Misc tips on sewing with knits

BS 09-2016-119

Like this structure? Preserve it. Here’s my approach to sewing knit fabrics.

  • First, I don’t just serge my knits together. Most serger threads have a lower tensile strength than all-purpose sewing thread, so they pull and break easily. And a serged seam is always sketchy, no one can combat the wave all the time. I sew all my seams on my machine, and then I serge the seams to finish. The result is a garment with structure and strength, nothing wavy going on (OK, I had to hang that preposition).
  • I don’t use a walking foot or an elastic (lightening) stitch on my sewing machine. I use a straight stitch with the upper thread adjusted to give me an even result. Also, I use a fairly long stitch. On my Singer Stylist, 3.0. BECAUSE a smaller stitch really tries to put more stitches in an inch…the result, it stretches the fabric to accommodate the stitches.
  • I don’t stretch my fabric as I sew. I let the machine’s feed feet take it forward, ensuring that the unstitched fabric layers are going evenly to the needle. hmmm. Yes, use those pins and light finger tips to guide the fabric. A little practice, and you can do this.

Here are some illustrations of the direction of my sewing on knits. Believe me, direction makes a huge difference with knits, particularly if they have any bias edge (most do). They all want to droop at the cut edges. If you sew down those edges, it will droop even more. And, have you noticed, one just doesn’t sew at the same tension going up and down a front edge. Beat that droop…


  • Side seams and neckline edges, a simple cardigan (this is the Tessuti Megan):


lineart 1

  • More complicated, attaching a band to a neckline edge (this is the Itch to Stitch Paro Cardigan):


  • And that critical element, attaching a collar (this is McCalls 7476 drop shoulder cardigan):

line art 2

By now you’ll see the similarity – stitch UP against the flow and use a lot of pins. Be gentle with the fabric, taking care not to pull it as it goes under the presser foot. Are you topstitching? take the direction into account.

BTW – I serge/finish seams the same way. Sergers tend to have a downward pull on the fabric. If I’m serging with abandon, I just make sure it’s in the ‘right’ direction so I don’t end up with something that’s 1″ longer on one side!! Yes, it means I have threads to tuck/tie/finish but that doesn’t bother me. It’s all sewing,  and I love sewing knits!!

Ciao – Coco

8 thoughts on “Misc tips on sewing with knits

  1. That is so interesting! I usually serge so the top will be facing out when I press it, as my serger is finicky and the bottom doesn’t look as good as the top. But I will pay attention to the direction from now on, thank you!

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