Friday, July 18, 2014

Tips For Sewing With Knits

Helpful Tips For Sewing Stretch Fabric

Today I want to talk about sewing with knits. My favorite fabric. Knits are so varied and versatile. Endless possibilities. From swimwear to activewear to t-shirts to dresses. There are so many things you can do with knits it's mind-boggling. 

I fell in love with knits the day my pattern drafting instructor took my classmates and I on a field trip to the DuPont factory near Kingston, Ontario. I watched in fascination as a pair of pantyhose was created in hmmm...about five minutes. 

The magic ingredient? 


Invented in 1958.

Stretches to the moon and back. 

Love it. 

I've been sewing for over 40 years. Long time. And learned a few sewing tips and tricks along the way. Many from mistakes that I prefer to call alterations. Some from paying attention to the construction of factory garments. And some from working in a sweatshop one summer when I was still in school. 

Many of you may struggle with knits. But you will get better.


Just like most things we try for the first time, 
there's nowhere to go but up, ladies!

The best way I can think of to do this is to share 
my tips as I make myself a garment. 

I need a new dress anyway, right?

Note:  I used my regular domestic machine to illustrate the tips below.

I normally use my serger, but I think it's important
to see that any machine with a zigzag feature can be used.

So here we go!

Use needles specifically designed for stretch fabrics,
ballpoint needles. Universal needles will cut the fabric
and cause skipped stitches.

Use lots of pins. Long ones.
(This would be about how many I used as a newbie stretch sewist.)

Use a scrap of the same fabric you will be working 
with to set up your stitch length and width.
See what is happening with the top and bottom stitching? The center one works without pulling or pinching the fabric. I set my width on 2 1/2 and length on 3. Test on your machine to see what works for you.

Make sure your scissors and rotary cutter are ultra sharp. 
Hold the fabric as you cut, to prevent it from shifting.
Keep your scissors at a slight angle. 
(You will not have to do this with the rotary cutter.)

Start your seams about a half inch away from the end. 
Hang on tightly to the threads. 
Sew to the edge.

 Lift the presser foot and pivot your fabric around to the direction in which you wish to sew. Put the presser foot back down and make your seam. This method will avoid the needle pushing the lightweight fabric down through the throat plate. 
Although it's not shown here, when you get to the end of a seam, 
set your stitch length to zero, and make a couple of stitches on the spot instead of backstitching.

Stabilize shoulder seams by pinning a strip of fabric on.

Stitch your seam.

Trim off the excess.

To lengthen seam binding, cut two strips at a 45 degree angle.

Like this:

Flip one around like so. Pin and stitch.

Use a straight stitch for this part. It may ripple slightly, 
but that won't be noticeable when your binding is attached.

Open the seam.

Fold the binding lengthwise and put about 500 pins in it.
Just kidding. But don't skimp on the pins.

Attaching binding to an edge. 
Start right after a seam to reduce bulk.
Notice that the binding curves in at the beginning.

Here's how it looks from underneath: 
(Blurry picture. Grrr.)

Sew all the way around, stretching the binding 
slightly around the front and back neckline curves. 
This will keep the binding from gaping. 
Stop an inch past the starting point.
Curve your binding in and sew past it, running your seam off the edge.
Trim off the excess binding.

Anchor the binding on the inside with pins.

Topstitch with a wider and longer zigzag. 
I used a width of 3 and a length of 3 1/2.
Pick a spot on the presser foot as a seam guide. 
Don't watch the needle. 
Sew 1/4" from the printed edge. 
You want to catch the fabric underneath.

Like this. The light colored stitching is the topstitched seam.

Back View

A closer look at the binding.

Front View

I'll show you my completed dress next time!
Hope this makes sewing with knits a little easier!

Update: Dress Completed!

Have a great day, and keep on sewing!


Linking to these wonderful parties:

Say G'Day @ Natasha In Oz
The Creative Collection @ Craft-O-Maniac
Friday Link Party @ The Pin Junkie
Best Of The Weekend @ Little Miss Celebration
Worthwhile Wednesdays @ The Craftiest Allie
DIY Sunday Showcase @ The Interior Frugalista
Sewlicious Craft & Recipes @ Sewlicious Home Decor
 Happiness Is Homemade @ Mommy On Demand
Link It Or Lump It @ Delineate Your Dwelling
The Creative Exchange @ Laura's Crafty Life
Sew Darn Crafty @ Sew Many Ways


  1. Thanks so much for joining the Say G’Day Linky Party. We have pinned your post to the Say G’Day Saturday board!

    Best wishes,
    Natasha in Oz

    1. Thank you Natasha! You always give fun parties!

  2. Wow, you really give such a great step by step tutorial on sewing with probably one of the hardest fabrics to sew! and the dress is going to be beautiful!

    1. Thank you Christine! I will post it the minute it is finished!


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