It's such a good time to be a home sewer - there are so many fantastic, creative patterns and fabulous fabrics online. However, it can be hard to squeeze in some sewing "me time" amongst the responsibilities in our busy lives.
So, instead of spending your precious spare time searching for sewing patterns, here are a collection of beautiful designs perfect for bamboo jersey, to help you get straight to your next exciting sewing project.
Hi, my name’s Nicola and I studied Garment Construction and spent my twenties in the fashion industry. Although I’ve moved to a different career, sewing remains one of my favourite hobbies. In this post, I’m going over 13 sewing patterns that are suitable for jersey. You will also find plenty of links to information about sewing jersey, to give you the knowledge to tackle a fabric that some people find intimidating.
Bamboo Fabric Facts
Bamboo is an incredibly tough plant that is well known for being both extremely strong, yet also flexible. Bamboo fabric is made with the fibres from the leaves and inner pith of bamboo canes.
The special qualities of bamboo fibres translate into a number of benefits when made into fabric. Bamboo jersey is soft and smooth; it feels delicate but is in fact relatively hardwearing and durable. It is wrinkle resistant, and has a natural low sheen on the right side of the fabric.
Bamboo fibres are hollow, allowing them to wick moisture away from the body. Garments made from bamboo can help you to remain cool and comfortable in hot and humid weather. The hollowness of the fibres also means that it holds onto pigments, making it colourfast.
Although it is a lightweight fabric, bamboo jersey has a “heavy”, liquid quality. A cotton jersey of the same weight will have more “puff”, whereas the bamboo drapes very readily. Think of it like a waterfall: it ripples and falls into all sorts of folds. Rather than "sticking out" sideways or upwards, it falls straight down, clinging to the body.
The following garments have been made up in all different sorts of jerseys, so not all designs will look exactly the same as the photos, but I’ll talk about that as we go through.
13 Gorgeous Sewing Patterns
First off, here is New Zealand company Papercut’s Kyoto Sweater and Tee. The design is lifted by the ruffle along the armholes. The tee in the photo is made in a fabric very similar to the bamboo jersey, though the ruffles look slightly stiffer than you would naturally get with the bamboo. Looking closely at the photo, the ruffle is hemmed and there may be some lightweight interfacing in the hem, and maybe some spray starch, all giving it more body.
As jersey doesn’t fray (yippee!), you could leave the edge of the ruffle raw.
Best bit about this pattern? You get the fabulous sweater pattern as well, so you could make up one in a sweater knit. Yummy.
Papercut’s Aomori Twist Top will show up the drape of bamboo jersey beautifully. The twist needs a lightweight fabric to prevent it from being too bulky. The short-sleeved version in the photo has been made in a very lightweight woven, and the long-sleeved version in the photo below is in a jersey that has more weight, like the heavy bamboo, or a cotton.
This model - like most models - is very skinny and small-busted compared to the average woman. With the form-fitting qualities of bamboo, if you are more curvy, the finished top will have a more feminine look, rather than the "square" shape above.
If you want a handy wrap to throw on over summer dresses or tops, the Coppelia Cardi is a neat little design that won’t go out of fashion. It’s very feminine, and would work well with '50s retro-style dresses. In this photo, it is made in a lightweight jersey, but the heavy bamboo would be just as good.
The pattern also has a long version where, instead of tying at the waist, it becomes a top with two cross-over front pieces. This would be great in the heavy bamboo, or made up in a cotton jersey. So that's another pattern where you get 2 for the price of one!
Sewhouse 7’s Merlo Field Tee creates its bold design through the simple technique of using two different colours of the same jersey. This is where the fun begins – what colours to choose? The design is inspired by 1970s sportswear. If you want inspiration, try googling vintage photos for ideas about colour combinations.
The adorable Tilly and the Buttons has a great basic fitted tee called the Agnes Jersey Top. It is a simple shape but has two added options: a gathering stitch (probably created with elastic) in the bodice's centre front, or on the sleeve head, as seen in the photo.
This would come up beautifully in the heavy bamboo, but it would also be great in a cotton jersey. In a plain, it would be a great basic to go with statement pants or a skirt, but how fab does it look in stripes? This is the kind of pattern where you end up making it in a number of different fabrics. There is also an online tutorial on how to sew jersey using a standard sewing machine to go with it, that you might like to purchase. It looks like a great grounding if you are unsure and haven't sewn with stretch fabrics before.
Burda is always reliable, and has some great patterns that will really show off the special qualities of the bamboo.
The Knotted Sleeve Shirt really makes use of the soft drape by incorporating a twist into the sleeves. Normally, twists are used in bodices, like the Aomori Twist Top above, so this is a clever way to use them. The look is sleek and elegant – combine it with a pair of black pants and you have a great work outfit. I'd love to make this. One day, when I have more time...
The Crossover Knit Sweater will look better the more soft and drapey the fabric it's made in. I especially love the batwing sleeve effect with the dropped shoulder and fitted lower sleeve. It's such a statement piece.
The Asymmetric Drape Shirt has a slight Japanese feel. To make the design, the pattern makers have used a technique called “slash and spread”. This is where fullness is added by selecting an area, and actually cutting the pattern along lines where you want the fullness. Here is my diagram of what the Burda pattern makers have done to create this design.
Once you have spread the pattern pieces, you create a new one, tracing your original piece and then smoothing out any jagged lines where the spread edges are.
As you can see, it's quite easy. You could try making your own with a standard fitted tee pattern if you have one that you know fits you well. Just make sure the back and front side seams match in length where you have spread the pattern. (When I worked for a pattern maker, t-shirts were often exactly the same front and back bodice, with just a lower neckline for the front bodice. If you have a fitted tee like this, you will only have to do the "slash and spread" once.)
The asymmetric effect is really intriguing. I’ve actually bought this pattern, and I’m making it in an olive bamboo jersey for my sister-in-law’s birthday present. I know she’s going to love it. I want one for myself in a dark neutral, but, for now, this project will just have to go to the back of my queue... (yup, I suspect every sewer has a queue like this.)
If you are curvy, Burda has the Pleated T-Shirt in a plus size. The example photo is in a grey marle, which makes it look a little casual, but with the low sheen of the bamboo you will be making something much more elegant and dressy. I don't think the marle does this top justice it's a bit plain for this design.
On the subject of curves, Australia's totally wonderful Megan Nielsen has a great range of patterns that are not too fiddly, and really great shapes. This includes a collection of sewing patterns just for pregnant and nursing women.
Her Amber Maternity and Nursing Dress has lots of flexibility to adapt to the different sizes that pregnancy takes you through. It is just right for the heavy bamboo. The pattern has the option of making a shorter version as a top, and both include hidden nursing openings.
Easy care, wrinkle-resistant clothes are fabulous for those hectic first few months when baby has arrived, and everything revolves around him or her.
And if you have a daughter, and there is some fabric left over, the Mini Briar Sweater or Tee will give your little girl something pretty and new at a time when a lot of attention will be going to the baby.
Finally, as it is lightweight, the bamboo jersey is mostly suitable for tops, however here are 2 patterns for “bottoms” where its soft drape is perfect.
This Ellie and Mac skirt is a super-comfortable design, with its stretch waistband. In brights, it will be a fun casual skirt, and in black it will make something quite elegant. As the skirt is made of 2 layers, it also has the option of using 2 different colours to create interest.
I can't get a good image of these Bootstrap Fashion harem pants, but the fact that Bootstrap gives you the option of entering your measurements, so that their software can create a version of the pattern that is customised to your shape, is pretty amazing.
In any other fabric, this design would end up being awkward and bulky. It's not many types of pants that need to be made in a lightweight stretch - can't think of any other. Like the skirt, these pants will be so comfortable to wear.
Working with Jersey
When you are sewing with a beautiful fabric, it is always good to brush up on your skills, so that you can produce something you are super-happy with, and proud to wear.
I've had a look for tutorials with good technical information, just click on the links to view them.
It's a plus to have an understanding of jersey fabrics. The two most important things to remember when sewing with a stretch fabric are to use a ballpoint needle, and to not pull or stretch the jersey as you sew. Ballpoint/stretch needles have a rounded point, that pushes fibres aside, rather than pierces them. Sharp-pointed needles will snag the delicate stretch threads.
Cut and handle the fabric with care. Lay fabric flat and make sure the grain is straight. Make sure all of the fabric is lying on the cutting surface, as any hanging over the edges will stretch and pull the fabric and distort the grain.
You can sew jersey successfully on your home sewing machine, without needing an overlocker. Whatever you use, it is always a good idea to make up test seams using offcuts before you start sewing your garment.
Applying a neckband is easy once you have done a few. The trick is to pin well, and go slowly and carefully. You can even tack (roughly hand-stitch) your seam before sewing it, to prevent it moving around once you start the sewing machine.
So what are you waiting for - time to get sewing! I've got until December before my sister-in-laws birthday, and it's going to be hard to wait that long once the asymmetric top is finished. Her daughter's birthday is in January, so I might make her a matching one in a rosy pink. And I have another niece who's just been born, and I make the babies a personalised nappy bag when they are born, so I'm going to be busy for the next few months.
Happy sewing : )