Friday, November 17, 2017

Tutorial: Stabilize Knit Shoulder Seams with Selvage

Today I've got a tutorial for you on how to stabilize knit shoulder seams with strips of woven or knit selvage!

Many sewing patterns for knit tops suggest that you stabilize your shoulder seams using clear elastic or knit stay tape so the shoulders don't get stretched out of shape. Some people use ribbon or twill tape, too. But what if you could kill two birds with one stone and stabilize your knit shoulders while also using up small fabric scraps from your other projects? Luckily, it's easy to do just that...

I personally find clear elastic difficult to sew, particularly on lighter weight knits. I also don't really enjoy the feeling of it against my skin. Using strips of woven selvage solves both of these problems: it's easy to sew and is soft against your skin. In addition, selvage is nice because it has one edge that won't unravel. When I choose a selvage strip to use, I like to choose the a fabric that's not too stiff and also has a decorative or fuzzy edge.

Source: Colette 
What is selvage? As the folks at Colette put it, it's "the part of fabric where you often see manufacturer’s information, contrasting trim, etc. The selvage does not fray, although some selvages have frayed threads hanging off after the finished edge. This fraying will not affect the fabric in any way." The selvage has different properties than the rest of the fabric: it's usually more stable and a little bit stiffer.

It's not rocket science, so it's a bit of a stretch to call this a tutorial, and I certainly didn't come up with it all by myself, but people seemed interested in the idea when I posted about it on Instagram, so here you are!

1. Cut two narrow (less than 1/2" wide) pieces of selvage equal in length to the front bodice shoulder seam of the knit pattern you're using.

2. Place the selvage strip right side up on on the wrong side of the shoulder seam of the front bodice pattern piece. Line up the raw edge of the selvage piece with the raw edge of the shoulder. Most knit patterns use a 3/8"/1 cm seam allowance, but if yours uses 5/8" or another, larger amount, you may want to shift the selvage strip down from the edge so that it is laying over the stitching line.

(in the photo below, I've used the ponte's own fuzzy-edged selvage)

3. Baste the selvage strip to the front bodice piece (or skip straight to Step 4 if you're confident!).

4. Sew or serge the front bodice to the back bodice as instructed in your pattern. Since you've aligned the raw edge of the selvage with the raw edge of the bodice, all the raw edges should be encapsulated in the serging.

5. Press your seam allowances towards the back bodice and then construct your top as instructed in your pattern.

Note: for my method, I put the selvage strip on the front bodice piece and press the shoulder seam to the back. I've found that if I put the selvage (or twill tape or clear elastic) on the back side, then it's too bulky to press the seam allowance over it. You may have better luck, but this is what works for me.

This is the shoulder seam on my Style Arc Kim Swing Top, made from a rayon lycra knit stabilized with a strip of fuzzy linen/chambray selvage left over from my Style Arc Daisy Designer Pants:

The shoulder seam on my Papercut Patterns Aomori Twist Top, which is a hemp/cotton jersey stabilized with fuzzy-edged linen selvage from an unblogged UFO, Victory Patterns Hannah dress: 

This is the shoulder of my Chalk and Notch Pony Tank, a rayon or bamboo lycra jersey stabilized with the decorative red-stitched edge of the white shirting I used for my Cashmerette Harrison shirt:

Hope this was helpful!!

Do you typically stabilize your knit shoulder seams? If so, what's your preferred method?