to sew - honestly!

  6. LOL! I knew exactly where you got the title before reading any of the post. Glad you found a knit you can work with; matching better is a plus!

  7. I loooove your version of the poem. I use a heavy spray starch applicaton, but at time still avoid the edges. I concentrate on getting the stretch across me, but grain lines are really iffy with knits. Especially if they were circular knits. Those inheritantely bias. I've thrown several away.

  8. It is definitely true. Not all knits are alike. Gorgeous Fabrics usually has some really nice knits. Someone suggested to me when I had a knit with "curling" issues like yours, to spray it with fabric sizing or starch.

  9. Jersey knits, ESP poly are the hardest to work with. Interlocks and double kits the easiest. Knits are MUCH easier to work with if they are not prewashed. Just be sure to allow enough extra room for shrinkage.

  10. I think your poem retake is very clever. Who would pin Henry Higgins as a sewing inspiration?

    Two things about the knits. When I see your garments I see that you are a very precise sewer, a very good thing to be. Often when I fold knits on the selvage I see that it is no way on grain. I align the grain by eye, pin the fabric to my board and hope for the best. The "hope for the best" part might drive a precisionist crazy. I've screwed up so many projects I think, "Oh if I mess up it won't be the first time." Usually my knits turn out no different than RTW grain-wise.

    The other tip someone offered me a while back which I use for all kinds of squirrely fabric is to cut on paper. Cheap big wrapping paper. Lay it under your fabric. Pin through everything. The knit will curl behind your hand as you cut but I get a more reliable edge that way.

  11. I sometimes cut knits out piece by piece to save my sanity. I used to loathe sewing knits, but now after a long time, a lot of swearing and sheer bloody minded determination, I now love sewing them. You just have to keep sewing. Good luck. I like your print and this will make a great outfit.