Tips for Sewing Knit Fabrics

Use the Right Stitches, Needles, and Sewing Machine Options for Knits

Father and daughter at home using sewing machine
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Sewing knits can create a whole new challenge for many people. Knit fabrics have a different makeup than woven fabrics. Knits are made from one set of fibers that all run in the same direction, while woven fabrics have a crosswise and lengthwise fiber. Knits are made from many of the same types of fibers as wovens but the formation of the fabric fibers allow them to stretch.

Stitches for Sewing Knits

When sewing knits, your seams need to have some stretch qualities to match the fabric. Many people experience breaking stitches in a finished garment because the fabric forces the seam to stretch and the seam doesn't have the stretch capability, so the threads break. This is preventable by using various stitches available on today's sewing machines.

Zig Zag: Almost every sewing machine has a zig zag stitch. Setting the machine to zig zag with a narrow width stitch will allow some stretch in the seam. A narrow width is necessary to maintain a straight seam line.

Stretch Stitches: Many machines have a stretch stitch setting. Refer to your machine manual; it may be labeled with an icon showing parallel dashed lines. This stitch is created by the machine making two stitches forward and one backward stitch. This stitch takes a bit more time to perform than a regular straight stitch, but the results are well worth the small amount of additional time it takes. It is advisable to baste a garment seam before using this stitch.

Tricot Stitch: This is another type of stretch stitch and is symbolized by a dashed zig zag line on most machines. This stitch has a vast amount of stretch, enough for sewing elastic on swimsuits. Use this stitch to attach and top stitch elastic on swimsuits.

Sewing Machine Needles for Knits

Skipped stitches and holes in the knit fabric are common problems when sewing knits. This problem is usually eliminated by using the correct machine needle. Ballpoint needles are designed for sewing knits. They allow the fibers which make up the fabric to move to the side of the needle instead of penetrating them as a regular needle does. In Singer brand needles, these are yellow band needles. Schmetz Needles also carry a ballpoint needle for sewing knits.

Sewing Machine Options for Knits

One of the tools many people swear by when sewing knits is even feed foot and dual feed options. These options feed both layers of fabric through the machine evenly, thus eliminating one layer stretching out of proportion with another layer.

If you do not have these options available and experience a problem, it is advisable to take the time to baste your pieces together before sewing on the machine. If you are shopping for a sewing machine, be sure to ask the dealer about these options. An even feed foot may be available for the machine that you have.