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Book Review: Beginners Guide to Sewing Knitted Fabrics – Don’t Want Get Dressed but Have To? Then Make Something from this Book!

I was delighted to be asked to make a garment by way of review from the new Wendy Ward book ‘A Beginners Guide to Sewing Knitted Fabrics’ especially when I picked it up off the doormat and a quick flick through revealed that – yes – it included a pattern for pair of lounge pants, the Monsals. And then I noted it had a pattern for a long cardigan, the Kinder, with kimonoesque sleeves. Double yes
But before I go into the detail of these specific makes, let’s consider the book itself shall we? The book is split into two main sections, ‘Techniques’ and ‘Projects’ and comes with 6 basic pattern blocks which can then be altered, in simple ways, to make 20 different garments overall, in sizes ranging from UK 8 to UK 26 (US 4 to US 22). The patterns are thankfully included as actual paper pieces (rather than web links to downloadable content as you might have expected) in a thin plastic wallet at the back of the book (which I haven’t the patience to get mine back into!) They are overlaid though so you will need tracing paper to hand. 
In terms of the Project patterns, not everything is going to appeal to everyone. How would that be even possible!? These are your classic basics, from t-shirts, tank tops, cardigans, wide leg trousers, lounge pants, dresses and skirts. As you might expect from a book intended for beginners, the patterns are drafted to avoid fitting issues, apart from the rudimentary lengthening/shortening. On the whole, there are lots of straight lines and boxy shapes with a fair amount of wearing ease built into them. Importantly, however, they cover a collection of features such as bias binding finishing, knit hem techniques, basic hacking and elasticated waistbands, which, if a beginner worked their way through the book, would lead to accomplishing a solid set of core skills. 
My version of the Kinder Cardigan & Monsal Lounge Pants
The Technique section of the book covers all your basic knit know-how; from the tools you’ll need, setting up your machine and machining techniques through to special treatments, like taping seams and shirring. Particularly useful is the guide to the different types of knitted fabrics, working out its stretch percentage and the Quick Guides to choosing the right seam or needle for your fabric and project etc. There are also Tips and Handy Reminders dotted throughout its pages. 
This then is the book I wished I’d had at the start of my sewing journey; it might have been less circuitous if I had! The book is what it is; a great introduction to sewing with knits and is clearly intended, as the title implies, for beginners. As such, the book doesn’t go into using an overlocker, with everything designed to be sewn up on a regular basic sewing machine. I don’t think this is an oversight … there is enough information within this book to enthuse a beginner whilst not overwhelming them with info, before they progress to buying further expensive equipment.
The Derwent Wide Leg Trouser - I think these may find they’re way into my sewing queue too! 
However, there is also enough here to make it a worthwhile purchase, or gift, for the more advanced sewist too. Sometimes it’s just good to be reminded of your former diligent self who used to nervously take the time, for example, to hand baste hems in place prior to twin needling them. I find that I’ve a tendency to over-confidently plough through things these days ... but it’s not always to my advantage! Being reminded of the basics; to slow down, to take the time to take care and do things properly is a good thing, and potentially less time consuming in the long run for any sewist, I guess. I think the price of the book is very reasonable too; even if you only choose to make a couple of items, you’ll potentially have saved money you’d otherwise have spent purchasing similar patterns separately.
So shall we take a look at what I made?
I already had the fabric in my stash for the cardigan since the idea for something similar had been germinating for a while but I was sent the fabric for the lounge pants as part of the review. I started by making the cardigan…
.. And I tried to look at the make with Beginner Eyes. The Kinder cardigan can be made in three lengths; if you want the full length version like I did, you are instructed to lengthen the pattern pieces by 10.5”. All good experience for tracing and altering pattern pieces. 
There are really clear tips for each pattern as to what kinds of jersey to choose and the Kinder pattern states that it should be made in a heavier weight knit, like a Ponte so I did go a bit off-piste here as I wanted mine to be more slouchy and less coatigan like. My Knit Fabric is a true loose poly/spandex fabric you could almost imagine having knitted yourself, in the most divine colour! (Though I had a bit of trouble defining what that is…Mustardy? Old Gold? Ochre? Anyway, I digress and it’s called ‘Thatch’) I had to take a little extra care when sewing it up as the almost imperceptible threads kept catching on my walking foot and my raggedy nails!  
Remember what I said earlier about slowing down? I initially ploughed through this cardigan at break-neck speed, only surfacing to actually think when I realised I’d missed the point of adding in the pockets which are sewn into the side seams and front band. The pockets option is detailed a few pages later in the book. Daft of me, yes, but it would have been nice to have had a little *reminder at the relevant point in the instructions to turn to that page if you wanted to include them. So I ended up patching mine on. Lesson learned. Slow down. Read things through first and don’t get cocky!
Anyway, I love my cardy! I think it’s a gloriously slouchy mustardy marvel. (Try saying that fast!) And, yes, because I used one of Wendy’s top Tops included in the book, to hand baste my cuffs before hemming in place, I was really happy with how accurate my twin needle finish was!  
Then I sewed up the Monsal lounge pants in a really gorgeous quality marl grey Ponte Roma Fabric. I was really happy with this pattern, I’d been hankering after a pair of sweat pants/joggers for a while…basically PJ bottoms you can wear outdoors. I wanted pockets, a contrast waistband and ankle cuffs and the Monsals have these plus the option of adding a ‘Go Faster’ type stripe down the outside leg seam. I left this off in case they veered off into being too sporty looking for this coach potato!
The instructions have you cut your size according to your hip measurement which, even though my waist falls into a higher size bracket, is fine since the waistband is elasticated. In fact, I sized down one size smaller than my hip as I didn’t want them to be too relaxed in fit. Probably as a result, they’re a tad fitted at the calf…despite not being sporty I have what can only be described as ‘athletic’ calves…but overall I’m really happy with the fit. They are supremely comfortable and the Ponte knit I used is perfect with the marl in the grey adding just the right amount of interest I feel. The contrasting black Ponte I used is slightly less heavy which is perfect for adding the stretch needed in those areas. 
They sewed up really well. They’re a basic pant but are still a pretty interesting sew. I love the little details like how neat the opening for the elastic casing is and the way the pockets come together with the contrasting band. In fact the only thing I wished I’d done differently was to omit topstitching the waistband as my machine struggled at the junction above the pocket opening. Next time I’ll forgo that and perhaps just anchor the seam down with a few hand stitches on the inside, though even that’s probably not necessary. 
I’ve worn these a ridiculous amount already and the quality of the poly/viscose/elastase blend fabric has meant they’ve withstood repeated laundering without any noticeable pilling. In fact they look as new as the day I made them!
Congratulations on the success of the book Wendy; thank you for sending me the review copy and thank you Minerva for the supplies!
Sarah x

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