Sewing with Knits Tips and FAQ
It’s Gina and I’m back again today to talk about how to sew with knits! There are a lot of options out there which can make it tricky to pick the perfect knit fabric for your pattern. It helps to know a bit about the different types of knits, so can you identify them and be sure to get the best option for the pattern you are sewing. Make sure and scroll to the bottom to see the live video replay talking about the different knit fabric types.
KNIT FABRIC TYPES
When sewing a garment, the pattern should tell you the recommended fabric type as well as the needed amount of stretch. Too little stretch, and the fit will be uncomfortable at best. Too much stretch, and you won’t have the structure the pattern requires.
Cotton Lycra/ Cotton Spandex
Cotton Lycra/ Spandex are made from cotton and either lycra or spandex. Many of the cotton lycra/ spandex fabrics have a 4-way stretch which means the fabric stretches in both directions (crosswise and lengthwise). This fabric blend is great for projects that need a bit more stretch such as exercise pants, leggings, skirts or jackets.
Here is an example of cotton lycra/spandex.
What is Jersey Knit?
Jersey can be made from 100% cotton or blended with other fibers like rayon or polyester. While cotton jersey has barely any stretch, other blends have more stretch and also a more fluid drape. Jersey is a very versatile knit and can be used to sew a wide variety of clothing pieces that do not need a lot structure that a thicker fabric would provide.
This floral knit is a jersey.
What is Sweater Knit fabric?
Sweater knits, which are also known as Hacci, have a very open weave. They are most often made of cotton, polyester and spandex blends. Since this fabric has a very loose drape they are perfect for flowing tops, sweaters, cardigans and even hats.
Here is an example of sweater knit.
Ponte De Roma
Ponte De Roma knits are a double-knit fabric made from cotton, rayon and spandex. These are very stable knits, have a good amount of stretch, and my personal favorite, resist wrinkles. They make great skirts, pants and dresses.
Can I sew knits with a regular sewing machine?
You can absolutely sew knits with a regular sewing machine. However, there are a few tweaks you need to make if you are not using a serger. First, you need to use your walking foot. The walking foot feeds the fabric from both the top and the bottom which is absolutely necessary when using knits.
What kind of needle do you use to sew knits?
The second change you need to make to your regular sewing machine is to use a ballpoint needle or a stretch needle when sewing knit fabric. The ballpoint needle is great for a looser weave like a sweater knit. The stretch needle is ideal for tightly woven stretch materials like lycra or spandex
What stitch should I use for stretchy material?
Depending on how much give you need in your fabric, you may need to use a different stitch when sewing with knits. If your project doesn’t need to stretch much, you can use your basic straight stitch. However, if you need it to have a bit of give, you will want to use your stretch stitch (if your machine has one) or your zig-zag stitch.
Let’s move on to getting a PDF pattern put together so you can create something amazing! I have sewn with patterns from stores like Joann’s, as well as PDF patterns from numerous online designers. My personal preference is to use PDF patterns. I can download and print my pattern for a lifetime, and since the pattern in on regular printer paper, it‘s much more sturdy.
Tips for working with PDF patterns
Some patterns have parts that need to be trimmed in order for them to fit together. Others do not. My personal preference is to trim them if any of the pages will overlap and cover up the pattern markings, even if it says it’s a “no-trim” pattern. If you don’t feel like trimming any edges you can simply tape them together and then draw any lines that have been covered up. No thanks… I’d rather just trim them! Plus, you can use something like this paper cutter to quickly get rid of the excess paper in a flash.
Once my pattern is printed, I like to tape it together on a big window or sliding glass door. The light shining through the back lets me line up the pieces of paper with ease. I can tape each one together pretty quickly and accurately.
Another hack that I like to use is Pellon 830 Easy Pattern. This stuff is amazing! My boys are all in different sizes and sometimes I need to sew up multiple sizes. Pellon 830 Easy Pattern to the rescue!
I lay it on top of my pattern and I’m able to cut the pieces for all the sizes that I need without cutting up my original pattern. Also, if you need to make any adjustments to the pattern so it fits you better (known as grading a pattern) this makes it a breeze! A little fact that you may not know about me is I’m only 5 feet tall – this basically means ALL the items I make are graded so they fit me correctly. I can sketch the lines right on the pattern and then cut out my own “Gina-sized” pattern pieces for the perfect fit! After all that’s the whole reason I make my own clothes. Being able to decide the print and getting the perfect fit is THE best!
I hope this helps you navigate the fabric store more successfully. I would love to hear what clothing you’ve made or what you plan on making in the future! I’ve got some joggers on my cut table, not I just need to find the time to get them made!