Sewing with knit fabrics: leaving pins behind

Sewing with knit fabrics seems challenging. But knits are incredibly forgiving on fit and are the foundation of our modern wardrobes. There are a number of techniques that will help with sewing with knit fabrics, and in this article, we explore how sewing with knit fabrics means that you'll be leaving pins behind (for the most part) while sewing.

There are lots of situations in sewing where pinning is an absolute necessity. Laying a tissue pattern on unstable fabrics to prepare for cutting, holding a sleeve in place to ready for basting, holding various layers of fabric together, holding trim in place etc. but there is a time when pinning will hold you back. When using Lycra blend knit fabrics you need to be able to access its stretchable qualities and pins can get in the way. Being someone who depends on the forgiving nature of LYCRA blend fabrics in my sewing and designing I find it annoying to have to be so exact when sewing with non stretch fabrics! I like to sample my patterns in non-stretch muslins to check the fit and construction, but I rarely sew garments with non-stretch fabrics, especially now that there are so many great woven fabrics with LYCRA.

I admit that sitting at the serger holding a non-pinned long seam to be serged can be a scary moment. Pins can give you a false sense of security that you are doing the right thing, but you would be wrong. Pins will just get in your way. You need flexibility and control of what you are serging. As you are serging a stretch fabric seam you should be continually adjusting and checking and giving a slight shake and stretch to the seam so as it is being fed under the presser foot the fabric is flat, even, and as you approach the end of the seam that the ends match. You should however, be aware of your notches and use them as a point of reference. You should be holding the layers of fabric behind the presser foot with your left hand and guiding the fabric (not pushing) in front of the presser foot with your right hand. Your left hand should be pulling the fabric from behind, putting tension on the fabric as it moves under the presser foot.

When serging long seams such as a pant inseam or side seam on a skirt, I start at the bottom of the seam. Starting at the edge of the seam you should be able to handle about 6 or 7 inches at a time. When you are about half way to the end of your seam stop (with the needles in the fabric) and match the end of the seam, then hold the next 7 or so inches of seam and continue until you are at the bottom edge. And as you approach the very last inch, slow down and continue feeding the fabric straight under the presser foot, don’t let go until the feed dogs have taken the last of the fabric. If you know what is going to happen at the end of your seam when you are half way there you will never end up with one longer than the other!

For example, if you were serging the side seam of the Pencil Skirt and you pinned the seam every 7-8” and forced the fabric to match at the end of each pinned section and started and stopped along those barriers you would not be letting the fabric adjust itself under the feeder and presser foot. Chances are your seam would not be smooth and even but choppy and show uneven stretching.

Pins should not be in control of your stitching, you should be making adjustments to the way the fabric is being fed into the machine the entire time you are serging. They may be small, quick adjustments but they make the difference in how that seam will hang when you have your skirt on.

Try it!


Sewing with stretch knit fabrics: Flounces!

The Flounce is the IT design detail right now. How do you create a flounce? Why are stretch knit fabrics perfect for garments with flounces?

A flounce is not a ruffle. Let's get this one out of the way - a flounce is not gathered along it's joined edge with neckline or hem. It is a 1:1 ratio of neckline or hem edge to flounce edge, but flares out to 2:1 or greater along the loose, flounced edge.

Let's look at three garments with flounces:

The top garment is a straight, knee length skirt with a flounced hem (BaseWear Two). The middle image is a classic wrap top with a graduated flounced neckline edge (Ruffled Top and Swirl Skirt), and the last garment is a maxi skirt with a fishtail flounced hem that makes the shape of a 'mermaid' tail (Ruffled Top and Swirl Skirt). These details are not only easy to create, but add distinctive design details to classic pieces you wear in your wardrobe every day!

The top is a classic v-neck wrap top. Each side of the wrap is sewn into the side seam, the flounced band is added before the side seam is sewn and flipped over the top for a completely secure and enclosed neckline with no neckline hemming required!

The flounced skirt can be made in 15 minutes - it's a classic straight skirt in your choice of any length, that features an easy flounced hem that is raw-edged. This awesome skirt goes under a denim jacket and tee with sneakers for casual days, and dresses up for business dress events or under a cardigan or blouse for office workdays.

The swirl skirt is just divine. We show this paired with the Princess Wrap tee and sandals for a great summer look, but it also can go upscale in black with a black top and statement jewelry. You could overlay the skirt in a knit with a stretch lace (two layers), and wear it with a silk shantung cropped bodice top for a very popular two-piece prom look too.

The flounce is the IT look right now, create it easily with these three patterns.

You can also draft your own flounces, perfect for sleeves:

The joining edge is the inner circumference of a curve or circle (the longer the outer edge, the more ruffled the flounce, a circle has a greater ratio than a curve.)  The measurement of the inner side of the 'doughnut' of the pattern piece is the length of the hem or neckline you're attaching the flounce to. The outer edge and the flounce's depth is up to you - deeper = more ruffle, shallower = less ruffled. You can even do graduated flounces like the top, where one edge is narrower than another.

Why is a flounce perfect in stretch knit fabrics? Simple, you do not have to hem the outer edge! Knits don't ravel and cutting the flounce out with a rotary cutter gives a clean, stable edge.

To draft a flounce, grab a large round platter and a small saucer. Trace the large round platter on to newspaper, or pattern paper, and then position the smaller saucer in the middle. Draw around it. You now have a doughnut. Cut the doughnut out and slice through it to make a doughnut with a slide. Open the doughnut so the joining (inner) circle is flat. This is what you join to your garment. You can make flounces in all sizes (depending on what you need), and join two or more together at the short ends to create enough to go around a skirt or neckline.

Flounces are fun,  try it!

Ruffle Top & Swirl Skirt 419
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BaseWear 2 - 1025
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Sewing with knit fabrics: Sew a strapless summer jumpsuit

Nothing says summer more than bare shoulders in the sunshine! A strapless bandeau jumpsuit is a hot item for summer this year, and we're going to show you how to make one!

You'll need about 3 yards of stretch knit fabric like rayon/lycra. The example photos show linen and stretch shimmery satin fabric (also options for this jumpsuit.)

Sew a Strapless Summer Jumpsuit DIY + Instructions + Tutorial

There are just a few simple steps to create this:

  • We'll be working with the Christine Jonson Taper and Wide Leg Pant, designed for knit fabrics (link below)
  • You'll take some measurements of your high bust to draw the bandeau top of the jumpsuit
  • You'll sew the bandeau top to the waistband of the pants and create a clever elastic casing for the waistband at the same time
  • You can use either skinny or wide leg. If you make the skinny leg, fold over a casing instead of a hem, put elastic in side and wear them slightly above the ankle!
  • This is a beginner-level project

Because Google doesn't like duplicate content:  instructions are on our Social Media Evangelist's blog and are linked here:

Jumpsuit cuffs - for the skinny-leg version, turn under the hem 1.5" and stitch, leaving an opening to insert elastic. Measure elastic around your ankle loosely, insert, stitch closed.

Jumpsuit cuffs - for the skinny-leg version, turn under the hem 1.5" and stitch, leaving an opening to insert elastic. Measure elastic around your ankle loosely, insert, stitch closed.

Gorgeous, elegant, comfortable as pajamas! Go glam with layered necklaces and jeweled sandals. Go casual with neutral woven or buckled sandals. Wear it under a draped vest or jacket. Pull it on over a swimsuit after the beach or pool.

Here's the pattern we used. The bandeau top you will draw as you make this project!

Taper Pant & Wide Leg Pant
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Sewing vee-neck knit fabric tee shirts

Tees are the foundations of our modern wardrobes. Sewing knit fabric tee shirts is not only easy and satisfyingly quick, but it allows you to refresh your wardrobe on an hour's notice! The Vee neck tee is a classic, shows off some great jewelry and is EASY to sew.

There are many basic tees (and we have featured a lot of them on our blog). We're going to explore two more tees that we love that we know you will too! Click on any of the images below to see a full photo.

These tees are shapely and accent your figure, look great with jeans (as shown on Christine herself, above). They come in the same pattern envelope (see below).

The Cross Your Heart Tee, with a shirred underbust and princess paneled front is an easy to sew tee that has a seemingly complex but actually quite clever shirred wrap that gathers onto a front panel. This tee can be made short sleeved with sleeve bands above the elbow, 3/4 or long which is perfect for transitional spring and fall days.

The Vee-neck tee has a double layered band in front that is sewn together in a unique way that makes sewing it a breeze. No neckbands to fuss with. The back neck comes up a bit higher in the back of this tee, which elongates the vee neckline. You can make this in cap, elbow with band, 3/4 or long split hem sleeve.

You can wear these tees with a pencil skirt or jeans, with slim pants, flare or wide leg or even a maxi skirt - the tees' shape and fit means it skims your curves and makes you look awesome, regardless of your size.

Our favorite tee shirt looks:

From left, a cap sleeve floral print Vee neck tee with boyfriend jeans, Converse sneakers and a bright red saddle bag

From left, a cap sleeve floral print Vee neck tee with boyfriend jeans, Converse sneakers and a bright red saddle bag

From left: Vee Neck Tee in a print, with elbow length sleeves, black skinnyjeans, a moto jacket or a jean jacket and suede flats.

From left: Vee Neck Tee in a print, with elbow length sleeves, black skinnyjeans, a moto jacket or a jean jacket and suede flats.



Cross Your Heart & V-Neck Tee 714
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Sewing knit hems with a three-thread serger edge

Valentine's Day One Seam Wrap

Super quick and easy 3-thread edge serge finish

By: Christine Jonson


This technique works especially well for light to medium weight sweater knits where a traditional hem is not best. I love this Missoni-ish fabric that is in my current collection, and thought it would be the perfect Valentine's Day topper in the reds and pink colorway. This wrap (One Seam Wrap from #1117) has only one seam that needs to be stitched for the underarm/sleeve. Once that is sewn the rest of the work is the edge stitching or rolled hem.

Here's what you need:
3 cones of thread
1/8" bias fusible seam tape
Rolled hem foot and plate

The Outfit...

I paired the One Seam Wrap with my Ruched Skirt(free pattern in the tips & how-to) made with black rayon jersey and the Keyhole Top (sleeveless and without keyhole) made with a wonderful textured knit from my stash.

Since I want this for Valentine's Day I chose a variety of red and pink threads to choose from then made my decision.

I changed the plate and foot on my serger for a rolled hem and did a few test samples to achieve the perfect stitch.

This is my Brother serger which I bought in 1980! I love it and it has given me years of excellent performance.

I cut the 1/4" bias tape in half because I only need it to be as wide at the rolled edge and don't want it to show on the wrong side. You can use fusible interfacing cut on the bias for this step as well.

Carefully press the bias tape along the edge of the wrap on the wrong side.

Press this on all the way around.

Edge serge on the right side of the fabric without cutting any fabric off. I flip the knife up and out of the way to be sure.

I control how thick the thread is on the edge of the fabric by pulling it slightly with my left hand as I guide the fabric with both hands.

Sewing a ruched knit tee shirt from a tee shirt sewing pattern

Shirred/Ruched Banded Neck Tee

Get this ruched look by adding some elastic into the side seam of the Banded Neck Tee from the Travel Trio One #1204 after construction (hemming also completed first).

The total side seam length pictured here is 25” and the ruching starts two inches above the waist. 

In our sample, the last 15” of the side seam are zig zag stitched onto a 9” stretched piece of elastic. The elastic was cut into 11” pieces, so that at the start and end of the stitching, there was something to hold onto.  The extra elastic is then trimmed away at the ends.

The fabric pictured in the sample is from a previous collection you may still have in your stash.  Light weight sweater knits, and other drapey LYCRA blends would work well with this project.

Sewing your perfect tee shirt!

Sewing a perfect tee shirt is not only easy and FAST, but it offers a lot of creativity. We all need - and love - tees! Whether we pair them with our boyfriend jeans and some statement jewelry, wear them under a blazer or over shorts, tee shirts are a staple of our wardrobes. Making them takes about 20 minutes, and that's faster than the mall and far more instant-gratification than ordering online. One tee shirt pattern can yield many fun options! Check out the sewing ideas for tee shirts on our blog, complete with how-to instructions (and check back as we link more upcoming how-to articles to this blog post!)

Tuxedo ruffles on the front of a knit tee

Upcycle a tee of your own into a color-blocked mixed knit tee

Raw-edged abstract leaf design on a graphic tee

Heat-transfer vinyl on a slouchy tee to create your own graphic tee

Banded-hem dolman-sleeve tee

Ruched hem tee shirt

Mixed print stripe raglan tee shirt with shirt tail hem

Creating a shirt-tail hem on any tee shirt (with downloadable tail pattern)

How to sew tee shirt neckbands

How to hem knits


The Perfect Pants – How to get a great fit in a knit pant sewing pattern

By Ann Siegle, interviewing Christine Jonson

Ann: So tell me more about the fit of these pants and how they came to be

My butt does not look this good IRL (in real life). The ponté knit of these samples shot in the studio at Christine Jonson Patterns is the reason it looks so good. You can lift your butt cheek and position it in the pants and have it stay right there! Not kidding! Look at how good these look. They'll make your butt look amazing too!

My butt does not look this good IRL (in real life). The ponté knit of these samples shot in the studio at Christine Jonson Patterns is the reason it looks so good. You can lift your butt cheek and position it in the pants and have it stay right there! Not kidding! Look at how good these look. They'll make your butt look amazing too!

Christine: About five years ago, I set out to design a perfect pant. I wanted something that would feel like you were wearing your favorite yoga pants, but were more upscale. I looked at a lot of ready-to-wear retailers like Athleta, Nike and Lululemon, bought their pants, saw the fabrics they were working with. When I put together a sewing pattern (which can take a up to a year and many, many samples), I knew I wanted a pair of pants that our sewing friends could sew that would be their very favorite pants.

A: Why do these pants work so well?

C: If you look at the samples that you tried on (shown here, in red, Ann’s derriere in the Perfect Pant Classic Wide Leg), there’s a reason that your butt looks so good. There is up to 9” of negative ease and these are in a multi-way stretch Ponté.

You can literally grab your butt cheek and lift it up, and the fabric of these pants will do it’s job and keep your butt cheek right in that same spot!

Trust the ponté knit – it will do it’s job! Not all ponté is created equal though. Some ponté has crosswise but not lengthwise stretch. Some has unequal crosswise and lengthwise stretch.


A: This pattern goes up to a 2X. Tell me about fitting a 54” hip in these pants when the pattern says you’ll have only 45” of fabric without stretch.

C: At a 54” hip, you are looking at 45” of fabric without stretch. That’s 9” of negative ease. It seems crazy, but if you divide yourself in half, that’s 4 ½” and half again, that’s only 2 ¼” less on each pattern piece.

Negative ease works different in different fabrics. If you have a not-as-stretchy ponté or even a very ‘snappy’ recovery knit and you try to make these, you may well have to grease yourself with Vaseline and use a shoehorn to get yourself in them. But if you use a fabric with a soft recovery such as a rayon/lycra jersey, you will have enough stretch to feel comfortable. That doesn’t mean a plus size cannot wear these in ponte – it just means you may need to choose a soft recovery knit fabric for your first pair, or look for a ponté with more fluid recovery (like a rayon lycra ponté) or an ITY knit. It means you will need to try them on, and you might need to grade up for less stretchy fabrics. That’s pretty easy, actually; you can see the pattern lines for each size – just trace it off, adding extra for each additional size you want to go up. You can use the same grading distance from the next closest size.



A: Tell me about the size breaks (S,M,L, etc.)

C: The pants are designed to fit the larger of the two measurements in the size group, with negative ease. What that means (negative ease) is the pant non-stretch measurement is much smaller than your body measurements. But you will not need elastic to hold these pants up. The fabric does the work of making your waist, butt, hips and thighs look smoothed out and shapely. So for a 12 (I’m a size 12), I would trace them out with kids’ chalk and cut on the inside of the chalk line to essentially cut 1/8” off each pattern piece – over the entire garment, that’s enough to take them in to the right size.


A.   Let’s talk crotch fit in these pants

C: If you’re having frowny or smiley wrinkles near the crotch, you might need to shorten or lengthen the crotch length. This is outlined very well in our 3-Step Pant Fitting guide. Basically you’ll either slash and spread at the center front (but not side seam) or slash and fold (and then straighten out the CF). But do NOT change the crotch curve (some women have used a french curve or a tin foil ‘sausage’ on other patterns). Do NOT do this: the reason you never change this crotch curve is that I worked for years on this one – I have fit patterns on hundreds and hundreds of women. It’s perfect.


A: Let’s talk fabric

C: When I set out to design these pants, I bought a lot of ready to wear pants. The RTW pants, some of the fabric, you and I could grab a leg and literally stretch it across the room. The super stretch fabric (four way ponte or sport lycra) is harder to come by for home sewists, so the closest we get is for a 4-way ponte knit or a sport lycra. Then I made dozens and dozens of pairs of these pants before we released them. I fit these pants on dozens of women of all sizes to see how they worked. In a stretch ponte (with 4-way stretch), these are truly amazing pants.


A: Other pant design alterations that you want to talk about?

C: You can crop these too! Making the skinny or skinny with a skirt in the crop is as simple as cutting off the pant leg (with hem allowance) where you want it to fall on you. I think the Perfect Pants Classic would be gorgeous in a rayon/lycra in a white cropped and worn as a beach pant.



How to choose and place buttons on a knit blazer or jacket

by Christine Jonson

I never mark my buttonholes on a garment until it is finished. How in the world will I know what button I will be using? Even if I have chosen the buttons prior to finishing the garment I might change my mind. The last step in finishing a collection for my store was to take the finished garments to various places around town to choose my buttons. Many times the buttons turned into the focal point of the collection.

Jacket Part One: Overview:
Jacket Part Two: Selecting fabrics & size:
Jacket Part Three: Cutting, Serging Darts:
Jacket Part Four: Sewing & finishing
Jacket Part Five: Buttons and buttonholes
Jacket Part Six: Princess Jacket in Ponte

Bonus:Jacket styles:

Right now I have a beautiful collection of button that I am eager to use. Whenever I see buttons that I love I buy them. Trying to find the right button out in the world when I need it never works for me. I also like using “non-buttons” for buttons. Favorites include beads, eastern coins, jewelry findings, buckles, keys etc…

Choosing the right button depends on many things. Even before deciding on the “look” of a button…

  • Does the garment “need” a great button to look good?
  • Should the button be the focal point on the garment?
  • What spacing is necessary for the garment to fit correctly?
  • Can buttons be used to add a design element to the garment?
  • Besides the obvious, is there anywhere else buttons would add to the appeal of the garment?
  • Is there another type of closure that would be more interesting than a button?
  • What size button will be appealing on the garment and on you?
  • What does the choice of button say about you?


Then there are the questions about the buttons themselves…

  • Should you try to match the color of the garment?
  • Is there a shape in the garment or fabric that you want to replicate?
  • Should it be shiny, matte, metal, bone, pearl, plastic…Does it matter?
  • Is it special enough for the time spent on the garment?
  • Does it add to the personality of the garment?
  • How does it need to be sewn on?

There are so many places to pick up unique buttons. There is no excuse to use thoughtless and boring buttons. For years my friend Lulu had a great button shop in town where I bought hundreds of special and perfect buttons. Antique shops, sewing shows and garage sales are great places to find buttons in jars, on cards and hidden in those great old tins. I have been lucky many times and found jars of Victorian glass, pearl and unique buttons for super cheap. The internet is a wonderful place to buy buttons as well. For me, stashing button is like stashing fabric, they go together. I also spend good money on buttons. Sometimes more than the fabric. Your buttons are no place to be cheap.

When you are looking through your stash of buttons another creative opportunity arises when you find the perfect button and you only have so many! OH NO…there has to be two more here somewhere…Then comes the creativity. Can I make three buttons work when the pattern says I need five? Can I find two other buttons in my stash that will work together with the three I do have? As your jacket and buttons are on the table the excitement grows just like it did when you chose your fabric. My question now becomes, what if you had marked your buttonholes already? I guess you can always change the markings but the larger point is that your thought process would have been different.

Choosing your buttons should be fun!

The length of your buttonhole is determined by adding the width of the button and the thickness of the button. I recommend that you make test buttonholes on scrap fabric and put a button through the hole before making them on your finished garment. Never make a buttonhole before you chose your buttons.

Once you have chosen your buttons place them on the garment. Depending on the garment start across the bust line. Then place one at the neckline. Now decide where to put the others. Is there a cute way to space them? How low should the bottom button be? Do you need one at the waist? I usually space my buttons around 4” apart unless I am being creative. If I am not sure of my choice or placement I pin the buttons on the garment, try it on and analyze my choices. Once I have decided where they go I put a large head pin approximately 5/8” from the edge. Then I make my buttonholes and open them with a sharp Exacto knife blade.

To determine where the buttons go I lay the garment on the table and lay the buttonhole on top of the other side so the left end of the cut buttonhole is even with the other side edge. I put a pin straight through the right end of the buttonhole and secure it there. Once I have them all pin marked I look to see that they are even. I check that the neckline and bottom hems match and if they don’t this is my chance to do a little creative button placement. Sometimes I may be off and one side of my jacket may be a touch longer than other. When this happens I move my buttons just a bit to take up the extra length.

There are variations to this depending on center fronts, fit and design but this is my usual way. I find that visualizing my buttons and their placement just one more way to express my creativity.

You'll need buttonholes for them go to into; here's how to make buttonholes in stretch knit fabric: