Sewing Circle: How to Sew on Knits
Here's the question, from Jess at Smart Style Tips:
Q: I have a question for you! I recently bought this pattern:
And was wondering if you had any tips for sewing on knits vs wovens? I've only made items out of cotton woven fabrics before and I don't want this to turn out a disaster!
A: Great question, Jess! It's always good to plan ahead for your fabric and work with it--you can't force it to act how you want, and with a knit fabric, you'll have to do what it allows. In general, if the fabric stretches, the seams have to stretch, too, or they'll break.
You've got the right idea with the pattern and thinking about your fabric. The basic elements for sewing knits:
- A pattern designed for knits
- Knit fabric (and the right kind... more on that later)
- A ballpoint needle for knits
- The right stitch
There are several different ways of having seams that move and flex. Swimwear and dancewear are made with stretchy thread. But you don't need special thread for your basic knit project, just the right stitches. And the right pattern--mostly because knits are meant to stretch a little, and a pattern for a knit dress will allow for more give than a pattern for a woven.
The Vogue pattern you have says it's meant for double knits only--you can read about the difference between knits here. Double knits don't curl at the edges, look the same on both sides, and are generally a little thicker than a single knit. They shouldn't ravel, so you don't need to serge your seam allowances and can press them open if you like.
Ballpoint needles are designed for knits because they pass between the threads of the fabric, rather than penetrating them, so the fabric can still stretch as it's intended to. Buy some before you begin sewing!
As for construction, I think everyone has a preferred method of stitch. You can simply use a long straight stitch, but stretch as you feed through the machine so that when the tension is released, the stitches are a little longer than the total length of the seam. Think about a writing in Sharpie on a balloon--if you stretch it as you write, when it blows up, the letters will look more normal. Thread is not as flexible as Sharpie letters on latex, though, and it won't stretch unless you stretch the fabric while you put the seam in.
Other options for seams are the actual stretch stitch, if you have one on your machine:
Does that help? Readers, what advice would you give Jess?
You can read more tips for sewing on knits at this Sewing Circle for swimwear, and this great Threads article on sewing with knits, and this article.
Thanks for reading Sewing Circle! Feel free to send me your questions!