Welcome to the brand-new Wovens to Knits series here at Pattern Revolution!
It’s a good time to be knits right now - they’re HOT in the fabric world! Not too long ago, knits played second fiddle to wovens for most home sewists/seamstresses and held their place largely in ready-to-wear collections. Not so anymore, and you don’t even NEED a serger or coverstitch machine to successfully sew with knits. Many of our favorite pdf pattern designers include lots of tips and tricks in their patterns to help newbies get acclimated to working with knits while using a standard sewing machine.
As a frequent pattern tester, one question I’ve been hearing in so many groups lately is “can this be made from knit, too?” The “recommended fabrics” note at the beginning of a pattern sometimes seems more like a list of gentle suggestions, as sewists simply take things into their own hands and work with whatever fabric suits them. There really isn’t a set of hard and fast rules for using knits instead of wovens in a pattern, but rather some considerations to take into account. Here at Pattern Revolution, we’ll be posting to showcase a different pattern each month and share some of the considerations needed for that particular pattern or type of pattern. And of course, what type of knit you choose to use will impact the modifications needed, so we’ll be exploring different knits as well.
To start things off, I decided to feature fun and seasonal dresses from two of our sponsors. The Pretty Pansy Dress from Ruby Jean’s Closet is a great summery dress or top with sweet bodice shaping and details, and the Maddalie Dress from My Little Plumcake has special occasion written all over it. They caught my eye as the perfect challenge to get us started over here. I always recommend sewing a pattern once as drafted (and with the recommended fabrics) to get a feel for the pattern and some insight about how best to modify it for knits.
Here are both dresses, made in wovens per pattern instructions.
And now, the knit versions.
For these dresses, knits were generously provided by our sponsor, Girl Charlee, and they sent me a large enough cut of the purple french terry that I actually made TWO different versions of the Maddalie in knit. For the Pansy dress, I picked a drapey floral print cotton blend and a cotton spandex solid for the ruffle. Important considerations when modifying a pattern from wovens to knits are the weight and body of the knits you’re using, and their degree of stretch. Interlock knits tend to be medium to heavy weight and are very stable, making them similar to wovens. They have more stretch than wovens, but less stretch than many other types of knits. Cotton jersey and jersey blends like the floral print can vary from little stretch to a high stretch percentage, and can vary by weight as well - both are important considerations. This particular blend from Girl Charlee is fairly lightweight, but doesn’t have a huge amount of stretch.
For the Pansy Dress, I kept the fullness of the skirt since I wasn’t concerned about weighing it down. I did opt to omit the bottom hem ruffle, though, as I was afraid it might compromise the drape of the skirt. As you can see from the pics, the finished skirt was very flowy and soft. I pulled in the back elastic an inch shorter than in my woven version, wanting a snug fit to help keep the skirt in place. Since this pattern features a lined bodice, I used a slightly heavier weight cotton lycra as the lining, giving the finished bodice a little more stability. It stayed in place nicely, and didn’t gape in either the front or the back. This dress was a HUGE hit with my girl - she really liked the seersucker top I made for my first pass, but truly loved the dress.
When the Maddalie dress was released by My Little Plumcake, I was intrigued by the shaped bodice. It features a lined skirt, but I opted for a single layer skirt even for my woven version since I was using quilting weight cotton and wanted to keep it light and summery. (The top of the skirt includes the lower part of the arm opening, so you’ll need to finish that if you don’t line the skirt. I just used bias tape to finish mine.) There’s a button closure at the back of the bodice, and as long as your knit bodice maintains some stretch at the neck opening, you can omit the back closure. One of the nice things about sewing with knits is the ability to simplify a pattern by eliminating closures. I used a cotton lycra print (from Art Gallery fabrics, purchased locally) for my knit Maddalie bodice and a solid cotton lycra for the lining. The french terry from Girl Charlee made a fantastic skirt for this pattern - its weight was a nice complement to the lined bodice but not too heavy. It did pull things down a little and make the armscyes larger than in the woven version, so I’ll need to make sure to address that and pull them up a bit when I make this again. I still opted to hand stitch my lining in place, but I’m an oddball who enjoys hands sewing linings. :) If you wanted to make an unlined bodice, you’d just need to finish the neck and arm openings somehow. You could use bands, binding, or facings to do this fairly simply. A good rule of thumb when making bands is to measure the opening and cut your band to 75-80% of that length, although you may need a little more or less depending on the stretch of your band fabric.
I noticed that the back skirt of the Maddalie was also gathered and had a nice silhouette, so I decided to use the back bodice and skirt pattern pieces to make a simple playdress version as well. To do this, I cut two of the back bodice and two of the back skirt pieces - one of each for the front and one of each for the back. I also cut strips of my terry fabric to use as binding. (In the future, I’ll use ribbing or a fabric with more stretch, since I think it contributed to my arm openings being a bit large.) You’ll need to lower the “front” bodice a bit in order to make the neck opening large enough to fit the child’s head through.
I upcycled a size 3xl interlock shirt for the skirt of this version, as I wanted to use the french terry for the bodice this time and needed a skirt fabric that would be a similar weight and drape. This worked well, and yielded a cute and basic playdress that I know Miss P will get plenty of chances to wear. She really loved the first knit version I made, though, and commented several times that she loved how it felt super comfy like all of her favorite knit dresses but looked extra special because of the lined bodice and the bodice shaping. (I’ll admit, I kept thinking that I’d love a dress that looked like this one, too!)
With so many knit patterns out there these days, there are great options for cute and comfy dresses - but I loved the chance to take a closer look at two patterns that were drafted for wovens to see how their unique details would translate to knits. I’m pretty happy with the results, and find myself taking a fresh look at my pattern stash. What should we tackle next?! Make sure to join Pattern Revolution on social media and show us what you’re working on!