Tutorials

How to Sew Knit & Stretch Fabrics with a Standard Sewing Machine

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This tutorial will show you how to sew stretch and knit fabrics with a regular sewing machine.

People often make the mistake of thinking they can’t work with knits if they don’t have an overlock machine, but knit fabrics existed a long time before sergers were commonly available as home machines, so don’t be afraid to try it out. With a little practice, it’s no harder than sewing with woven fabrics.

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sewingknits

This tutorial was filmed using a Creative Labs Vado HD Digital Video Camera, a Canon Rebel (for still shots), and edited in Sony Vegas Movie Studio.

Blog

Sewing 101: This Sewing Machine Kills Knits + Stretch Fabrics!

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If you’re using a standard sewing machine and trying to reconstruct t-shirts or sewing on knit fabrics, you’ll want to use a zig-zag or stretch stitch. The zig-zag allows the stitch to stretch with the fabric, so it doesn’t break when you try to get your newly reconstructed t-shirt on or off.

serged edge
serged edge

If you plan to be sewing a lot with stretch and knit fabrics, you might want to consider investing in a serger (sometimes called an overlock machine).

A serger is a special sewing machine that uses 3, 4, or 5 threads. It trims off the seam allowance and sews “around” the seam, locking the edges to prevent rolling and fraying.

Sergers are very well suited to sewing stretch fabrics because it’s stitch allows for a significant amount of stretch without breaking- more than even a zig-zag stitch.

Sergers aren’t cheap, but there are some decent inexpensive models on the market. One I can personally vouch for is the Brother 1034D.

Brother 1034D
Brother 1034D

You still might wind up being stuck sans serger for a while, so if you can’t resist the urge to sew with knits and other stretch fabrics in the meantime, here are a few more tips if your sewing machine tends to go Cookie Monster on your fabric:

  • If the sewing machine sucks the fabric into the machine or forms a big wad of thread on the underside when you first start sewing, try sliding the edge of the fabric about an inch or so past the foot when you first start sewing. You can also try wrapping a piece of tape or tissue paper around the edge of the fabric to add extra stability. It may also help to sew the first few stitches by turning the wheel by hand manually.
  • Make sure you’re using a ball point needle for knits. Standard sewing machine needles are made for woven fabric and can snag the fibers of knit fabric. Some machines are very temperamental about this. Others are not.
  • You can try an overlock attachment, but I have no experience with them. From what I’m told by those that have, it is NOT really anything like using an overlock/serger machine, it merely makes stitches that look like it.