Hey there everyone! I really really like to sew knit fabrics. I enjoy working with woven fabric as well, but I prefer wearing garments that stretch. But sadly, knit fabric has gotten a bit of a bad reputation! In this article, I want to share some of the tips and tricks that help me when I’m making something with knit fabric on a regular sewing machine (as opposed to an overlock machine, or serger). Trust me, it’s much easier than you might think!
1. Pre-treating Your Knits
This is really important. Just like with woven fabric, you want to make sure you wash your knits to prevent shrinking later down the line. Wash your fabric in cold water, and let it dry. Don’t hang it, or let parts drape over a table. Let it rest, without stretching, before beginning to cut out your pieces.
2. Paying Attention to Stretch Direction
Unless you’re using a two-way stretch fabric, check and make sure that you’re cutting your pieces correctly. When you pull a T-shirt over your head, it has to stretch horizontally to get on your body. Same with pants, or a dress. Keep that in mind when you’re laying out your pieces to cut out. If it won’t stretch side to side, make the needed adjustments.
3. Tissue/Gift Bag Paper
This trick, for me, has two functions. The first function, when you place some paper on each side of your pieces before sewing them together, helps you avoid that irritating bunching that can happen when sewing knits. The second function, it helps the fabric not get jammed into the teeth of your sewing machine.
4. Zigzag Stitch or Mock Overlock Stitch
When working with knit fabrics, the zigzag stitch is your best option. The straight stitch is not. However, some machines, like mine, come with a mock overlock stitch that makes your seams look like that of an overlock machine, or serger. I like to use this stitch to make my seams look more professional. See what options your machine has to offer, and play around with them.
5. Needles and Feet
Consider changing your needle out to a ballpoint needle when it’s time to sew knit fabrics. I haven’t seen the need to use a walking foot with my machine, but if your regular foot isn’t cutting it, give the walking foot a try.
6. Let Your Machine Do the Work!
To me, this is the most important one. When you’re sitting down at the machine and sewing, don’t pull or tug the fabric. Let your hands simply rest on the fabric, making sure it’s straight, and being sewn on the proper seam allowance. The teeth are catching the fabric and doing a pretty good job of it, so take a deep breath and let them! Pulling or tugging can alter the shape of your garment, and give the edges waves and bunching. So definitely avoid it!
Now that you’re armed with some tips and tricks for working with knits, it’s time to put them in practice. Pick out some projects! Dive right in, and have fun. Don’t feel bad if your first stretchy garment isn’t perfect. The more you work with knits, the easier it will get, and the more comfortable you’ll be with them.
Happy sewing everyone!