85F3CE96-2B73-4819-B350-FD64F4FBC6D4 .Quiltscapes.: Sewing with Knits

Monday, April 6, 2015

Sewing with Knits

Here are a few of my favorite tips for sewing with knits!  Plus a FREE applique' pattern at the end.

Knit Tips

Sewing with knits can be fun!  Knits are easy to sew, easy-care, and are so comfortable to wear!

When I was a young mom, I used to sew lots of my kids' clothes.  I made tons of t-shirts for my son, and when the triplets came along, I loved to make matching outfits... yes, I was that Mom, lol!  

Working on the samples for this tutorial brought back sweet memories. 
Triple knit
Needless to say, I've had a lot of practice with knits!  

The Fabric:

PREWASH.  If you are planning to wash and wear knit articles, prepare the fabric before you cut into it!  Knits will shrink, especially jersey cotton.  Sometimes a lot!  "Allow for shrinkage" = buy extra.  Plus you can use that extra fabric for ribbing or self-binding.  Machine wash warm. Non-chlorine bleach as needed. Tumble dry low.

Tools & Supplies:

MACHINE.  Your sewing machine will need at least a zig-zag feature.  Most machines today come with a built-in stretch stitch or overcast stitch options.  A serger will stitch, overcast and trim the seam

at the same time, but you can achieve the the same seam finish with a regular sewing machine.  
NEEDLES.  Use a ball-point sewing machine needle.

Ball point needles

It will usually say "stretch" or "ball point" somewhere on the label.  A ball-point needle will part the knit fibers instead of making a hole when making the stitch.  Try a double-needle for a nice finish (see example below).   

Other supplies may include:
   Glue-stick = very helpful in preparing edges and keeping in place for a stitched finish.

   Freezer paper = Iron waxy side to the back of knits for stability when machine-stitching applique'
Stitch using a satin stitch, then peel paper off. 
   Lightweight fusible knit interfacing = faced neck edges, collars, cuffs.  Pellon SK135 comes in black or white tricot.

Stitches for Knits

If the fabric stretches, the seams must stretch too. Most machines come pre-loaded with several stretch-stitch options.  Do a test. The most basic is a simple narrow zig-zag stitch.  Set the stitch
length to 2 and set the width at 1.  Then try the different overcast stitches on your machine to see what works best.  An overcast or serged seam also allows the needed stretch.  Refer to your machine manual for suggested stitches.

Finishes:Edge Finishes

RAW EDGES.  Jersey knit does not fray.  Unfinished edges will have a slight curl, which is all the fashion today.  Stitch the skirt together and leave the hem unstitched.  It will curl on it's own, or you can give a little tug to make it curl even more.

Raw edge

DOUBLE-NEEDLE.  Fold the raw edge under once, measuring between 1/2" to 1", then use a double-needle to top-stitch.  Use a washable GLUE STICK to keep hem in place as you top stitch on the right side.   

Double needle prep
Double needle stitch

The single bobbin thread with double needle straight stitch will also create a stretch stitch.  Looks great for hems on sleeves, shirts and skirts.

Double needle finish

OVERCAST.  Serged or overcast seams can finish the edges nicely, both inside or outside the garment as a decorative feature.  You don't have to have a serger to achieve this look; try different overcast stitches on your sewing machine.  


SCALLOP EDGES.  Use an overcast stitch on the machine.  Fold the edge over about 1/4" and stitch, making sure the needle goes off the edge to create the scallop.  This finish works well on t-shirts or lingerie.   

Overcast for scallop edge

LETTUCE EDGE.  Shorten the length and width of a zig-zag stitch then pull the fabric to stretch the edge as it's stitched.  This looks cute on kids' clothing at the edge of sleeves and hemlines. 

Lettuce edge

SELF-FINISH:  Use a strip of cross-cut knit to create ribbing or binding.  The knit must stretch at least 50% in order for this technique to work well.   For a classic T-shirt neckline finish, measure the circumference around the neckline.   To determine the length of the neckband strip to cut, reduce that measurement by about 15%.
  Circumference x .85 = LENGTH 

Determine the width of the strip by doubling the desired finished width and adding two seam allowances (usually 1/4").  
Finished width x 2 + .5 = WIDTH

If my neckline measures 15 inches around, the length of my strip will be about 12.75 inches.  I want the finished size of the ribbing to be 3/4", so the cut width of the strip will be two inches.  I'll cut a 2" x 12 3/4" strip on the cross-grain, which has more stretch than the lengthwise grain. With right sides together, join the short ends and stitch using a 1/4" seam allowance.

Self neckband

Open the seam, and fold the tube in half lengthwise, right side out.  Fold the neckband in half to find centers and quarters and mark with pins.  Repeat the steps on the raw edges of the neckline, dividing into quarters and pinning to mark.

Mark quarters wiith pins

With the neck opening and neckband right sides together, 
match the pins with the neckband seam at center back.  
Match pins

Align the raw edges, stretch to ease the neckband slightly and pin into place.  
Ease and pin in place

STITCH using 1/4" seam allowance.  
Stitch neckband to opening

Zig-Zag or serge to overcast the edges then give it a press.  Perfect! 
Self Neckband

Use the same principle for cuffs.  A 2" finished cuff would need about 4-1/2" in width.  Measure the circumference of the wrist for the length.  

Enjoy sewing with knits - I can't wait to start sewing for grandkids... someday!  I hear they're great... grandkids, that is.  Then I can make matching outfits for all of them too. *Ü*


On these sweet little bubble suits, each girl had her own applique' (a lamb, a kitty and a bunny). You can kinda see the bunny on Nicole's little outfit.  (Or is that Chelsea?  That's Lauren in the back.)

To applique on knits, use freezer paper as a stabilizer.  Just iron the waxy side of freezer-paper to the wrong side of the knit, and use a machine satin-stitch to applique' the motif to the background.  

So, just for the season... here's a sweet little bunny.

Download the free pattern HERE.  
Embroider a french knot for his eye, add a little ribbon bow at his neck, 
and use a pompom for his tail.  A-dorable!


  1. Awe what sweet little girls... and the bunny is cute too... I remember the days of sewing for my daughter and son. I made most everything they wore. Thought I'd do it for the grands someday but alas, it hasn't happened yet (the sewing part anyway).

  2. I did alot of sewing for my children also. I have a set of triplets (2 boys and a girl) who will be 30 years old this year. Your picture has brought back so many memories. I had a stroller just like the one in your picture. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I'll bet you had a blast sewing for the three little girls. Those little outfits look so cute on them. Thank you for sharing the bunny pattern.

  4. They have just wrapped up a "Knit Love" blog tour with some fabulous projects to try, including a 20-minute knit skirt by the gals at Simple Simon. read more


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