Sunday 19 April 2020

Sewing with knits – what I wish I knew 5 years ago

Guys, it’s been more than 5 years since I started sewing with knits! Can you believe that?

5 years in, a lot has changed. For starters, I had an amazing little girl Freya, who truly brightens up every single day of my life. If I thought that I felt smug with my ability to sew with knit fabrics when I was pregnant (ever expanding tummy = appreciative of the quality of stretchy fabrics), I was overcome with smugness when I had a fast-growing baby and now toddler on my hands! Almost Freya’s entire wardrobe (home-made and shop bought) was made of cotton jersey/French Terry, and for good reason: there is nothing more comfortable for a growing and active child to wear!

I’ve learned lots about sewing with knits, though I would in no way suggest that I know everything about it. In addition to the lightbulbmoments that I shared with you when I first started, I wanted to share with you a few more things that I’ve learned. Sharing is caring, after all.

You can change the knives on the overlocker/serger

top tips for sewing with knits overlocker serger blade

The upper and lower blades got dull on my overlocker recently, and the cutting started to look messy, especially over bulky seams. If this happens to you, make sure you pat yourself on the back – you are making the most of your machine! Replacing them on most overlockers is pretty easy and straightforward, I’m lead to believe. With the help of Youtube videos and some screwdrivers, you’re all set! Just go slowly and carefully, with the machine unplugged, please!

There is more to life than twin needles

twin needling hem troubleshooting movie night PJs

Oh man, twin needles have been my nemesis for soooo long. Goodness knows how much I’ve struggled with it, mainly in terms of skipped stitches in the right needle. I’ve threaded and rethreaded the machines (changing the direction, inside/outside tension disc, inside/outside needle holder, etc, plus all the combinations thereof); I’ve tried many needles, in terms of weight and gap distance; I’ve tried with and without wondertape, and stitching at different parts of the hem; I’ve messed about with tensions and tried wooly nylon in the bobbin; heck, I’ve had the machine services, and even tried different machines. When it comes to troubleshooting, you name it, I’ve tried it – I can say that because I have tried everything, so that I could get the beautiful, professional looking twin needle hem.
Peter rabbit Poppy Jazz Pansy dress twin needle hem

Where I’ve got to is what I’d like to call a partial solution. I can generally get the twin stitching to work fairly reliably using white cotton threads for the top spools, with twin stretch (not ball point) needles, at a long ish stitch length. I am happy with that. When I do need to do hemming on other colours, I often turn to other stretch stitches. I’ve learned to embrace the decorative nature of some of these, as well as the stretchiness of others. Here are a few examples:

Baseball stitch - for hemming and topstitching

mother grimm lockley leggings decorative stitches
baseball stretch stitch hem mother grimm lockley

Lightening bolt stitch - functional, and good for understitching

ellie mac everywhere dress lined bodice understitching

Super Stretch stitch - great for hemming
Ellie mac everywhere dress heart pockets superstitch hem

I wish I had discovered these sooner, and spent more time sewing, and less time worrying about skipped twin needle stitching. 

Useful tools that I didn't know existed 

You might recall that I struggled with the idea of eyeballing the seam allowance and how much to cut off. A little nifty seam guide can help you with that!

Another tool that I have become very fond of is a little box of clips. Clipping the seams doesn’t snag the knit fabric like pins would, and you also have a much smaller chance of injuring yourself. Bonus!
top tips sewing with knit fabrics jersey
These are useful for sewing with woven, too!  

Overlocker vs sewing machine

I was a bit confused when I started, as to whether my overlocker would replace my sewing machine when it comes to sewing with jersey. The answer is: they do completely different things, and for most projects, they work in a complementary way. There are some projects where every step can be completed on the overlocker (and these are projects that I love!), but most of the time, you are going to need both.

Snap fasteners/poppers

First realisation, with the benefit of hindsight, babies (parents really!) only really benefit from poppers for a relatively short period. Once the baby can wriggle and roll about, you are properly better off not bothering! 

Second realisation -- for those early months where your baby is wonderfully peaceful and stationary, poppers are still great, and I wish I had gone for the Prym love ones from the moment I started sewing for baby, rather than those cheap ones from ebay/amazon. No, this isn’t a sponsored post by any means, just my experience. The hassle of poppers coming loose, and the consequent worry of more coming off and the potential damage it could do to the baby, is just not worth it.

I also liked using Wonder Dots (again, not on commission) to stablise jersey before applying the poppers, although I do sometimes find them moving about once they've been sandwiched in between your outer fabric and lining.  

The above, my reader friends, are things that I've picked up over the years when it comes to sewing with knits. Share your own top tips in the comments! Don't be shy! 


  1. Just love the little outfits

    1. Thank you. Freya has given me a great excuse for sewing more. Stay tuned and lots more little outfits to come :)


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