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20+ Tips For Sewing With Knit Fabric

Knit fabrics are comfortable to wear, do not fray easily, and tend to be wrinkle-resistant. Additionally, they conform better to the body, making fitting easier due to their stretchy nature.

Here are some tips and tricks on how to cut and sew knit fabrics. Plus some special tools you could consider using when sewing knits. Try these tips out to see which ones work best for you!

FITTING TIPS:

  • When sewing with knit fabrics, it's important to check the finished garment measurements to determine the best size to sew. Because knit fabrics stretch, it may be more appropriate to sew a size that more closely matches the finished garment size. This will also give you a better idea of the ease in the finished garment and ensure a comfortable fit.

  • If you are on the edge of a size then you are more likely to find the fit of knit fabric more comfortable. For example, perhaps you have 42” hips and the medium size chart fits hips 40-42”. You might be concerned about sewing a garment with a woven fabric in size medium, but a knit fabric will likely fit because the fabric will stretch.

CUTTING TIPS:

Cutting stretchy fabric can be tricky, so it's important to take your time and ensure the fabric is not stretched when you cut it. Here are some tips for cutting knits:

  • Make sure the fabric is not hanging off the table's edge, as this can cause it to stretch.

  • Working with a large piece of knit fabric can make it hard to set up it straight. I find it easier to cut a piece of fabric slightly bigger than the pattern piece, then I lay the pattern piece on the more manageable size of fabric and then cut it to the exact size.

  • If the pattern piece is supposed to be cut on the fold, consider cutting it flat in a single layer. When the fabric is folded then it can be harder to ensure it is laying flat, straight, and not stretched. Print or trace a second piece of the pattern and tape it together. 

  • When setting up the fabric, keep in mind that the stretchiest part of the fabric will be wrapping around your body. Take this into account when positioning the pattern piece.

  • When cutting, avoid lifting the fabric as much as possible. Keep your scissors close to the table.

  • A rotary cutter can be especially helpful for cutting knits, as it allows for more precise cutting without lifting the fabric. See below for recommendation.

SEWING TIPS:

  • When sewing knit fabrics, use a ballpoint, jersey, or stretch sewing machine needle to prevent snagging the yarns of the fabric.

  • Practice on fabric scraps before starting a project.

  • Stretch fabric can tend to be stretched under the needle plate and then get stuck. Try adding a small piece of tissue paper under the fabric and above the feed dogs when you start sewing the edge.

  • Tissue paper can also be used as a temporary stabilizer to help prevent a wavy seam. Add tissue paper under the fabric and above the feed dogs for the length of the seam. 

  • Note about using tissue paper: Sometimes the tissue paper may get stuck under the stitch especially with a stretch or zig zag stitch. This should wash away but always test it with your fabric and sew the tissue on a seam that is hidden.  

  • Thinner knit fabrics can curl at the edges, so consider using lightweight knit interfacing or pinning tissue paper to help the fabric stay flat.

  • Starch spray can also be used to stabilize knit fabrics.

  • Basting can be helpful to hold knit fabrics in place until the final seam or hem is sewn, especially for hems where a straight stitch is desired.

  • Use a stretch or narrow zigzag stitch, which will stretch slightly and is less likely to pop than a straight stitch when stretched.

  • Start sewing about a half-inch from the edge to avoid drawing the edge into the machine, then backstitch to the edge before going forward.

  • When sewing, avoid stretching the fabric and let the feed dogs on the sewing machine do the work of advancing the fabric. Make sure the fabric on either side is not hanging off the table, as this can cause stretching and distortion of the seam.

  • Sew slowly when sewing knits. If you go faster, then the fabric tends to get stretched and the seam gets wavy. 

  • Press the fabric often. Lift the iron up and down rather than using strokes that can distort the fabric.

  • Knit fabrics generally do not fray, so finishing seam edges is not necessary unless preferred for a finished look.

HELPFUL OPTIONAL TOOLS:

  • A walking foot can be useful when sewing knits as it feeds two layers of fabric through the machine simultaneously, preventing stretching. If you're new to using a walking foot, try testing it to see if you prefer it.

  • While a serger is great for sewing knits, it is not essential.

  • A twin needle can be used on hems to allow the stitch to stretch. The twin stitch give the hem a sporty look so you may find this technique works better for casual garments.

Do you have any other tips for sewing knits? Please contact us to share!

Product Recommendations

Here are some products that are helpful when sewing with knits!

Shop for sewing project kits available in woven and knit fabrics!
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