If this is your first time sewing with knits, the gathering of materials can be scary. But don't fret, I have some helpful tips to finding the right fabric, notions, and tools for you.
The main consideration is the fabric of course. What to look for largely depends on how you want to wear the dress. What I mean by that is that if I choose an open-weave sweater knit, that will be a much different wearing experience than choosing a polyester stretch jersey, or a heavy rayon knit. Below are some thoughts on the different options and how they will effect the end result.
A great choice for this dress is a cotton and spandex blended knit. The Robert Kaufman Laguna jersey and the knits from Art Gallery Fabrics are both 95% cotton and 5% spandex, making them a perfect fabric for comfortable knitwear. The 5% spandex is an important element, as that gives the fabric a great recovery, so when you stretch it, it bounces back nicely instead of staying stretched out.
If you are looking for something soft, 100% cotton is a good choice, but do know that it will stretch out as you wear it since it doesn't have the synthetic element to help it retain its shape.
The fabric kits I offered on my site were rayon jersey. This is one of my favorite knits to work with since it has a tremendously fluid drape, with nice weight and presence. It feels luxurious and has a nice recovery. Note that because of the natural weight of the fabric, this can stretch with time so I like to store my dresses made with rayon jersey flat instead of hanging them in the closet as they will stretch due to gravity.
I have made up a bunch of Marianne Dresses since releasing the pattern and the one I've worn the most is made of French terry. I absolutely love the way it wears, but there are a few things to consider when making this choice. First, it is thicker, so the dress will retain the a-line shape more than a fluid fabric like the rayon jersey. Also, it will stretch less, so you might want to consider making a size larger, and a slightly longer neck binding since it will not stretch as much as other fabrics.
Merino Wool Knit
All the samples that the models are wearing in the images on my site are made of merino wool knit. It was an absolute dream to work with and is a wonderful choice. If you are looking for your dress to be a bit warmer, this is the fabric for you!
Modal / Bamboo / Hemp
There are loads of thin and drapey knits on the market that would also be lovely choices. Just remember that the stretch will be a huge factor in how it will wear on your body. These fabrics will drape lovely but will also be more sheer, so as you debate which is best for you, hold it up and check it against the light and also pull on it for bounce.
Sweater knits vary so dramatically, I considered not even mentioning them here. But since you might be wondering if it would work or not, I thought I should address it. The short answer is yes, you can use a sweater knit for the Marianne Dress. However, I would absolutely steer clear of thick "sweater" fabrics with bulky cables and such, and head to those that look more like regular knits, but with a slight "sweater" feel to them. You will not get the binding at the neck and the hemming to do what you want if you pick a thick sweater knit.
I love ponte and it is an ideal choice for the Marianne Dress. Fluid with nice drape, yet still heavy and weighty, and always bounces back with great retention. It's an excellent choice for this dress and I just happen to have some ready to sew!
Both views require some stability in the shoulder seams, and therefore require some form of notion to keep the seam from stretching. For View A, you also need interfacing for the collar, and for View B, buttons are required for the cuffs. Let's break each of these down and get to know what they are and why you need them.
I personally prefer to stabilize my shoulder seams with clear elastic. I like that it sews in quick and is sewn directly into the seam itself. Because the seam allowance is 3/8" the ideal width of clear elastic to buy is 3/8" but something thinner would also work fine too.
An alternative to clear elastic is twill tape. This can be a great option if clear elastic is too hard for you to find (note: I do sell Notion Kits for the Marianne Dress in my shop). Twill tape is also a nice choice if you dislike the feel of clear elastic when it touches your skin. Since I'm using a serger for my seams, the clear elastic is entirely encased in the threads, but if you're using a conventional machine, your stabilizer will be more exposed, and twill tape might feel nicer when rubbing your skin. This is 100% a personal choice.
If you are choosing to add the collar from View A to your Marianne Dress, the collar will need to be thickened with interfacing. Because we are working with knit fabric, the best choice is a lightweight tricot knit fusible interfacing. This will match the fabric and will give you the best results.
For the cuffs of View B, which of course can be added to View A too if you choose to add the sleeves and cuffs to that version, you will need some buttons to close up the cuff. How many you add and the size of the buttons is totally subjective, so use whatever suits you! In the pattern, I suggest using three 3/8–5/8" buttons per cuff, but I have made a few versions with only two buttons, so this is entirely up to you. Because there are no buttonholes to worry about, you can pick whatever you like and change them up later if you find something you like even more.
There are a few key items that you will want to have on hand when we start sewing next week, so if you're off to the fabric store to pick up fabric, check to make sure you have these items on hand too.
The threads of knit fabrics can be broken if sewn with a regular sewing needle, as the point is too sharp and can tear the threads when going in and out of the fabric. A ball-point needle has a slightly rounded point which helps the needle go through the fabric without breaking the threads. Why does this matter? Think of it this way: have you ever gotten a hole in a sweater? If so, what happened when you got that hole? It didn't just stay there as a hole right? Instead it starts a domino effect of unraveling threads, "unknitting" the threads of the knitted sweater. The same is true for knit fabric. So be sure to have ball-point needles in the size appropriate for your fabric weight.
Also, it's important to note that there is a difference between jersey ball-point needles (above, pictured left) and stretch needles (above, pictured right). Jersey ball-point needles are for jersey and knit fabrics, where stretch needles are for more synthetic stretch fabrics, like swimwear and performance fabrics for running leggings and dance wear.
While you're at the store, remember to pick up thread to match your fabric. If you are using a serger (or overlock machine) you will need cone threads in addition to the regular thread to sew the finishing.
Rotary Cutter and Mat
Many people choose to cut knits with a rotary cutter on a cutting mat instead of using scissors. It can be much easier since the knit moves less when cut on a flat surface. Remember that if you're going this route, you might want to consider using pattern weights instead of pins, so if you don't own pattern weights you might want to pick those up too.
Just like with your needles, when you need to pin the layers of your fabric together, ball-point pins will insert into the fabric much easier than regular pins. Because you are pushing them in by hand, there's less chance of tearing the fabric, but ball-point pins do glide into the knit fabric much easier, so that's incentive too.
Join me tomorrow where we will talk about the differences of sewing with knits versus sewing with wovens. I hope all you that are new to knits will join in on the fun! See you here tomorrow!