Saturday, January 23, 2010

The RED Group - Using knits on Lutterloh patterns for wovens

This is the RED Group to follow for the Lutterloh Double Fun Sewcial.

We'll be discussing what changes need to be made to a pattern designed for wovens so we can use a knit fabric.

I would like to start with directing you toward a stretch gauge chart for knit fabrics. The chart is on the last page but I recommend everyone read the whole document. You can find the chart here:

Here is a photo of the pattern Ann will be using:

Because we will need to remove ease from the wovens pattern I would suggest a closer fitting style and a fabric with no more than 25% - 35% stretch. Some patterns can be reduced to accommodate fabrics with a greater degree of stretch but much more ease needs to be removed resulting in more complicated pattern alterations.

Some considerations when choosing your pattern:

Have you made the Lutterloh basic vest pattern to determine proper fit? It will be difficult to determine the correct amount of ease without a good fitting pattern to compare it to.

Look for patterns with fewer horizontal seams; these seams will need extra stabilization.

Button plackets and zippers will also need to be stabilized. Sometimes, depending on the stretch of your fabric, zippers can be eliminated altogether.

Knits typically weigh more than wovens so necklines and armholes may need to be raised.

Patterns with facings often don't work well with knits. You may need to substitute bindings, ribbing or a turned and stitched edge finish.


In the photo above I have marked the changes needed to adjust this pattern for knits with minimal crosswise stretch (18%-20%). For knits with more crosswise stretch (25%-35%) the side seams should be adjusted in further by 1/8"-1/4". I wouldn't raise the armhole or length of the pattern any more unless your fabric has lots of lengthwise stretch too.

Notice I have extended the neckline as well. Since this is a wrap dress and my knit is heavier and drapier than most wovens I don't want to chance any gaping in front. I will stabilize this area with clear elastic at a 1:1 ratio when I finish the neckline.

You may have noticed that most knit patterns do not have many, if any, darts at all. The stretch of the knit is usually enough to compensate for the extra fabric needed to go over our curves. If you prefer a bust or waist shaping dart in your knit garments then by all means leave them on your pattern. I prefer to eliminate them so the photo below demonstrates how I will rotate the back shoulder dart to the armhole on my wrap dress pattern.

Photo 1 shows where I have marked a line through the center of the dart extending it by 1.5" to create a pivot point. I then mark another line from the armhole to the pivot point, roughly perpendicular to the center back.

Photo 2 shows where I have cut away the dart all the way to the pivot point. I then cut the line I marked for the new dart up to, but not through, the pivot point. You need to leave a tiny hinge of paper to hold the pattern together.

Finally Photo 3 shows where I have closed the shoulder dart, opening up a new dart in the armhole. This armhole dart will not be sewn. Instead it will create a little more room in the armhole for stretching forward. You will need to add paper behind this whole shoulder area because you still need to true up the shoulder line and the curve of the armhole.
Lastly, I will mark out the waist shaping dart altogether and leave this as extra ease so my dress won't be too clingy. I can always pinch a dart in later if I want it to fit closer.

My wrap dress already has the front bust dart rotated to the shoulder for gathers. If you want to eliminate your front bust dart you will use the same steps as above resulting in a pattern piece that looks similar to the photo below. Again, the armhole dart will not be sewn.
As you can see this changes the angle of the armhole near the bottom so you'll want to rotate these darts before you raise the bottom of the armhole the suggested 1/2".

Because you have changed both the armhole and the sleeve cap you need to measure both lines to make sure they still fit. Do this by turning your measuring tape on edge and walk it around both the front and back armhole edge. You'll need to do the same thing with the curve of the sleeve. If the sleeve curve is the same length or up to 1" larger you won't need to change the pattern. If the sleeve measures smaller than the armhole then you'll need to redraw the curve in the under arm area until the sleeve measures at least the same or slightly larger than the armhole. See the photo below:

When I measured the length of my sleeve curve it was shorter than the curve of the armhole. By drawing a deeper concave curve (in pencil) at the sleeve cap this lengthened the line so my sleeve curve is now 1/4" larger than my armhole.


I have finished drawing my pattern and need to determine how much ease to remove at the side seams. By measuring my dress pattern and then comparing those measurements to my favorite T-shirt pattern I see that I'll need to remove 1/2" from each side seam. That will remove a total of 2" of ease from the dress pattern. 1/2" x 4 = 2"

In case you're not yet sure how much ease you prefer in your knit garments go to this link to see how the major pattern companies describe ease:

Below is a photo of my dress pattern cut out with my favorite knit T-shirt pattern on top of it. I usually wear my T-shirts fairly close fitting so this pattern gives me a good idea of the amount of ease in my altered dress pattern, very little, just the way I wanted.

I have lined up the patterns at center front and center back.

On the front piece you can see the armhole doesn't line up well but once I sew in the front gathers this will draw up all the extra at the shoulder.
The back piece is actually a tiny bit smaller than my T-shirt pattern but I'm not worried. My T-shirt was sewn in a cotton interlock and my dress fabric has more stretch than that.

OK, my dress pattern is all ready to cut out in fabric. I have measured the shoulder seam length, looks good; I have made all my usual pattern adjustments for length, full bust and sway back.

Now that my pattern is ready I will cut out the fabric and start sewing today!


So today I have been cruising right along sewing up my wrap dress. I did want to point out that I often do not add seam allowances when cutting out knit patterns. I cut right at the edge of the pattern and serge the seams with a 1/4" seam. This in effect reduces the ease in the pattern by another inch all over. I know that I like my knits to be close fitting so as long as the fabric has more than 25% stretch this method does not worry me.

My first seam, naturally, was the shoulder seam. Here's a photo of that seam after I stabilized them with clear elastic tape.

After the shoulder seams were serged together I measured a strip of clear elastic the same length as the shoulder seam and zig zagged it right over the previous stitching.

I decided to take up the fullness in the front shoulder as three released darts (or tucks) instead of gathers. I don't want this dress to actually look like it's from 1979 after all.

I have since attached the sleeves, they went in without a hitch, and serged the whole dress together at the side seams. So far so good, the small amount of ease left in this dress is just what I like. I still need to attach the wrap ties, wrist cuffs and binding around the whole front. This may have to wait a few days until I have a day off again but we'll see.


Well, I finished my dress this morning and I'll have to say it is a success! The only difficulties I encountered were trying to gather all that flared sleeve onto the narrow wrist bands. Oh and the binding at the edge was a little fussy too but that was just a matter of getting the measurements right. I measured around the whole outside edge and subtracted two inches for a little extra stretch in the bust area.

Instead of using clear elastic and turning the edge I used black fold over elastic and bound the entire edge. This helped to echo the solid black I used for sleeve bands and ties since I ran out of the print fabric. I applied the elastic at a 1:1 ratio from the waist down and stretched it slightly around the front and neck area. This keeps this area nice and snug so there's no gaping at the front wrap.

I used the tips in this article to hem the bottom with no wavy edges:

I decided not to sew in the back fitting darts after all. There's a little room in the back but I don't want this dress to fit like a second skin so I'll leave it as is. So I suppose you might want to see a photo, huh?

Here it is all done. My husband even said it turned out better than he'd expected. He doesn't usually have much to say unless the outfit is blue. What does he know anyway?

This will conclude the RED group portion of the Double Sewcial.


  1. I can't sew either project right now, but just wanted you to know I am following along and reading every single word! Thanks for a great blog - it is very very helpful.

  2. I second everything BJ said - And add that your dress is gorgeous. Reminds me of DVF dresses. Thanks so much for sharing your time and knowledge. Suzanne

  3. Love it! It seems to fit you perfectly. I've learned so much from reading this project. I plan to make up the Lutterloh vest and sew it up to fit when my sewing room is finished.

    Thank you again for sharing your experience.

  4. Thanks ladies for following along even if you can't join in right now. I did just add one more tip on hemming knits to avoid those wavy edges. Sorry I forgot that one yesterday.

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  7. Hi Ann,

    I'm almost finished with my jumper that I am making with Fonnell's group. I had planned to join your group when it is finished so I can make a blouse to go under it. Sorry I didn't let you know before. I really appreciate what you have done here, and your dress it beautiful!

  8. Hi Joanne,

    How is the jumper going? You had a lot of changes to make in the pattern, has it gone well for you?

  9. Hi Ann,
    I love any project with's my favorite fabric for making clothes...


  10. Hi! With regards to knits....I have some 1950's Lutterloh books that I could swear have patterns made for least the photos LOOK like knits! Is there any way to tell in these old books if the patterns are made for knits?

  11. Do you know the little symbol for knits? knitting needles with a small project on it? This denotes a knit pattern. Some of the old books have this symbol. If not you can use the information above to adjust the pattern for your knit fabric

  12. Hi Fonnell! I haven't seen any little symbols...I have all the seasonal supplements for all of the 1950's (in the original German versions) and haven't seen one yet, but I'll double check when I can there's nothing in the symbols guides for knits, I think. I've translated some from German and they definitely call some of them "sweaters" so maybe they are already set up for creating from knit fabric??

  13. sweater is a term for knit. I have several of the 1950's books but I am away from home. I also have the little list of symbols for those issues. I'll take a peek when I get home. If you draw up one of the patterns and hold your vest sloper up to it it will look much smaller than the vest pattern. That would tell me it would be good made with knits. Now in our time 2011 yikes we have so many kinds of knits. From single to double to light weight to heavy. We have to figure out how much stretch our fabric has before we decide a pattern is correct for making. Ann uses knits all the time. She has passed on a lot of links that I too find very helpful. Some are on the side bar.

  14. Hi from NewZealand I have only just joined the group today 11 january 2012.I live in Christchurch were we are getting lots of earthquakes and will do so for another 30years or the experts tell us. But we still have a beautiful city and would not live elsewere.But back to you knit advise i think it was so interisting and would have loved to learn more but will try to follow all the links you have posted

  15. Rosina,
    We all love to sew with knits...There are some patterns in the Lutterloh books that have a little knitting symbol however it is still very wise to paper fit and reduce the size so that the knits hang and look lovely on you. The key is paper fitting.


  16. This was extremely helpful. not NEARLY enough of this type of information available to a new and aspiring seamstress.