Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Intro to ITY Knits

Meet your new BFF (Best Fabric Friend), ITY knits!

Do you like garments that give you a little bit of wiggle room to accommodate that extra pound or two that comes from eating more chips and salsa than you should have?

Do you like fabrics that you don't have to seam finish?

Do you like quick projects that don't take ALL WEEKEND to complete but look like you did?

Do you like fun fabric prints that deliver a big punch?

I like ITY knits for all of the reasons above and I think you will too!  This is my intro to ITY knits, I've assembled this tutorial with a beginner to advanced beginner sewist in mind.  With that in mind I've tried to choose patterns that are beginner appropriate and include instructions for the parts of construction that will probably give you the most headaches.  So let's get started!


Definition of ITY Knits:

ITY stands for Interlock Twist Yarn.  It is a method of putting a twist in yarn used for knit fabrics resulting in a more natural elasticity and soft feel inside and out.

Taken from the Fabric Mart website.

ITY Qualities:

If you are curious about the texture of ITY knits check them out at a local fabric store, pet it, consider the way it droops in comparison to denim or cotton sateen (this is called the drape in sewing speak), stretch it both width wise (against the grain in sewing speak) and length wise (with the grain).  Notice that it is stretchier width wise (called 2-way stretch) to accommodate wrapping around your body (it might also be stretchy lengthwise- that is called 4-way stretch).  For this tutorial I will use 2-way stretch ITY.  Notice that the drape hangs straight down rather than puffing out like stiffer fabrics.  ITY has surprising weight to it especially if you compare it to woven cottons.  One thing you'll probably notice right away is that the fabric also feels really soft.  All of these qualities will bear weight on the type of garments you can successfully make with an ITY knit.    
ITY knits can come in varied wild prints or solids.  The two I use for this tutorial are really colorful.  For more examples of the varied prints of ITY knits look here, here, and here.  

Patterns Suitable to ITY Knits:

You will want to choose your pattern carefully and thoughtfully because half of the battle in making a successful garment is in making a good match between pattern and fabric.  If you are new to ITY knits I highly recommend choosing a pattern that won't overwhelm you budding skills... ask me how I know about getting overwhelmed with a project- been there done that!  I suggest the following patterns for a beginner to ITY knits, because not only are the patterns simple and pretty straightforward in construction, but they are a veritable blank slate that can hold up to the many wild prints that ITY knits embody.  This is not an all inclusive list of suitable patterns, by any means, but rather a place to start.  The great thing about sewing is that you decide what kind of challenge you are really up for!


Simplicity 2054 ( I used this pattern for my example project)

Empire of the Sun-Dress (Free pattern that would be a great nursing friendly dress!)


The Maria Denmark Kirsten Kimono Tee (A free pattern emailed to you when you sign up for the newsletter)

SBCC Pattern Tonic Tee (Free pattern)


New Look 6381 (skirts and pants)

Simplicity 1068 (skirts and pants)

Notions and Tools for ITY

You will need several tools to get started.  These are my preferred tools.

Cutting tools:  A sharp pair of scissors or a smaller rotary cutter will truly benefit you when you go to cut out your pattern.  I swear by my Olfa rotary cutter when tackling ITY fabrics.  It will save your wrist and give you a more accurate cut than scissors which seem to push the ITY around at times when cutting.  Of course you will also need a self-healing cutting mat to go with your rotary cutter.  I also cannot tell you how important a very sharp pair of scissors can be, buy the most expensive ones you can and threaten anyone's life in your household who even breaths on them the wrong way.  They are priceless!

Marking tools:  I like to use disappearing ink markers or tailors chalk, really anything that is within arm's reach!

Elastic/Stabilizers:  Clear elastic is a great stabilizer for shoulder seams.  It is generally recommended to stabilize the shoulder seams since they bear a lot of strain when you wear your garment.  I use 3/8 inch elastic because that is what my local fabric store carries, you can also use twill tape or 1/4 inch clear elastic.  I have even used ribbon in a pinch and had very few problems.  You will also need something to stabilize your hem, otherwise it may pucker or flip around.  I prefer to use 1 inch strips of fusible tricot interfacing.  However you can also use knit stay tape- my local fabric store does not carry it, so I use fusible tricot as an alternative, sewing is about improvising when needed (for more info on knit stay tape go here).   

Pins/Needles:  I like to use extra fine glass head pins for pinning since they glide through the fabric so easily.  For my sewing machine I use Stretch ball point needles to baste and zig zag.  These needles really are a must for sewing with ITY or else you will probably have skipped stitches and may even risk tearing tiny holes in your fabric.  Do yourself a favor and avoid all those headaches and buy these sewing needles.  Another needle that can come in handy for hemming is a stretch twin needle (for more info on using this needle go here.)  I have to say that I am kind of lazy when it comes to using a twin needle and usually just finish my hems with a longer (3.0 length) straight stitch or a zig zag stitch.      


My project example...3 trouble areas!

For my project example I will focus on three trouble areas you might have when sewing with ITY knits.  I will cover sewing the shoulder seam, sewing the neckline and finishing the hem.  Here I am using Simplicity 2054 and McCall 6827 to create matching dresses!  My daughter's birthday is next week and I figured, why not! 

Sewing the shoulder seam

Often when I join seams I don't immediately run over to my serger.  Many times I either baste or zig zag stitch my seams together.  Call it my OCD, but it helps me avoid a lot of serger mishaps that aren't easy fixed.  And many times I use the basting stitch as a guide when I serge to get a precise seam allowance.  The shoulder seam is usually where I begin my construction and I always baste it together with Clear Elastic on top before finishing it on the serger. 

If you don't have a serger you can in fact use your sewing machine to construct your entire project!  So instead of straight stitching the shoulder as I did above you can use a zig zag stitch.  Sandra Betzina (reference this article) recommends a 1.0mm width and 2.5mm length zig zag- and this is what I use most of the time!  I've included a picture below of what your zig zag stitch might look like.    

Constructing the Neckline:

After completing the shoulder seams I move on to the neckline finish.  For this pattern a strip of fabric is sewn into a circle and then pinned to the outside of the neckline, line up markings to evenly space the neckline, and sewn on to finish the neckline.  Simplicity 2054 has great neckline markings which is really helpful for a beginning sewist.  For this pattern I had to stretch the fabrics to get the neckline to stretch to fit (also called easing in) properly- that is why having clear markings that line up is so helpful.   For an alternate neckline finish go here- I was introduced to this tutorial last year and love it. 

One thing that you should always remember is that pressing your garment gives the final product extra polish, so be sure to iron as you sew/go.  For the neckline, I highly recommend a damp pressing cloth and sewing Ham or rolled towel to shape the neckline around.  Place the neckline on the ham and the damp pressing cloth on top of the neckline and press the neckline flat.  This will help set the stitches and get everything to lay down nicely.

Follow the rest of your pattern for construction.  For mine I set the sleeves in flat and then sew up the entire side in one sweep.  I won't be covering this technique but if its new to you you'll find a good tutorial here.

Hemming Your Garment:

To finish your garment's sleeve and dress hems you will need to consider how you plan to stabilize them.  My preference is to use one inch strips of fusible knit tricot and to use a damp pressing cloth to apply it- the pressing cloth protects the fabric and iron.

If you don't stabilize your hems they will probably have a slightly less polished look.  The photo below illustrates the difference between stitches applied over stabilized hems and non-stabilized hems.  At the top of the photo fusible knit tricot has been applied and at the bottom I did not use a stabilizer.    

The difference doesn't appear to be huge but trust me once you hem the entire garment there is bound to be some wonkiness in the hem if you don't stabilize it.  As I stated earlier if I am in a pinch or can't be bothered to change my needle, many times I will simply use a longer straight stitch or zig zag to finish my hems and that works great too!

The more you sew with ITY the more you will discover your preferences for stabilizing, construction stitches and hemming.  There can be a lot of trial and error and what would a sewing project be without a little seam ripping and muttering under your breath?  I always learn something new with each project and hopefully this tutorial will give you the courage to try ITY knits.  Once you feel confident in your skills you will find that you can make a simple dress with a fancy ITY that looks like a million bucks, and who wouldn't want that!?   

Notes on my final projects:  
For my final project, I ended up adding two darts to the back of my dress for shaping.  I have made this dress in the past without the darts and it turned out great too.  And for my daughter, I used the size 6 with about three extra inches added to the length (she's a tall girlie).  I also skipped hemming the bottom of her tunic.  The beauty of ITY is that it will not unravel so an unfinished hemline is another option.  

In closing, I will leave you with a couple of gems from our photo shoot.  The picture above is my daughter doing her sassy photo shoot pose and the picture below, well there are no words...she's a nut!  This is her "get out there and getcha some wild print ITY knit and get busy" pose. 


  1. Excellent tutorial Elizabeth! I loved all your pictures :D

    1. Thanks so much Kristin! Your daughter's kimono was adorable!

  2. Great tips and loved the finished dress/tunic!

    1. Thank you, I am glad they were helpful and this dress pattern is a keeper!

  3. Very informative, I never knew about stabilizing the hems of knit garments. Thank you

    1. Thank you! I swear by stabilizing my hems on knits or else they drive me crazy! Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Awesome tutorial! You make me almost want to get back into apparel. Wonder if I could make a ITY quilt? I also didn't know about stabilizing the hems of knit garments. Thanks for the wonderful tut and love the dresses!

    1. Thanks sweet sis! This is one of the easiest dress patterns and it can pack such a big punch...I'm thinking an ITY quilt would need a lot of stabilizer!!

  5. Love your dresses and thanks for the informational tutorial! I wish I would have had this information when I started sewing again--four years ago! Knits really changed in the ten plus year break I took from sewing!

    1. Thank you Sue- I love reading your blog btw! I am always discovering something new about knits!