recently amassed a large selection of jersey knit fabrics in a fabulous
array of colors. I've become obsessed with the current popularity of
draped designs, and the liquid drape of silk and bamboo jersey is
irresistible. While the pattern construction for knits is often kept
simple to keep seams at a minimum and allow the fabric to do the work,
sewing knits often intimidates sewers. It can be a tricky fabric to sew,
but with a few simple techniques, the right sewing needles, and a
little patience, sewing knits can be a breeze.
Knit projects from the Spring 2011 issue of Stitch:
Spiral Skirt by Beki Wilson (top), Comfy Sleep Set by Bonnie Ferguson
(middle), and Felted Sweater Throw by Carol Zentgraf (bottom).
In the new winter/spring issue of Stitch,
we enlisted the help of Deepika Prakash, founder and queen bee of the
must-read site, patternreview.com, to write a fantastic technique
article on sewing knit fabrics. In addition to great information on
understanding stretch, cutting guidelines, seams and hems, and pressing
tips for knits, she includes this great list of troubleshooting tips. If
you have sewn with knits, you have no doubt experienced these
challenges at one point or another (I know I have!). The next time you
get frustrated at your machine in the middle of a knit project, take a
deep breath, and review these tips for help.
My fabric curls while I'm sewing!
This is just what certain types of knit fabrics do naturally. If
it bothers you, using spray starch followed by light pressing can
help straighten that edge temporarily while you sew. Design Tip:
Use that curling edge to your advantage! Stretch the fabric a few
times and you'll notice it curls even more. Softly curled edges
make great neckline finishes!
My fabric layers shift while I'm sewing! It's important to control fabric layers as you sew. To achieve that control you must sew slowly.
Stop and check to make sure the fabric edges are aligned, then sew
again. If you're still having problems, check the pressure on the
foot. Too much pressure can result in puckered fabric and too
little will cause the fabric to slip. A walking foot can also help
keep fabric from shifting.
My seams or fabric edges are getting pulled into the machine!
Working with a lightweight knit? This problem is bound to occur once in
a while. Stop the machine. Hand turn the wheel so the needle is in
the up position, clip the threads, and pull the fabric out. Try
switching to a straight stitch foot, which will give the fabric
more grip and let the needle go in more smoothly without pulling to
the bottom. Also check to make sure that you're using the right
type of needle. I recommend using a new needle for every project.
For tricky knits, you can also cut the fabric with a larger seam
allowance (up to 1" [2.5 cm]) than the pattern calls for so it's
easier to sew. After the seaming is completed, you can trim the
I have skipped stitches!
Stitches are skipped when the needle isn't able to pierce the
fabric cleanly and as a result doesn't come in contact with the
bobbin thread to form a loop. Solution: Switch to a Microtex sharp
needle for dense fabrics. And of course, always make sure that you
are using a new needle, because a dull needle will cause problems
no matter what type it is.
I have puckered stitches!
Stitches pucker because your fabric isn't feeding evenly, meaning
one layer is being pulled in faster than the other. To see if your
machine is feeding properly, cut two strips of fabric the same
length and run them through the machine. Are they aligned when
you're through? If so, your machine is working well; if not, check
your machine's manual and learn how to adjust the feed dogs. If that
doesn't solve the problem, try reducing the pressure on the foot of
Feeling empowered and ready to tackle a knit project? Check out the latest issue of Stitch
for seven great knit projects, the rest of Deepika's knit sewing guide,
and a host of useful technique tutorials and stylish projects.