Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Sew-Along #7 - Penny Dress - Sewing with Knits

The Penny Dress by Modkid  

* If you need to see more detail in any of the pictures please click on them to enlarge.

Knits Aren't Scary!  Really, Promise!

There are a few things you need to know when sewing with knits, but if you follow those rules there are no problems.  Before we get to the "rules", there are few background things you should know.

Perfect is boring!  I live by this statement.  All of our end products don't have to look exactly the same or be from the hand of perfection.  I like a little "character" in my garments.

Grainline is important in knits so pay attention to the grainline.  The grainline is the direction of the greatest amount of stretch in your fabric.  Your pattern will show you the direction of the grainline, so be sure to pay attention to what direction your fabric is placed.

You don't have to finish your seams or hems with knit fabric because it doesn't fray.  You can certainly finish your seams with serging and hem as normal, it just isn't necessary.

When you are sewing with knit, do not pull or stretch the fabric through your machine.  If you continually pull on the fabric, it will stretch out.  Instead, let your machine pull the fabric through the machine as you just gently guide it to be sure you are sewing in a straight line.

Ok, on to the "Rules".

1.  Use a ballpoint needle.  A regular needle will rip the fine fibers of your knit and a ballpoint needle just moves the fibers out of the way.

2.  The stitch type you use is important!  My picture below is pointing to one of the stitches you want to use.  Number 6 is the zig zag stitch and number 12 is the stretch stitch (which I call lightening bolt stitch).  Either of these stitches allows your knit to stretch as the garment is worn.  If you use a regular straight stitch, your stitches will break as they are worn.

3.  I will be using a ballpoint twin needle with a regular straight stitch(stitch tension and length will be addressed in #6).  It has two needles that sew simultaneously and gives your hem the desired amount of stretch.  It is not typical to use a twin needle for construction but it really is the method I prefer. So, not only will I use the twin needle for construction but for the outside hem as well.
Above is the example of the lightening bolt stitch and below I am using a twin needle (the twin needle is a ball point needle also).

4.  A triple stitch can be used on areas such as armholes that need a bit more strength.  The triple stitch is #6 on my machine in the picture above.

5.  The presser foot is important when sewing with knits.  If the presser foot is too high, the machine pulls on the fabric too much and stretches out your knit.  You will need to play around with the amount of pressure by turning your dial to a reduced amount of pressure.  I was able to reduce mine by two or three clicks.

6.  Thread tension and stitch length are very important.  If you have an automatic machine, the adjustments may be made automatically.  Since I am using a straight stitch and a twin needle with my machine, I need to increase the tension and stitch length a bit, but sewing with knit calls for increased tension and stitch length.  You will have to play with these settings and see what works for your machine but I set my tension to about 5 and my stitch length to about 3.  

7.  Use lots of pins!  I know, I know.... some people HATE pins.  When sewing with knit using tons of pins helps keep the fabric in place so there is not as much slippage.  I typically use twice as many pins when sewing with knit as opposed to sewing with wovens.

WHEW!  That was tedious!  I hope you learned something you didn't know before.  Please let me know if you have any questions or have other suggestions.  

What is your favorite method when sewing with knits?  Did you learn something new?  Let me hear from you!!!!

Please post your comments or questions on the Whimsical Fabric Sew-Along Facebook Group.



  1. OK, I am thoroughly confused! LOL. Above in #2 you said, "If you use a regular straight stitch, your stitches will break as they are worn." Then in #3 you said," I will be using a ballpoint twin needle with a regular straight stitch..." Please clarify. I don't have much experience with knits. Thanks!
    MaryJo Poole

    1. I answered MaryJo's question on facebook but I also wanted to clarify here in case anyone else is confused. Using a twin needle allows you to use the straight stitch where using a single needle does not. The way the feed dog pulls the fabric through the machine allows the double line of stitching to have some "give". So, if you use a single needle you must use a stitch designed for knits but if you use a twin needle the straight stitch is for you (make the adjustment to the stitch length and tension).


#navbar-iframe{ display:none !important;}