Fabric Sewing Tips: Sewing Knit Fabrics

Tips and tricks for choosing, cutting out and sewing with knit fabrics that will ensure all your projects that utilize knits will turn out great!

It stretches this way, it stretches that way. You put it under your sewing machine's pressure foot and it grows three inches. Your seams are wavy, the edges of your pattern pieces do not line up, and to top it all off your machine keeps skipping stitches! If you are struggling with sewing knit fabrics, then you know exactly what I am talking about! Learning to master the art of sewing with knits can be a steep learning curve. There is hope in site though! With the tips and tricks outlined below you just might find your next sewing project with knit fabric easier to tackle.

First things first, all knits are not created equal. Before you try to sew knits, you need to understand what you are working with. There are many different types of knit fabrics, but they generally fall into one of two basic categories: single or double knit. Double knit fabrics are made by interlocking two layers single knit thread loops simultaneously. The resulting fabric looks virtually the same on both sides. Double knits are generally medium to heavy weight, sturdy fabrics with minimal stretch. Single knit fabrics are made from a single layer of thread loops. This forms a distinct right and wrong side to the fabric. Single knits are generally light to medium weight and very stretchy. There are a wide variety of knits with an equally wide variety of fiber contents ranging from interlock, jersey, and sweatshirt fleece to stretch velvet and velour. Most of the really stretchy knits include some synthetic fiber content to give the fabric strength and good "˜rebound' after it has been stretched. Knits are available in 100% cotton and 100% synthetic fibers, and many blends in-between.

Now that you understand why some fabrics stretch more than others, and have a better grasp on what to expect from the fabric you have chosen for your sewing project the next step is getting the pieces for your pattern cut out properly. You can not expect a finished item to turn out well if your pattern pieces are not cut to the proper specifications, and as with all things knit, there are many tricks that will help you get it right! If you are working with a really light weight knit it can be extremely difficult to keep the fabric from slipping around and getting bunched up. To prevent this, lay it out on a piece of tissue paper, then the fabric, then the pattern and pin through all the layers. This will help add stability to the fabric and make it easier to cut out! When you are cutting any kind of knit it is important not stretch it as you are cutting. To prevent stretching, use very sharp scissors or a rotary cutter, do not let the fabric "˜hang' off the cutting surface or bunch up, and use a marking pen or chalk instead of a rotary marking tool for marking pattern notations. It is also extremely important to pay attention to the grain line when you are cutting out your pattern pieces. Make sure that the pattern piece you are cutting out is lined up so that piece will stretch the right direction when the item you are sewing is finished.

You have gotten this far! Now it is time to take a look at your sewing machine. When you are sewing knits it is important to use a ball point needle that corresponds with the weight of the fabric you are sewing. Needles come if different widths to accommodate light, medium, and heavy weight fabrics. Ball point needles have a rounded tip that allows the end of the needle to slip around the loops in the knit fabric instead of tearing through them. Sewing with a ballpoint needle will help prevent runs and tears in the seams of your project. The type of thread you choose is also important. It is best to use polyester, or a poly-cotton blend thread. Synthetic threads allow for more stretch than natural fiber threads making them a better choice for sewing knits. Choosing the correct stitch setting on your sewing machine will also help you get the best results. Some machines have special "˜knit' settings, or deferential feed that help ensure both the top and bottom layer of your fabric feed through the machine evenly. There is also a special pressure foot called a "˜walking foot' that can be used with knits that helps ensure an even feed of all fabric layers. Getting both layers to feed under the pressure foot evenly will prevent wavy seams, stretched out seams, and/or misaligned pattern pieces. Knits should be sewn with a medium length straight stitch, or a narrow zigzag stitch. Knits can also be sewn on an overlock (serger) machine.

As you are sewing, pay close attention to keeping all the layers of your fabric even. Try not to let the fabric hang off your sewing surface causing it to stretch and become distorted. Go slow and take your time!

Getting over your knit fabric frustrations will open up a world of sewing projects that can be made with the many versatile and aesthetically appealing stretch fabrics on the market today!

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