Friday, November 17, 2017

Tutorial: Stabilize Knit Shoulder Seams with Selvage

Today I've got a tutorial for you on how to stabilize knit shoulder seams with strips of woven or knit selvage!


Many sewing patterns for knit tops suggest that you stabilize your shoulder seams using clear elastic or knit stay tape so the shoulders don't get stretched out of shape. Some people use ribbon or twill tape, too. But what if you could kill two birds with one stone and stabilize your knit shoulders while also using up small fabric scraps from your other projects? Luckily, it's easy to do just that...

I personally find clear elastic difficult to sew, particularly on lighter weight knits. I also don't really enjoy the feeling of it against my skin. Using strips of woven selvage solves both of these problems: it's easy to sew and is soft against your skin. In addition, selvage is nice because it has one edge that won't unravel. When I choose a selvage strip to use, I like to choose the a fabric that's not too stiff and also has a decorative or fuzzy edge.

Source: Colette 
What is selvage? As the folks at Colette put it, it's "the part of fabric where you often see manufacturer’s information, contrasting trim, etc. The selvage does not fray, although some selvages have frayed threads hanging off after the finished edge. This fraying will not affect the fabric in any way." The selvage has different properties than the rest of the fabric: it's usually more stable and a little bit stiffer.

It's not rocket science, so it's a bit of a stretch to call this a tutorial, and I certainly didn't come up with it all by myself, but people seemed interested in the idea when I posted about it on Instagram, so here you are!

1. Cut two narrow (less than 1/2" wide) pieces of selvage equal in length to the front bodice shoulder seam of the knit pattern you're using.

2. Place the selvage strip right side up on on the wrong side of the shoulder seam of the front bodice pattern piece. Line up the raw edge of the selvage piece with the raw edge of the shoulder. Most knit patterns use a 3/8"/1 cm seam allowance, but if yours uses 5/8" or another, larger amount, you may want to shift the selvage strip down from the edge so that it is laying over the stitching line.

(in the photo below, I've used the ponte's own fuzzy-edged selvage)


3. Baste the selvage strip to the front bodice piece (or skip straight to Step 4 if you're confident!).

4. Sew or serge the front bodice to the back bodice as instructed in your pattern. Since you've aligned the raw edge of the selvage with the raw edge of the bodice, all the raw edges should be encapsulated in the serging.


5. Press your seam allowances towards the back bodice and then construct your top as instructed in your pattern.

Note: for my method, I put the selvage strip on the front bodice piece and press the shoulder seam to the back. I've found that if I put the selvage (or twill tape or clear elastic) on the back side, then it's too bulky to press the seam allowance over it. You may have better luck, but this is what works for me.

This is the shoulder seam on my Style Arc Kim Swing Top, made from a rayon lycra knit stabilized with a strip of fuzzy linen/chambray selvage left over from my Style Arc Daisy Designer Pants:


The shoulder seam on my Papercut Patterns Aomori Twist Top, which is a hemp/cotton jersey stabilized with fuzzy-edged linen selvage from an unblogged UFO, Victory Patterns Hannah dress: 


This is the shoulder of my Chalk and Notch Pony Tank, a rayon or bamboo lycra jersey stabilized with the decorative red-stitched edge of the white shirting I used for my Cashmerette Harrison shirt:


Hope this was helpful!!

Do you typically stabilize your knit shoulder seams? If so, what's your preferred method?

21 comments:

  1. This is a great idea! I do use clear elastic sometimes, but once I got my hands on a roll of knit stay tape I started using that. However, I've recently misplaced the roll, and it never occurred to me to use selvage, so this is well-timed. I will try it!

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    1. lad you like it! I definitely feel good about using those little bits of selvage up!

      I've never actually tried knit stay tape- I wouldn't have known how to ask for it in Thailand!

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  2. I usually use light weight fusible stay tape, but this is a great idea. I also helps clear out the scrap bin :)

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    1. Yes! It doesn't bust a ton of scraps since the pieces are so small, but it certainly saves a few and saves you buying a specialty notion!

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  3. I️ agree with the clear elastic -i have never liked the feel of it . This is such a simple idea but great ! Uses scraps but much softer -thanks .

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    1. Ug, hate sewing and wearing clear elastic. Yuck!

      I hope you use and like this technique!

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  4. I hate the feel of clear elastic, when it suddenly showed up in RTW tee-shirts everywhere I complained up a storm. I love this idea since I know my cardigans need the stabilization at the shoulder and was lamenting that I didn't have a solution I liked, when all along there was a pile of this solution behind me! Thank you! Sometimes the blatantly obvious needs pointing out.

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    1. Glad you like the trick! I really don't like the feel of the clear elastic, either!

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  5. I also use stay tape. I have soft rolls of Seams Great and another tape that work fine. I usually throw my selvage out- where would I put it all? I can't imagine 1 more thing in my sewing room. I don't use fusible for fear of scorching my fingers- too small to fiddle with. On many tops, depending on how much topstitching it has, I will also press the shoulder seams to the back and top stitch. Looks nice and hides the seam.
    Also another hater of clear elastic! It's OK on fleece and active wear, but I cut it out of everything else I buy. It also goes bad if you don't keep it sealed up.

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    1. Glad stay tape works for you! Ha, I wasn't suggesting anyone keep all of his or her selvages; that would be excessive. Just the pretty ones.

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  6. Great idea! I previously used pieces of fusible knit stay tape.... or rayon seam binding tape. I hate clear elastic too!

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    1. I've never tried the fusible stay tape! But the elastic never worked well for me.

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  7. Thank you for the inspired tutorial. Yes, tutorial!

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  8. Um I could kiss you! I sewed a Colette Moneta that I cursed to the mountains and back over the &%(%(@&#^ clear elastic you sew on WHILE gathering that waist seam and it was so, so miserable. This is SUCH a better alternative. Thank you x10000.

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    1. I also had trouble with the Moneta waistline!

      I haven't tried this method on a waistline; only on shoulders. But I'm curious to hear how it goes if you try it!

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  9. When I see clear elastic listed in the notions needed for a project it really makes me want to cry. I can’t ever get started sewing on it and without fail it ends up poking me in the shoulder. This is a much better solution! Thanks for sharing your method.

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    1. Exactly how I feel about clear elastic- hate sewing it, hate wearing it. I hope this method works for you!

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  10. Thanks for this! I just used it for my Blackwood cardigan and it worked a treat :)

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    1. Fabulous! So glad to hear it worked for you!

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  11. I love using selvage for stabilizing shoulders! Selvage is so pretty it's a good way to use it, and it's awesome for finishing neck seams on cardigans and knit jackets. I do use clear elastic too. The stuff from Fashion Sewing Supply is really lightweight and a lot easier to sew than the elastic from JoAnn, and I found an Ebay seller with even better clear elastic last year, though I'd have to look it up. It has an almost matte surface so it doesn't slip.

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