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Recently I’ve been spending a little time every day taking’s online class Understanding Knit Fabrics, taught by Sarah Veblen.  I’ve sewn acres of woven fabrics but only about a patio-sized amount of knits.  I am a knits novice.

I’ve wanted to learn about knits for years, but apparently not so much that I was willing to set aside six dozen other activities to give knits-sewing top priority.  But recently I realized that it was kind of ridiculous that I’d tailored jackets, sewn about 30 shirts for Jack over the years, and made roomfuls of draperies but cowered at the thought of making t-shirts. Really? It was time to conquer this silly apprehension I had about sewing knits.

So when I saw Pattern Review’s announcement that Understanding Knit Fabrics was being offered again I signed up. The class has PDFs you can read online (or print out and mark up) and videos that demonstrate evaluating knits for stretch and recovery, using a serger, and using a conventional sewing machine. Students have access to the PDFs and videos forever. For a limited time Sarah is available to answer students’ questions in the online classroom.

And then there’s the fat padded envelope that arrived in the mail a few days after I registered. I opened it to find 20 swatches of various knits to finger and stretch, a mini-t-shirt pattern, knits with very different degrees of stretch to sew into the t-shirts as an educational exercise, and sample needles, interfacings, and stabilizers.

It was fun to lay out all the swatches and attach their identification numbers and descriptions (#1, double knit; #12, stretch velvet, etc.) to them.

There’s something satisfying about laying out all the knit swatches in rows.

I have done so much hit-and-miss self-tutoring in recent years that having a class like this feels luxurious. I feel like I am settling into a comfy seat on a tour bus with an experienced guide. However, as I well know, I can look out the window, let my mind wander, and realize as the tour bus returns that I didn’t pay attention to anything our guide said.

So I am making several efforts to build a modest but serviceable fund of knowledge as a springboard to confident knits-sewing.

First off, I’ve cut down the territory.  I don’t have to Know Everything About Knits.  Knowing how to sew nice t-shirts for Jack is a worthy, achieveable, and fun goal.

Second, I’ve been watching the videos, reading the handouts, and doing the exercises as Sarah directs. No shortcuts–just do the lessons as the teacher laid them out. It’s been a lot of fun, actually, to tug on each swatch and observe the amount of stretch, and examine it closely under a magnifying glass. I’m planning to do the mini t-shirt exercise, which shows you the fit difference between an interlock, which has moderate give, and a rib knit, which has much more give.

Also, I took the t-shirt class last weekend at Sewing Hive, here in Columbus, which gave me hands-on experience with the friendly guidance of instructor Jamie Hevener. I learned the important parts, about judging and laying out the fabric, binding the neckline, and hemming with a double needle. I know, these steps are elementary when you know how, but dealing with stretch takes some practice.

I searched high and low online and found some very nice interlocks from the Etsy shop of Ginny’s Fine Fabrics in Rochester, Minnesota for t-shirts for Jack.  The fabrics arrived in today’s mail and feel wonderful. Jack’s t-shirt wardrobe is due for an upgrade, and once I’ve accustomed him to higher quality there will be no turning back!

And of course, I have this blog as a major accountability device!

So, using the push of classes and this blog and the pull of mastering a new area and making nice t-shirts for Jack, I think I’ve got the bases covered. Watch this space for further developments!