Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sewing with Knits Part 2

A serger just isn’t in the cards until at least next Christmas. But I really do want to make more clothing from knits. I’ve always stayed away from knits because I found them hard to work with. I have discovered that sewing a zigzag stitch helps. So I put in my ballpoint needle and gave it a go. I tried sewing my knits with a zigzag stitch and I see how that helps with having some give in the seam (when there is so much give in the fabric). And it isn't what I am used to, but it works. 

So I decided to try some different stitch lengths on a straight stitch. (I am just too old-fashioned to sew a seam with a zigzag stitch.) I plan to make several Renfrew tops for the spring, so I may come to feel differently about this. 

The straight stitch puckered a bit...

First thing I noticed was that I needed to change the amount of seam allowance I was using. I tend to play with seam allowances because the measured sizes never truly pan out for me. It’s always more or less right, but I tend to have to take seams in or let them out for a customized fit.
So the 5/8 of an inch was too much. I went to half an inch and then a quarter of an inch.

I found when pressing the seam open, the ¼ inch seam allowance worked for me. I was too scared to try anything more extreme. I used pinking shears to finish the seams.

Another thing to note, I always back-stitch at the beginning and ending of a seam to secure it. Don’t do this with knits! After some tears, I’ve learned to either tie the ends the old-fashioned way (no thank you) or to simply stitch in place for a few seconds. This keeps the fabric from bunching up.

Then I happened to notice, in my sewing manual, that my machine has a stretch stitch!!! (Yes after working for about an hour and really feeling like I can conquer this shirt pattern, I notice that I have a stretch stitch!!!! Oh the frustration!) This stitch is created by the machine making two stitches forward and one backward stitch. This stitch takes a bit more time to sew then a regular straight stitch but the results are well worth the small amount of additional time

Finally, I found a "leaf" stitch that my sewing manual (from the late 70s) called the "serger" stitch. I think I have found my stitch for knits.

Some of my favourite T’s have a thin strip of what looks like clear elastic sewn into the seam. It must be a stabilizer as well. I don’t have this, and at this point, I am not willing to go out and buy some. So I decided to try using freezer paper when sewing the seam. I got the idea from here. This tip always seemed too fussy for me but I have to say, it was magic. It was so much easier. And when done, just rip the freezer paper away!

Now on to the hem: what a problem hems are on knits. I think the hems are what have kept me from knit fabrics all these years. I found that top-stitching left some puckering. I decided, on a whim to add interfacing. (When I change zippers on knit cardigans, I find twill tape of interfacing help to stabilize the garment for me.) I extended that thinking into using interfacing. But what interfacing do you use with knits?I've just used a light wt fusible one, for now. Is there one that is designed specifically for knits?


  1. knits are one of the most difficult materials to handle isn't it? It's stretchy and not easy to hem. Thanks for sharing your experiences. And thanks for dropping by my blog too!


  2. Knits can be difficult because they are stretchy, but there is no finishing of seam allowances, so I think there is a trade off. Still, it takes a bit of getting used to. I avoided knits for all these years for the very reasons you mentioned. I'm just starting to see that they are worth the trouble...

  3. Why do you say to make the seam allowances smaller?

  4. Seam allowances can be a bit of a drag when the fabric is heavier. She said that a bigger seam allowance can take away from the drape of the finished garment. I don't find that myself but knowing that seam allowances can be less is good to know -especially if you want to make the garment bigger and you've already cut the fabric.

  5. The possibility of smaller seam allowances gives me more wiggle room if I find I need to make my Renfrew bigger. (Although, I find it was quite roomy). Still, it goes in the good-to-know column

  6. Great posts. Thanks

  7. I love the leaf stitch. After fiddling around with my machine, I realized I have a similar stitch that works great with knits. It's amazing how much these machines can do and how little I can do with my machine!

  8. Straight stitches don't stretch and zigzag do. Got it. Good to know

  9. Great. Very informative.



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