Sewing with Knits...It CAN Be Fun!

comments (5) January 6th, 2009     

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Shannon_Dennis Shannon Dennis, contributor
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Use a fusible knit interfacing on the wrong side of your knits before sewing buttonholes.
Use ballpoint or stretch needles when sewing knits to avoid skipped stitches and crooked-looking seams.
Using twin stretch needles to topstitch not only secures your stitch but also reduces the bulk of heavy knits and gives a professional-looking finish!
Use a fusible knit interfacing on the wrong side of your knits before sewing buttonholes.

Use a fusible knit interfacing on the wrong side of your knits before sewing buttonholes.

Photo: Shannon Dennis

Knits encompass everything from Polarfleece to T-shirts and from "slinky" to sweater fabric. Sewing on knits can be a joy or a trial. Make sure to have these tools and tips in your head and everything will run smoothly!

First, use the correct needle. This is crucial to sewing with knits. Make sure to use a 75/11 stretch needle for thin, stretchy knits, and a larger needle such as an 80/12 stretch for heavier knits.


Use ballpoint or stretch needles when sewing knits to avoid skipped stitches and crooked-looking seams.

For seams, I have found that what works best is creating the seam with the appropriate seam allowance then topstitching or edgestitching. This does two things. First, for thick or heavy knits, it "debulks" the seams, especially if you topstitch with a twin needle. Second, for thin knits, top or edgestitching reinforces the seam and prevents the seam allowance from rolling over itself.


Using twin stretch needles to topstitch not only secures your stitch but also reduces the bulk of heavy knits and gives a professional-looking finish!


Topstitching, double topstitching (shown), and edgestitching will secure knit seams and keep lightweight knits from curling.

Stitch length is an important component as well. Lengthen your stitch length slightly (one or two selections longer than your default setting) or use a knit stitch that can be found on some sewing machines. This stitch is often referred to as the lightning stitch as it looks like a bolt of lightning. A longer stitch length allows the stretchy fibers of the knit to move slightly. Too narrow of a stitch length could cause some of the knit fibers to break or your seam to pop. Remember always to test your seam's construction before sewing your project.

Sewing buttonholes on knit requires one simple step. Iron on a square of fusible knit interfacing to the wrong side of the knit in addition to whatever normal stabilizer you use for buttonholes before sewing. The fusible knit interfacing will allow you just a little more stabilization needed for knits while the knit interfacing will allow the knit to still look, feel, and move like a knit...not as though you fused a piece of cardboard to your swimsuit buttonhole!


Use a fusible knit interfacing on the wrong side of your knits before sewing buttonholes.

The perks of sewing with knits are, to me, endless. Not only do they allow for a more flattering fit than wovens when used in garment sewing, but they also don't ravel! The only exception to this is a sweater. For that, use a simple zigzag stitch finish on your edges.

posted in: needles, fleece, sweaters, sewing with knits, slinky, how-to sew knits, swim suits

Comments (5)

Shannon_Dennis writes: For skipping stitches there are a few things you can try. 1) Change the direction of the thread coming off the spool. 2) Sew a little more slowly, sometimes we have an inclination to move faster than the machine can process. 3) Try a microtex needle or a stretch needle with a sharp point instead of the ballpoint. 4) If all else fails, take your machine apart according to the handbook for a light cleaning and completely re-thread your machine.
Posted: 2:22 pm on February 11th
KarenKraft writes: Thanks for the tips on sewing on knits. I've been trying to alter some polarfleece tops. Even with the ballpoint needles recommended by a Joann Fabrics clerk, my machine is still not sewing properly -- missing stitches, etc. It works fine on all other fabrics. What technique or setting am I missing? I used to be able to sew on polarfleece with this machine. And I really don't want to take these simple alterations to a shop!

Thanks!
Posted: 4:53 pm on January 16th
zlee writes: You have to be careful on seams with knits or they'll ripple. Depending on where the seam falls across the fabric, some seams work better if you hold the fabric taut under the foot (be careful not to pull the fabric either direction out from under the foot). Others work better if you let the machine feed dogs take the fabric through and lessen the pressure of the foot on the fabric. Taking some samples of your fabric and doing a few test seams are the best way to prevent rippled seams.

With some very fine and stretchy jerseys, I'll sometimes sew on strips of water soluble backing, the sort used for machine embroidery.

Hands down, though, a serger is one of the best ways to sew knits. Investing in one means that you can sew knits with much more confidence -- it's also faster than a sewing machine. (With a serger, I can whip out a basic t-shirt from my favorite pattern in less than an hour from cut to finish.) You should get one with at least four threads -- five for preference. A serger that sews cover stitch also means you can duplicate the coverstitch hems on ready-made knit items easily, if you like.
Posted: 10:29 am on January 8th
Peg_in_virginia writes: Great Tips!! I have renewed confidence to return to that project that just wasn't working out. Thank!
Posted: 9:39 am on January 6th
JenniferStern writes: I love the ribbon--very Chanel!
Posted: 8:15 am on January 6th
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