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Seam binding for knits?

jatman | Posted in Fabric and Trim on

Hello Everyone,

I just started to try to sew a knit top and am having trouble with it.  I’ve sewn knits before and had no problem but when I try to sew this one it gets sucked down into my sewing machine bobbin area and the thread breaks.  I can only sew about 3 inches at a time and the quality of the stitch is really poor.  The knit is a really spongy thin knit.  I noticed when I was cutting it that it left a fuzzy residue on my scissors more so than any other knit I’ve worked with.  I took my sewing machine in because I thought that was the problem and the man I bought it from took it apart in front of me, couldn’t find any problem, put it back together and proceeded to sew without incident on a number of fabrics.  Now, I’m thinking if I want to finish this project I need to use some sort of seam binding but I have no idea if there even is such a thing for knits.  I know there is a plastic sort of seam tape that is to prevent stretching but I think I need something that I may have to press on the seam edge prior to sewing.  Otherwise I think this project may have to be put away until I get a serger.  Any help anyone can give me would be appreciated.

Thank you,



  1. Tatsy | | #1

    Before you make yourself crazy trying to sew a binding on something that difficult, try a few other things. If you're trying to do this with a straight stitch, switch to a narrow zigzag and lenghten the stitch--at least 3 or 3.5 in the European system.  If that still doesn't work, try putting a supporting layer under the fabric that will keep it out of the hook area. You can use newspaper for this as long as the print doesn't come off on the fabric. Good luck.

    1. jatman | | #8

      Thank you, Tatsy!


  2. twreeder | | #2

    If you have a throat plate that is only suitable for a straight stitch, you might try that.  That way there is not so much room for the fabric to be stitched down into the throat plate as with a plate you would use for a zigzag.  Straight stitch throat plate has only room for the needle.

    1. jatman | | #9

      Thank you, Twreeder.


  3. Josefly | | #3

    Have you tried putting a strip of tissue paper between your fabric and the bed of the machine, along the seam-line you'll be sewing? The tissue should tear off easily, and prevent the fabric being pushed down below the bed.Also, are you using the right kind of needle?Is this either a rayon or bamboo knit?

    1. jatman | | #10

      Thank you Josefly.


  4. sewelegant | | #4

    Did you pre-wash the fabric first?  You mentioned a fuzzy residue on your scissors.  If you did not wash it, I might hand wash it and let it dry before trying to sew again.  My first thought was the single hole needleplate recommended, but with a stretchy knit you probably want to use some kind of zig zag stitch.  Maybe a smaller size ball point needle would slide through the fabric better and not drag it down through the hole.  If all that fails I think I would lay some tissue paper strips under the fabric before starting to stitch.  Good luck.

    1. jatman | | #11

      Thank you Sewelegant.


  5. jjgg | | #5

    I've found that some knits - 'travel knits' that are spongy like you described really need the walking foot to control it. I never needed to use a walking foot on knits before, but this stuff I tried a few weeks ago just wouldn't behave otherwise.

    1. jatman | | #12

      Thank you Jjgg.


  6. Teaf5 | | #6

    I think the clear seam tape might cause even more problems.  I agree with the earlier poster who believes that you might be using the wrong needle, or an old or a defective one (it happens fairly frequently in brand new packages!)

    Check the size and whether it is a ballpoint, universal, or sharp.  On knits, sharps cause the most problems, but sometimes universals work better than ballpoints.  If you're using a very lightweight knit, you might need a size 9, and even heavier knits rarely need larger than a 12. Of course, try out all the options on a scrap of fabric.

    1. jatman | | #13

      Thank you Teaf5.


  7. woodruff | | #7

    Very, very often, I find that using a 'stretch' needle solves lots of problems when sewing knits. Give that a try.I think that using a seam binding or backing tape along the seamline will defeat the purpose of a knit garment, which is to stretch (also removing the backing tape would be a gigantic pain!).Oh, and as one poster said, washing the fabric before sewing can be important for removing weird finishing residue from the factory.But changing to a stretch needle is the first thing I'd do.

    1. jatman | | #14

      Thank you Woodruff.


  8. jatman | | #15

    Thank you to everyone who tried to help me here.  I was rather convinced that I had the wrong needle.  The last thing I sewed was denim and this shirt is a knit.  So, I changed the needle, cut off the bad stitching (since it was impossible to pick out with my seam ripper - white fabric, white thread, etc.) and tried it again to no avail.  The thread shredded and broke off within an inch and I kept getting skipped stitches and I'm using an overlock stitch.  So, I'm putting this little project away until I get a serger - at which time I will probably have the same problem which will force me to find some other use for this fabric that doesn't require sewing it. 

    Thank you for all of the good advice.



    1. Josefly | | #16

      Oh, how frustrating. Sorry none of our ideas worked. Better to go on to something else - I'm sure there's plenty of fabric calling you!

      1. jatman | | #17

        Hi Josefly!  Yes I have been frustrated.  However, after the initial frustration wore off I approached my machine with another piece of material as a test to see how it would sew on that scrap and the same thing happened so I think there really might be a problem with my machine.  I'm taking it back to the dealer today to see if he can look at it.....again!


        1. Josefly | | #18

          I started to ask if you'd tried the machine on a different kind of fabric. Bummer, that it's your machine, but at least you can get it fixed, and not have to throw away your fabric. Good luck.I've got to take my machine in for repair, too. I've had to hand-wind bobbins for the last few sessions of sewing. It doesn't take too much time to do, but I'll be glad to be able to machine-wind them again.

          1. Teaf5 | | #19

            Before you take your machine in, be sure to ask your question here!  A discussion here last year about "stuck bobbin winders" cleared up a problem for me.


          2. Josefly | | #20

            Good idea, thanks. I'll first search for the topic here, and put the question out if there's no help in the archives.

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