Always prepare your fabric before cutting and sewing. Sew a zigzag stitch or overlock stitch on any raw or cut edges on the fabric before washing. Follow the same procedure you plan to use when laundering your finished item.
Caring for Wool Sweater Knits
OR you may have your fabric dry cleaned. Remember agitation, hot water and hot dryers will shrink most wool.
- Launder similar colors together. Mix a small amount of mild detergent or soap in sufficient cool water to completely submerge your fabric. (Do not use Woolite. Woolite contains "optical brighteners" which can remove natural oils and "dry-out" the fabric. Do not use bleach.)
- Allow fabric to soak for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Rinse gently in cool water. You may use fabric softener, if you like.
- Remove excess water by rolling fabric in a towel and squeezing gently or by using the gentle spin cycle only of a washing machine.
- Gently smooth the fabric into shape on a flat surface, being careful not to overstretch the fabric.
- Allow fabric to air dry away from direct sunlight.
Caring for Cotton Sweater Knits
If you've purchased the natural white cotton, dyed cotton, or grown in color cotton, here are the fabric care instructions:
- Sew a zigzag stitch or overlock stitch on any raw or cut edges.
- Hand wash or machine wash on gentle in either warm or cold water. Do not bleach. Do not use Woolite. (See above.) Warm water may brighten or whiten the natural white cotton a little. Warm, alkaline water tends to deepen the color-grown cotton colors. The color cotton will not fade in the wash. Add 1 tablespoon of baking soda to the warm wash water to intensify the grown-in-color cotton, if you'd like.
- Rinse gently in cold water.
- Remove excess water by rolling fabric in a towel. Or use a gentle spin cycle on your washing machine.
- Gently smooth the fabric or finished garment into shape as you lay it flat to air dry away from direct sunlight. You may also gently tumble dry cotton. Be sure to remove fabric immediately or when still slightly damp to avoid wrinkles.
There's really no one "right way" to cut and sew a sweater. Always let your preferences and experience guide you. If you have no experience sewing sweater knits, these tips may help.
- Before cutting your fabric, prepare your fabric by laundering it in the same way you'll launder your finished garment. Sew a wide zigzag along all raw or unfinished edges before washing.
- Many knit stitch patterns have a one-way design. Be sure to make note of the direction of the stitch pattern before you begin to place the sewing pattern pieces on the fabric. Marking a “T” or an arrow on the wrong side of the fabric to indicate placement of the top of garment is helpful. In other words, if your sweater knit has a one-way design, treat it like a fabric with nap.
- Often there are better results when cutting a garment flat, rather than placing pattern pieces on the fold. It makes matching stitch patterns easier too.
- Use a ballpoint needle of appropriate size when sewing.
- Consider sewing with polyester thread. It stretches just a little and is stronger than cotton.
- Use a stretch stitch or narrow zigzag stitch when sewing seams.
- Try not to stretch a raw edge too much. Instead fold the edge over several inches first and then stretch the folded edge to test stretch and recovery.
- Raw edges can fray or run with sweater knits. (See above about not stretching too much.) There are several ways to finish a raw edge with a regular sewing machine or an overlock machine. Practice your finishing methods on your cutaways before you begin to sew your garment.
- If adding a rib band, read Determining the Length and Width of Rib Bands for helpful tips.
- Use the “Search” feature on my blog Crafting Fashion (desktop/laptop view) if you've got a question. Perhaps there's a post on your topic.
- When it comes to fit, sweater knits are forgiving in many ways. Relax and have fun!