I Need Your Help

This afternoon, I decided to knock up a third Tiny Pocket Tank.

Ever since blogging ambivalently about my first make (above) I’ve made a second, and both have been worn to death. Turns out this make is oh-so-perfect for my cycling commute. On summer mornings, I climb into my Tiny Pocket Tank and shorts, and cycle to the office feeling cool yet gratefully free of (dread word) sports wear.

So today, I pulled out my collection of downloadable PDF patterns, including the pattern from Grainline Studios. The above is what fell from my cabinet. Happy? No.

Is this how it is for everyone? I admire independent designers and I appreciate everything that a downloadable pattern gives us – free supply costs, affordable price point and the ability for a new business to actually make a profit. But all that brittle tape, furled paper and just … mess. What am I doing wrong? Show me the light! There has to be a better way of storing these things, surely?

I am using the Tiny Pocket Tank in an attempt to improve my skills with knit fabrics. For £2, I can buy enough jersey from Walthamstow market to make a version and try to learn. I don’t mind admitting, even with online guidance (thank you, Lladybird!), it’s a challenge – but I feel I am getting somewhere. I now automatically apply clear elastic to my shoulder seams, the overlocker is perfect for side seams and I have invested in a twin needle. But I am still left with so many questions and some fairly dodgy work! Seriously, I need your help.

Question One

Ball-pointed needles. To the naked eye, can you tell the difference between a ball-pointed needle and a normal one? I have a twin needle that I’ve been told has a ball point. But, seriously? I wouldn’t know one way or the other.

Question Two

How do I stop the drape you see in my back neckline? In part, this could be down to the pattern combined with a very light jersey – but I know it’s also down to user ignorance. Top tips, anyone?


Question Three

How do I avoid the bulges where seams meet, most crucially at the shoulder? The below makes me very, very unhappy. I know there must be a better way!


As an aside, may I also ask: when your machine needle is going over a seam, does it often get stuck? Nine times out of ten, mine does, whatever the fabric. It drives me demented. Again, any tips?

I’m sorry to overload you with questions, but by all that is holy, I am determined to conquer knit fabrics and my own general incompetence.


Tell me this isn’t just me!

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80 Responses to I Need Your Help

  1. Hester says:

    I keep the pattern pieces (either original pattern paper or, more often, traced onto architect’s tracing paper) folded if necessary, in document wallet/folders, in a filing cabinet. They generally need a bit of an iron before being re-used, but it keeps all the bits from one pattern together.

  2. MariaDenmark says:

    The droop is caused because the top is too big.. You need to cut a smaller size and do a Full Bust Adjustment, I think. I just wrote a blog post about how to do that in a knit.
    When sewing with a twin needle, it’s sometimes best to interface the hem area with a light interfacing to avoid the tunneling of the stitches.
    I rarely use ball point needles, when sewing with knits containing elastane (lycra or spandex) I always use a stretch needle.

    About storing: I roll my patterns onto the cardboard rolls that plastic wrap or foil comes on if I’m planning on using them again soon. Otherwise I store them in A4 envelopes in a binder.

  3. Sam says:

    I keep all my pattern pieces folded (as neatly as I am able) and stored in plastic wallets in an A4 lever arch file. Seems to keep things a bit more under control! And it’s an excuse to buy a pretty folder. 🙂

    I don’t know how to stop the back neckline drape you’re experiencing I’m afraid. I would probably try making that part slightly narrower if I could to see if that helps. And yes, my needle frequently gets stuck when I go over a seam. No idea what to do about that either!

  4. Debby says:

    Fabric drape – you need to check the fabric suggestions for the pattern, some patterns are not suitable for jersey fabrics.

    Bulges, you need to trim the seam down where there are joins. You may have noticed when doing alterations to ready made items that there is often insufficient spare fabric at various parts of a seam, this is because the seams have been trimmed down to avoid bulges and thickness. I tend to do a lot of French seams and I always trim the first seam right down to the row of stitching.

    Needles – you have to get the right size needle to match the fabric, this is very much trial and error. Needles don’t seem to last very long and if they are slightly blunt or nicked at the tip then they will cause problems. You also need the right thread to suit teh fabric, with the same thread in the bobbin and the top of the machine. I find my machine likes some threads and doesn’t like other threads. and of course the machine needs to be free of dust and fluff etc, its suprising how quickly the bobbon area can get erally dusty and fluffy.

    Hope this is of some help. Happy cutting, sewing and wearing.

  5. Miriana says:

    Use Scotch tape rather that sellotape as it doesn’t goa brittle and you can write on it

  6. punkmik says:

    i have no epxirience yet with knit fabrics, so look forward to reading about the advice! 🙂

    • punkmik says:

      oh i forgot to say. I recently bought loads of a5 plastic see through envelopes and I store my pdf and traced patterns in them. I just write on the front in permanent marker. 🙂

  7. sew2pro says:

    When I had a Singer, the ballpoint needles were golden! Helpful, eh? And not rocket science.

    Now I have an Elna 6200 and all the needles look the same — I actually find it difficult to see the size numbers on them.

    However, one of the features that sold the machine to me was its presser foot “black button” which you press in just before you’re to go over a seam and it locks the foot temporarily into a horizontal position. It does help if you also lengthen the stitch. It works 9 times out of 10 and is very useful when shortening jeans. Maybe other machines have this too.

  8. twotoast says:

    I store my printed/traced patterns on skirt hangers. The cheap/light/plastic ones, about 8-10″ across (I get them free here with my undies) with clips work perfectly and are easy to store – if you have a closet or space in your wardrobe of course! On some of the hangers, the skirt clips move side to side which is useful.

    I also retrace some pattern pieces onto large sheets of paper that is sold (very cheaply) for flipcharts. I use squared paper – it just seems more useful.

  9. ro says:

    I leave the printed patterns whole, in a normal 3-ring binder. Then I trace the size I need onto white landscape cloth (like very light interfacing, but cheap!!!). Since I’m doing a lot of kids patterns, this is good since the side I need is changing rapidly with time.

    • MrsC says:

      Is that what it’s called? We sell truckloads of it for pattern making, and use it in all of our classes, but I’ve never known what to call it. 🙂

  10. Sarah! says:

    I like to store patterns in manila envelopes… because the envelopes are bigger, you don’t have to fold the pattern quite so many times!

  11. Jenny says:

    I don’t know if this is the answer or not but I read in someone’s blog about stretching the knit fabric (slightly) as you sew it. It helped with the droop in that project.

  12. makeitgiveit says:

    Can you trace the patterns onto that fabric/pattern paper that feels and looks a bit like interfacing (sorry nit sure what it is called) and then store them in large ziplock, clear bags with labels on the front?
    No help for the other stuff sorry

  13. I second the recommendation for the black button on Elna machines – works a treat!

    I found I could easily see the difference between ballpoint and universal needle tips by using the zoom on my digital camera. Before then I’d been taking it on faith that there was a difference, although I have had fabrics where the ballpoint needle worked noticeably better.

  14. Robin Hayden says:

    Your challenges may have to do with the quality of the fabric. A lot of problems I have with knits go away when using cotton instead of synthetics. I think the back draping is a fit problem, as someone else mentioned, but the bunching, seam stitch issues might drop off with natural fibers. Not sure, just an idea. On the ball point, I agree, who can tell by comparing it with a regular needle? But the fabric seems to know, because even though I can’t detect a difference, they always just seem to work smoother for me.

  15. Your picture of pattern pieces all over the pace gives me flashbacks to when that used to be my world too! I draft a lot of my own patterns, so when I lost a piece, I’d have to redraft, and that happened one too many times! So finally I went to an office supply store and bought a giant box of white 9″ x 12″ envelopes, and now the first thing I do when starting a new pattern is grab one of those envelopes and clearly label it with the project/pattern name and date. I like the larger envelopes because you don’t have to fold so many times and end up with a ridiculously bulky and unruly envelope, and because the larger size can be stored nicely by filing, on their sides, in a hanging file folder (or a Rubbermaid-style bin, which is what I do since I have a monsterous collection of historic costuming patterns – which usually come in 9″ x 12″ envelopes – as well). I never lose pattern pieces any more! 😀

  16. lisa g says:

    i’ve had the same sticking problem when sewing over seams, though really only with my knits. i’ve heard of putting a piece of tissue paper under the fabric to help things glide easier, though i never remember to actually try it myself!

    as for the downloadable patterns, i fold them and file them along with the rest of my patterns. sometimes i trace them onto tissue paper first.

  17. Roobeedoo says:

    I can’t answer all of those questions, but here’s what I DO know:
    1 – I trace my pdf print outs onto thin tissue paper and then store the whole thing in a big brown envelope with a drawing of the pattern on the front.
    2 – What they said about the fit – it’s just too big at the back. You could pleat it out. Different knits will fit differently to each other.
    3 – Ballpoint needles have a definite bobble on them. I just use plain ones for everything and it works.
    4 – Lumpy seams need to have as much excess fabric graded out before you stitch over them. Knits don’t fray like wovens so you can be pretty brutal.
    5 – My Bernina came with a cute little fan of plastic strips to insert behind the presser foot to support the back of the fabric on the approach to a bulge where it is still quite thin and flat. The presser foot rests flat and plays nicely – genius!

  18. There’s a thing ma jig for thick jeans seams that might work when running into this problem. It elevates and moves the foot upwards when going over thick seams.

  19. MrsC says:

    Oh you poor frustrated wee thing!! OK, lots of useful and sensible suggestions above. I’ve never dl’ed a pdf pattern but I too put home drafted patterns into big manilla envelopes and either write the info on the front or stick a pic on. As for the drape in the back, I thought it was a design feature! 🙂 It’s I think because the top is too wide there. To rid yoself of it, I’d slice a wedge of back off the pattern, say 1.5cm wide, tapering to nothing at the hem. This realigns the centre back with a narrower neckline and will go some way to solving that issue. It’s also possible that you are stretching the edge a little when sewing it so it is growing. You kind of have to when turning under a curve, to get it to sit nicely. An option for helping it to sit nicely is to sew in or thread through some of that nice narrow clear elastic and make it a little tauter than the edge. Not enough to gather it up into a peasant blouse mind you! heheh.
    If you are putting clear elastic into these shoulder seams, desist. There is not enough shoulder seam to need it and it would just add bulk. They are so narrow I’d even just sew a normal seam, trim the seam allowance and press open. The little bit left between the two hemmings is hardly worth worrying about!
    That fabric is so pretty! Reminds me of those prints in the late 70’s when there were ballet shoes on just about everything. I wanted various ballet shoe endowed garments but really, thoughts of hippos in Fantasia stopped me (self conscious teen!) now, I care not! HAHA!!!

    • Thank you, Mrs C, as ever!

      • MrsC says:

        No worries. Just reread and I don’t think I made sense. The shoulder seam on a tank is only an inch wide so there is no drag on it to require stabilising – you use stabilising techniques on shoulder and back neck seams when they go the full width of the shoulder, because the drag of the angle and weight of sleeves can stretch it. The shoulder is the only seam in a t-shirt that bears strain, you see. And in a tank top, it’s the shoulder strap, not the shoulder seam, that is bearing the weight.
        And the wedge thing, I mean right off the back centre fold on the pattern, like Gertie did on her front bodice, but the other way up. If you don’t want to cut the pattern, just fold it instead 🙂

    • piakdy says:

      According to Singer’s Sewing With Knits book you can also stablise the shoulder seams by topstitching. Either press the seam open and topstitch both sides or press to one side and topstitch the side with the seam allowance, then trim the extra seam allowance right down. If you’re trying to minimise bulk and don’t mind the visible topstitch I’d suggest pressing open so each side is just 2 layers thick, instead of one side that’s 3 layers thick.

  20. I use Singer needles on my Brother sewing machine so I know which ones are which, the yellow barreled ones are ball point. Their point is duller and slightly rounded off so they don’t pierce knits and put holes in them like the regular sharp ones do with cotton, etc. They try to go between the stitches on knits with the ball point needles…

  21. Brenda says:

    It isn’t just you! I have been sewing for YEARS and I am still afraid of knits!! I went straight to making a comment and must go to the top to read all the knit tips!!

  22. sewbusylizzy says:

    For your PDF patterns, I would either trace them onto sew-in interfacing which you can neatly fold up and put into a clear plastic sleeve – that’s what I do. Or buy a large portfolio carrier the sort graphic designers toted about before everything went digital.

  23. Sewing princess says:

    Karen, have you used the tiny pocket tank as a pattern for your jersey top? The pattern is not made for knits. So it will be too big.
    Also the back neckline many have stretched while you sewed it.
    instead of finishing the seams with twin needle you could try attaching a bias strip with your overlocker. Carolyn explained on her blog

  24. Nicole says:

    I used to keep my pattern print outs neatly (as neatly as possible anyway) folded in plastic sleeves along in a binder, but i have recently started tracing onto interfacing as the bulky paper was driving me batty. This is more time consuming but makes life easier in the long run.

  25. The Sewist says:

    I print the paper patterns then trace them onto clear plastic which I then roll up and put a paper band around with the pattern number on or fold into an envelope and label. The plastic doesn’t mind being folded or rolled as much as paper does! You can use plastic packaging or decorator’s floor covering and trace using a Sharpie pen.

    I agree with the others that the gapey back neckline is either overstretching or the back piece being too wide for your back. Fiddle with a wedge out of the back piece then try stabilising the seam edge in that middle section so it doesn’t stretch as you sew it.

  26. Liz says:

    Hi there – you already have lots of great responses, but here is my 2 cents worth too 😉
    – I trace my pdf print outs onto thin tissue paper and then store them in clear ziplock bags with a photocopy or picture of the pattern on the front. They are the same size as my patterns and so can be stored in my pattern container.
    – I would suggest cutting a smaller size in the shoulder area. I often cut a size smaller in the back and then do a small shoulder adjustment and an FBA (by the way they are easier than they look) to avoid these types of issues as I have simlar fit issues. I also often take a wedge out of the neck area to remove the gaping, a centre back seam makes this easy, alternately you can place your pattern on a slight angle on the fold line to remove a small amount from the neck. Normally 1cm out of the nece all I need
    – I usually use a stretch needle for sewing stretch fabric. However to answer your question regarding telling the needles apart, I have this problem also, so have just started taking the needle packet out and leaving in on my table until the project is finished that way it can either go back in the correct packet or in the bin if it is towards then end of its use.
    – I am also guessing this fabric is super stretchy (on the stretchiness scale) so perhaps cut a size smaller to give it some more negative ease
    Good luck!

  27. Kelli says:

    I can’t help with the sewing questions, as I am a self taught newbie and fumbling around myself. However, as to the downloaded patterns, I trace onto freezer paper with a sharpie marker, roll all up into a tube and secure with painter’s tape. Then I just put the pattern into the cardboard cylinder from a paper towel (or toilet paper) roll and write the pattern number and size on the tube.

  28. Rachel says:

    I was once suggested that a slight “cheating” way of doing a FBA would be to cut different sizes for the front and back, I haven’t tried it yet, but I believe the person who suggested it as it was while she was teaching me how to draft and fit a basic bodice block.

    I bought a whole load of B5 envelopes to store my printed and self drafted and traced patterns in. I talked about it here: http://mymessings.blogspot.com.au/2012/01/re-organised-patterns.html It’s turned out really great as they’re big enough to fold the pieces down into, and my printer can print the details of the pattern onto the front of the envelope.

    • LinB says:

      Oh, very yes! Cut the back a size — or two — smaller in width, but keep the same length for side seams/ top to hem. (Why do pattern drafters persist in thinking that if we are smaller around, we are also shorter/ if we are bigger around, we are also taller?)

      Stop sewing when you get to bulky seam crossings and walk the needle through. Use anything you can to raise the presser foot and hold it at a steady height — the “black button” mentioned in several posts above, a Jean-ma-Jig, a piece of paper folded to a flattish wad (you’ll need to raise the back of the presser foot at the beginning of the lump, and the front of the presser foot at the end of the lump. It’s much like using logs as rollers to move a heavy stone, lots of stopping to re-arrange the equipment.). Resume stitching normally once you’ve advanced the garment enough so that the feed dogs will work properly again. This should prevent the blindness that can occur when a needle breaks and the tip flies out of the machine and into your eye, when sewing bulky and/or recalcitrant seams.

      Easiest way to tell if a needle is ballpoint or not is to poke it through a piece of fabric. A sharp needle sails through wovens, is hard to poke through knits. Vice-versa for ballpoint needle. I sometimes use ballpoints when sewing tough upholstery tapestry-type fabrics, as they seem to find their way between all the layers of threads better than sharps.

    • LinB this comment about the FBA caught my attention because it seems I recently did this without realizing what I was doing. I graded up only the front of a pattern because thats where I thought the problem was. I’m such a novice I didn’t even think about the back. Doh. The hem length didn’t match though & I had no idea why! On my blog Liz commented about a FBA so I’ve since been reading about it. Thank you for adding to my knowledge as well, seems I was on the right track, albeit blindly.

  29. Deb Cameron says:

    Great effort, love that you are committed to getting better with knits. I love sewing with knits and prefer a more natural fibre content rather than the really think slinky knits, they can creat headaches no matter how much experience you have. I detest the use of double needles so much that I went out and purchased a coverstitch machine. I always use light steam a seam or some form of interfacing tape to strengthen my neck/hem seams before sewing with the coverstitch or double needle. One, they allow you to iron the seam down before finishing and two, provided you stay sewing on the tape (not drift off either side of it) they stop the tunelling issue. Elastic is good in all edges that are going to get a lot of stretch/movement that you don’t want to grow. As well as the shoulders I often use it in wrap and false wrap style knit.

    The top looks too large at the back, have you considered just taking a ‘v’ section out of the back if you feel the fit is ok elsewhere? Or you could go down a size in the back, I often need to go down a size for the back piece and I generally take a v out of the back piece for my specific fitting needs.

    Love PDF patterns and have them stored in rolls when using often or folded in clear plastic envelopes with a picture of the finished garment on the front.

    Goodluck, hope you enjoy. I love knits – they are more forgiving when you get use to sewing with them. I tend to make mine in the size down depending on the amount of give in the fabric. I love silk, bamboo, linen, cotton and rayon jerseys for summer and ponte is the bomb for winter!

    Love your blog, have been reading it for over a year now and I think this is the first time I’ve commented. I think you are a brave seamstress and I loved your posts where you posed with complete strangers in your made items 🙂

  30. Kbenco says:

    It looks like a very useful top, and the front neckline is very pleasing.
    Knits are quite tricky to finish nicely. I have been working on this for a few years now and am still learning.
    To add my two cents – woven thin selvage, such as lawn or silk organza, stabilizes shoulder seams very nicely with much less bulk than elastic. I think you do need to stabilize shoulder seams in most tops.
    Different knits sometimes need different needle thickness and types.
    When my needle sticks, I put in a new needle and clean my bobbin case. If this doesn’t work, I use a bigger needle size or change types. I go through a lot of needles, but I find this better than wrecking a lot of fabric and having bodgy hems etc.

    Have you seen the cheating FBA for knits where you bump out the sideseams of the front piece and slightly stretch the back piece in this section of the seam? You could easily go down a size at the front with a FBA and maybe two at the back IMO.
    If the back still drapes when the fit improves, enclosing clear elastic in the neckline can help it to sit better with a drapey knit – no stretch to the elastic, or just a smidgeon.

  31. Carolyn says:

    I don’t yet have a great collection of traced/taped patterns, but my mom still has a collection of sunrise designs patterns, most of which she traced in the 80’s. she folded by size and held with a rubber band. I wish she’d used brand name Scotch tape, but otherwise, they seen to have lasted 30 years for me to borrow now.

  32. Lydia says:

    I have a fear of working with knits as well, and this is something that I want to confront soon. I do have a tip for tracing patters (I think another commenter mentioned this as well).

    I recently bought a roll of Swedish Tracing paper when the saleslady at the sewing shop suggested I use it. It cost around 12 dollars Canadian for about 8 or 10 meters, and it can actually be sewn and washed (used as a toile). It feels sturdy, but is easy to trace, and cut(as well as folds easilly). I store the cut pieces in page protectors– those clear pages that are used in presentation binders. I have all the traced patterns in a binder, which also includes inspiration, drawings, photos and traced patterns.

  33. Hi Karen, I recently made a knit outfit, quite left of field, you can see it at http://cleverblonde.wordpress.com/2012/08/10/its-friday/
    I have sewn a little over the yrs with knit and always use a ball point needle and I can’t tell them apart except mine brand have a colored stripe around the top. They really do make addiefference. You can read 1 difference on my http://cleverblonde.wordpress.com/2012/07/11/psst-look-at-this/ post. I also learned just recently to use a walking foot. It really really really helped… Sorry that’s all I can help with

  34. Summerflies says:

    Sorry I can’t read all the replies to see if someone has said this. If a twin needle is for knits it has blue plastic holding it together and if it is for woven it is red. Simple isn’t it – if you know. I’ve had my twin needles (of both colours – not used much) for years and are both different widths and it was only about a year ago that I noticed in a shop what was written on the pack! Doh!

  35. Helen Made says:

    I don’t yet gave any experience with knit fabrics (so everyone elses responses to that part are more than a little interesting!), but as for storing patterns, as a lot of others have said, I fold my patterns as neatly as possible and store than in plastic wallets in an A4 lever arch file. Seems to do the trick for me! They might need a slight iron when you come to use them again, but other than that it works fine

  36. Sewing Princess says:

    Karen, I have noticed that the pattern you are using is not made for knits which may explain the issue you are facing with the back neckline.
    Another reason may be that (this has happened to me in the past!) that the fabric has been pulled while you were using the twin needle. One way to overcome the matter is using a walking foot, lengthening the seam to 3 and lowering the tension slightly (on my bernina the manual says from the standard 47 to about 17 if I remember correctly). This should also solve the tunneling issue.

    A way to avoid the double needle all together is following Carolyn’s tip http://handmadebycarolyn.blogspot.it/2012/03/more-finishing-details-for-jersey-knits.html

    As for pattern organization…I also use A4 manila folders as well as a binder where I put each pattern in a transparent sleeve. I don’t organize them by type or brand or anything…as I should!

  37. Guys – thank you all SO much for your wonderful help and feedback.

  38. What a lot of fabulous tips. I was going to suggest the walking foot, because it’s the best thing for bulky bits. And I’m in the roll ’em up school for patterns (I hadn’t thought about putting them into cylinders, I just roll them and tie them with a piece of the fabric so I know what I made with the pattern).

  39. kokorimbaud says:

    My experience with knits stops at cheap-ish jersey I use for panties – so no help there, I’m afraid.
    As for pattern storage, I trace all patterns onto baking parchment, and keep them in brown A4 envelopes I purchase from the pound store.
    Advantage is that I often need to make changes to my patterns anyways, and I can keep notes on the envelopes, so I’ve got all my pattern pieces and any vital information that might not be in the instructions in one place.
    The envelopes go into stackable plastic storage containers.

  40. shivani says:

    great post and great answers – really helpful stuff (I’m a knit novice too!).

    I trace all my patterns (incl downloaded ones) onto greaseproof paper/baking parchment (it’s only a tiny bit thicker than tracing paper, cheaper and easier to get hold of). It all folds away neatly, and irons out fine too. I store the traced download patterns with the instructions in an accordian-type file. The traced regular patterns usually fit into the pattern envelope. I’m certain someone will say that I shouldn’t use greaseproof paper – but it works well for me!

    • kokorimbaud says:

      That “someone” won’t be me 😀 coz I use it too, and so far it’s been great. It’s easy to get, not costly and quite sturdy.
      My only issue with it is that it’s (very rarely) not wide enough, but that’s a problem easily solved with a few strips of sello tape.

      • Also love the greaseproof paper for tracing! And for PDF patterns, I try to buy pretty Japanese paper tapes to tape them together cos it can be picked up and moved better than sellotape, it’s slightly transparent so I can see cutting lines/notches, and it makes me feel happy.
        All my t-shirt gaping ideas have already been covered by lots of cool people above. But I share your pain on seams, I often have to hand-crank my way over a tricky section. I comfort myself with the thought it builds muscle-tone. Very slowly.

  41. Heather Lou says:

    Regarding your storage issues: I fold everything and put them (along with instructions) in small manilla envelopes roughly the same size as regular pattern envelopes. If I’m feeling motivated I will tape a photo of the pattern to the front of the envelope. Easy peas! No idea about the rest of your questions – I have similar issues with needle stickage and fat seams.

  42. Molly says:

    Lots of responses! My two-pennies which are probably covered here by others though:

    I keep my printed/traced patterns in A5 paper envelopes. I print the pattern onto the front and the yardage, etc on the back like a proper envelope. Somehow managed to pick up 500 from an independent stationers couple of years ago for something stupid like £2 (I’m sure the price-tagging gun was set wrong!). I trace onto pattern paper which is about 70gsm. Its very thick which makes it difficult to fold small (and trace through) but it doesn’t crumple like tissue paper and therefore it irons crease-free easily unlike tissue patterns which seem to develop permanent creases which can affect the grain if severe enough.

    1. I can’t tell the difference between my universals and ball-points. They’re both still sharp. I use Organ needles but I believe the more expensive brands colour code the machine end of the needle for identification. If you wanted to do the same thing you could dip them in nail polish.

    2. I would try dead-darting the pattern (assuming you’re happy with the fit at the front) and the stabilize the seam. On the garment, pinch out two darts either side of CB until you get a better fit, transfer these to the pattern, fold them out and tape them closed on the pattern (so you don’t sew the darts into the garment, they are gone). If the intake is big you may want to retrace your pattern to get rid of lumps. You can get get special stabilisers for knits and they do really help prevent the droop.

    3. Grade the seams to reduce bulk and cut corners off diagonally (mitre?). If you overlock the jersey you should be able to get them down to nearly nothing.

  43. LinB says:

    I fold pattern pieces — of all sorts, pdf or preprinted — as neatly as possible, with the pattern piece number and name facing out. I slip the instructions into the original pattern envelope (pdf illustration of garment and instructions clipped together), then put envelope AND pieces into a gallon-sized clear plastic food storage zip bag. I can see the pattern illustration through the plastic, so no need for extra labeling effort. When I need to consult instructions, I can locate them easily, without having to dig through the pile of pattern pieces that are also in the bag. I store the bags by pattern type (roughly) in office paper boxes, the kind you get when you order a case of copier paper. I write the pattern category on all four sides of the box and the top, so I can locate the right box in the stacks in my sewing room. As I am a pattern hoarder, there are a lot of boxes … .

  44. Karen says:

    A note about Swedish tracing paper for those who are not familiar with it: it’s not really paper, it is more like interfacing and is sewable. Pellon makes a similar (and less expensive) product which has a grid of red dots at one inch intervals.

  45. symondezyn says:

    I trace all my patterns because I always do an FBA and other alterations, so what I do is clip them to clothes hangers with clothes pins, and if there’s little pieces they go in a plastic freezer bag, and the whole thing gets labelled. Yeah, I’m OCD lol. I also keep a notebook with notes on what size I used and what alterations I made, as well as construction notes.

    As for shoulder seams on knits, I’m still learning so I’m no help there! LOL

    My machine sometimes gets stuck if I’m sewing through a few layers of seam, so I avoid this by gently pulling it through from the other side. It seems to work with no down side, so far! ^__^

  46. Ruth says:

    So many comments! I haven’t yet used any pdf sewing patterns, mostly because the thought of taping them all together makes me scowl 🙂 I do trace most patterns onto baking paper (the white version now I’ve found it) and keep them in a growing collection of lever arch files.

    As to the drapey back, I’d agree that it looks like your back width is narrower than the size you’ve cut out, and the reason you’re not losing the straps off your shoulders is that your front *is* that size 😉

    I’m still scared of knits (and live too far from Walthamstow for my fabric needs :(), so not much more to say, but last year I worked quite a bit with light fabrics, and found that having the right (and still sharp) needle was vital, both to prevent damage to the fabric itself, and to help my machine deal with them 🙂

  47. Fiona says:

    Re: needles, you can also get ‘stretch’ needles. I found ‘ballpoint’ didn’t work with my jersey, but ‘stretch’ did. It seems you have to do a trial with each fabric and see what needle works best.
    Re: Pdf patterns – trace onto swedish tracing ‘paper’ – or I have heard some people use horticultural fleece, which costs pennies at the garden centre, then label, fold and store in plastic wallet.
    Re: your neckline drape, I think it’s too big for you and am another in favour of the smaller size with FBA solution.

    • Molly says:

      I tried a cheap brand of garden fleece. Its like ultra-fine sew-in interfacing so easy to trace and sew but the needles leaves large holes so stitches become very loose – especially if basting stitches. But the single biggest drawback is it creases very easily and it cannot be ironed – it will melt under a cool iron and stick to everything so if you wanted to trace patterns, its one time use. I gave the rest of it to a gardening friend. On the topic of patterns and interfacing, If I have a pattern I use frequently, I iron fusible LW interfacing onto the back or it (or strips along the edges) to support it and prevent the edges getting battered. Works a treat.

      Re your sticking needles, have you tried a thicker needle size and raising your tension. If you have an adjustable presser foot try increasing that so it lifts higher over the seam sections (the return it to normal for rest of fabric). Some machines just won’t sew through several thick layers of fabric. Often, if my machine gets stuck on thick fabric sections, I just “walk” it through by turning the handwheel instead of using the foot control – just never force it!

  48. Bridget says:

    My sewing teacher has a nifty tip to help with needle identification – it’s so simple – just put a piece of coloured sticky tape around the top of the needle. Personally, I cannot tell the difference between a ballpoint or normal needle, so it really helps to have that bit of tape there!

  49. Zoe says:

    Hiya hon, looks like you’ve got a whole heap of help already, but I’ll throw my tup’ny worth in all the same! I used to store my downloaded and printed out PDF patterns in their own A4 manilla envelope when I used to work in an office and I could easily nick them. Now I don’t have access to such things and my collection of PDF patterns has got too big, I fold them and put them in plastic sleeves that I store in a ring binder. You can always iron (without steam) the patterns to get the creases out when you are ready to use them again.

    As for ball-point needles: it’s probably one of those personal opinion things, but I have NEVER found a need for one. I always stitch jersey with a fine needle (70/10 or 80/12) and have never had any problems.

    Happy stitching lovely lady
    Zo xxx

  50. Paola says:

    I sew a lot of knits, and never bother with a ballpoint needle. I just use an ordinary needle in a size appropriate to the fabric weight. And I don’t use my machine’s stretch stitch or zigzag, either, as is often recommended. I use a straight stitch all the way. I’ve never had a problem.

  51. Eirian says:

    Am I the only one who thinks the back drape is actually really cute? I love it! Where did you find that jersey in Wathamstow too, it’s lush 🙂 I’m actually considering doing a one day course on sewing with knits, I just can’t do it. I feel like a total sewing failure when I contemplate jersey 🙁

  52. Pingback: PDF Pattern Storage | Sown Brooklyn

  53. nettie says:

    Hi! I just posted about how I store my pdf patterns. I use a massive clip board and paper clip and stack those suckers up before clipping them down ;o)

  54. Pingback: Improving Seams With Knit Fabrics | Did You Make That?

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  56. Sarah says:

    I know this is an old post, but I wonder whether you could see the difference between ballpoint and ordinary needles using a magnifying glass. If you don’t have one of those, an old-fashioned camera lens can work too. Or pinch someone in your household’s glasses (depending on prescription!).

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