Remember Sewing 101? It was a fun little series we did last year, and well since then we have though a lot about adding to it. It won’t be like the series last year where it was nearly everyday for 5 weeks, but there will be some lessons here and there. Starting today with sewing with knits. It is the number one thing we get asked about. Knits make people nervous, or frustrated. I can understand both. Some fabrics can be frustrating to work with. Knits don’t have to be one of them. So to start let’s talk knits. If you have never worked with a knit before I recommend starting with an interlock knit. Why interlock? Interlock knits are a little heavier, they only stretch in one direction which makes them sew a little easier, and they don’t roll up like many other knits. Most fabric stores carry a wide variety of interlock knits, so you have a lot to choose from. Here are some basic “tips” I have for working with knits that make it easier for me.
1. Know your machine. Most machines come with a manual (unless you picked up an old then you can search online maybe?) Machines all have feed dogs. Feed dogs guide the fabric through as you sew, you can change the settings on your machine that change how the feed dogs bring the fabric through. You want to work with the tension settings and on a test scrap of knit so you can be sure everything is sewing smoothly. You want the feed dogs to guide the fabric through without pulling or stretching the knit, but without gathering it up. You should not have to pull or push the fabric through.
2. Needles matter. When you are sewing with knits, any knit make sure you are sewing with a ball point needle. Made for sewing with knits, the needle sews nice and smoothly without tearing the fabric and causing a little hole, also it doesn’t snag or pull the fabric. The right needle makes all the difference.
3. Know you stitch options. This is kind of along with knowing your machine, many machines have different stitches for different purposes. I use the Bernina 1008, which is nothing super fancy but it is a fantastic sewing machine. The machine has a “stretch stitch” I have talked about it before in other posts but a stretch stitch which looks a bit like lightning bolts when sewn allows for the stitch to stretch without breaking. This is great for some seams like neck openings, hems, and side seams that need to stretch with the shirt.
A stretch stich requires a fancy foot to do the stitch. For my machine the foot looks like this. While I like the stretch stitch and I do often use it, you don’t need to have a fancy stitch and fancy foot to sew with knits. One way is to use a basic zig zag stitch. The zig zag stitch allows for some stretch. You want the stitch length to be fairly short so that your seam doesn’t gap to much.
4. Another great option for sewing with knits is a double needle. Double needle are great and most any machine fancy or simple can use a double needle. You simply install the double needle in place of a regular needle, it goes in the the same way as any regular needle.
Then you thread your machine with two spools of thread. I typically just wind an extra bobbin of the thread I am using so I don’t need two spools. You can stack the bobbin and spool together on one spool holder if you only have one, or if you have a second one like I do you can put one on each. If you are stacking them together make sure they are both going the same direction off the spool or you will have trouble. Then thread both threads together the way you normally do and thread the needles with the thread.
5. When you are sewing hems with knits sometimes they warp or get wavy. There are a lot of ways to avoid this but the one I use most often is fusible interfacing. This is especially helpful if you are using a knit that rolls at the edge which is a pain. Fusible interfacing has stretch so match the direction of the stretch with the stretch of the hem. Then iron on a strip of interfacing. it will make the hem nice and flat and smooth and it offers a little thickness which helps in sewing.
Then when you hem, it is nice and smooth. Especially when you use a double needle which sometimes puckers a bit.
6. Don’t be afraid to pin often. Sometimes I get a little crazy with the pins but it does help especially if you are working with a really stretchy knit. The hardest part can be setting sleeves with the curves and all. You want to be careful that when working with knits you don’t stretch the fabric as you pin or sew, that way everything will lay nice and smooth. Pinning often helps to be sure everything lines up nicely without being stretched. *Tip I remove pins instead of sewing over them when sewing with knits since you don’t want to dull or damage the tip of the sewing needle.
Then even with the stretchiest knit will lay nice and smooth and flat.
Now hopefully you can tackle any knit project with confidence on your side! Practice makes perfect, so never give up, every knit project I do gets better each time.
Do you have a sewing question or issue that you want a lesson on? Let us know and we will try and include it in a sewing 101!