What I Learned Sewing with Knits for the First Time

What I Learned Sewing Knits for the First Time Using My Regular Sewing Machine – http://kimwerker.com/blog

Last weekend I had the house all to myself for two days, and I decided it was finally time to try sewing with knit fabric on my regular sewing machine. I’d read that it can be done. I’d bought some fabric on sale over months and months. I’d bookmarked a class on CreativeBug, and had even, ages ago, printed out the pattern for the Wanderlust Tee.

To be clear, I have only ever sewn two garments in my life: a robe for my son a few years ago, and a very wee pair of baby pants. I’m no garment-sewing expert is what I’m saying.

And though I’ve had fabric and a pattern for a simple shirt for years, I eventually realized that what I wear are t-shirts. Every day I wear one! Which is why I never got around to making clothes for myself out of woven fabrics. High time to just see if I could make a t-shirt, then.

Here, I’ll skip right to the end: I made myself three shirts over the weekend. And most of a fourth!

What I Learned Sewing Knits for the First Time – http://www.kimwerker.com/blog

I was not speedy. At times, it was very slow-going and very tedious. But with each successive shirt, I worked a bit faster. With each successive shirt, I became more confident that I will make more (many, many more).

Now. Usually knit fabrics are sewn with a serger, which is a fancy kind of sewing machine that finishes and trims the edges of the fabric as you sew. (Don’t think I’m not thinking of stalking Craigslist for one now that I’ve broken the shirt-making seal.)

I’d heard rumours, though, that it’s doable to sew knits on a regular sewing machine. In fact, I read quite a lot about this as I nurtured my fantasy of making my own clothes while not actually making any clothes.

And I’ll tell ya, the rumours are true! Sure, using a serger would probably make the process faster and less tedious, but it’s not a required tool. And since even entry-level sergers can set you back more than a couple hundred bucks, I hereby encourage you to give it a shot using your regular machine.

Here’s the skinny of what I learned during my weekend knits-sewing intensive:

What I Learned Sewing Knits for the First Time Using My Regular Sewing Machine

 

  1. That cutting fabric around paper pattern pieces using a rotary cutter isn’t as terrifying as it looks when you’ve never done it before. Awkward? Certainly. But also efficient and satisfying. The very first shirt I made was the Wanderlust Tee by Fancy Tiger Crafts, and I followed their Creativebug class as I went. (The class gave me courage, but it wasn’t exactly filled with help. I still had to look up some things.)
  2. A walking foot is essential. I learned how to use a walking foot when I made a quilt a couple of years ago, and I’d read they’re very helpful when sewing with knits, because knits have a tendency to stretch and distort when moving through a standard sewing machine. A walking foot has feed dogs that walk on top of the fabric, coordinated with the feed dogs that walk below the fabric, so the fabric is fed through the machine evenly at top and bottom. It’s well worth the $30 or so for a walking foot – I had zero trouble with my fabric stretching while I sewed, because it was fed evenly through my machine. (These contraptions are a bit more complicated than other kinds of presser feet, so I recommend looking for a tutorial specific to your sewing machine to see how to install it. It’s not hard to do, but it’s not necessarily clear how to do it without instructions.)
  3. How to thread a twin needle (it’s not nearly as complicated as you might think!). A twin needle is exactly what it sounds like: two needles attached at a shaft so they fit into your machine just like a single needle does. And what they do is like magic! Each needle is threaded from its own spool, and when you sew, they create parallel lines of stitches on the right side, and a decorative configuration of stitches on the wrong side. If you position the needles on either side of the edge of a hem, they’ll tack down the edge on the wrong side. Even if you use a serger to sew knit pieces together, you’ll use a twin needle to finish the edges. The first few minutes of this YouTube video got me threading my twin needles lickety-split. (I still have no idea what she’s talking about re: putting one thread to the left of something-or-other and the other thread to the right. As far as I could tell, I can’t access whatever that thing is on my Elna machine, so I ignored that instruction. No big deal.)
  4. How to sew with a twin needle. It’s tricky, but totally doable. I mean, the sewing itself is not tricky; it’s exactly the same as sewing with a single needle. What’s tricky is sewing a hem down with the right side of the fabric facing. Since you can’t actually see the edge of the hem, because it’s folded to the wrong side, this is an exercise in sewing by feel and having faith you measured properly. I know I rarely measure properly, so I had to focus hard on feeling for the hem edge. I bought both a 2mm and 4mm twin needle when I was preparing to sew with knits, not having any idea what the measurement was of. Turns out, that’s the measurement of the distance between the needles – so go for the biggest number you can find! I found 4mm a challenge, for sure, but I managed it. I sewed slowly and used my index fingers to keep track of the edge of the hem by feel. I was about 95% accurate, and I fudged the 5% where I missed the edge.
  5. To use awesome fabric. This is a lesson I’ve learned over time with yarn – I used to be tempted to save my most gorgeous yarn for something special, and what ended up happening was that I’d never use it. How dumb! I always encourage beginner crocheters to choose yarn they love, even though what they’ll make with it will probably be a total disaster. Making total disasters is what beginners are supposed to do! Which makes those disasters absolutely perfect. And we should make them with materials we enjoy using. So for my shirts, I used fabric I’ve been hoarding for a while because I bought it on sale for someday-maybe. The first shirt I made this weekend (shown in the photo above) is far more cropped than anything I’d normally wear. But I only had one yard of that fabric, and I love that fabric, and it was exactly the right amount to make a cropped shirt. So I went for it. I knew I might mess it up and ruin the fabric I love so much, but I decided I would rather mess up with fabric I was excited about than end up with a perfect shirt I wouldn’t actually want to wear. So a cropped shirt I made. And I love it. My hems aren’t sewn straight (I never sew straight, so whatever), and the bottom is a little too wide, but I just love it. I wore it immediately, layered over a long tank top. Which is how I’ve become someone who wears a cropped shirt.

Further Notes

  • I made one Wanderlust Tee and almost three One Hour Tops. Had I realized how much simpler the One Hour Top is than the Tee, I would have started with it! But I’m glad I had the experience of sewing set-in sleeves. I wasn’t sure I was doing it right, but I did do it right! Still, the One Hour Tee is more my style, and I’m determined to make enough of them that I become able to actually make one in only an hour.
  • The neck band on the Wanderlust Tee utterly defeated me. I was completely unable to make it work. So I ditched it and just folded the neckline 1/2″ to the wrong side and finished it that way (same as the cuffs and hemline).
  • Always use a zig-zag stitch for sewing knit fabrics – it’ll allow the seams to stretch along with the fabric (and a straight stitch won’t).
  • Finishing the edges (sleeve cuffs, hemline, neckline) was the part I enjoyed least. Not because of the twin needle (which produces a stretchy stitch – don’t sew a zig-zag with a twin needle!). It was that pressing knits is a pain, especially with lighter-weight fabric. The crease you make isn’t nearly as distinct or persistent as it is when you use woven fabrics, and I found myself winging it more than I would have liked.
  • But who cares. Wing it!

Pattern Recommendations

When I posted a photo of my first tee over on Instagram, I asked which t-shirt patterns people love. Here are the recommendations commenters made:

 

Note: Some links in this post are affiliate links.

How to Crochet a Two-Colour Spiral

Crochet hat with 2-color spiral

If stripes are the simplest way to play with colour in a crochet project, then creating a striped project in the round that begins with a nifty spiral is the best next step.

It might be a little mind-bendy to think about it, but once you make your first spiral, it'll make perfect sense and become something you'll hopefully do again and again to spruce up any simple project in the round.

Here's what you need:

  • 2 colours of yarn in the same weight; consider one colour A and the other B (shown here is Cascade 220; blue is A and green is B)
  • a hook the right size for your yarn
  • a removable stitch marker

Step 1

With colour A, begin with an adjustable ring. Here's how:

Step 2: Round 1, First Half

Insert your hook into the ring and pull up a loop, chain 1.

If you're working in single crochet: Make six sc into the ring.

If you're working in a taller stitch, start with single crochet and gradually increase in height as follows:

For half double crochet: Make 3 sc, 3 hdc into the ring.

For double crochet (shown in example here): Make 2 sc, 2 hdc, 2 dc into ring.

For all stitches: Finally, remove your hook and pull up your working loop to prevent unraveling (see photo above).

Step 3: Round 1, Second Half

How to crochet a 2-color spiral: first round

Join yarn B as follows: Leaving a 6" (15 cm) tail, insert your hook into the centre of the ring and pull up a loop of B, chain 1.

If you're working in single crochet: Make six sc into the ring.

For half double crochet (shown in example here): Make 3 sc, 3 hdc into the ring.

For double crochet: Make 2 sc, 2 hdc, 2 dc into ring.​

For all stitches: Finally, place marker in last stitch made to indicate the end of the round; remove your hook and pull up the working loop to prevent unraveling (see photo above).​

This completes the first round. Next, you'll tighten up the ring, then move on to establish the striping pattern.

​Step 4: Tighten the Adjustable Ring

As shown in the video above, firmly pull or tug on the tail of the ring to close it up entirely. There should be no visible hole in the centre, as in the photo above.

Now we're ready for Round 2.

Step 5: Round 2 and Establishing the Striping Pattern

​Just as in any project in the round, we begin increasing here. Because we began with a total of 12 stitches in Round 1, we'll be adding 12 stitches in total to each subsequent round – we'll increase by 6 stitches in each colour.

Insert your hook back into the last stitch of Round 1 (this is in colour B).

In this example, B is to be worked in half double crochet (hdc). If you're working in a different stitch, just substitute that one.​

Continuing with B, [2 hdc in next stitch] 6 times, remove hook and pull the working loop long so it doesn't unravel.

In this example, A is to be worked in double crochet (dc). ​If you're using a different stitch, just substitute that one.

Reinsert your hook in the working loop of A. With A, [2 dc in next stitch] 6 times.

You now have a total of 24 stitches at the end of the round – 12 in B and 12 in A (see photo, above.

The striping pattern has been set up: You will always work B into A, and A into B.

CLICK HERE TO GET MY CHEATSHEET: 7 WAYS TO MAKE YOUR CROCHET SHINE!

Step 6: Continue in Pattern as Established

There are two patterns you've established, of course: the increasing pattern (adding 12 stitches to each round; 6 in each colour), and the striping pattern (always working B into A and A into B).

As you continue, you'll keep at both patterns until, if you're making a hat or a bowl or something else that's 3-D, you stop increasing so that your circle will begin to cup into the proper shape. When it's time for that, simply maintain the striping pattern without increasing anymore.​

Here's what Round 3 will look like: Continuing with A, [dc in next stitch, 2 dc in next stitch] 3 times; remove hook and reinsert in loop of B; with B, [hdc in next stitch, 2 hdc in next stitch] 3 times — 36 stitches total.​

And there you have it! A two-colour crocheted spiral.


To seriously get a feel for how and why crochet behaves in the round, take my class Crochet in the Round: Basics & Beyond! We go deep, with lots of projects and video instruction.

This spiral is at the heart of the Hat for Science pattern, which you can get for free right here.​

How to Crochet a 2-color Spiral: Tutorial from http://www.kimwerker.com/blog

How to Make DIY Tinted Lip Balm with Sun Protection

I'm going on a beach holiday in a few days, and I got it in my head to make myself some lip balm that'll protect me from the sun. Had I made this before? No I had not. I think the uncertainty of it is much of what made me determined to do it.

How to Make DIY Tinted Lip Balm with Sun Protection – http://www.kimwerker.com/blog

(I mean, I've made plain-old lip balm before, so it's not like I went into this totally cold. But I did wing it quite a bit, all the same.)

First snag? The titanium dioxide I have is water-soluble, not oil-soluble. I was going to use only a teensy weensy bit of it, but I didn't want it to go all screwy on me so instead of using both it and zinc oxide for a sun-protection dynamic duo, I used only zinc oxide. Honestly, I don't think this made a lick of difference to the lip balm, but I thought I'd mention it.

Why these white powders, you ask? Well. There's a reason all the super-natural sunscreens for kids use them: they're effective, and they aren't harsh chemicals that might irritate skin.

Only thing is, as I'm sure you've noticed at parks or summer camps with kids whose parents hate "chemicals": pasty, pasty kids. The sunscreen makes skin look a ghastly white no matter the wearer's skin tone.

Which is why this lip balm is tinted. If I didn't add colour, the balm would be a pure, opaque white, and it would make my lips look like a clown's foundation.

How to Make DIY Tinted Lip Balm with Sun Protection – http://www.kimwerker.com/blog

So I used that white as a base, and added iron oxide and carmine dye to bring it back to some kind of natural colour – even, depending on your opinion, to a lovely shade of blush.​

Below is the recipe, a video of me making the first (of two) batches, and here's an option to get a printable PDF of the ​recipe and instructions (you'll get my weekly newsletter, too, which I think will be utterly delightful for you):

CLICK HERE TO GET THE RECIPE & INSTRUCTIONS AS A PDF

Recipe & Instructions

​Note: I have no idea exactly how much protection this lip balm provides against UVA and UVB rays. What I do know is that it should provide more than a similar recipe that doesn't use zinc oxide, because zinc oxide protects against exposure to the sun. At this concentration? I don't know how much.

Supplies*

Ingredients

Note: See instructions for compensating for leaving out any optional ingredients.

Make the Lip Balm

Fill the small saucepan with a couple of inches of water, and start heating on medium-low.

Into the glass measuring cup, add beeswax, cocoa butter, shea butter, argan oil and sweet almond oil. (If not using argan oil, just use 5g more sweet almond or olive oil. The idea is to use a total of 21g of oil that’s liquid at room temperature.)

Place the measuring cup into the saucepan. Stir occasionally while the wax and butters melt. (The wax will be the last to melt.)

While that’s going, in the small bowl combine the vitamin E oil, castor oil and zinc oxide (if you aren’t using vitamin E oil and/or castor oil, sub in the same liquid oil you’re already using – olive, sweet almond, etc. – so that you’re adding a total of 4g of oil to the zinc oxide). Stir into a paste. Now add the tint in small increments until the hue and saturation are to your liking. (Shown here: the pinkest tubes contain a smidge of burgundy iron oxide and about 30 drops of liquid carmine dye; the browner tubes contain about a teaspoon of burgundy iron oxide.)

When the waxes and butters are fully melted into the liquid oils, remove the measuring cup from the pot and place on a heat-proof surface.

Quickly stir in the zinc oxide/tint mixture, mixing thoroughly (quickly because as the oils cool, they’ll start to harden – if that happens, no worries! Just put the measuring cup back into the saucepan to remelt everything).

If you’re adding essential oil or flavour oil, add that in now (I used about 8 drops of spearmint essential oil), and stir well.

Pour everything into lip balm tubes.

Let the tubes cool thoroughly before using.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE RECIPE & INSTRUCTIONS AS A PDF

How to Make DIY Tinted Lip Balm with Sun Protection – http://www.kimwerker.com/blog
How to Make DIY Tinted Lip Balm with Sun Protection – http://www.kimwerker.com/blog

My Take on a Crocheted Pussyhat

With a super stretchy, simple to make ribbed brim, you can whip up this crocheted #pussyhat in no time!

Updated 1/13 to add a video on how the hat is constructed (see below!)
And again on 1/19 to add a troubleshooting video. And this link.

Perhaps you've heard about the Women's March on Washington on January 21st, with solidarity marches planned in hundreds of cities around the world? And perhaps along with that you've heard about the Pussyhats people are feverishly making to wear?

The official Pussyhat Project site offers patterns both for knitters and crocheters, but I don't love the look of the crocheted hat. I'm not a big fan of post-stitch ribbing, see. So I made my own using my preferred kind of ribbing, and I figured I'd share the pattern here in case you, too, prefer a ribbing that's good and stretchy (I've offered to send a PDF to the official project, too). Find the text version below, or download the PDF by clicking here:

CLICK HERE TO GET THE CROCHET PATTERN AS A PDF

If you have questions about your ribbing curling at the corners, or your edges coming out all wonky, watch this (and feel free to ask me for help!):

Pattern

Sizing

To fit an average adult head. It’s very stretchy, so will fit a range of sizes. And it’s easy to adjust: make the ribbing sections shorter or longer than 8” to fit smaller or larger heads, respectively.

Materials

Yarn of any weight in a sufficient amount to complete the hat, and an appropriately sized hook. Shown here in worsted weight yarn (Cascade 220, about 180 yards), worked with a 5 mm hook.

Gauge

Varies based on the yarn weight you use. Just work to the dimensions specified.

Special Stitches

Single crochet through the back loop only (sc-blo): In next stitch, insert hook through back loop only and pull up a loop, complete single crochet.

Sc-blo ribbing: Work sc-blo in each stitch of every row.

Abbreviations

American terms are used.

ch = chain

hdc = half double crochet

sc = single crochet

sc-blo = single crochet through the back loop only (see above)

First Ribbing Section

Make a chain slightly longer than 4” (10 cm). Work in sc-blo ribbing as follows:

Row 1: Skip first chain, sc-blo (see sidebar) in next chain and in each remaining chain across, turn.

Row 2: Ch 1 (does not count as a stitch), sc-blo in first stitch and in each remaining stitch across, turn. (Note: The final sc stitch can be hard to see – be sure to dig for it and not skip it!)

Repeat Row 2 until piece measures about 8” (20 cm) from foundation-chain edge. Fasten off and set aside for now.

Second Ribbing Section

Make as for First Ribbing Section but do not fasten off. Without turning at the end of the last row, begin working Middle Section of the hat as follows:

Middle Section

Ch 2, rotate work 90 degrees to crochet across the ribbed edge. Placing your stitches consistently as you go, hdc in each row-edge across, turn.

Hdc Row: Ch 1 (does not count as a stitch), hdc in first stitch and in each stitch across, turn. 

Repeat Hdc Row until piece measures about 13” (33 cm) from bottom edge of ribbing, fasten off.

Note: The hdc section of the hat will be wider than the ribbing section. It’s supposed to be that way!

Finishing

Layer First Ribbing Section behind Middle Section, lining up one long edge of the ribbing with the last row of hdc.

Holding both pieces together and working through both thicknesses at the same time, with a yarn needle sew the two sections together using whipstitch. Use stitch markers if needed to distribute the narrower ribbed fabric across the wider hdc fabric as needed if the stitches of each piece don’t line up perfectly. Don’t sweat it! When you get to the end, fasten off. The total length of the rectangle from one ribbing edge to the other should be about 17".

Fold the hat in half so the ribbing sections are lined up. Whipstitch the two sides of the hat together (or use whichever seaming technique you prefer), keeping the bottom edge of the ribbing open – that’s where you’ll put your head!

Weave in loose ends.

If your seam is on the outside but you want it on the inside, turn the hat out, et voila.

Wear your hat with pride!

With a super stretchy, simple to make ribbed brim, you can whip up this crocheted #pussyhat in no time!

Free Pattern: Simplest Crochet Hat!

Free pattern for the simplest crochet hat! http://kimwerker.com/blog

My friend recently pulled a hat out of his coat pocket and said, "Kim! I hope you can help me. This is my favourite hat, and I want a few more of them. What's it made out of? Where can I buy more?"

It was the simplest crocheted hat ever. Beanie length, double crochet with a single crochet brim in a contrasting colour. By my best guess it was made from soft acrylic yarn. I was like, "Friend, you can probably find more of these at any craft fair in town, and probably at the farmer's market when the weather warms up. It's the simplest hat ever! You know what, I'll make you one."

So I went home and dug around for some yarn. I'm pretty sure his original hat was made in DK or sportweight yarn, but I found some of my favourite worsted weight, and whipped this up in an evening of Netflix.

Then before I gave it to him, I was like, I should write this pattern up. It's so simple!

And so I did.

Get the Free Pattern:

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FREE SIMPLEST BEANIE CROCHET PATTERN!

To crochet the hat, you'll need about 100 yards of worsted weight yarn, plus a small amount in a contrasting colour – about 10 or 12 yards. That and a 5mm (US H/8) hook, and you can whip one up in one sitting.

Don't know how to crochet but want to make awesome projects like this? Take my beginner crochet class at Craftsy, and I'll have you crocheting in no time!

Already crochet but want to seriously up your game? Take my class Crochet in the Round: Basics & Beyond and you'll learn how to size this hat so it'll fit a head of any size, from newborn to gigantic – and you'll learn so much more, too!

Free pattern for the simplest crochet hat! http://kimwerker.com/blog
Make the simplest crocheted hat! Get the free pattern at http://kimwerker.com/blog

Free Template: Carve a Stamp and Make Cards for Any Occasion!

Carve a card stamp for all occasions! http://kimwerker.com/blog

A few weeks ago I was asked to teach a class on block printing holiday cards. The class ended up falling through, but not before I decided to try my hand at carving a more detailed lino block than I'd ever attempted before.

I don't celebrate Christmas and don't assume that all of my students do, so I wanted to create an example block that can be used for a wide variety of occasions. (The actual projects my students would complete would be far simpler!

So I took to the computer and designed a 4x6" block that features a blank box I can fill in with anything I want. (Download the template and instructions below!)

HAPPY HAPPY happy Christmas!

HAPPY HAPPY happy birthday!

HAPPY HAPPY happy Hanukkah!

HAPPY HAPPY happy joy joy!

Carve a card stamp for all occasions! http://kimwerker.com/blog

My finished block isn't the best – there are some nicked edges, some wonky lines, some not-clean-enough-for-my-liking details – but I'm glad I finally took the plunge and tried it out.

Carve a card stamp for all occasions! http://kimwerker.com/blog

If you're new to stamp or block carving, I highly recommend using Speedball Speedy Carve for your block. It's way easier to carve than a lino block. I may make another of these in the pink stuff, actually. I'd be able to use a huge stamp pad for it then, too, instead of the more intense-to-use block-printing ink (though using the ink is super fun, and messier).

DOWNLOAD THE STAMP TEMPLATE & INSTRUCTIONS!

  

Carve a card stamp for all occasions! http://kimwerker.com/blog
Carve a card stamp for all occasions! http://kimwerker.com/blog