Sunday, 13 April 2014

Chewed-Up Plantain (a wearable toile)

Hello folks! This is just a quick one as I haven't posted in a while, but have a completed garment that I haven't made time to photograph yet. This is the Plantain t-shirt from Deer & Doe- my first foray into jersey made easier by the fact that the pattern is free- you can download it here. See if you can avoid also adding all the pretty day dresses into your virtual cart. I've held out so far, only because I have a fair old stash of patterns to have a go at, but I don't think it will be for long!

So, the Plantain. As I'm a beginner with jersey and was making up on a regular sewing machine (and an old tetchy one at that which I should probably get round to servicing) I did have a few issues. Despite using up a heck of a lot of excess jersey and thread testing and retesting stitches, needle size and tension my machine still managed to skip stitches on a few of my seams and chew up my hem when I had a go with the twin needle. Extremely frustrating as I would fine tune everything using my testing scraps, then a few cm into the hem the machine would play up. I ended up zig-zagging the front hem after my twin-needling on the back got too messy.

Here's my machine, inherited from my Gran. I guess from the colourscheme it's from the 60s or 70s maybe?

And here's its foot- held together with a nail case as the original bolt is missing, and as it's plastic can't be replaced. This makes my machine a little unpredictable- sometimes it carries on stitching even when I've taken my foot off!
 If anyone knows what I was doing wrong please tell me! I had quite a bit of online help from Tilly's sewalong tutorial for the lovely Coco pattern (which once I've run down my pattern backlog a bit I plan to have a go at, as it's a great stylish basic which has lots of room for adaptation) but I guess I really needed someone with me to spot my mistakes and help troubleshoot! Hence the 'Chewed-Up Plantain', which is really a wearable toile. No reflection on the pattern itself! 

I made up a size 12, traced up to 14 at the bust but accidentally down to a 12 again at the neckline. It seems to fit pretty well and is great for just throwing on to wear for lounging around. I'm sure it will be relegated down to pyjamas as soon as I can get my machine to play ball enough to make another, which is a testament to its comfort factor! It's such a wearable design with a forgiving and elegant drape to it. I plan to make another improved version of my first, and try a short-sleeved too, as it's such a nice basic and quick to come together. 

The instructions were fairly simple to follow- but as an absolute newbie to this I don't think I attached the neckline quite right (my seam at the back of the neck that holds the neckband together shows, so I think there must have been a fabric reversing step at some point that I missed...) and there are points where it's not super-clear whether you're supposed to be sewing on the right side of the fabric or not. But I'm sure anyone who isn't a complete novice would work this out, and in fact apart from the neckband mine turned out fine (except that my elbow patches are fractionally too high as I had to sew in the sleeves a bit higher when trying to cover up a notch at the shoulder that I cut too far in, d'oh!). I made this up in two evenings after work so for a more experienced sewist it wouldn't take longer than an hour or so. 

Unfortunately as I don't really know yet how to make my next jersey project come out without all the stitching glitches I'm going to park my plans for a new Plantain, or a Lady Skater, or even a Coco for the time being until I have the patience to really work out where I'm going wrong! Or until I get my mitts on the Bernina sewing machine that I scored in my boyfriend's gran's house clearance that's in storage. 

Happily for me I have a ton of patterns to have a go at that don't involve knit fabrics and I'm already stuck into a new project - a daring broderie anglaise version of the Sweetheart dress by Sew La-Di-Da so will have something new to post up soon!

What are you working on? Any and all tips for troubleshooting when sewing with knit fabric appreciated! 

NorseOtter xxx


  1. Stitches can skip if your twin needle isn't designed for stretch or jersey sewing. Do you still have the package/case? Check that it's marked for this kind of fabric. That can make a huge difference.

  2. Hi Meg, thanks for the advice, I hadn't thought about that. I got my sewing machine second-hand and all evidence points to the twin needle being the one included as part of the original accessories. The instructions for the twin needle aren't very detailed, but mention how to do pin tucking, which I guess might mean that it's meant for wovens. I'd better go shopping if all I want all my summer t-shirts to happen!