The Post in Which I Tackle a KNIT: McCalls 2401, the V-Neck Version

First, a word of warning:  Brace yourselves, this is NOT a pretty post!  And, yes…I’m using McCalls 2401 yet again.  I’m horribly sorry to be so tiresome and promise that my next post will be a completely different pattern – also not a knit!  And not navy!  There.
I feel better now.

In my quest to help Dear Daughter #1 locate great looking, packable work clothes – she does travel at times for her job – it was inevitable that the idea of  sewing with knits should present itself.  After all, they look fairly harmless on those big bolts, all lined up on the shelf at the local chain fabric store…why not give them a shot?!  Nice feel, not expensive to “test”…let’s do it!  Two colors, navy and charcoal gray (hey, these are for WORK) were selected, dragged home, popped in the wash and were all set to go.
So far, so good…!

For this version of 2401, we decided to make the v-neck, but shorten the sleeves to 3/4 length.  Since the sheath version of this pattern turned out well, I figured ‘easy, peasy’…right?  I cut the pieces out just as I had before, got the machine set up for that cool stretch stitch just for knits and got to work.   It went like this:

“Oooo…that stretch stitch is really neat!  This is so easy!  Knits are fun…!”
“No edges to finish, ei…wait…why isn’t the fabric moving???”
“I’m sewing, but the fabric isn’t moving…wait, now it won’t come off the machine”
“Give that dress back, you wretched, sadistic machine!”

(Much yanking, pulling, mumbling, wringing of hands, and glaring ensues…I did warn you
this was NOT pretty!)

Finally, the obvious: the feed dogs have eaten – yes, readers, EATEN – my dress!
Sucked it right into their nefarious clutches and down into some hidden stash place in the bowels of the machine.  (Well, ok…it was just a little part of the SEAM, but still…it was NOT moving off that machine and this was extremely traumatic to a novice sewist like myself!  I had to cut off a chunk of the seam to free it from the plate, for heavens sake!)

After consulting the manual, removing the screws that hold that plate thingy, (do you know how hard it is to find a screwdriver that short?!), I finally got to the source of the problem, freed the chomped seam, regrouped and went at it again.

Rinse and repeat.  AGAIN, the feed dogs ate the fabric as if they were mocking my attempts.  Knits are NOT fun anymore, and neither is this machine!

Sewing Thump on the Head #5
(I’m going to lose count of these ‘duh’ moments, I just know it!  There are SO many!)

  • Read the darn manual, watch the video, consult the forums, whatever you have to do to get valuable and time saving tips on how to deal with different fabrics.  It’s SO worth investing a little bit of research time, and will save you from much angst and woe!  Had I done this, I’d have discovered that the presser foot has to go down before the needle goes in or everything goes to hell in a hand basket, if you’ll pardon the expression!
  • Also, some knits and lightweight fabrics need some kind of paper backing when being sewn.  Sounds like a good bit of trouble, so I’ll save that for a future project – like the one that will make use of that ITY knit I was warned against, but purchased anyway!

Finally got the thing together, ended up finishing the seams anyway so they’d look more RTW, and with great anticipation, Dear Daughter #1 tried it on… and it SWAM on her!
Seriously, what the heck?  I thought I cut the same size as the sheath dress that fits her so well, but this thing is at least 2 sizes too big!  The front appears to be way too wide, and it’s one piece, of course!  Plus, the 3/4 sleeves look incredibly awkward for some reason.

Here is my long-suffering model in this disaster.  We literally have it clothes-pinned in back so it doesn’t fall off her shoulders and hit the floor!  You can see from her pose that she’s doing her best to keep the thing in place, but clearly it’s meant for the giveaway box!

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Sewing Thump on the Head #6:

  • Even if you’ve sewn the pattern before, double check the measurements before going to all the trouble to cut and sew.  Compare them against a dress that fits you well, if nothing else!  For this dress, it was just too broad across the front, with really no good way to cut it down to size and get it back on her shoulders!  *Sigh*
  • Also, check the fabric recommendations.  When using a knit fabric that has more give than a woven, you might need to do more adjusting to get the fit right – maybe.  Ok, that’s just pure conjecture on my part, but it’s the best I could come up with for the way off sizing!

Oh, well…I guess this is my first “wadder”.  Hmm…out of three projects = depressing!!  On the plus side, my “invisible hem” looked much better on this dress, the zipper went in easily, and the back neck edges came VERY close to actually lining up!  Progress.
And bonus:  I learned how to beat knits into submission, as well as how to access
the underbelly of my sewing machine should the need ever arise again.
One must take little triumphs where one finds them!

Thus endeth my first attempt at the wretched knit dress, which you may have noticed is my cover picture.  I hope to proudly post perfectly fitting pictures of this dress very soon!  I will conquer this!

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For now, hope everyone is enjoying a wonderful January!  There’s nothing like a cold, winter day to inspire the starting of new sewing and craft projects!

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PS…It is perfectly acceptable for you to pretend that you’ve had similar experiences with knits…come on, surely some of you have had big fails!  Feel free to share them in the ‘comments’ section – misery loves company, don’t you know!

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8 Responses to The Post in Which I Tackle a KNIT: McCalls 2401, the V-Neck Version

  1. Mrsmole says:

    Using a ballpoint needle might help with your knit sewing and I have seen people use Scotch tape over the hole on the throat plate to keep fabric from being sucked down into a wide opening. If you are using a narrow zigzag then this is no good, only for straight stitching. You have discovered and shared a valuable lesson…patterns designed for woven fabrics usually run too big when one uses knits and vice-versa.If you haven’t tossed the dress out yet, you could narrow the front by making a new center front seam from neck to hem and no one would suspect but if the back is also too wide and you hate to take zippers out it is not worth it. Thanks for sharing!

    • admin says:

      Thank you so much for your helpful info! Coming from someone who knows all the tricks of the trade, it’s great advice! I was using the ball point needle (should have mentioned that!) but for my machine, it appears lowering the foot before inserting the needle seems to be the solution – or at least a partial one. I thought about adding a seam to the front, but frankly, the entire dress is just in need of a severe shrinkage. Better to give it away and let someone that size wear it! Love your blog, btw!

  2. Kathryn says:

    Hello! I’ve had the same problem with the neckline on a t-shirt I made from a fine jersey. I cut it out the right size but by the time I’d sewn it up the neckline had stretched so much that it now only functions as an extreme off-the-shoulder t-shirt – which wasn’t really the look I was going for! Oh well, like you say, it’s all a learning experience! I really like this version with the v-neck. I’ve just finished my third version of McCalls 2401 – it’s such a great pattern for a beginner like me!

    • admin says:

      It is a great pattern…but maybe not for knits :) I had stay-stitched my neckline and interfaced it, so it didn’t stretch as much as it was just too darn wide and big. It would definitely be an off-the-shoulder look :) Hope your next version of this great pattern works out. I don’t know about you, but I’m staying with wovens with a bit of stretch for this pattern!

  3. Emily says:

    Oh man I did this when I was sewing a turtle neck for my kids using lovely light ribbed merino. It stretched and stretched and got eaten. Everything. I still haven’t got around to sewing another rib yet though I have one in my queue…..

    I love the smile in the pic – she’s a doll for putting the dress on don’t cha think?

    • admin says:

      What rotten luck! I haven’t tried a ribbed knit, but there was a great comment posted by a very accomplished sewist on how to deal with this problem of an aggressive machine (we know it’s the machine’s fault – right?). Be sure to check it out! We’re going to conquer those knits…I just know it!

      Emily, she’s a treasure! I have a feeling she’ll have to paste on that smile for many more “experiments” before we get this whole fit thing right :)

Comments, tips & ideas always welcome!