Beginners are often afraid of sewing patterns for knit fabrics. Knits seem hard to sew, as compared to, say, stable printed cottons. But so many of our favorite garments - from tee shirts to leggings - are made from knit fabrics. So what should you look for in beginner-level sewing patterns for knit fabrics?
Choose garments with a very easy rating
You might be tempted to choose it based on the number of pattern pieces (and that is generally a good rule of thumb) but better to choose it on the designer's rating.
Choose patterns designed for knit fabrics
This seems obvious; you want to make sure your pattern is designed for knit fabrics to begin with. Some may say both, and this is OK - make sure the designer specifies knits on the pattern jacket or envelope.
Choose patterns designed for the stretch percentage for the fabric you have:
A very soft sweatshirting and a very snappy sport nylon Lycra behave very differently. The former would not be well suited to leggings, for instance. If you're making a pattern out of a knit that doesn't match the recommended stretch, you will need some type of calculation to tell you how many sizes up (or down) you should go to get a good fit. For that, we recommend the Perfect Sizing Worksheet and it's companion the Excel Perfect Sizing Worksheet.
Look at the technical drawing for design & fit details
The technical drawing should be close to the sewn garment. Garments that don't match their tech drawings - such as armsceye, sleeve length, sleeve width and body length - may not sew up exactly as you'd intend them to fit, resulting in your sewing disappointment. Technical drawings are really important in determining the lines and shape of a garment and important clues can be taken from a tech drawing, such as where seamlines are, where pockets are attached, how wide or narrow a leg or arm is, whether there are darts or shaping that will affect fit.
Know your designer!
If your designer is a ready-to-wear designer or a designer who sews couture, you're going to get different sewing patterns than someone who designs for the home sewing market. The reason for this is that the designer of the RTW garment has to have it made consistently and professionally exactly the same each time by seamstresses of varying skills and experience. She's hiring a room full of people to sew for her (yes, in the USA!) and each collar of each jacket must be perfect- and constructed for sewing clarity, efficiency and professional results. If your pattern designer is a knit sewing pattern designer, even better!
Read reviews & join groups:
Want to really know whether the designer's garment works? Sign up for a membership at Patternreview.com, the largest sewing community in the world and read the review! Read the review on the web site (although to be sure, most sewists who buy a pattern, review it far after the one month elapsed time that most review sites go after.) Maybe even years later!
Joining the pattern company's private group on Facebook is a good way to get some inside information on fit and styling of the garment you'd like to sew. Find out the skinny from your fellow sewists before you spend the money on the pattern!
The good news is, most people can sew a piece of clothing from a knit fabric and pattern combo and end up with a decent fitting garment on the first try. That's a hallmark of the designer and her process, the quality of the drafting of the pattern and the techniques outlined in the instructions. Every designer's instructions vary but the techniques within them can often mean the difference between the home sewn and professional results you're looking for!
Here are our top 5 sewing patterns for beginners to try:
Drape Front Jacket
This waterfall cardigan jacket has no hem finishes - and just four seams. This is the perfect garment for a beginner to manage drapey thinner knits like rayon/lycra. A serger is helpful but even a stretch knit stitch on a sewing machine will do.
Raglan Tee (Travel Trio Three)
A raglan tee is a simple garment that is a perfect beginner project. This pattern also comes with a simple skirt (with or without pockets) and a ruana poncho which can be sewn or just cut out of fabric too!
A-line skirt (Travel Trio Three)
This basic skirt pattern is an outstanding foundation for building a wardrobe on. It goes everywhere, with everything! And the pocket version gives beginners a chance to sew a very fun, useful and RTW quality pocket style.
Yep, you can make your own coat, even as a beginner! This one is super easy to make and works well in denim, lightweight coated cottons or canvas, and wool coating fabrics.
At it's most basic, this short, 3/4 or long sleeved dress is super simple. Fancy it up by using the version with the diagonal front inset.
Check out our Capsule Wardrobe Essentials article for more about what kinds of things your wardrobe needs and match them up with this article for selecting beginner-friendly sewing patterns.