August 13, 2013

A Knit Skirt for Becky

One factor which complicates achieving the goal of producing all our new clothes at home is the tendency to let your imagination run with the prospect of custom made clothing. The tendency is to think about the clothes you wish you were wearing, rather than the clothes you actually will wear. I enjoy the feeling of freedom to design whatever I want, but this can sometimes stand in the way of practicality if you just need some clothes to wear.

An example: last year Becky suggested I could make her a 1910's tea gown as part of our not-buying-clothes experiment. I spent a lot of time working on it, and used many meters of nice fabric, but in the end the way the bodice is formed just was not a good fit for her. I think with enough fiddling around we could get it to work, but we were both discouraged enough to put it in the drawer and not work on it. I'll probably cut it up and use the skirts for making kid clothes.

In the meantime, she has two knit skirts she wears very frequently, which are now quite worn through in many places. It looks semi-ok if she now puts both on at the same time, but if it were not for this commercial clothes abstinence project she would have replaced them long ago. She was really getting desperate, so I dug out a length of black knit fabric I purchased years ago, probably at Sew-Low in Cambridge. Without bothering to make a pattern, I cut out a front and back skirt and a waistband, mainly guided by the piece of material I had available and looking to one of the worn out skirts for the general idea.

I sewed them up on the W&W D-9 treadle, stretching the fabric significantly while seaming with a long stitch length in my default Tire silk #30 thread. This is a stretchy knit, so fitting is not really required if the thing is even close to the right size. The side seams are french, the hem is double folded and stitched through. The waistband is a double layer, formed by folding over a larger piece. The waistband lower edges were turned and pressed, then the skirt was attached to the inside of the waist, then the outer part of the band was topstitched onto the skirt.

The whole project took me about 2 hrs, with Buster helping. Within minutes of putting it on, the thread had broken in one of the side seams, so I restitched it while stretching even more. Of course you would normally use a zig-zag for joining knits, but my W&W can't do that so I tried the stretch/sew technique.

Becky is happy with the result and now has a reasonable skirt to wear. She has been wearing it for about 1.5 weeks without more thread breaks. If more breaks happen on the side seam, I would resew, but with a ribbon of seam binding to take the stress if the seam is stretched. In other words, it would no longer be stretchy, but I don't think the side seams need that ability. The waistband seam is the one that needs to stretch, so if that breaks I would just resew it by hand with a backstitch. I'm thinking about trying out a zig-zag attachment for one of our Singer 99 hand cranks, for use with knits.

Anyhow, the message, I think, is that sometimes you are far better off just sewing the clothes you will actually wear rather than spending a lot of time on clothes for the fantasy person you want to be.


mssewcrazy said...

Have you considered a vintage zig zag model for the knits? I added a 401 singer to the vintage collection for that purpose. I have also admired the singer 234 that the lady on sewing machine obsession blog has in an adapted treadle base which might be good if you don't want electric in your experiment. Women and girls tend to love knits and some just seem to have too much stretch to deal with on a ss machine. If I rehome one of my vintage machines I am adding a treadled 234 to my collection. I realized the zz was what was lacking here if off grid for some reason. The 401 would be ok on generator power unlike the computer machines I have but a treadle head that would zz would be a nice fallback for those that favor knit underwear and tees. Just a thought on the make everything yourself quest. Becky's skirt looks great on her.iD hate to see what my dh would fashion up. Very nice work there.

Holly Gates said...

@mssewcrazy - Thanks for the note. I actually have a Necchi BU head, which has ZZ and is easy to treadle. In fact it was the first vintage machine I got, which I specifically sought out because of its ability to zigzag. But the treadle table I bought to put it in (the W&W D-9) unfortunately didn't fit the BU since the W&W base is smaller than the standard Singer base. I started making an adapter plate to put the BU in the W&W table, but in the meantime I got the D-9 head working and found that I actually liked it quite well. So the BU is in my closet for now. Maybe when we have a little more space in the house I can get a second treadle table to put it in...

I often wear T shirts, so would benefit from being able to more easily sew knits, even if in my fantasy life I would wear elegant clothes made from wovens only. Plus as you point out, knits are good for underwear.

mssewcrazy said...

I am out of space as I got a little out of control adding vintage machines when I found out how great they are and then was given one of those old white made kenmore rotary models by a neighbor that I did not want to see go to the landfill so my spare machine spaces are filled at the moment by modern and vintage machines. I can use the zz on the modern machines here for knits but was thinking about the what if long term power outage were to occur. I have mastered my 127 singer treadle and the hand crank 99k for straight stitching but have been giving thoughts to zz and knits. I could use a small generator that is here on the 401 to sew knits in a long term power outage but I am still thinking I need to have a zz treadle model in case of armageddon. I have made up my mind that I must divest of one cabinet machine here probably the white made rotary and then I will get a set up for the zz. I wish some company would invent a fold up table that would be a generic treadle stand but I guess that is wishful thinking.

mssewcrazy said...

I meant a singer 237 instead of a 234 as I wrote by mistake. I am infatuated by those and also the janome 712T and the Amish reproduction cabinets. I used to have one of the zz attachments and it was not something I loved. Wish I had kept it though and the featherweight it was with.sigh