Stable Sweater Knits
Sweater knits are incredibly versatile. Depending upon the amount of stretch in your knit, you can use the fabric for patterns specifically for knits, or you can choose some patterns for wovens. Stable sweater knits are great for quick projects, but don't be afraid to use them in more detailed projects. These knits are simple to sew, easy to care for, and give great results!
Treat your fabric as you would treat a purchased sweater. The boucle-type knits will sometimes machine wash successfully; test your fabric for shrinkage before cutting out your project. If you do experience shrinkage, plan to hand wash your finished garment. Do not machine wash coats or jackets with fused interfacing or extensive detailing (such as trims, heavy buttons, or linings). Instead, plan to dry-clean more detailed garments.
The size needle you use will depend on the thickness of the knit. Start with a 75/11 or a 90/12. The more textured, boucle-type knits can be stitched with a universal needle. For the less textured, smooth surface knits, use a stretch needle.
Should your project require interfacing, try Fusi-Knit for less structured garments (cardigans, loosely fitted tops) and Whisper Weft for more structured garments (semi-fitted jackets or coats). If you are adding surface trim, add a strip of interfacing 1 inch wide around the inner perimeter of the edges being trimmed to support the embellishment.
Choose a wide zigzag stitch, 2.0 length, 2.5 width, in order to work with the stretch and texture of this fabric. You will want to finish the seams in this fabric, as it tends to ravel if left unfinished. Use a fold-over tricot (Seams Great is one brand), a 3 thread/balanced seam finish on the serger, or make bias strips of lightweight fabric to bind the seam allowances.
Some sweater knits have moderate stretch from selvedge to selvedge. Some sweater knits have very little stretch at all. Because of this variety in choices, check the stretch gauge on the back of your pattern before using your fabric. Your fabric should stretch in the recommended amount in order to be successful in the project. Most of the stable sweater knits work best as cardigan or jacket styles. Ponchos, capes, and scarves are other possibilities. Consider using a stable sweater knit to cover home décor pillows. Unless the fabric has more than moderate stretch (in which a 4 inch length of fabric stretches to at least 7 inches), do not use this fabric for form-fitting patterns.
Beautiful buttonholes are possible in sweater knits with careful planning. Fuse a strip of interfacing under the buttonhole position before stitching. If you have the option of changing the density of your buttonhole stitches, use it to make a less dense satin stitch. Cord the buttonhole by placing a few strands of ravelled fabric yarns in the stitching of your buttonhole. You can also make bound buttonholes in sweater knits. If your knit is heavily textured, use a thinner fabric in a complimentary color for the lips of your bound buttonhole. Be sure to interface the area around the buttonhole opening. Another option for closures is to use covered oversized snaps. Purchase snaps that are ½ inch wide or larger and cover them with thin lining fabric. This is an elegant solution that is seen in many very expensive garments.
Make a traditionally shaped short jacket and trim with velvet, piping, or trim. A favorite pairing with boucle-type stable knits is with quilted strips of denim, matching the base color of the knit. Make leg warmers from your knit! Use a ribbing to match the knit, or cut off the top ribbing of a matching pair of socks to trim the leg warmers.
Keep a vacuum cleaner handy as you cut this fabric. The more textured knits tend to shed. Use a terry-cloth towel on your pressing surface to protect the texture of your knit from crushing as you press your seams. Be sure to use a press cloth and lots of steam! Make a stuffed animal from the scraps. Depending on the knit, it may be possible to unravel some of the yarns to use for embellishment. Twist them together for a beautiful, perfectly matching cording.