Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tips & Tools Tuesday: Sewing with Knits

t and t tuesday

I regularly hear from my readers that they’re intimidated by sewing with knit fabrics. I think I jumped into sewing with knits without first realizing that it’s difficult, so it quickly became my favorite kind of fabric to work with… as you can see by so many of the clothing projects I’ve made…

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If you’re one of those people who have avoided knits because you’re afraid of messing up, don’t worry about it! Take that leap. You’re going to LOVE how many more projects you can make once you feel comfortable with knits!

When choosing your knit fabric, there are a few things to understand. The materials used, weight and stretchiness of the fabric all affect how easy it is to sew with. For your first knit project, I’d suggest working with a heavier weight, possibly ribbed, not as stretchy knit. Then, as you get more comfortable with the material, work your way toward the lighter weights with more stretch to them. Also know that nicer knits just cost more. So if you’re shopping at a place like Joann’s, use those coupons! I tend to like buying my knit material when it’s on full price, because then I can use a 40% off coupon. Otherwise, I have yet to see a knit for sale for more than 30% off.

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You’re also going to want to use a ball point needle. A universal needle can work as well, but a ball point is best. This allows the needle to slip through the fabric better without trying to punch a hole in it, which can causing jamming. And finally, while you’re shopping, pick up some polyester or nylon thread since it will have some stretch to it as well (although you can still sew with cotton thread, you’ll be happier in the long run with polyester or nylon).

While a serger or overlock machine is wonderful when it comes to sewing with knits, you really don’t have to have one! You can use your regular machine and your projects will still turn out great! When you’re laying out your project to cut the material, keep in mind that your knit will stretch. I love using weights to help hold everything in place. Cut slowly and carefully, making sure that your fabric isn’t pulling or stretching away from where you really should be cutting.


If your machine has a knit stitch, select that one (on my machine it’s stitch option #3. It looks like a lightning bolt shaped zig zag). If your machine is like my old one and really doesn’t have more than 2 or three stitch options, go for a zig zag stitch. This allows the stitching to stretch when the fabric stretches. Otherwise, you might end up breaking your stitching when trying to put your clothes on, pulling on the material, etc.

Use lots of pins to help hold the fabric in place. I have had times where I didn’t pin much, got to the end of sewing a seam and the top layer of fabric has an extra inch leftover. The fabric can pull and stretch as you sew, so the pins help keep things where they should be.

When you start sewing, make sure that you have plenty of fabric under your presser foot already—meaning, don’t start stitching right at the edge of the fabric. Otherwise, your fabric is likely to jam. You can see in the picture below that my fabric is only under about half of the presser foot…

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Then, as soon as I started sewing, the fabric got all stuck below in the bobbin casing, and I had to yank hard to get it all unjammed. Not fun.

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Instead, be sure that your fabric goes all the way to the back of your presser foot. This way there’s plenty of material held in place to begin with.

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Then, just sew away! It’ll take a little longer because of the knit or zig zag stitch, but having your stitches stay in and not break is well worth it!

Do you have any other suggestions for sewing with knits? Leave them in the comments so everyone else can see them! Any questions? Just ask! If it’s something I don’t know the answer to, I bet I can find out!

Also, like the purple zebra fabric in the pictures? I used it to make a SUPER CUTE maxi dress that I like WAY better than this one because I used a light weight knit. I’ll have a tutorial posted tomorrow for you!


  1. Thanks so much for this post--it has so many great ideas!

  2. Monday holidays really throw me off. I was coming over here to tell you how excited I am to read your post on sewing with knits and here it is! haha! I was so confused. But I guess it is Tuesday!
    Anyway, I'm trying to figure out if I can fit your Monday challenge in this week. I want to, but part of this whole get-my-life-together thing is not taking on too much so we shall see. So excited to see you get started though!
    Thanks again for the help with knits! I love the Tips & Tools Tuesday idea! Consider me your eager student!


  3. Thanks for the tips. I just sewed with knits this weekend (I make my daughter a 4th of July dress which I will be posting this evening) and I did a little better. They are tricky, so I appreciate any help!


  4. Can we be BFF's?. I'm contemplating buying a sewing machine and learning how to sew so can I move in for a while and we can be BFF's and you can teach me how to sew like a pro like you?!?!.

    I've been following you for a while and LOVE LOVE your stuff and think you are SO talented :)

    I would be honoured if you followed me. I have a giveaway happening right now too!


  5. I'm not going to reveal how many times I've refreshed your blog today waiting on the maxi dress tutorial. It's a ridiculously embarrassing number.

  6. Thanks for these tips, I've got loads of knits that I want to sew with, but I've been stressing out for ages about how to do it without getting it all stuck in my machine like your photo.

    If you hop over to my blog http://handmadebclairebear.com in a couple of weeks, you might see some of the results.
    Thanks again

  7. Hi,

    Thanks for tutorial. I have been a little intimidating to sew with knits and this helps.



I appreciate comments so much! I'll do my best to reply to you here in the comments section, especially if there is a question so future readers can see the answer.