Me Made May Recap + Lessons from a Crash Course in Sewing Knits

Staying true to my lazy blogger status, here I am writing about Me Made May in August. I could just blame summer (and summer cocktails), but honestly, when I had some free time, I chose to spend it sewing. And that's a good thing. One of the reasons for my little creative hiatus is to reignite my love of sewing again, so it's working! Me Made May definitely had something to do with that. Let's talk about it.

This year, I pledged to wear handmade as often as I can and to supplement with vintage or repurposed the rest of the time.

As you can tell from the 28 photos above, clearly I underestimated how a tiny handmade wardrobe could be stretched across a month if you really put your mind to it. I'll admit, some days were tough, like those chilly, wet mornings in early Spring when you're facing a closet of sundresses. But it was also satisfying when I did find a way to make it work and discovered a cute new outfit in the process. Sure, I repeated many items, sometimes the same top three days in a row (don't judge), and it helped a lot that I made a bunch of basic knit tees, as they could be mixed and matched in so many different ways. Oh the power of basics. Which brings me to my second pledge...

I'm always been really intimidated by knits, even though I love to wear them, so I've decided to face that fear head-on and only sew with knits this month.

I'm so glad that I made this pledge. There were many times throughout the month when I was just dying to make something familiar and easy in a woven cotton. But because of this pledge, I forced myself to power through my fear and frustrations. I'm proud to say that I finished the month with 3 Lark tees, 2 Hemlock tees, a knock-off tank dress for my mom, and a heck of a lot more confidence.

It was basically a month-long crash course in knits, and I learned a ton!

Sewing with knits isn't hard. In fact, it's probably the easiest and quickest way to a completed garment. But you need to know a few tricks before you get to the easy, whip up a dress in an hour part. I spent hours scouring the internet, trying to unlock the secret. Turns out it wasn't just one secret. In the end I pretty much just mashed all the advice on the internet together and things started to look OK. Ha! I'm never 100% happy with my double-needle top-stitching (is anyone?), but I found if I followed these rules, I was generally happy with the outcome. Hopefully they help you too, if you've been struggling at all with knits.

Play with your machine settings.
This is the hardest part, but the most important, in my opinion. It's a very delicate balance and it takes a lot of playing around, but you'll be so much happier with the result if you take the time to get it right, or as close to right as you can. Then write it down! Haha! Every machine is probably different, but for mine, I lowered both the top and the bobbin tensions. Top (3), bobbin (1/2 turn). I also increased the foot pressure. I've always ignored this dial, but it really makes a difference with knits (and chiffon, for that matter... but that's another post for another day).

Use a walking foot.
I know it's annoying to put on, but get out your tiny screwdriver and just do it. It prevents any weird warping and stretching, especially for hems. I see this all the time on ready-to-wear hems and neck bands and I hate it.

Use a clean stretch needle.
I had better results with stretch as opposed to ballpoint needles, for some reason. Don't know why. Also, stabilizers tend to gum up the needle and cause skipped stitches, so make sure you clean it periodically. After every hem, if need be.

Stabilizers are your friend.
I used Wash Away Wonder Tape on hems and Pellon Knit-N-Stable Tape on necklines and armholes. It just makes everything 10 times easier. Trust me.

Not all knits are created equal.
Because the level of stretch can vary so much. This may seem obvious, but to someone used to working with woven cottons, I found this fact to cause the most fit problems.

For one, it's tough to choose a size when everything stretches. I made the Lark tee in both a size 4 and a size 0 and, honestly, it was hard to choose which one looks better. It's weird.

Two, neck band patterns can't be trusted. Both the Lark and Hemlock patterns came with neck band pieces, but neither of them fit quite right. They were either too small, causing puckers where I struggled to ease it in, or they didn't lay flat. I found I had a much better result if I measured the neckline first (or what I wanted the finished neckline to be) and angled the joining seam. This Colette tutorial demonstrates it really well.

My final pledge was to kick-start the blog again and post all the makes I haven't written about since I fell out of the blogosphere last year.

This was a success as well. I wrote blog posts for my four Laurel tops and dresses and my Darling Ranges dress. If you haven't had a chance, I hope you'll take a moment to check them out.

I'll admit, by the end of the month I was happy to wear some of my ready-to-wear clothes, and to not have to take a selfie of myself everyday, and to sew with gloriously predictable woven cotton again... but all in all it was a wonderfully inspiring experience. Maybe it's the accountability of it, maybe it's seeing your Instagram feed full of inspiring projects and talented sewists everyday, but there's something about this challenge that makes me more productive than any other time of the year. It ignites something in me that makes me want to sew all the things all the time. I can't wait for next year!

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