Let’s face it. Most of us are willing to sew anything with woven fabrics, but knit!?!?! Knit is scary, right? Wrong! It’s only scary if you haven’t tried it. These are the questions we get a lot. How do you cut the fabric? Does knit have a grain? What is the stretch? What about 4-way stretch? How do you sew it so that you can still stretch the fabric? How do you keep the knit from stretching while you sew? KNIT IS TOO SCARY!!! I don’t do knit.
Stop! Take a deep cleansing breath. Drink a glass of water and say to yourself, I love knit. Knit is soft, knit is comfy, knit is pretty. I can do this! I WILL do this! OK, let’s keep going.
These are very good knit questions, but they are not ones that should keep you from trying knit. Here are some tips to get you started. If you have more questions about knit, join our facebook group and ask those questions! We are happy to answer any questions about sewing with knit.
Here are some essentials before getting started.
Prewash your knit. Knit does shrink and some knit will shrink a lot. There’s nothing worse than finishing a darling project, washing it, and having to give it away because the garment shrunk!
Use good quality knit. All knit is not made equal. Especially when you’re starting out, make sure to use good quality knit. We love Art Gallery Fabric knit and Girl Charlee knit. In general, we recommend knit that is 95% cotton and 5% spandex. After mastering this type of knit, move onto others. Just realize that the more spandex or lycra a knit has, the more it will stretch.
2-way or 4-way stretch? Knit is either 2-way stretch, like logo tee shirts you may buy for your kids, or 4-way stretch. Two-way stretch means it only stretches in width, not length. Four-way stretch knit will stretch in length and width and is generally more comfortable.
Practice! If you have never sewn with knit, practice. But, practice with some quality knit. You may not want to use your favorite pieces, but you do want to practice with knit that has some stretch and recovery to it (see point #2).
OK, so now you’ve got your knit and you’re ready to sew. Let’s answer some sewing questions.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How do I cut pattern pieces with knit? Knit fabric has a grain and stretch! Knit is created with interlocking cables and the grain are the tiny ribbing that runs parallel to the selvage edges. Stretch lines should be horizontal to the selvage edge.
When cutting your patterns, you want the ribbing to run vertical on your pattern piece. Sometimes pattern pieces have a stretch arrow. The stretch arrows should point towards either end of the selvage. Your pattern pieces are positioned so that the grain runs vertical and the stretch is horizontal. Even if your fabric has 4-way stretch, you want the stretch to reflect the selvage to selvage stretch.
Take care not to stretch your knit while cutting. I use a rotary cutter to cut my knit. If you don’t have one, pin well and snip away!
2. How do I sew the darn thing?? Most people recommend using ballpoint needles. These needles have a more rounded point and will help prevent skipping stitches. I must confess, I never use ballpoint needles. oops!
When you start sewing, don’t start at the very edge of the fabric. Position your needle so it is about 1/8” away from the cut edge. Sometimes if I get the needle too close to the starting point, my needle will jam the knit inside my machine. YUCK!
Now, select your stitch. I’ve included common symbols for these stitches but use your owners’ manual to get it right! You would be surprised to learn how helpful that owner’s manual is… but onto stitches.
Triple stretch stitch. I always use the triple stitch for shoulders, armsyces (arm holes), and topstitching. I also use this stitch in leggings because it can handle the beating my girls put on those leggings! This stitch is a little slow, but it will not come out. If you’re a newbie, practice this because taking these stitches out is a pain. One thing to keep in mind with the triple stitch is that the needle position will move from the center to the far left. So you’ll want to line up your fabric to the ¼” position on your machine. This will give you a perfect 3/8” seam allowance. I make no adjustments to this stitch.
Lightening bolt stitch. True to its name, the lightning bolt stitch looks like a lightning bolt and sews fast! I use this stitch on side seams, or seams that will not have a lot of pull to it. If you pull really hard and stretch the fabric (remember, pulling it apart), you can see stitches.
Finishing seams. You really don’t have to finish seams on knit because knit will not unravel. But if you like the look of a finished seam, use a basic zigzag stitch or a serger.
Sewing knit with a serger. Now if you have a serger, you’re in luck. You can just serge all your seams. Sergers allow for stretch in the garment. I still use the triple stretch stitch on all of my seams that take a lot of wear and tear. But, serging can replace the lightning bolt stitch and it has the added benefit of finishing all seams! Be sure you bring down your stitch length. If your stitch is too loose, you will be able to pull it apart. So, adjust your stitch length so the stitches are closer together.
3. Let’s sew! Now that you have cut your pattern pieces and selected your stitches, it’s now time to sew. Keep in mind that you don’t want to stretch your knit while sewing. You may need to raise your pressure foot a bit so that your machine doesn’t stretch the fabric.
You also may want to use some tools to stabilize your knit. I love ¼” double adhesive, wash away tape (I like Wonder Under, but Dritz also makes a nice one). For a beginner sewer, this is your best friend. You can secure your seams and make sure there are no puckers before sewing. The adhesive keeps the knit pieces from slipping or moving.
Here’s how you use it. Let’s say you’re securing two pieces of fabric. Unroll the adhesive tape and place it along right side of the cut edge. Place the adhesive on the entire section that you need to sew. Do not remove the adhesive backing. Then, get the piece of fabric you’re going to join. Pull off some of the adhesive backing a section at a time and line up your fabric, with the right sides and raw edges matching. Pinch the fabric together to secure the adhesive. Now, before you sew, check to make sure that the edges are matched correctly and everything looks good. This is a great way to make sure your stripes or patterns match up on fabric. Once everything looks good, sew using the appropriate stitch. You don’t even need to pin because the fabric will not move around while you sew!
I also use double sided adhesive to hem knit garments. My hems always seem to stretch as I sew. The washaway adhesive will secure the edge. Place the adhesive along the wrong side of your hem line, just inside the bottom edge. Then, peel away the backing of the adhesive a section at a time and position the hem. Make any needed adjustments and then stitch along the adhesive edge. If you have a hemline that will not receive any wear and tear (no pulling or tugging), then you can use a regular stitch with a longer stitch length and looser tension. I typically use 3.0 stitch length and 4.6-5.0 on my tension.
Now, you will want to get practicing because we have some amazing knit patterns coming your way! Here’s another Sparrow sneak…