When life gives you Pineapple Cotton Jersey…

Attempt to make a t-shirt with it. Or sell it and buy some lemons.

This was my big moment. Moving away from the safe and comfortable standard cottons, and onto a knit fabric: the pineapple cotton jersey. It was a thing of beauty and got a lot of compliments when I first bought it. 

The pattern of choice for this beauty was the Bilberry T-Shirt from Sew Over It. A nice simple pattern in terms of the number of pattern pieces, cutting instructions and design. A front and back piece cut on the fold, a pair of sleeves and a neckband. It was nice and straightforward to prepare until I cut it. 

Curled. Edges. Galore!

This was just the start. I had even taken my own advice and watched the video tutorial ahead of time. One of first things that I noted was the need to change the needle. I had avoided any sort of maintenance on my sewing machine so far and I was dreading this bit. I’d ordered what I thought were some suitable needles for Cotton Jersey (some Universal ballpoint ones ranging from 10-14), and having looked at the manual, I changed the needle to a 14 as recommended in the tutorial. Simple! I tested the stitch on a bit of scrap fabric and it seemed to be ok. Or so I thought. 

I stitched one shoulder together as directed, managing to negotiate the curling fabric fairly easily at this point. Shoulder stitched, I then went into do the neck band and this is where I started to notice I was having some difficulties. Was it something with my machine? Was it the fabric? Was it the needle? Being a complete novice with troubleshooting, I was really struggling. My fabric was occasionally getting caught in the needle plate and unpicking stitches lead to holes in the fabric. I knew something wasn’t right. 

I persevered with difficulty. The biggest challenge on this was the stupid curling edges – I’m noting this down as something to look into on my list of things to try and avoid in the future. I had cut the fabric with a roller cutter and this had a new blade so I don’t think this was the cause. I would appreciate any tips if you have them to share over on Instagram – @stitchedupatstraws

Reaching the end of the project, I had started to search on Google for help with the issues I started to experience. Snapping thread, skipping stitches. I changed my needle to a 12 but this was worse, so I went back to the 14. I rethreaded a few times which sometimes helped for a while. And then I came across something which gave me the lightbulb moment I’d been dreading.

I was using the wrong type of needle!

Yes the universal ballpoint needles say that they can be used on stretch fabrics, but not specifically for Jersey, and until now I hadn’t realised that there were needles specifically for Jersey fabrics. By this point, I had a t-shirt pretty much formed, albeit with very visible puncture wounds, and some skipped stitches in the seams, but from a distance it looked great. It resembled a t-shirt, and this time I had learned my lesson and graded the pattern by 1 and a half sizes from the waist to the hips so the fit was much better. But my pride was punctured like the t-shirt fabric. I didn’t have enough fabric (or patience) left to make a second one, but it’s something I will come back to in the future. 

I placed a panic bulk order on Sew Essential for all different needle types in assorted sizes – Jersey, Stretch, Ball Point, Universal, with multiple quantities of them too. Thinking ahead to some future projects, I also invested in a walking foot which should help with sewing Viscose when I come to make the skirts that I have planned. I will also soon think about investing in some better quality thread as I wonder if that is contributing to some of my difficulties. This batch was a bulk buy from the Lidl special buys aisle!

So for now, Cotton Jersey, you have sort of defeated me. 

Saying that, I had some really lovely compliments on my t-shirt when I posted it on Instagram, so thank you to everyone for those. I’ll just have to make another one with the right needle type so that I can post some close ups, and pretend this never happened. I joke! I am finding that all of these little experiences are really making me appreciate these skills more and more. I’m learning what my sewing machine can do, and more importantly learning from my own mistakes. 

Keep on sewing (but maybe avoid the cotton jersey)

Em x

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