As a fashion designer and pattern maker, I’m always trying to come up with new and interesting designs while sticking to classic silhouettes. At the end of the day, when you are sewing something yourself, you are the designer because you are making the decisions for fit and fabric. Hope you enjoy some tips on fashion knits – designing with a simple pattern.

One of my favorite things to do is to take a simple, yet well-fitted T-Shirt pattern, (I love my mom’s Palmer/Pletsch Basic Knit Tee #M6964) and find really interesting, even unusual fabric to make it out of. I take the one T-shirt pattern and fit it slightly differently for each type of knit based on its weight and stiffness. I like to use border and large-scale prints or even plaids to play with interesting print placement. Sometimes the simplest pattern can be made so interesting if you place your print well.

I’m usually writing about fitting and alterations, so I’m really happy to change it up with some sewing and styling tips. I got a lot of my time-saving sewing tips from the Knits for Real People book by Sue Neall and Pati Palmer.

There are a few things I cannot live without when sewing knits that do affect fit:


  1. SewkeysE Knit Stay tape (the yellow one) to stabilize necklines, shoulder seams, and even armholes, especially when there is rayon involved.  
  2. Micro serrated Kai scissors with angled handles. These work beautifully on slippery ITY’s (interlock twist yarn fabrics).

Ok so here we go! Hopefully this gets your creative juices flowing!

M6964 long sleeve version sweater knit Tee

I’ve had so many people ask me about this top after I wore it in my “Fitting Fashion Knits” Craftsy Class. (BTW, that link is for $10 off!) Everyone thought it was seamed together that way! The fabric is a cotton intarsia (meaning the print is knitted in the fabric) sweater weight knit. The geometric vertical stripe pattern made it really great for a placement print. I used the stripe down the center of the sleeve, and the horizontal diamonds in between the stripes I placed down my center front and center back. I had the zig zag lines “zag” IN around my waistline to fake an hourglass shape! Lastly I made sure the diamonds weren’t directly over my stomach or breasts, cuz that just wouldn’t look good! Ha!

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M6964 Palmer/Pletsch Cropped Tee and M7415 Palmer/Pletsch No Side Seam Pant

I’m calling this my “knit suit” because I made both pieces out of this pretty stable mesh. I tweaked the Basic Tee M6964 with a side-seam detail, slightly longer in front and shorter in back, and the no side seam pant I lengthened in the crotch so they are high waisted. It looks like a jumpsuit and feels like pajamas and I looooove it!



M6964 Palmer/Pletsch Scuba knit

I actually really like scuba fabric for T-shirts! I love the stiffness; however, you do need to fit it looser unless you plan on going surfing. For this plaid print I cut it on the bias, so the plaid goes diagonally across the shirt. I also added a little stitching detail on the shoulder because I wanted the seam allowance to stay facing one direction.



M6964 Palmer/Pletsch Tee Heart crop ITY

 Same T-shirt pattern, new look! This rayon spandex ITY liked to grow everywhere so I used my SewkeysE Knit Stay tape a lot here…maybe went a little overboard, on the neck, armhole, and shoulder seams! What I love about this print is the abstract heart shapes. This tee is less cropped than the scuba but just as wide, which in this fabric drapes a lot more.


TIP: I ALWAYS have my pattern out the whole time I’m sewing, and before fusing anything I lay the pattern back on the fabric and push the fabric back into shape. Moving the cut pieces around can distort the fabric, and I don’t want to fuse without checking and make my fabric permanently distorted!



M7407 Melissa Watson Swing Dress in Micro B+W dot ITY

OK I know this is not a T-shirt, but it is one of my new knit patterns and the micro dot poly ITY was the PERFECT fabric for this very swingy summer dress, so I just had to show you. You want a fabric with more weight and drape and less volume for this style. I don’t normally wear white, but I was drawn to the off white and all the tiny black dots, and I knew they would be slightly abstract within the ruffles of this circle dress.


One major tip for this fabric, and I can hear my mom saying it now, CUT FLAT!! ITY’s are so slippery and this is what happens when you cut mid air!! I had to take the whole neckband off and start again!


Thanks for reading everyone!
XO Melissa

This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. Audrey

    Would one dare to make your swing dress from a woven fabric?

    1. Melissa Watson

      YES! They would and I have! Drapey rayons work great. Just MAKE SURE to tissue fit, especially for the armhole, I had to lengthen the AH because the pattern IS drafted for a knit so that area is graded smaller. That’s pretty much it though! The fit is super easy.

  2. Pat Stilwell

    What about making the draped front T-shirt from a woven?

    1. Pati Palmer

      Use the bias. Make sure the woven drapes well.

  3. Penny

    It is so great that you followed in your mother’s footsteps and are are helping new generations to get excited about sewing. I can remember when little Melissa modelled a gorgeous ensemble on the front of a child’s pattern! Sewing is THE best hobby.

      1. Mary Jane

        I would love to see a photo of that pattern cover with little Melissa!

  4. Dara

    Thanks Melissa, you are one Talented Lady! Happy National Sewing Month!

  5. Very happy to say,your post is very interesting to read.I never stop myself to say something about it.You’re doing a great job.Keep it up

    1. Melissa Watson

      Thanks so much! Appreciate your coming by to read! Thanks again!

  6. Dianne Robertson

    I discovered your swing dress and your mother’s post on it first before I read your posts. I liked her idea of FOE but I really appreciated the alteration lines you included in the pattern. Just wanted you to know. P.S.-I don’t instagram, sorry! I made the dress in an abstract black and white printed knot with black elastic on the collar. And I did “cut flat”.

  7. Marilyn Johnson

    The link to the swing dress (M7407 Melissa Watson Swing Dress) doesn’t go anywhere. Do you have a pattern number for this?


  8. Marilyn Johnson

    Never mind! I’m sorry, I get it now.

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