Sewing for Me

Sewing Jersey with a normal sewing machine: My shirt Agnes

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Hello all,

when I started sewing, I kept strictly to woven fabrics (probably like most sewing beginners). I read about jersey shirts and dresses on blogs and on Instagram, but everybody was talking about „serging“ and „sergers“ and the knives on the sergers, and somehow I was overwhelmed. I was sewing on my mum’s 25 year old Pfaff sewing machine, and I had to google what a “serger” actually is. So, I decided that sewing stretch would just have to wait until I was able to afford first a new “normal” machine and then later, maybe, a serger. But then I discovered Tilly and The Button’s “Learn to Sew Jersey on a Regular Sewing machine” – perfect for me! The course is made up of several videos, in which Tilly takes you through the process of sewing jersey on a “normal” sewing machine. The nice thing is that it’s not only random videos, but you actually learn all techniques while sewing her shirt pattern Agnes.

For those of you who are interested in the necessary techniques, I’ll quickly summarize Tilly’s tips (for all others, just read on in the next paragraph!): First of all, you should use a stretch needle. That needle is also called “Ball point”, which describes it quite well: The tip of the needle is rounder than a normal one and therefore softer on the fabric. In order for the seams to stretch with the fabric instead of ripping apart when you put the garment on, you employ a zigzag instead of a straight stitch. You can fiddle around with the length and width of the zigzag, the best combination depends on the fabric. I normally start of with a 1.5×2.0mm stitch, for me that works on most fabrics. All seams that do not need to stretch (eg the hem) are finished with a 2.0×2.0mm zigzag stitch. A twin needle seam also works (and actually looks nicer in my opinion) – but the course is a beginner’s course, and at the time I was struggling enough to keep my zigzag stitch on a straight line… If your sewing machine allows for it, lower the pressure on the sewing foot. With less pressure on it, stretch material runs through your machine smoother and stretches out less. My Pfaff machine didn’t have this feature, and my Agnes turned out fine without it – but when I bought my Elna a couple months later, I enjoyed how much easier sewing with stretch material works with lower pressure on the foot! So, that’s Tilly’s tips in a nutshell – but now, back to my Agnes!

The Agnes pattern is a basic shirt pattern with a round neckline and ¾ sleeves. The pattern includes all kinds of variations though: You can add long sleeves, make the sleeves ruched, exchange the neckline for a v-shaped on and even put some ruching onto the neckline. I actually don’t like ruches so much, but as this was a course, I wanted to learn as many techniques as possible. So I went for the ruched sleeves. You achieve that effect by sewing on a rubber band that you keep pulled while sewing. Once you release the sewn-on band, it pings back to its original length and pulls the fabric with it – done are the ruches! I really enjoyed mastering this technique, and I employed it a couple weeks later when making a summer dress with a smoked back – but the ruched sleeves on Agnes just aren’t my style…

Agnes is a very slim cut pattern, so it’s worth checking out the measurements of the finished garment before choosing your size. I didn’t have much experience with reading patterns when I embarked on the onine course, so I just chose my RTW size. As you can see in the pictures, the result is a rather tight shirt… That’s partly down to the fabric I chose, a very tight-knit jersey I picked up at Stoffmarkt Holland, but also to the cut of the pattern itself. I’ll know next time to choose a bigger size! The fabric from Stoffmarkt Holland was very cheap, and I now know why: it contains a lot of polyester – combined with Agnes’ tight fit, that does not work well on warm days ;-). So, all things considered, my first Agnes is not my favorite me-made piece ever. But I do like the pattern itself, and will definitely make some basic shirts from it this summer (without ruches). However, this particular pattern will be the selfmade piece of clothing that I will donate to Oxfam – maybe somebody else will like it more than I do! And now on to the Flying Needle-Summary:

Pattern: Shirt Agnes from Tilly and The Buttons (available as PDF or paper pattern, or as part of the online course)

Fabric: tight-knit Jersey from Stoffmarkt Holland

Changes made: Because the shirt turned out so tight, I let 1cm out on the side seams (and reduced the seam allowance to 0.5cm instead of 1.5cm). I also shortened the shirt – I did this by just hacking of at the hem line, but Tilly does include shortening/lengthening lines in her patterns, and it would be a much better idea to shorten there.

Summary: Agnes is a great basic shirt pattern, and the online course is great for sewing beginners. I don’t really like the ruching, but as that’s totally up to personal taste, it’s still a great thing that the option is included in the pattern!

What do you guys do with selfmade wardrobe pieces that you don’t really like in the end? Is it easy for you to part with them, or do they continue to live in your closet?

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We took the pictures of Tilly and the Button’s Agnes in front of the Grünwald castle and on the shores of the Bavarian lake Pilsensee.

Linked up at CraftSchoolingSunday, CreativeMondays, Craftastic Monday, CreateLinkInspire, Share your Style, No Rules Weekend Blog Party


  1. I was just looking at this pattern this morning and thinking how i’d love to try it, but I have never really sewn with jersey. I also thought I had to have a serger for stretch fabrics too! I’ll definitely be giving this one a try now 🙂

    1. Melanie

      Hi Allie, do try Agnes! And give me a shout if sewing with jersey on the normal machine worked out for you! Cheers, Melanie

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