Beginner machine knitting – swatch it!

Hi there:) I want to start with a thank you to Raphaëlle who blogs over at Deux Sourcieaux, who has nominated me for the blog hop that you’ve probably seen popping up in your blog feed the last while.   Raphaëlle’s blog has a lovely mix of sewing,  some machine knitting and spinning ( one of the few textile pursuits I have never learned!) Her blog is a lovely source of inspiring kids clothes makes.  So I will be posting my answers this coming Monday and passing on the nomination then, so do stop by again if you can !

Any other Machine knitters out there? I am slowly teaching myself to Machine Knit using a Knitmaster standard guage machine and I thought I would share some of the things I’m learning along the way.


Swatches - varying in tension

The most important thing I’ve learned is that swatches are an absolute must!  Unlike handknitting it isn’t possible to judge as you knit.  This is because in machine knitting, the fabric is stretched across the needle bed and changes shape dramatically when it’s removed.

Below are some swatches that I made up after I purchased some new cone yarn from Yeoman Yarns in the UK. I bought some Cashmilon 4ply and Panama 4ply ( I used the Panama to knit my slouchy cardigan).

The contrasting dots of yarn are used to mark the stitch width and the contrasting stripes are marking the row count.


panama swatches


I knit them in a continuous strip to save on casting on and casting off.  I used a different tension for each section.


long swatches


I then cut them apart and overlocked the top and bottom to stop them coming undone.


cashmillon close up

Overlocking visible on the top edge



After washing and blocking them to dry, I was able to measure them.  A handy tip I learned from one of Diana O’Sullivan’s videos was to make little holes in the swatch that correspond to the tension used  ( this one was knit at tension 5 )


tension holes

Number of holes is the tension number used


I now store these swatches together in a binder with all the relevant measurements on them – it will maker it easier to plan future projects.  Especially if i want to avoid any further cardboard -like jumpers :)

And to finish here are just two of the links I have found useful for Beginning to Machine Knit:


If anyone has more machine knit resources to share please do add them in comments . :) Chris

Invisible Zipper finish sewing tip

*Hi there new visitors & welcome. If you find this tip helpful be sure to follow Make&Wear for future posts :)*

Sometimes invisible zips worry me that they will come open. Especially when they start at the waist of a skirt. Instead of a hook and eye (which can be difficult to see). I use a fabric loop and button – on the inside.


Before the facing goes on, I catch a loop of lining fabric onto the zipper tape as below-


Then attach the facing as normal :


And all that’s left to do is sew a small flat button onto the opposite side of the zip :) That should save any wardrobe malfunctions! ! Happy sewing, Chris

Cheap & Cheerful ….. a new top from an old dress

Do you end up with bag-loads of other peoples clothes because they know you can sew?  I do!! No one ever sends their clothes to the charity shop without letting me have a look through first !! That’s how I came upon the dress pictured below on the left:

before & after

Old dress into new top


It was a dress that was no longer being worn and I was drawn to the bright colours on it.  The fabric was 100% cotton and I knew I might just squeeze a sleeveless top from it!  I used this Simplicity pattern ( which I’ve made up before )

simplicity 2599

Simplicity 2599


** just a little note if you plan to make this** – I cut mine about 5cm shorter than the pattern as I found it was a bit too long for my taste.

I started by checking if the pieces would fit using the lower portion of the dress:

1checking pattern

sizing up the front pattern piece




It was clear that the top would extend into the other panels on the dress – but the waist section was a heavier fabric that had piping so I wasn’t too keen to use it.  Instead I decided to patch together the pieces of the dress that I wanted to use. and avoid using the piped waistband piece.

I started by cutting apart the dress and the cut out the main back piece :


Back on fold

Which looked like so:4

I then added a dark blue strip along the top, stitching right side together and overlocking the seam:


And then finished cutting out the back piece:



I approached the front piece in a similar way, fitting as much as I could on the fabric:


Adding a piece to the shoulder:


How it looked after adding shoulder pieces:


I bound the neckline and armholes with bias fabric strips:

blue top armholes

It came together quickly and here’s the finished top!

front on hanger

with jeans

Sewing success from a knit failure

Nothing to post yet on my efforts with my OAL Dress…. lots of interuptions to regular sewing !! But I’ve had some pictures ready to post with a while so here we go….
I’ve mentioned before that I own a pretty old Knitting Machine which I’m slowly teaching myself to use.   I have even made something very wearable!.  But before that there were quite a few wtf pieces that will never see the light of day ( or blog!).   But there is one such piece I am prepared to share, since I managed to salvage the remains!


I had gone all creative making a dropped stitch design on the front piece and using some black yarn on the back piece.  Here’s the before picture:

red jumper lge

wonky geansai – not even slightly wearable


The neckline is a mess, the hem is a mess, it hangs away from the body stiffly and the sleeves were pretty gross too!!

close up red jumper

oh dear…


I made alot of beginner mistakes on this one.  First up I didn’t make a swatch…. Big Mistake! I ended up with a sweater that was stiff instead of draping nicely.   I had knit it too tightly, but thought it would soften up in the wash.  It didn’t.

I also misjudged the sizing, so ended up with sleeves that were too wide at the top and just looked ugly. The neckline doesn’t bear mentioning, it was just wrong! But because I tried to fix my sweater by taking the sewing machine to the seams ( yep bad idea) I couldn’t unravel the yarn to be re-used.

I know…. a real learning curve ha!

I follow a great blog that has lots of info on sewing with sweater knits call Crafting Fashion.  The designer Olgalyn Jolly knits the most beautiful sweater fabric that she sells online.   So with a little courage that it might work , and knowing there was little to lose at this stage, I went for broke and cut it up to use as fabric…….!


I then cut apart a childs sweatshirt to use as my pattern ( it was stained beyond saving ).   It was a case of Bye Bye Kitty…..

cutting frnt

cutting sleeve

Using the sweatshirt sleeve as my pattern



And hello sweatshirt pieces:

all cut pieces


I used a strip of interfacing around all edges to stabilise them for sewing together:

stabilising seams


Then assembled the new child-sized sweatshirt

joining pieces

seam joining

Sewn and overlocked seams


I attached the sleeves flat and added cuffs of cotton ribbing:

sleeve bands



I also used cotton ribbing for the neckline and the waistband:

hem new

attaching waistband




Neckband was zig zagged then overlocked


new finished


closeup new



All that was left was to try it on its new owner :

red mk modelled

Finished sweatshirt

0AL 2014 – Myrna completed, dress not so much….



Oops where has the month gone? ……. First up…… I misread the closing date for the nettie sewalong which is probably just as well, since I didn’t get round to making my second Nettie yet!

I’m still working ( slowly) on my Outfit Along dress, but my cardi is finished and has been worn a few times.  The more I knit for myself, the more I’m starting to learn which changes to make in order to fit my shape (which is on the straight side fyi!).

After making a few of Andi Satterlund’s Patterns, and from looking at her finished measurement diagrams, it’s clear that she designs for a shape with a bigger difference between bust and waist than I have.   Either my waist is too big or my bust is too small (a little of each I think! ) This is pretty much the same with rtw clothing on my frame, so not a complaint about Andi’s designs!  More of a lament about sizing really.  Most sewing patterns and rtw clothing assumes  approx 8-10 inches of a  difference between bust and waist,  ( mine is only a 6″ difference).   I look forward to the day an Indie designer launches some patterns for the straight bodies out there !!



myrna cast on

The beginning :)



In the mean time I did what I do with my sewing patterns – remove some of the shaping.   I made the size small which fits really well in the shoulders/arms.  I worked the pattern as written until the underarms.  Then instead of decreasing two stitches at each side as per pattern instructions, I only decreased one stitch at each side. This gave a gentler slope at the sides and left me with more stitches and more room at the waist.


This cardigan went everywhere with me until it was done! It was such a lovely pattern to knit up and since I finished I’ve missed bringing knitting to do while I keep the kids amused on my days off.

myrna at the beach

Continued at the beach…


myrna playground knitting

Last sleeve at the playground


I wet blocked my Myrna and when it was dry I stitched on some hem tape to reinforce the button band: ( I used hem reinforcing tape as it was the only thing I had to hand but it does the job!)

band on cardi




The dress part of the OAl is not going so well unfortunately. I started with this pattern, Simplicity 1797:

oal dress pattern

Simplicity 1797


It has a nice high neckline which I like and princess seams. I intend to add a different skirt – not sure what yet though.  I made the practice bodice in a printed cotton and adjusted the seams as necessary and then transferred the changes back to the pattern.

armhold bnding



The armholes are bound in the same way as Lauren explains in her blog.  This is a lovely neat way to finish necklines or armholes, especially if the dress is unlined.


So now I need to get my skates on and instead of making my practice dress wearable, I need to get cutting on my actual Oal dress to match my Myrna or I’ll miss another deadline !! Anyone else this far behind?