Welcome to another post in this series on Smocking Knits. So far, we have covered Sewing with Knits: Just the Essentials, Smocking with Knits: Testing the Fabric, Smocking Knits: Pleating Knit Jersey, and Smocking Knits: Choosing a Design. Today I am going to take you through the "tricky bits" of constructing the Baby's Breath pattern, offering a few tips and tricks. Baby's Breath is a simple pattern to construct, with the only "tricky bit" being the sleeve insertion.
Pleat the Fabric.
Start by pleating the fabric by following the tips on Pleating Jersey fabric, then smooth the pleats out and mark the pleated piece as instructed in the pattern.
Prepare the Armhole:
You can see the pleats smoothed out and I have marked my the pattern for my armhole placement.
Place the armhole template on the pattern, and trace around with the blue marker, including notches. Here is the traced armhole.
Mark the pivot point for the armhole at the corners BEFORE stitching. This is different than the pattern.
Stitch around armhole as directed in the pattern, pivoting at the points. Notice I have used a slight zigzag stitch. See Sewing with Knits: Just the Essentials for an explanation.
Cut out the armhole on the blue cutting line. DO NOT cut to the pivot point as directed by the pattern.
Stitch the Box Pleat.
I have cut the armhole. The small blue lines mark the box pleat. Bring the two far lines together folding the fabric on the middle line and stitch for one inch.
Here the box pleat has been stitched. Flatten the pleat and pin in place.
Basting the pleat in place will help with accuracy as the sleeve is inserted, so take the time to do this. We are going to insert the sleeves in two steps rather than in one as the pattern recommends. I find this gives greater accuracy and prevents lumps and bumps at the inside corners.
Insert the Sleeve:
Pin only the top, flat part of the sleeve to the body, right sides together, matching notches.
Notice that the cut edges don't line up, but the sleeve edge extends - that is the seam allowance for the other edge. Stitch the straight top edge stitching right on top of the original stitching making sure to start and stop at the pivot points so the 1/4 inch seam allowance of the sleeve is still free.
Pin the bottom scooped edge of the sleeve to the body right sides together.
Only now should you clip the corner of the body. Notice that I did not clip all the way. A knit needs a little extra security at the corner. With the corner clipped, you can pivot the sleeve into place to stitch right into the corner.
Stitch the rest of the sleeve to the body, starting in the middle of the scooped section and stitching out to each pivot corner. Stitch over the existing stitching. As you approach the corner, make sure all extra fabric of the sleeve is folded up out of the way so it doesn't get caught. You will end with a beautifully inserted sleeve! I recommend this sleeve insertion method whether you are making Baby's Breath with a knit or woven.
Finish the Sleeves & Neckline.
If you are making Baby's Breath with a knit, there is one other change. Using a knit, it is easiest to finish the sleeves with knit bands and the neckline with a knit binding. There is no need to cut either on the bias - that is the beauty of knits! Cut the neck binding on the cross grain, and follow the pattern instructions to apply. For the sleeve bands, cut them 2 inches wide by 3/4 of the sleeve wrist circumference. Sew the short ends right sides together. Mark them in quarters. Run a gathering stitch on the sleeve.
Fold the bands in half and pin to the sleeves right sides together matching quarters and pull up the basting stitch so the sleeves fit the bands. Again use that small zig zag stitch. Last recommendation: use a strip of knit interfacing and apply it to the button facing to support the knit fabric before making the button holes! That's it - Baby's Breath is a quick gift to sew and smock, and is available both as a pattern and a kit. Give it a try, you will love the outcome and the mom who receives this knit outfit will love it! If you have any questions about constructing Baby's Breath, please feel free to email me!