Tutorial + How-to

Published on May 18th, 2009 | by Julie Finn

12

Think Outside the Fabric Box: How to Sew with Knitted or Crocheted Fabrics

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My Daughter in a Dress Sewn from an AfghanI am cheap. Cheap, cheap, cheap. Oh, and also eco-friendly, but mainly just cheap.

My favorite thing about the D.I.Y. lifestyle is that it’s also a thrifty lifestyle. It’s inspiring to take an unwanted, perhaps even damaged material something that someone else might discard or donate, and turn it into something that’s beautiful and useful again.

Take those sweet, knitted or crocheted afghans that I’m always coming across in thrift stores or dumpster-diving, or that often get re-gifted to me because I like handmade stuff.

I respect the love and time that goes into the act of knitting and crocheting, and the dedication, especially, that it takes to create an entire afghan, but frankly, I have enough of my own already, and I don’t necessarily need another one, especially if it’s just so-so or (gasp!) ugly.

An entire afghan, though? That’s a nice, large swatch of material to work with. I’ve been sewing up a storm with my thrifted and re-gifted afghan stash, lately, making some simple summer dresses for my little girls. Here are some tips so that you, too, can sew with knitted or crocheted materials–it’s not as tricky as it seems:

Sewing with Knitted and Crocheted MaterialTip #1: Use the sturdiest stitch in your arsenal. When sewing two pieces of knitted or crocheted material together, overlap them by half an inch and sew them together with a narrow zigzag stitch, or even an ex stitch–you’re not going to catch both pieces of fabric with every single stitch, especially if your fabric is very open weave, so the more thread you throw at your stitch, the more fabric you’ll catch.

Tip #2: Match your thread perfectly. Your stitches won’t look as neat as they would if you were sewing together two pieces of quilting cotton, but this won’t be noticeable if you match your thread perfectly.

Tip #3: Cut, then sew. Don’t give your fabric time to unravel by cutting out a piece, then sticking it on top of your pile of unfinished pieces for five months. Give yourself time to cut and sew your project today.

Tip #4: Cover your seams. Bias tape makes a neat finish for any raw edge (see this tutorial for how to hem with bias tape), but you can also use single-fold bias tape to cover any seam. For instance, I use double-fold bias tape to hem the neckline, armpits, and bottom hem of the dresses I make my girls out of afghans, but I use single-fold bias tape to cover the side seams and shoulder seams where I’ve sewn afghan fabric to afghan fabric. Doing so keeps any raw bits from unraveling, gives a neater look to the seam, and keeps the open-weave material from stretching too much when it’s worn.

Tip #5: Knitted and crocheted fabric is stretchy, but forgiving. Sew it to take advantage of its benefits. It drapes well, is easy to pull on and take off, and is stretchy and comfortable. It won’t hold an intricate or complicated shape well, it can be heavy, and you can see through it. Remember that before you make yourself a cute little top or a pair of pants or whatever.

Remember, too, that my girls and I aren’t sensitive to certain fabrics. We can happily use and wear afghans of indeterminate origin, because we’re fine with cottons, synthetics, and wools. If you’re not so lucky, you’ll have to be more careful, obviously.

What do you do with your extra afghans?

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About the Author

I'm a writer, crafter, Zombie Preparedness Planner, and homeschooling momma of two kids who will hopefully someday transition into using their genius for good, not the evil machinations and mess-making in which they currently indulge. I'm interested in recycling and nature crafts, food security, STEM education, and the DIY lifestyle, however it's manifested--making myself some underwear out of T-shirts? Done it. Teaching myself guitar? Doing it right now. Visit my blog Craft Knife for a peek at our very weird handmade homeschool life; my etsy shop Pumpkin+Bear for a truly odd number of rainbow-themed beeswax pretties; and my for links to articles about poverty, educational politics, and this famous cat who lives in my neighborhood.



  • Tracy

    THANK YOU SO MUCH for this–I often wondered if, or how, this could be done. I would love to be able to knit–I’ve tried and tried, to no avail. But to be able to give a new life to knitted or crocheted items is the next best thing!

  • http://kwicz.com/weblog Kara

    Most block motif and “mile a minute” strip afghans can also be taken apart and the pieces sewn with no cutting. I find granny square afghans more often than any other kind, but the other day I ran across a fabulous lacy hexagon block afghan that would really make a cute tunic.

  • http://paperelle.etsy.com Lauren

    Aw, thanks! I have a very intricately knitted sweater made by my grandma that no one will ever wear again, that I would like to make into pillows. This post has given me more courage to cut!

  • http://dollarstorecrafts.com Heather – Dollar Store Crafts

    This is awesome – thanks for the tips!!

  • Pingback: Sew Old Afghans into New Clothes | Croq Zine - The Blog

  • http://www.clutterpunk.blogspot.com Gina

    Oh great, I’d been wondering if I could only sew with felted (fulled) wool garments. I’ve got an item I’d like to cut into… now I’ll give it a go.

  • http://www.craftknife.blogspot.com Julie Finn

    Ooh, and another tip I wanted to add–if you’re making something that will be washed (like my little-girl dresses), go ahead and give it an extra pre-wash after you’ve sewn it but before you’ve worn it or given it away. If you happen to have missed a piece of cut yarn in your sewing, it will have raveled up a little in the wash, enough that you can notice it and fix it but not enough to ruin your item.

  • Pingback: Think Outside the Fabric Box: How to Sew with Knitted or Crocheted Fabrics «

  • http://designingvashti.blogspot.com vashti braha

    This is a great way to design on purpose or by accident! Crocheters can make a giant swatch and then use their sewing machine to turn it into a shaped garment. I love the bias tape look too. Thanks!

  • Jen

    Love this idea! Anybody have an idea how to repurpose my husband’s cashmere jacket with holes in the elbows? I can’t donate it since it has holes, he’s not a professor so I can’t patch them, and the thought of throwing away all that beautiful cashmere is killin’ me! Any ideas would be much appreciated!

  • Karen

    Jen, maybe try taking the cashmere coat apart and using the pieces for a tailored skirt. I know how you feel about cashmere…its like gold :)

  • http://www.craftknife.blogspot.com Julie Finn

    Or you could just snuggle in it–ooh, cashmere!

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