We love sewing with knit fabrics. They are super soft, comfortable to wear and fitting them is minimal. So why a lot of sewist are scared to sew with them?
Our sewing friends often would say knits are fiddly and difficult fabrics to work with. It is true for some stretch fabrics, however just like there are some woven fabrics which are more challenging. Knits are not fundamentally problematic, they just behave a little bit different so we need to learn how to approach them.
All it takes is following few simple steps when you start sewing a stretch fabric project, and you are on the road to success. And no, you don't need an overlocker!
- Pick the right fabric for your project
Choosing the right fabric is super important, as knits vary tremendously. We can achieve completely different results depending on chosen fabric. Usually pattern designers make this choice easier for us stating the type of fabric suitable, on the pattern envelope. Things to consider are weight of the fabric, its drape, type of stretch and stretch percentage.
If you need more help with choosing the right fabric or if you want to learn more about knits please check out our Knit Fabric Glossary.
- Pre – wash your fabric
As with any other fabric if you don’t want your new garment to shrink few sizes down in the first wash, you need to treat it as you would treat your finished garment. We do not recommend using tumble dryer with any of our knits (the heat damages elastane over time) however if you feel you can’t live without it, make sure you tumble dry you fabric first.
- Don’t stretch when cutting
The most important thing to remember when cutting your fabric is not to stretch it. We recommend laying it flat on a table or other flat work surface. Don’t let the fabric hang over the edges, as this could stretch it out of place. Cutting with your fabric scissors will do just fine, however a rotary cutter can make this job much quicker and more accurate.
- Use the right tool for the job
Stretch fabrics require a ball-point needle. The sharp needles that we use for woven fabrics will tear holes in the knit fibres. We had it happen to us!
You are probably already using polyester all-purpose thread, and if so, keep on! The polyester thread actually has a tiny bit of stretch so it will be more resilient when you stretch your seams. Cotton threads have no stretch at all.
- Choose the right stitch and machine settings
Knit garments are made to stretch and fit over the body — and this means the seams must also stretch to fit.
Most modern sewing machines have at least on stitch made especially for knits. These are called stretch stitches. You can also set your machine to sew a narrow zigzag. It’s very important to not too use a straight stich unless you want your knit garment to fall apart after first wear!
We have also noticed that reducing the presser foot tension can help your fabric to move smoother underneath the foot.
Be patient. It is super important to take your time when sewing knit fabrics. Don’t rush it, avoiding pulling and stretching the material as you sew. Pause occasionally with the needle down, so you can readjust.
And some good news guys! Most knits don’t fray so you don’t have to finish the seams (unless you really want to!)
- Admire your new garment. You made it!