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sewing knits making wiggly seams

frygga | Posted in General Sewing Info on

So I’m now sewing with my pieces of felted wool sweater, using a zigzag stitch with minimal seam allowance which is giving me a great serged-like edge…but the seam is wiggly, lettuce-y (the technical term escapes me), which I don’t want. Even though I’m doing my best not to pull or push the fabric over the feed dogs–though it sort of does seem to require that a bit to keep from catching. What am I doing wrong?

Wrong tension, too short of stitch, wrong needle? Felted sweater fabric is medium thick, using 16 jeans needle.


  1. katina | | #1

    Good question; have you tried a tear off backing?


  2. PASDENOM | | #2

    This is probably too thick and fuzzy to feed through well. Try using a walking or roller foot. Also, to help slide it plus to protect your machine from a whole lot of lint use a stabilizer or even a piece of tissue paper (the wrapping kind, not the nose kind) underneath.

  3. Palady | | #3

    A strip(s) of quality wax paper might work.  Sandwich the area being seamed between the strips.  Sttich slowly but consistently.  If you must stop to readjust the fabric, do needle down.

    I keep a box of quality wax paper at hand near my machine.  Always handy for me in situations when I find the feed dogs & the fabric are at odds.

    My mention of "quality" is deliberate.  Those sold in Dollar Stores, or even some store brands fall short of the better brands.


    ETA - You may find the need to adjust the presser regulating control for this effort.  There should be one above your needle post for accomplishing this.

    Scroll down to page 3 on the following URL if you need a photo.



    Edited 2/28/2009 3:29 pm ET by Palady

  4. woodruff | | #4

    Just out of curiosity, you are not using one of the fancy stretch stitches on your machine, are you? Just an ordinary zigzag? The reason I ask is that that those so-called stretch stitches can build in too much thread into the seam, which will cause waviness. Without a serger, one is better off using just the narrowest zigzag to do the seam, and then zigzagging the raw edges separately--if they need it. Do the edges of your felted sweater need to be overcast? On many felted wools, the raw edges can just be left raw. I have two pretty RTW jackets which are just that way.

  5. User avater
    ThreadKoe | | #5

    Try using a longer stitch length and stretching the fabric a bit as you sew. It will ease back to shape after being sewn. It sounds like you may have too many stitches, and too much thread. As other posters stated, a roller or walking foot may help as well. Cathy

  6. MaryinColorado | | #6

    I'd definitely use a longer stitch length, as Cathy suggested and decrease the preassure on the presser foot.  You've gotten lots of great suggestions here so the only thing I might add is if all else fails, you might try using wooly nylon that you hand wind onto the bobbin.  Good luck!  It sounds darling.

    1. frygga | | #7

      Thank you all. These many different suggestions I'll have to work through, one by one. I really appreciate it.

    2. Josefly | | #8

      Hi, Mary. When you hand-wind wooly nylon onto a bobbin, how much tension do you put on it? Do you pull it taut enough to make the wooliness disappear, so the thread just looks like ordinary thread, as it looks on the original spool? Or leave it loose so you can see the fuzzy fibers as it's wrapped on the bobbin?

      1. MaryinColorado | | #9

        Just roll it gently and you may have to bypass the bobbin tension and then adjust the needle tension a bit too.  It's been a few years since I have used wooly nylon in the sewing machine so I forget the settings, sorry.  I use the serger now instead.

         (I use a seperate bobbin case that I adjust for heavier threads and never adjust the factory settings on my regular bobbin case.) 

  7. sewslow67 | | #10

    I concur with some of the other ideas, i.e. lighten up the pressure, etc. but I also think it is critical to use the right foot for the job and, in this case, I would strongly suggest a "Knit-Edge" foot and, instead of using a standard zig-zag stitch, use an "Overlock" stitch. 

    The Knit-Edge foot is multi-level, and will give the room you need for the thicker seam allowance, and the "Overlock" stitch will give the security you need for your seam and, at the same time, finish the edge.  Using a zig-zag stitch will actually stretch your seam allowance (as you have already discovered).

    If you don't have a variety of specialty feet for your machine, I would highly recommend the investment.  I have almost every foot offered for my machine and I use all of them.  Each one makes the job I'm doing not only easier, but very professional.

    1. frygga | | #11

      Thank you so much. More detailed and helpful ideas. Yes, I found that the zigzagging was making things worse---I then remembered that my friend who used to manufacture a line of knit cotton clothing told me that one could use a straight stitch, so I went to that and I am almost finished with my first project using that. The seams are acceptable. My sewing books told me to use a longer stitch for this bulky felted wool---but then I found that this machine (Singer early 1960s metal 'Stylist ZigZag model 416') does not have a very wide stitch length. The furthest the stitch length knob will turn is to is 6. I felt I could get better ease with a longer stitch length, but I phoned a local sewing machine shop and the guy said, that's all your machine will do.As for overlock etc, that is a good idea, and I don't know if my machine will do it but I'll look at the manual again and experiment again with the options. There are many stitches described in the manual but it's a matter of what do they call them. I think, though, that with these felted wools I don't really need a serged or overlock edge because they don't ravel. But they do create a thick seam allowance that I then found I needed to clip to get the bulk out. I would prefer not to waste that fabric. So overlock could help conserve fabric in that way.And your idea about more types of feet---this had occurred to me also. With a regular foot, I am finding that the edge kind of wanders and it's hard to keep the seam allowance under the foot. You are right that I need more tools.Do you experienced sewers/seamsters think that this machine---which I inherited---is too limiting? Do you think I need to consider getting another one? My local downtown fabric store sells Janome and gives classes using them. But there are other stores also nearby that I could visit that probably support other manufacturers.

      1. sewslow67 | | #12

        I think you've got a good idea there in considering a new sewing machine.  I've had a Pfaff 2170 that I've enjoyed for several years now, and love it.  But really, it's not necessary to have a machine that all but cuts out the fabric for you. 

        My DH got me a new sewing machine for my birthday last summer, as I wanted one that wasn't so heavy (so I could take it to classes and sewing groups, travel, etc) but still did everything I wanted/needed to make a fine couture garment. 

        For this, I chose the Janome Platinum 760 ...and I absolutely love it!!  It is such a wonderful machine - and I had no idea that I would like anything as well as my Pfaff, but this one is fabulous.  It makes wonderful buttonhole (one-step) and all the stitches I would ever need to make a Paris fashion.  If something happened and I had to use only this machine for the rest of my life, it would be just fine.   Don't get me wrong, I love my Pfaff, but ...this Janome surprised me when I discovered how much I enjoyed using it.  Anyway, you might want to check it out. 

        Good luck, and thanks so much for your nice note.  I hope some of the information will be helpful.

        PS:  BTW, using the Knit-Edge foot with the overlock stitch will help minimize the seam allowance, in that it sort of flattens it out. 

        Edited 3/23/2009 7:14 pm by sewslow67

      2. Cityoflostsouls | | #14

        I don't know where I saw it but an advertisement for one of the "little" machines said that the stitch length and width were factory preset.  I hope this didn't mean permanently or I can't imagine anyone would buy the machine.  In between machines I had a small one (Singer) for about a year but I sold it as it wasn't enough machine for me.

  8. User avater
    sofia1990 | | #13

    Hi,Just read your email, if you have foot pressure control on your machine reduce it and you might want to use stretch 90 needle. good luck

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