Sewing for children is SO much fun! (Especially when they’re too little to complain about what you make for them, ha!) It’s been a few, ahem, years since I've had the pleasure of sewing for a little one belonging to me so I've been polishing up my rusty sewing-for-bitty-bodies skills again.
I love knits for kids. (And me too, for that matter.) I really don’t love putting embroidery on knits. I love all those wee things I can put embroidery on. I really don’t love figuring out how to hoop those wee things. I have a dilemma wouldn’t you say?
Well Gramma really wanted to make a special little boy a Boo shirt. So I steeled myself against my knit-wee-garment phobia and got busy.
Things I’ve learned through the years about knits:
They stretch. Embroidery doesn’t. Putting embroidery on a place that has to stretch over a body part is a disaster in the making. The embroidery will NOT stretch but the fabric around it will and it will look pretty awful. I learned to choose my spots wisely. No elbows, shoulders or – worse – bosoms. (Ask me how I know THAT?)
I find that thin knits with a smooth surface seem to work best for embroidery-only designs but appliqué designs will usually work very nicely for any knit unless the knit has cables, defined ridges or other surface bumpies.
I finally got over the idea that I needed knit stabilizer for knit fabrics. Knit stabilizer is stretchy. Embroidery designs need to be sewn on non-stretched fabric. (I knew that, what took me so long to apply that rule to knits? Ga!) I absolutely love using my thin, sheer, fusible “Sheer Cut-Away Stabilizer” with knits. Try it and see how you like it. If it will stay in place and yet allow you to peel it up later that’s the stabilizer you want. (Some fusible sheer cut-away’s are hard to peel back up. TEST to be sure the brand you have will do so. Check out my big pack of this stabilizer HERE.
Knits have loft. As tempting as it is to stabilize the mess out of my knits I've learned that all I usually need is one layer of thin, sheer fusible and one layer of a soft regular tear-away. Some cut-away, non-woven, opaque stabilizers can add too much loft and that can cause design distortion or misalignment. If I’m putting a monogram or a design with a lot of satin stitching on a knit I usually add one more layer of regular tear-away, but that’s it. And I've come to the conclusion that some designs are just not suitable for knits. Too high a stitch count, too big of a design, and too many tiny lines that must line up? Yep, I have found that these designs are best left to woven fabrics.
Toppers? Well, most things (especially for children) must be washed. Wash-away toppers wash away. That seems to defeat the purpose wouldn't you say? I mean, if there is a texture under that embroidery Murphy’s Law says it WILL worm its way back up again anyway. When I really need to use a topper I like to use silk organza. Check out the cardigan below. I used gray silk organza under the little bird embroidery design on this soft knit cardigan. This sweater is several years old, well washed and yet the embroidery still looks pretty awesome. (Read Stitch Bits earlier “Under Cover” blog post for more about toppers!)
Things I’ve learned about hooping wee things:
Don’t hoop them. AND, sometimes taking out a seam or two so I can get the thing to lay flat without throwing it against the wall is actually worth the time and trouble of sewing it back up later. (Sewing is easier for me than painting walls after all, heh.)
Painter’s tape, masking tape, Wonder Clips, binder clips – these things are my friends!
So, let me show you how I made my Boo shirt. First I lightly ironed a piece of fusible sheer mesh cut-away stabilizer (cut bigger than my hoop) to the wrong side of the shirt front.
I wanted the appliqué to sit right in the middle – centered – on the front of the shirt. So I folded the inside-out shirt in half (as exactly as I could get) both length-ways and cross-ways.
Next I drew an even cross-hatch on a piece of soft tear-away stabilizer with a water soluble pen and sprayed it with temporary spray adhesive. I hooped the stabilizer, aligning the cross-hatched marks with the centering marks on the inner hoop. (It’s a good idea to check your hoop grid and be sure that these hoop marks coincide with the center marks on the grid.)
Still working with the shirt inside-out I fold the shirt on the horizontal crease and align that crease with the marked horizontal line on the stabilizer. Before I patted the shirt down on the stabilizer I made sure that the vertical center mark on the stabilizer and the vertical shirt crease were aligned too. Those of you who know me well know that I am a fan of printed paper templates. When you can’t hoop something it’s hard to use a template and hoop grid properly, so what to do? This method – marking the design placement on the hooped stabilizer and the wrong side of the project works very well for me.
Once I was sure everything was lined up nicely I patted the shirt down on the stabilizer firmly; rolled up the shirt-back and secured them with Wonder Clips. I tried to catch the clips on the extra stabilizer bits that stuck out around the hoop. That helped keep the knit fabric from popping back.
Then I got a cuppa tea and sat right there WATCHING as the design stitched out. (No wandering off to do something else – I might have ended up with an escaped sleeve flopping around wreaking havoc and anyway it was the perfect excuse for a tea break!)
Once the appliqué was finished I removed as much of the soft tear-away stabilizer as I could. Then I gently peeled up the excess sheer mesh cut-away stabilizer and used my sweet little Snips to trim it away around the design. I left a little in places where I was in danger of poking a hole in the shirt if I tried to trim too close.
NOW I used my knit stabilizer to cover the back of the design making it soft and smooth for delicate baby skin. There are actually cover-up products made for this. Sulky has “Tender Touch” a very soft tricot fusible knit that is nicely light and flexible. “Cover-a-Stitch” by AllStitch is another soft knit product used for this application. To make sure it doesn’t peel up before baby grows out of the shirt I apply a layer of fusible webbing to it first, and then cut it to the shape I need and iron it down. It may seem redundant to add fusible to a fusible, but after two or three washings some products want to peel away. This helps to prevent that.
Happy Knit Stitching!
P.S. Winners of the Halloween design give-away are: Bonnie Konkle and "Mama Pea" (Stephanie in MI) :-) Message me to claim your prize!