Sewing with knit fabrics can be a bit intimidating, I know I avoided all knit sewing patterns for first 2 years of my sewing journey. But sewing with knits is easier than you think once you find what works for you! You probably already own knit garments in your personal wardrobe because they’re comfortable, they wash well and they are forgiving when it comes to fit. If you’re wondering how to sew with knit fabrics, I’ve got 5 simple tips to help you conquer your fear and get sewing with this comfy fabric!
1. Use a stitch that will stretch
You can sew knits on an overlocker or a sewing machine. When using an overlocker you will naturally be using a stitch specifically designed for stretchy fabrics. But if you’re working on a sewing machine you don’t want to use an ordinary straight stitch because it will break with any stretching.
On a sewing machine you’ll want to choose a stretch stitch or a narrow zig-zag stitch to allow the seam to stretch with the fabric without breaking. There’s lots of stretch stitches to choose from, on your machine they might look like a repeated triangles or lightning bolts. You can also adjust the tension settings on your machine to work with the stretch of the fabric, to make sure it lies flat. The top three stitches in the photo below are stretch stitches and the bottom is a standard straight stitch. When I stretched the fabric you can see the bottom stitch broke.
As always, practise any stitches on a scrap piece of the same fabric you want to make the garment out of to make sure you find the perfect stitch and tension combination. Try the Naya T-shirt sewing pattern for a quick 1 hour project to test your knit skills!
2. Use the correct needle and thread
One of the key factors of successfully sewing with knits is to use the right needle and thread. I recommend using ballpoint or stretch needles to prevent any snags or skipped stitches on the fabric.
Using high-quality thread from reputable brands will also make a huge difference in the longevity of your garment. I recommend brands like Gutermann or Mettler – I’ve shared my favourite threads that I constantly order on my Amazon shop. I know it’s tempting to buy a 20 pack of thread for £5 but they will snap when sewing and won’t result in a long-lasting garment.
3. Play around with your machine settings
If you’ve ever sewn with knit fabric and realised at the end of the garment all your seams are wavy, I’ve got the perfect tip for you whether you’re using an overlocker or sewing machine!
If you’re working on an overlocker try playing with a setting called The Differential Feed. On my trusty Brother overlocker, it looks like a knob closer to the bottom of the machine. All you need to do is increase the dial to a higher number (i.e. 1.5-2) and it will magically stop any waviness in the fabric. It essentially means the front feed dogs will push heavier knits through the needles faster than the back feed dogs. It’s such a simple trick and makes the world of a difference.
If you’re working on a sewing machine you probably have a setting where you can adjust the pressure of your presser foot. The amount of pressure that the foot put onto the fabric when lowered can greatly impact how the fabric will sew. If it’s too high the feed dogs will drag the fabric through and result in a stretched out and wavy seam. On my Pfaff machine I can adjust this to a lower number (i.e. 4-5) to combat this!
5. Use a tailors clapper when pressing
If you’ve never heard of a tailors clapper it’s such a nifty tool that I use 90% of the time when sewing now. It’s a wooden block that helps absorb any steam when pressing a garment.
If you’re having trouble with wavy seams when sewing with knit fabrics, I recommend using steam on the area and then pressing firmly with a tailors clapper to help the seam lie flat. This works for me the majority of the time when hemming knits and it’s such a simple trick to try.
I also use my tailors clapper when sewing with woven fabrics too, especially on seams to help them lie nice and flat once sewn. I always use a press cloth to help protect the fabric from the heat of the iron.
5. Use quality pins and clips
Knit fabrics can be slippery and challenging to keep in place while sewing. I’ve always used pins to hold my seams together but over the past year, I’ve switched to clips! Traditional pins aren’t designed for knit fabrics and the sharp point end can damage and leave permanent holes in the fabric.
Sewing with knit fabrics doesn’t have to be a daunting task. If you try these five tips, you’ll be well on your way to creating comfortable, stylish garments with ease. Embrace the stretch, experiment with your tools and soon you’ll find that sewing with knits opens up a world of creative possibilities. Happy sewing!
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