Sewing with knit fabric can be a bit intimidating if you’re used to working with woven materials. However, once you understand the properties of knit fabric and how it behaves, you’ll be able to sew beautiful and comfortable garments with ease. In this article, we’ll share some tips and tricks for sewing with knit fabric that will help you achieve professional results.
Choose the right type of knit fabric: Knit fabric comes in a variety of weights and stretches, so it’s important to choose the right type for your project. Lighter weight knits like jersey or interlock are great for t-shirts and dresses, while heavier knits like Ponte de Roma or double knit are more suitable for pants and skirts. Make sure to check the fabric requirements on your pattern before purchasing.
Pre-wash and pre-shrink the fabric: Knit fabric has a tendency to shrink, so it’s important to pre-wash and pre-shrink your fabric before beginning your project. This will prevent any unexpected shrinking or warping of your finished garment. Wash the fabric according to the manufacturer’s instructions and dry it on low heat or air dry.
Use a stretch needle: When sewing with knit fabric, it’s important to use the right needle. A stretch needle has a slightly rounded point that helps prevent skipped stitches and pucker, as well as a longer eye to accommodate the stretch of the fabric. Using a stretch needle will result in smoother and more professional-looking seams.
Pro-tip: To avoid fabric distortion, use pins sparingly or try using clips instead. This will prevent unnecessary stretching or puckering of the fabric as you sew.
Select the right stitch: Choosing the right stitch is crucial when sewing with knit fabric. The most common stitch for knits is the zigzag stitch, as it allows for stretchability. Set your machine to a medium zigzag stitch (2.5-3.5) for most knit fabrics. Alternatively, you can also use a twin needle for a professional-looking finish. Experiment with different stitches on scrap fabric to see what works best for you.
Finish seams with a serger or overlock stitch: To prevent fraying and give your garments a neat finish, consider finishing the seams with a serger or overlock stitch. These stitches are specifically designed for knit fabrics and will help to maintain the stretchiness of the fabric.
With these tips in mind, you’ll be well-equipped to sew with knit fabric and create comfortable and stylish garments. Remember to take your time and practice on scrap fabric, and soon you’ll be able to sew with confidence and achieve professional results.
Choosing the right needle
When sewing with knit fabrics, it’s important to choose the right needle to ensure the best results. Here are some tips to help you select the appropriate needle:
- Ballpoint or Stretch Needle: Knit fabrics are stretchy, so it’s important to use a needle specifically designed for stretch fabrics. Ballpoint or stretch needles have a rounded tip that slides between the fabric’s fibers instead of piercing them, which helps prevent snags and runs in the fabric.
- Needle Size: The size of the needle depends on the weight and thickness of your knit fabric. For lightweight knits, use a smaller needle size like 75/11 or 80/12. For heavier knits, opt for a larger needle size like 90/14. Experiment with different sizes to find the one that works best for your specific fabric.
- Twin Needle: A twin needle is a great tool to create professional-looking double-stitched hems or decorative topstitching on knit fabrics. It has two needles attached to a single shank, which creates parallel rows of stitching. Make sure to use a twin needle designed for knits to ensure that it doesn’t cause any skipped stitches or fabric puckering.
Remember to always test your needle and stitch settings on a scrap piece of fabric before sewing your project. This will help you determine the best needle and stitch combination to achieve the desired results.
Using the correct thread
When working with knit fabrics, it is important to use the correct thread to ensure the longevity and durability of your project.
1. Polyester thread:
Polyester thread is a great choice for sewing knit fabrics as it is strong and has a good amount of stretch. It is also resistant to breaking or fraying, which is essential when dealing with stretchy materials.
2. Stretch thread:
If you want to achieve maximum stretch and flexibility in your seams, consider using stretch thread. This thread has more elasticity than regular polyester thread and can withstand the stresses placed on the seams of knit fabrics.
3. Wooly nylon thread:
Wooly nylon thread is another option for sewing knits. It is a textured thread that provides excellent stretch and recovery. It is perfect for creating strong, yet flexible seams in knit fabrics.
4. Serger thread:
When using a serger to sew knit fabrics, it is recommended to use serger thread. Serger thread is specifically designed for overlock machines and has extra strength and stretch to accommodate the movement of knit fabrics.
5. Choosing the right color:
When selecting a thread color, it is best to choose a shade that matches the fabric or a slightly darker shade. This will help conceal the stitches and create a more professional finish.
6. Pre-winding bobbins:
Before starting your project, make sure to pre-wind enough bobbins with the correct thread. This will save you time during sewing and ensure that you don’t run out of thread in the middle of a seam.
Before sewing your fabric, it is always a good idea to test the stitching on a scrap piece of fabric. This will allow you to adjust the tension and stitch length, ensuring that the thread and fabric are working well together.
By using the correct thread, you can achieve strong, flexible seams that will withstand the stretch and movement of knit fabrics.
Prepping your fabric and pattern
Before you begin sewing with knit fabric, it’s important to properly prep your fabric and pattern. This will ensure that your final garment turns out well and fits correctly. Here are some tips to help you get started:
- Wash and dry your fabric: Knit fabric can shrink, so it’s essential to pre-wash and pre-dry your fabric before cutting and sewing. This will help prevent any unwanted shrinkage in the finished garment.
- Choose the right needle: When sewing with knit fabric, it’s crucial to use a ballpoint or stretch needle. These needles have rounded tips that slide between the knit fibers rather than piercing them, minimizing the risk of causing runs or holes in the fabric.
- Prepare your pattern: If you’re using a commercial pattern, it’s a good idea to check the recommended fabric type and weight on the back of the envelope. Look for patterns specifically designed for knit fabric or those that offer instructions for sewing with knits. Additionally, make sure to transfer any markings from the pattern to your fabric using fabric marking tools that won’t damage or show through the fabric.
- Layout your fabric: Lay your fabric out on a clean, flat surface and smooth out any wrinkles or folds. Ensure the fabric grain is straight by aligning the selvages. If your fabric is particularly slippery, you may want to use pattern weights or pins to keep it in place.
- Pattern placement: Consider the direction of stretch in your fabric and how it will affect the fit and drape of your garment. Place your pattern pieces accordingly, keeping in mind any print or directional elements on the fabric.
- Cut with care: When cutting knit fabric, it’s often best to use a rotary cutter and a self-healing cutting mat. These tools help prevent stretching and distortion of the fabric. Use sharp scissors for smaller, more intricate cuts. Cut each piece with precision, following the pattern instructions and making sure to stay on the correct size or line.
- Interface if necessary: Depending on the project, you may need to interface certain areas of your knit fabric to stabilize them. Use a lightweight, stretchy interfacing and follow the pattern instructions for placement and application.
By taking the time to properly prep your fabric and pattern, you’ll set yourself up for success when sewing with knit fabric. These steps will help ensure that your final garment is well-fitting, comfortable, and durable.
Handling stretchy fabric
Working with stretchy fabrics requires a different approach compared to sewing with woven fabrics. Here are some tips to help you handle stretchy fabric more effectively:
- Choose the right needle: When sewing with stretchy fabrics, it’s important to use a ballpoint needle or a stretch needle. These needles have a rounded tip that helps them glide between the fabric threads without causing damage or creating holes.
- Pre-wash and dry: Before you start sewing, it’s essential to pre-wash and dry your stretchy fabric. This step helps to remove any potential shrinkage and ensures that your final garment won’t warp or distort after washing.
- Use the right thread: Opt for a polyester or nylon thread when sewing with stretchy fabrics. These threads have some level of stretch, which will help your stitches withstand the fabric’s movements without breaking.
- Stay-stitch the edges: To prevent excessive stretching and distortion, it’s recommended to stay-stitch the edges of your stretchy fabric before sewing. Stay-stitching involves sewing a line of stitches within the seam allowance to stabilize the fabric.
- Use pins or clips: Instead of relying solely on pins, consider using clips when working with stretchy fabric. Clips help to avoid unnecessary stretching and pulling that can occur when using straight pins.
- Stretch as you sew: When sewing seams on stretchy fabric, gently stretch the fabric as you sew. This technique helps to maintain the fabric’s stretchiness and prevents the stitches from breaking when the fabric is stretched later on.
- Test your stitches: Before sewing your final garment, it’s a good idea to test your stitches on a fabric scrap. This way, you can check the stitch’s elasticity and adjust your sewing machine’s tension settings if needed.
By following these tips, you’ll be better equipped to handle stretchy fabrics and create garments that fit comfortably and maintain their shape over time.
Using the right stitches
When sewing with knit fabric, it is important to choose the right stitches to ensure the fabric retains its stretch and flexibility. Here are some stitches that work well with knit materials:
- Straight stitch: The straight stitch is commonly used for sewing knit fabric. However, it can cause the fabric to pucker or tear if stretched too much. To avoid this, you can use a longer stitch length and gently stretch the fabric as you sew.
- Zigzag stitch: The zigzag stitch is ideal for sewing knit fabric as it allows for stretch. Adjust the stitch width and length to achieve the desired amount of stretch. A wider zigzag stitch will provide more stretch, while a narrower one will provide less. This stitch helps prevent the fabric from unraveling.
- Overlock stitch: If you have a serger or overlock machine, using the overlock stitch is a great option for sewing knit fabrics. It trims and finishes the edges of the fabric while providing stretch. The overlock stitch creates a professional and clean look.
- Twin needle stitch: Another option for sewing knit fabric is using a twin needle stitch. This stitch creates parallel rows of straight stitches on the top and a zigzag stitch on the bottom. It adds a decorative touch to your project and helps to prevent the fabric from stretching too much.
It’s always a good idea to test your stitches on a scrap piece of fabric before sewing the actual project. This will allow you to determine which stitch works best for the specific knit fabric you are working with.
Remember to use the appropriate thread tension and consider using a stretch needle or ballpoint needle to prevent snags and skipped stitches while sewing. Using the right stitches will help ensure your knit fabric projects turn out beautifully with a professional finish.
Mastering the art of sewing hems
Sewing hems can often be a challenging task, especially when working with stretchy knit fabrics. However, with the right techniques and tools, you can achieve professional-looking hems on your garments.
1. Choose the right needle: When sewing hems on knit fabric, it is important to use a ballpoint or stretch needle. These needles are designed to glide between the fibers of the fabric without causing any damage or breaking the threads.
2. Use the correct stitch: To ensure that the hem is secure and stretches along with the fabric, use a stretch stitch such as a narrow zigzag stitch or a double needle. These stitches allow the hem to stretch without popping or breaking. Test different stitch options on scraps of fabric to find the one that works best for your specific project.
3. Prepare the fabric: Before sewing the hem, it is recommended to stabilize the edge of the fabric to prevent it from stretching out as you sew. You can use fusible stay tape or a strip of lightweight knit interfacing to reinforce the hem area.
4. Press and pin: Pressing the hem before sewing will help create a crisp edge and make it easier to sew. Use a steam iron on a low heat setting and press the hem flat. You can use pins or clips to hold the hem in place while sewing.
5. Sew slowly: Take your time when sewing the hem, especially when working with stretchy fabrics. Sewing at a slower pace will allow you to maintain control over the fabric and ensure that the stitches are even and secure.
6. Trim and finish: After sewing the hem, trim any excess fabric close to the stitching line. You can then finish the raw edge with a serger or a narrow zigzag stitch to prevent fraying.
7. Practice on scraps: If you’re new to sewing hems on knits, it’s a good idea to practice on scraps of fabric before working on your actual project. This will help you get a feel for the fabric and practice your techniques without the fear of ruining your garment.
Remember, sewing hems on knit fabrics takes practice, so don’t get discouraged if your first few attempts are not perfect. With time and experience, you will become more confident in your skills and be able to create beautifully finished hems on all your knit garments.
Finishing touches: Adding stretchy trims
When working with knit fabrics, adding stretchy trims can provide a professional finish to your projects. Stretchy trims help to stabilize the fabric edges and prevent stretching or puckering. They also add a decorative touch, making your garments or accessories look polished and well-finished.
Here are some tips for adding stretchy trims to your knit fabric projects:
- Choose the right trim: There are various types of stretchy trims available, such as ribbons, fold-over elastics, and stretch lace. Choose a trim that matches the color and style of your project, and consider the level of stretch and width that works best for your fabric.
- Measure and cut: Before attaching the trim, measure the length needed for your project and cut the trim accordingly. Be sure to add a little extra length to ensure a secure fit.
- Pin or baste: To prevent the trim from shifting during sewing, pin or baste it in place along the fabric edge. This will help to keep the trim in position and ensure even stitching.
- Set your machine: Adjust your sewing machine settings to accommodate stretchy trims and knit fabrics. Use a stretch or zigzag stitch, which will allow the fabric to stretch without breaking the thread. You may also need to adjust the tension and stitch length to achieve the desired results.
- Stitch slowly: When sewing the trim to your fabric, take your time and sew slowly to ensure accurate stitching and prevent any bunching or stretching of the fabric. This will help to maintain the shape and elasticity of the trim.
- Finish the edges: Once the trim is secure, you may choose to finish the edges for added durability. You can use a serger or overlock stitch to sew over the fabric and trim edges, or you can use a narrow zigzag stitch to neatly encase the raw edges.
Adding stretchy trims can elevate the look and functionality of your knit fabric projects. With these tips in mind, you can confidently experiment with different trims and create professional-looking garments and accessories.
Troubleshooting common issues
Working with knit fabric can sometimes present challenges, but with the right techniques and troubleshooting, you can overcome common issues that arise. Here are some common problems you may encounter when sewing with stretchy materials and their solutions:
Puckered seams: If your seams are puckering, try using a ballpoint needle instead of a regular needle. The ballpoint needle is designed to separate the fibers of the fabric rather than piercing through them, resulting in smoother seams.
Skipped stitches: Skipped stitches can occur when sewing knit fabric due to the fabric’s stretchiness. To prevent skipped stitches, try using a stretch needle. This type of needle has a longer and more flexible eye, allowing it to better accommodate the fabric’s movements during sewing.
Uneven stitches: Uneven stitches may be caused by inconsistent tension. Make sure to adjust your sewing machine’s tension settings according to the fabric you are working with. It may be necessary to experiment with different settings to achieve the desired stitch quality.
Stretched fabric: If your fabric becomes stretched or distorted while sewing, consider using a walking foot or a dual-feed system on your sewing machine. These tools help to feed the fabric evenly and prevent it from stretching.
Tangled threads: Tangled threads can be frustrating, but they can be avoided by using good quality thread and ensuring that the thread tension is properly adjusted. If you’re still experiencing issues, try using a thread lubricant or a silicone thread conditioner to reduce friction.
Uneven hem: Achieving an even hem on knit fabric can be challenging. To avoid a wavy or uneven hem, use a twin needle or a coverstitch machine. These tools create two parallel rows of stitches, resulting in a professional-looking and stable hem.
How do I choose the right needle for sewing knit fabric?
When sewing knit fabric, it’s important to choose the right needle to prevent damage to the fabric. I recommend using a ballpoint needle or a stretch needle. These needles are designed specifically for knit fabrics and have a rounded tip that slides between the fibers of the fabric, rather than piercing through them. This helps to prevent snags and runs in the fabric while sewing.
What type of stitch is best for sewing knit fabric?
When sewing knit fabric, the best stitch to use is a zigzag stitch or a stretch stitch. These stitches have some built-in stretch and are ideal for stretchy fabrics. The zigzag stitch allows the fabric to stretch and recover without breaking the stitches. Alternatively, a stretch stitch, which looks like a lightning bolt, provides a lot of stretch and is great for seams that need to withstand a lot of movement.
How can I prevent the fabric from stretching while sewing?
Preventing the fabric from stretching while sewing can be challenging, but there are a few techniques you can use. One method is to place strips of tissue paper or stabilizer under the fabric while sewing. This helps to support the fabric and prevent it from stretching out of shape. Another tip is to use a walking foot or a dual feed foot, which helps to evenly feed the fabric through the machine and prevent stretching. Additionally, you can try adjusting the presser foot pressure to a lower setting.
What are some tips for hemming knit fabric?
Hemming knit fabric can be a bit tricky, but with the right techniques, it can be done neatly. One tip is to use a twin needle, which creates two parallel rows of stitching on the right side of the fabric and a zigzag stitch on the wrong side. This allows the hem to stretch along with the fabric. Another option is to use a coverstitch machine if you have one. This type of machine creates a professional-looking hem with two rows of stitching on the right side and a chain stitch on the wrong side.
Can I use a regular sewing machine to sew knit fabric?
Yes, you can use a regular sewing machine to sew knit fabric. However, there are a few things you should keep in mind. First, be sure to use a ballpoint needle or a stretch needle, as these are specifically designed for knit fabrics. Second, use a zigzag stitch or a stretch stitch to allow for the fabric’s stretch. Finally, be mindful of the tension settings on your machine. Knit fabrics generally require a slightly looser tension to prevent the stitches from puckering or breaking.
How can I finish the seams on knit fabric?
Finishing the seams on knit fabric is important to prevent fraying and increase the durability of your garment. One option is to use a serger or overlock machine, which trims the seam allowances and sews a stitch that simultaneously finishes the edges. If you don’t have a serger, you can use a zigzag stitch or a mock overlock stitch on your regular sewing machine. Another option is to use a double-stitched seam, where you sew two parallel rows of stitches and trim the seam allowance close to the stitching.