As I ventured into sewing knit fabric for the first time, I admit, I felt a bit intimidated. It felt like there were so many rules to be successful at sewing knit fabric. Plus, that added stretch component that differs from wovens sounded like it could get tricky. But, with a few simple tips you can gain confidence sewing knits with ease. Below I share five tips that helped me as I got started; I hope they can do the same for you!
1. Choose the proper sewing notions/accessories
Knit fabrics differ from wovens in how they are formed. One continuous thread forms interlocking loops as shown above, which contribute to the fabric’s stretchiness. This means that you will need supplies like pins and needles that slide through those loops, instead of piercing them. (Using a universal needle, for example, will cause the knit fabric to tear once it is stretched.) These include ball point pins/needles, stretch needles, and wonderclips. Both ballpoint and stretch needles work with knits; with stretch needles working well with higher stretching knit fabric. You can also find twin stretch needles for topstitching and finishing hems. I love using the wonderclips; they are so handy that I use them for pretty much all of my sewing projects.
One other accessory that can greatly assist you with sewing knits is a walking foot. This adds feed dogs on top of your fabric as well, so it will pull it through your machine evenly as you sew. This helps prevent puckered or wavy seams. While not necessary, I believe a walking foot has saved me a lot of headaches while sewing knit fabric; I highly recommend getting one.
2. Note direction of stretch
Make note of the direction of highest stretch of your fabric. (This is usually the width of the fabric.) You want to position your pattern pieces so the direction of highest stretch will wrap around the body. Most patterns will note how to position the pieces accordingly. This allows the finished garment to lay properly; without twisting.
3. Choose proper thread and stitches
You have choices when it comes to the stitches you can use with knit fabric. Because of this, you don’t need specialty thread to sew knits; regular ole polyester thread will work. However, I favor utilizing stretch thread when sewing knits as this allows me to utilize a straight stitch more often. There are two types of stretch thread that will work well in sewing machines, they include: Maxi-Lock Thread, and Eloflex thread from Coats & Clark. While it is great that sewing brands are coming out with threads specifically for sewing with knits, they don’t come in the amount of color variety that all purpose polyester does. When I have a project that needs a specific colored thread, I simply use the polyester thread with my needle, and wind the bobbin with the stretch thread.
The type of stitch you use will depend on what your sewing machine has available. You want your seams to stretch with the fabric. The most commonly used and available is the zigzag stitch. A few others include a faux overlock stitch, stretch stitch, and triple straight stretch stitch. Experiment to see what works best with your machine and your project. (It’s always beneficial to test settings on a scrap of material) That said, a narrow, zigzag stitch will work universally for most projects.
4. Stabilize delicate knit Fabric
I feel that this tip is one of the handiest, and has really helped when cutting and piecing together high stretch/delicate fabrics. After your fabric is washed and dried and before you cut the pattern pieces out, treat the fabric with spray starch. This stabilizes the fabric a little better; preventing the fabric from curling too much and helps greatly when pinning the fabric together.
Another way to stabilize knits is to use hem tape.
5. How to fix wavy edges
Not all is lost if, despite all your preparation, your hems seem stretched after you finish sewing them. Using an iron press gently and apply steam to shrink the seam back down to size.
I hope these tips give you the confidence to tackle more knit projects, like they did for me. Check back on Wednesday for a free knit fabric pattern you can use to practice your skills!
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