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Creating Knit Patterns Using Knit Garments

Creating knit patterns using knit garments is almost as easy as making a sewing pattern from a woven garment. If you are wanting the slightly easier method, read last week’s post where we looked at how to make a woven sewing pattern for yourself using an existing woven garment as the basis.

This ‘How To Create A Knit Pattern’ post is part 4 of the Perfect Pattern series. If you haven’t had a chance to read the earlier posts, you can do so here:

There’s also a tutorial on drafting a skirt block or a female bodice block too!

Alrighty, lets get crackin’!

Learn how to create knit sewing patterns using one of your favourite knit garments! This quick post tells you the basic instructions so that you can try copying your favourite clothes for yourself!

Why Use Existing Knitted Garments When Creating Knit Patterns?

A very good reason for using a piece of knitted clothing from your wardrobe when creating knit patterns is that it will fit you in a way that works for YOU.

Another element is that knitted garments often don’t require fabric suppression – specifically darts – as the knit fabric can either be stable, and so fall loosely, or will have an element of stretch added to it – usually lycra – so that it can mould itself to your body, eliminating the need for traditional fabric suppression techniques.

Selecting a Garment for Creating Knit Patterns

This is what I wrote in part 3 about selecting a garment:

When learning how to make a sewing pattern, you’ll want start by choosing a suitable garment to make a sewing pattern.

Now, when creating knit patterns, we have two options.

  1. Select a garment made from a knitted fabric that can easily be replicated
  2. Select a woven garment that can be replicated, but the factor in negative ease to make it knit friendly

Knit Types

To begin, lets work out the knit type of your garment. There are many types of knit, and understanding which type you chosen garment is will help when creating knit patterns from it.

Stable Knits

A stable knit is a knit that has very little stretch. Clothes made with a stable knit often have design ease added to the pattern so that it is possible to move in the garment when it is worn. The typical amount of stretch for a stable knit would be 18-25%.

Moderate Knit

A moderate knit will stretch much more than a stable knit – in fact, it can be anything between 26-50%! Examples of a moderate knit would be tee’s, jerseys and interlock fabrics.

Stretchy Knits

Stretchy knits can stretch between 51-75% – that’s a lot of stretch!

Super Stretch Knits

These Knits have an amazing amount of stretch and recovery. Usually created by blending fibres with either latex or spandex, these newly created fibres can stretch many times their width and length… 76-100%… and they return to their original measurement too because of the great recovery! Great examples would be leotards, body suits and swimwear.

Rib Knits

Think of actual knitting rib, the whole knit one, purl one you learnt at school. Only slightly different to allow for the industrial manufacturing aspect and not home knitting!

With a stretch ratio of up to 100%, you can find this stretch knit on your sweaters – often the waistband and cuffs are rib – and collars on crew-neck tops.

Sweater Knits

These are made from a thicker yarn and are usually used for sweaters and sweater dresses. Typical stretch ratio is between 18-50%!

Stretch Wovens

These woven fabrics really are still woven and need to be treated as such, which means reducing the amount of ease in the pattern. To allow for the stretch element. The stretch comes from adding Lycra to the fabric, only it is woven through, not knitted. Stretch wovens will usually stretch by less than 18%.

1, 2 and 4-Way Stretch

Finally, there are knit fabric ‘attributes’ – the 1-way, 2-way and 4-way stretch elements.

  1. 1-way stretch will stretch on the crossgrain, but will not recover.
  2. 2-way stretch will stretch on the cross grain, and will recover back to it’s original size.
  3. 4-way stretch will stretch and recover on both grains.

Like I said, plentiful knit fabric options! 🙂

So, what TYPE of knit is your chosen top?

Fibre Content

you will want to know the fibre content of your tee. Does the tee have any added lycra or spandex, to enable it to stretch?

This is important, because the pattern you create using this garment will then look different when it is used with fabrics that behave differently.

Tools Needed When Creating Knit Patterns

When learning how to create a knit sewing pattern, you’ll want to have certain tools by your side. For this technique we will want:

  • Workspace
  • Paper scissors
  • Pattern paper
  • Pins
  • Ruler
  • A knitted garment
  • Weights
  • Tracing wheel
  • Hard pencil (I like 4H best)
  • Highlighter pens
  • Eraser
  • Tape measure
  • Pattern master or french curve

Setting Up

Once you have you tools and workspace ready, you’re all ready for creating knit patterns from your knitted clothes.

If you haven’t set up your sewing room / workspace yet, you should do so now! By setting up the right workspace from the start of the process, you can get crackin’ on creating knit patterns in one go.

Creating Knit Patterns From A Knitted Garment

The initial steps are not unlike the method for the woven pattern post we covered in Part 3.

  1. Use your paper scissors to cut a piece of pattern paper slightly bigger than your garment.
  2. Place the pattern paper on your work space.
  3. Fold your garment in half on the workspace, making sure that the key points match; for my tee I will use the neck / shoulder point, the shoulder tip and the side seam hem as my markers. This is important because often knit garments have twisted side seams, so we want to have specific markers to work from.
  4. Place pins down the fold line on both front and back of the garment.
  5. Place the garment to one side.
  6. Use your ruler to draw a straight line down the centre of the paper. This will be your centre front and centre back.
  7. Lay your tee flat on top of the paper. You want to make sure that the centre front and centre back of the garment is in line with the line you drew previously.
  8. Place a weight at the top of the garment, and again at the hem. Be sure that you aren’t stretching out the fabric along this line.
  9. Next, smooth the fabric out towards the side seam and place weights in these key areas, holding the garment in place.
  10. Use the combination of your pencil and the tracing wheel to carefully trace around the garment. You need to work with one section at a time – so if you are opting to trace the front, do the front first, then the back, then the sleeve. Don’t try to do all in one go, but do try to keep them all on the one piece of paper. (I have all the sections on one sheet of paper, overlapping each other, because it allows me to see more easily if there are any major differences in the connecting seams.)
  11. If one section of the garment is bigger than the other, you may need to manoeuvre the garment slightly to be able to trace all of that section. You can do this by moving the weights towards the section that needs manoeuvring, and then edging the fabric carefully until the seam you need to trace is lying flat on the paper. Be VERY careful not to take the section off the grain that is the centre front / centre back – you’ll end up with wonkiness!
  12. Once it is all traced, mark in the grain line of the sections before removing the garment from the paper.
  13. You should now have clear pencil outlines. I like to take my highlighter pens and highlight the front and back lines using different colours.
  14. Use your pattern master or french curve and ruler to clean up your original traced lines.
  15. Finally, use the tape measure on its edge to measure the seam lines and ‘true up’ correctly. If you don’t know the term ‘truing’, you can also read this post on truing patterns for more information!
  16. Now that we have reached this far, we need to assess the garment for it’s stretch factor. To do this, you need to understand the amount your fabric stretches by.
  17. Take the tee, fold the front section over to create a fold line and then place two pins, 10cm or 5inches apart.
  18. Using a ruler to measure, slowly and gently stretch the pins apart, to see how far the knit will stretch. If it stretched to 13cm, it has a stretch ratio of 30%.
  19. Make a note of this on the pattern – that it is designed to be used with knit fabrics with a stretch ratio of ‘x’ amount.
  20. Finally, trace off the sections, add seam allowance and toile up the pattern to check the fit. You’re then ready to get really creative with it!

Final thoughts

You’ve done it! Successfully cloned your favourite knit garment into a new sewing pattern. Let me know in the comments how you got on!


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