Can you sew your favourite woven pattern in knit fabric?
Thank you to Rachel Slimmon for creating this tutorial for our knit lovin’ Below The Kōwhai community.
To see more of Rachel’s beautiful sewing visit @royalrabbitcreations on Instagram.
It took me a long time to branch out into the world of knit sewing. A few bad knit experiences from my teenage days left me scarred and terribly afraid, but a few years ago I did some research, invested in some good knit fabric and dived in.
Now I find myself asking, “The pattern calls for woven fabric, but can I use knit instead?”
Here are some of my top points to consider and my favourite Below the Kōwhai pattern hacks.
First and most importantly is ease. Woven patterns have built in positive ease so the garment fits comfortably around the body.
Each Below the Kōwhai pattern includes both body size measurements and finished garment measurements in the measurement table at the start of each pattern. Using the Pōhutukawa Dress as an example, a size 14 has the body bust measurement of 100cm and the finished garment has a bust measurement of 105cm. This means the dress has 5cm (2″) of wearable ease.
Knit patterns can have positive and negative ease:
A positive ease knit tee will drape around your body and not cling to it.
A negative ease knit tee will have finished measurements smaller than your body and be more figure hugging.
When making a woven pattern with knit fabric I recommend you sizing down 1-2 sizes depending on the amount of ease you prefer.
Fabric Structure and Weight
Woven fabrics can give a garment more structure and silhouettes can be enhanced with interfacing, lining or boning. Knit fabrics will naturally stretch and conform to the wearers body.
Like woven fabrics, knit fabrics both come in a variety of weights. If the pattern calls for a heavy or medium-weight woven fabric, think about using something stable like a double knit including scuba, ponte knit, roma knit or interlock jersey to name a few. A stable knit will generally have a 2-way stretch and will stretch between 18-25% percentage. If you choose a knit fabric like this you could make your pattern exactly as the pattern suggests.
When the pattern calls for a light or fluid fabric like rayon or silk, look for a knit like brushed poly, bamboo, rayon spandex or cotton spandex. If you use a stretchy knit that has a stretch percentage over 50% you will need to make a few fit changes to your favourite woven pattern.
Knit patterns generally have fewer seams then woven patterns, so choosing a pattern with less seams will make your transformations simpler.
Below the Kōwhai’s signature style of relaxed clothing perfect for play and adventure, easily leads to wonderful knit transformation.
What silhouettes does the pattern have and what creates these shapes? What is your personal style?
When transforming a woven pattern to knit, I eliminate bust darts using the fold and remove method (read below to see how I have done this to the Pōhutukawa dress).
Pleats and gathers are easily done in knits.
How are you going to get your garment on and off?
For me, I love knit garments because they pull on or up and closures aren’t required.
So look carefully at your woven pattern, how can the closures translate from woven to knit.
Will buttons drag and stretch your knit fabric?
If you do buttonholes, don’t forgot to interface the whole placket.
Can you get a zip in without stretching the fabric?
Can you eliminate the need for closures altogether?
Construction and Finishing
You can sew knit fabrics on your normal sewing machine with a ‘knit stitch’ (it looks like a lightening bolt), or use a small zig zag stitch, or my favourite and quickest way is on an overlocker!
Knit fabrics won’t fray so the edges don’t need to be prepared at the beginning of construction, saving you heaps of time.
Always use a twin needle or zig zag stitch to hem your knit garments. All knit seams need to be able to stretch.
A normal straight stitch will quickly snap when putting on or off your garment and ruin all your beautiful work.