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sewing with knit fabric

2tallct | Posted in General Discussion on

I want to make some of those lovely wrap dresses and some surplice t-shirts out of knit fabric. Do I need to have a serger to get the best results, or can I use my good old Pfaff (about 25 years old!). When you work with knits, do you bypass making a first run out of muslim, since obviously muslim does not stretch?? Can you tell I am new at all of this??? Only sewn on woven fabric all my life. But knit is so forgiving and so soft….


  1. starzoe | | #1

    Certainly you can sew knits with an ordinary machine. You don't need a serger. As for the MUSLIN. if you want to make a test garment you should use the same weight knit which can become expensive. Good quality knit fabrics of late have been hard to find; you may live where there is a good variety.

    Buy patterns that specify knits, and there should be a little chart on the flap of the pattern that shows you the amount of stretch you need in the fabric. I'm not sure if all knit patterns have the chart on pattern envelopes now, they used to.

    Sewing knits is not difficult, I would suggest though that you read what information you can find on the internet or from the library.

    Edited 3/29/2008 5:30 pm ET by starzoe

  2. suesew | | #2

    Sewing with knits is easy with the right needle. That is the biggest problem for most people. Use a ball point or jersey needle. I like to use a size 11. And be sure to use a pattern for knits. If you use a narrow zigzag stitch for seaming, you will not notice the zigzag and the seam will have a little give to it. I like to use a 4. double needle for knits for the hems - it looks just ike a cover stitch done with a serger. Once you get the hang of it you can whip out tshirts in no time.

    1. 2tallct | | #3

      What is a double needle? Do they fit on all machines? I feel so dumb to not know this stuff after sewing for so long, but I have played it safe only sewing for kids and crafts! Not anymore, I am ready to launch!!!

      1. Ralphetta | | #4

        A double needle has two needles that connect to a single shank that fits where you usually put your needle. Sort of like a pitch fork with a very short handle and long tines? They come in various sizes and they're also available with different spacing between them. I think the most common usage is for T shirt type hems. They make two perfectly parallel lines of stitching and the bobbin does a zig-zag so the hem has some stretch. Most machines allow for sewing with two spools of thread. There is usually a hole somewhere on the top that you stick a spindle (that's with your attachments.) Your manual will tell you how to thread the machine.It's not difficult and it's fun to play with. You can do many kinds of stitches, but have to be careful with any stitches that make the needle move from side to side (zig zag) or it can hit the foot and break the needle.

  3. Josefly | | #5

    Just want to wish you good luck and some fun in your first experiments with knit fabrics.

    About making a muslin - The term in this case doesn't necessarily imply using muslin fabric. It just refers to a trial fitting garment, using the least expensive fabric you can find which still has roughly the same weight and drape and stretch as the fashion fabric you plan to use for the garment.

    I've bought a couple of really cheap t-shirts in an extra-large size that I'm going to cut up and experiment on. They are cheaper than any knit fabric I can buy by the yard.

  4. cafms | | #6

    There are a couple articles in Threads on-line that you might find helpful if you haven't read them in the magazine.  They are both by Marcy Tilton.  This one is about the surplice type top.


    This one has some good information for fitting and customizing a T-shirt pattern.  It also gives sewing tips.


    I do a lot of sewing with knits on my regular sewing machine which is a Pfaff 1229.   For most seams I like to use the stitch that goes forward and backward and then jumps to the side and makes an edge finish.  Use a piece of twill tape or selvage edge in the shoulder seam to stablize it or it will stretch.  I also use the 4.0 double needle, with a straight stitch, for the hems.  You have to sew on the right side and feel with your finger where the ridge of the cut edge is on the underside.  Then try to keep the ridge going between the two needles.  If you sew with the hem facing up you will have the zig-zag on the outside of the shirt.  You can hand wind wooly nylon on the bobbin and skip the tension on the bobbin case when hemming with the double needle which will give more stretch.  The double needle should be the one with the blue bar for use with stretch fabric rather than the red bar which is for woven fabric.  These needles are found with the regular needles in the store.  It has a single post that fits into the machine with two needles attached to the blue or red bar.  You will need two spools of thread or wind some off onto an extra bobbin.  Thread the two threads together through your machine as usual but then seperate and go through the two needles.  Before you try the needles be sure your machine throat plate has a wide enough opening.  If you can zig-zag you should be able to use the double needles.   If you haven't sewn with knits I think I would get some cheaper stuff or an old T-shirt and practice.  Use this to make your muslin.  Also, don't pull the knit as you sew.  It will usually not go back to it's original shape, especially on the crossgrain. It will tend to stretch some whenever you sew crossgrain anyway. This may be more information than you need but I hope some of it is helpful. 

    I found this U-Tube site with videos of several portions of Marcy Tilton's DVD on T-shirt fitting that you might find helpful, also.

    Edited 3/30/2008 11:33 pm by cafms

    1. 2tallct | | #7

      Thanks for such detailed info!  There is a $1.99 fabric store nearby, everything in the entire store is $1.99 per yard.  Most of it is outdated stuff, but I think I will purchase some knit fabric to practice on before I attempt anything nice. 

      1. cafms | | #8

        I think that sounds good.  Get the best they have and try it out.  One more thing - if the fabric is washable and you plan to wash it when it is done, then wash and dry it a couple times before you cut it out. 

        Good luck.

        Edited 3/31/2008 10:36 am by cafms

      2. starzoe | | #9

        Wash the practice fabric AND the "real" fabric before you begin.

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