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Get Started: Sewing Knit Apparel

For 10 years I’ve had a sewing machine, but never made apparel for myself. I never liked the idea of apparel from woven fabrics and in ready to wear I tend to gravitate toward stretchy knits. I didn’t know I could get this fabric from places online since local fabric shops are geared toward quilters.

get started sewing knit apparel

After seeing an Instagram friend share some of her knit apparel sewing, I set a goal for myself to sew a piece of clothing for myself by June 2017. With the ultimate goal of being able to customize a pattern to make clothing that fits me better than store-bought clothing.

This post is aimed at helping those who are like me: have a sewing machine, want to try sewing knit apparel, and need a little help getting started.

Slim Fit Raglan Paterns for Pirates |

Slim Fit Raglan Paterns for Pirates | Boss Lady Fabrics

Getting Started

I’m going to assume you understand your machine, know you need to use stretch needles and a stretch stitch like zig-zag when sewing knits. If this is too much, you might start with a book about sewing knits.
I’m also going to assume you have a cutting mat and rotary cutter or fabric scissors, which are different from paper scissors.

If you’re using a large cutting mat, you’ll find you can place the paper patter on top of your fabric, weigh it down with soup cans, and use the rotary cutter to cut fabric.

Mama Bear Joggers Patterns for Pirates

Mama Bear Joggers Patterns for Pirates as shorts | So Sew English

Finding Patterns and Fabric 
Outside of Joann’s and the big four pattern makers are independent pattern designers and fabric retailer with websites and Facebook groups with a wealth of user generated information.

After joining Facebook groups to collect free* patterns and making lists of patterns I’d like to buy, I then joined Facebook groups for fabric and started buying knit fabric bundles and mystery packs. I also picked up some cheap fabric from Walmart to practice.

I had patterns in PDF and I had fabric, now it was time to make something.

Mama Bear Joggers Patterns for Pirates | knitpop |

Mama Bear Joggers Patterns for Pirates | knitpop

PDF patterns can be 30-some pages of printing and then taping together (helps to hang them on a big window to line everything up). Or you can send the A0 copyshop files to a place like PDF Plotting to have them printed on 36×48 size paper.
Quick Run Down
-Upload the file
-indicate the number pages (open the file to see)
-say center to page
-print at 100% (because if they don’t print at the correct size then your pattern size is wrong)
If you did anything wrong PDF Plotting will reach out (I think they’ve had a rash of first timers who get it wrong).

*free patterns are available usually with code from the pattern designer’s Facebook group. Codes cannot be shared outside of the group, which is why you will not see them posted on websites mentioning they used said pattern. If you click through the links below and see a fee, go to Facebook, join the associated group, and look for the pinned post. 

I know, between free patterns and fabric sold through FB groups, a whole new underground world on Facebook has been opened up to me and maybe you too.

Deer and Doe – Plantain Tee*
This was the first tee I tried and I did the neckband wrong, so I wear a tank under the loose tee. I like the body of this tee because despite the photo, the profile doesn’t flare out as much as other patterns.

Plantain Tee Deer & Doe

Plantain Tee Deer & Doe | So Sew English

This tee taught me to do the neckbands 80-90% of the length of the neck opening depending on the fabric instead of using the pattern piece given with each tee.

Halla – Agnes*
This pattern is fitted at the bust and can be a shirt, tunic, or dress. I made it as a swing dress with short sleeves (scraps from the cardigan) and lowered the neckline.

Agnes Halla | Boss Lady Fabrics

Agnes Halla | Boss Lady Fabrics

Love Notions – Laundry Day Tee*
One nice thing about being able to sew my own clothes is that I can make a basic tee that is neither too short nor form fitting. This pattern has options for long sleeve, elbow sleeve, shirt, tunic, or dress length plus whatever info for hacks you find on the website.

Laundry Day Tee Mama Bear Joggers

Laundry Day Tee Love Notions & Mama Bear Joggers Patterns for Pirates

New Horizons – Key West Tank*
I made my mom and I matching 4th of July tanks from this pattern. The blog has a hack for how to make an empire, gathered waist tank, which could also be a dress, but I haven’t tried it and like many patterns is on my list.

Key West Tank Greenstyle | So Sew English Sincerely Rylee |

Key West Tank Greenstyle | So Sew English Sincerely Rylee

Itch to Stitch – Lago Tank*
I liked the look of this pattern on the model, but didn’t pay attention that it is somewhere between a full and racer back, so it has too much bra strap exposure for every day wear. Plus, the arm hole has some odd gaping that I fixed by wearing it inside-out and taking it in. Then, I had to mark it on the paper pattern.

Lago Tank Itch to Stitch | So Sew English |

Lago Tank Itch to Stitch | So Sew English

Pattern for Pirates – Mama Bear Joggers
Despite the name and not being a mama, I love this pattern! It’s just what I needed — a casual pants pattern with pockets. The first time I made them as shorts I followed the line on the pattern for shorts without measuring the inseam – it might be 3” unhemmed so now they’re pajamas. Since then, I’ve made them as 9” inseam for shorts, cuffed capris, and pants. All with POCKETS, which is perfect for dog walking or any kind of activity that requires carrying keys and phone.

Mama Bear Joggers Patterns for Pirates | knitpop | udandi.comMama Bear Joggers Patterns for Pirates | knitpop |

Mama Bear Joggers Patterns for Pirates | knitpop

From Knitpop, I bought a bundle to participate in a joggers sew-along. Turns out I had the wrong joggers pattern so I couldn’t enter my finished shorts into the drawing, but I got 2 yards of the softest premium yoga fabric in blue and red, which became shorts and capris.

In search of similar fabric, I bought athletic brushed poly fabric from Zenith and Quasar in violet and black, which have become shorts, capris and pants.

Mama Bear Joggers Patterns for Pirates | Zenith & Quasar |

Mama Bear Joggers Patterns for Pirates | Zenith & Quasar

Pattern for Pirates – Grandpa Cardigan
This was actually the first item I sewed with cheap fabric from Walmart, thinking if I really messed up no big deal. It’s probably too big because I chose the tunic length and I based it on my hip measurement, but it was before I knew about grading between sizes. Next time, I’ll grade out bust to waist to hip and then grade the sleeve down from shoulder to wrist for a better overall fit.

Grandpa Cardigan Patterns for Pirates |

Grandpa Cardigan Patterns for Pirates | Fabric: Walmart

Grandpa Cardigan Patterns for Pirates |

Grandpa Cardigan Patterns for Pirates | Boss Lady Fabrics

Pattern for Pirates – Slim Fit Raglan
With so many free t-shirt patterns, I figured a raglan was a worthy investment. My first time sewing this I tried a soft hacci sweater knit and then a double brushed poly. My sweater was meant to be a tunic, but when I added the extra deep band it looks like a dress. I’ll sew up some black leggings to wear with it. See? That’s what I like about this whole adventure, I need leggings and I’ll be able to make them from either the free Pegs (Patterns for Pirates) or Ninja (5 out of 4) patterns.

Relaxed Raglan Paterns for Pirates |

Relaxed Raglan Paterns for Pirates | Honey and Vinegar

5 out of 4 – Ninja Leggings*
A couple places offer free leggings, but I decided to try this pattern first based on feedback from others and this one having a crotch gusset and I thought that might give more movement in that area.

Ninja Leggings 5 out of 4 | So Sew English |

Ninja Leggings 5 out of 4 | So Sew English


I’m going to list shop that I follow or have ordered from for those looking for resources.
So Sew English – their Facebook group will give a warning when posting bundles, which ship within a day or two of ordering versus shop inventory which can take 7-10 business days to process from California so you can see the appeal of snapping up a bundle. They also post stuff that’s not available in the shop so it’s a feeding frenzy it you want something popular.
Knitpop – variety of fabric offered, but the website doesn’t say much in terms of weight or use so you might be a little lost at first
Zenith and Quasar – athletic fabric needs
Sincerely Rylee – I’ve ordered $4.99 yards solids and a mystery sweater knit box
LA Finch Fabrics – the fabric I have from them is because I won it, but
Vinegar & Honey – Flat Rate Friday Mystery PFRE, which ship the Friday after you order
Phee Fabrics

Mama Bear Joggers Patterns for Pirates |

Mama Bear Joggers Patterns for Pirates | Zenith & Quasar

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