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Advice and ideas for sewing with knits

Mimosa | Posted in General Discussion on

I am a new addition to this discussion forum. Have been sewing for many years and am also a weaver, making fabric to sew with. I am most definitely not a prolific weaver nor seamstress – never enough time.

I currently have a project on the go with some really lovely knit fabric. Quite fine and slinkyish. I am having a horrible time sewing though – my threads keep breaking – both bobbin and needle threads. Stitches are skipping on a regular basis. I’m afraid to backstitch to secure the thread at the beginning and end of a seam because the fabric disappears down the bobbin area and the threads knot. I now backstitch once at each end and hope.

Before starting the project, I tried several new needles and thought it was helping with a ball point jersey needle (80/12 I think it is). It’s definitely better than the other needles I tried but still not great.

Any ideas on what else I could try? Different thread? (I’m using standard polyester) Different machine foot? The pattern is an easy one – this should have been finished in a few hours at most…..

Many thanks for your help.


  1. From my Stash.... | | #1

    I can empathize with your situation. For the needle, a microfibre needle works really well. Although some sources suggest a 75/11HS, the microfibre was recommended to me by one of the helpful staff in a store that sells a lot of slinky and fabric for skating and gymnastic costumes.

    As to the disappearing fabric at the start of the a seam, a little piece of tear-away stabilizer (mine pieces usually are about an inch long and may be 3/8" to 1/2" wide) is enough to get the stitches going without them disappearing into the machine.

    The thread should be a good polyester and it is best to use a walking foot. Test your pressure on the foot and top tension to get the best results. 

    Good luck with it. 

    1. Mimosa | | #4

      Thanks for your message. I was unable to find a microfibre needle at my fabric store but a staff person recommended a fine sharp needle when I described what I was looking for a why. It allowed me to almost finish the top - for whatever reason, I was unable to do the hems - tried 5 - 6 times and then gave it up. I'll take it to someone to finish it properly. Good news is that it feels and fits well. Reminds me why I don't like working with that kind of knit though - and why I love my wovens! Thanks again for your help.

      1. lilah | | #5


        If you are not using a zig-zag stitch, a straight stitch  throat plate can give the fabric more support so that it doesn't get pushed down through the needle hole in the throat-plate.  ZZ machines have an oval shaped needle-hole in the throat plate to allow the needle to move back and forth.   A straight stitch throat plate has a small circular hole for the needle.  When sewing super-fine fabrics, I use the SS throat plate and support the beginning of the seam with a small scrap of fabric, interfacing, paper or anything to support it until it gets past the point where it can get sucked into the needle hole. 

  2. Teaf5 | | #2

    I agree with From my Stash about changing the needle; a 12 seems awfully big for a slinky knit.
    Another way to keep the backstitching from gobbling up the end of the seam is to start the seam about 1/2" away from the end, then backstitch to the end before going forward, holding the thread ends out behind the piece. The thread then acts like a line to hold the fabric up, and the first stitches are surrounded by solid fabric.

    You are using a stretch stitch or a very slight zigzag, right? A flat, straight stitch will break everytime the fabric moves.

    1. Mimosa | | #3

      Thanks for your response. I tried to find a microfibre needle at my fabric store but was unable to. I was advised there to try a fine sharp needle which did seem to work somewhat better. I managed to finish the top except for the hem and the hems on the arms. So, I guess I'll take it to someone to get it finished. Nice part about it is that it feels good and fits well.... Never work with that type of knit again though - now I remember why I love my wovens!! Really appreciate your thoughts!Thanks again!

  3. MaryinColorado | | #6

    I agree with using a tear away or water soluble stabilizer (found near the thread in fabric stores or at sewing machine dealers).  Put it on the feed dog side of the fabric and it will help the fabric glide through and not get pulled down into the bobbin area.  I often use water soluble stabilizer as it tears away well and dissolves away with steam or water.  (not for dryclean onlys).  With the hems, would a double needle help?

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