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Sewing on knits and spandex fabrics

DEMcC | Posted in General Sewing Info on


I recently purchased a swimsuit and need to alter it a bit to be comfortable wearing it.  I’m trying to insert a stretchy strip across the back to give more support to the bust.  What I get is a gosh-awful mess on the underside–bobbin side–of where I have stitched the piece to the suit.  How can I make it come out right?

Also, when making a T-shirt out of cotton knit, how can I do the hem around the bottom without it stretching all out of shape?  My sewing machine does not have differential feed.  I usually end up doing the hem by hand, but then it doesn’t stretch with the fabric.  Any advice?

Thanks,  Dee 


  1. JudyWilliment | | #1

    I hem all knits with a twin needle if possible - this does allow them to stretch, and looks great.  In case you've never used one, it's just two needles on one shank, which you thread with two separate threads, but sew with as one.  You get parallel lines on the right side, and a zig zag on the bobbin side.  They come in different widths, and not all machines will take all widths, so check first if you can.   If you hem by hand, try a herringbone stitch, and sew fairly loosely, which should give you some stretch, but won't be as stable.  Whatever you try, good luck.

  2. NansiM | | #2


    Another solution is to get some lightweight fusible hem strip--usually sold in a roll 1/4 to 1/2" wide. I used to fuse my hem in place first being careful not to stretch the fabric at the ironing board.  this hold everything nicely and keeps it from stretching while you choose whichever topstitch method you like.  Judy's method with the twin needles looks most like RTW.  We also liked to experiment with using the various stitch patterns on our machhines.  I taught Stretch & Sew methods for many years and this was a favorite before sergers and coverhems came along!  Practice on your scraps first!  Have fun!

  3. Tikiclub | | #3

    Dee, every time I've had a 'birds nest' in the bobbin, or other tension related problem, I've first made sure I was using a new needle. 90% of the time it was old and that was the problem. I still do it ALL the time. Another option is to make sure you're using a ball point needle - which are specifically for knits. I used to think a needle was a needle, despite being told to use a new one which each project. I'm just too cheap, I guess. Plus, when mending, it's pointless to put in a new needle.

    Anyway, another way to hem the t-shirt is to just use a regular zig zag stitch with a ball point needle. I sometimes have touble adjusting my twin needle tension on the upper threads, and get a pucker on the underside. No problem with a plain old zig zag. Use a medium length, medium width. It doesn't look as professional, but it's easier than hand sewing and still has plenty of give.


  4. SewingSue | | #4


    One of my husband's cousins has a very very old machine, straight and zig-zag only.  She has gotten great resullts using the zig-zag stitch.  She fold the hem back like you would to machine hem and zig on the fabric and zag off the fabric.  Tedious to be sure but it looks the same as a blind stitch hemmer.

    I have also used the fusible tape in the hem allowance and various machine stitches with varying degrees of sucess.  I prefer the serger for doing knits.  Good luck.


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