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tips on hemming knits

canei | Posted in General Sewing Info on

hi, does anyone have any hints with hemming knits. how can i avoid that ripple effect. it looks like the threads are wavy. i guess i could put some tissue paper then tare it away or get a special foot for knits. any help would be much appreciated. thanks!


  1. jjgg | | #1


    This depends a lot on the type of knit you are using, but you need to experiment.  You didn't say how you are trying to hem them.  Are you usinga serger and doing a cover hem?

    I have taken to fusing a strip of lighweight knit interfacing to the edge (fusiknit) the depth of the hem, serge the raw edge and then fold up and straight stitch the hem.  Some machines will do this nicer than others, if the knit wants to bunch up in front of the presser foot, you can try lightening the pressure on the presser foot, stopping every few stitches and lifting the presser foot, loosening the tension on the thread, try a different stitch (sometmes a very slight zig zag will work, making the stitch length longer etc.

    you need to play with scraps and try and try till you find what works.

  2. craftycetta | | #2

    Hi I sew a lot of knits I use a ball point small needle to start, its great for those skipped stitches. Of course I serge the hemline then turn up the hem making sure I stay on the part with the serged stitching using a stretch stitch. If you do not have a stretch stitch on your machine use a small zig zag close together about a 1 1/2 inch in length. It works well for me. If that does not work put a cuff on the bottom of your garment, if its a shirt, then you will not have to worry about hemming it. That will also work for the neck and sleeves like a t shirt.

    Edited 7/15/2009 2:19 am ET by craftycetta

  3. User avater
    ThreadKoe | | #3

    You need to stretch the knit a bit as you are hemming it, but not too much. You may be stretching it too much. Your stitches may be too short as well. What are you making that you are having problems hemming? Cathy

  4. meg | | #4

    And if you look at some of the rtw, the knits are not hemmed at all.  (In my I'm-not-being-humble-anymore altitude, on most applications it seems a bit messy, but I'm old and cranky ~ sometimes.)  The unhemmed look may be the correct solution.

  5. Tatsy | | #5

    Some knits, such as cotton jersey, are best fused shut with Stitch Witchery. Other alternatives include using a zigzag blind-hem stitch, a walking foot, a roller foot, resetting the differential feed on your serger, or stretching as you sew. Stretch and Sew used to make a good living teaching all the ins and outs of sewing with knits.

  6. Palady | | #6

    Hhmmm - it's been 14 days since you psoted and some replies are "unread", which leads me to think you have yet t osign back on.  Did want to offer you another suggestion.

    By carfully sewing lace seam binding to the hem edge, you can take up some of the stretch that is creating the ripple.  Hand stitching the hem in place is also an option.


    1. User avater
      canei | | #7

      Thanks, everyone who replied, I was working on wovens for a bit. i will try all tips suggested. i don't like the homemade look. it burns me up that you can take so much care sewing knits and when i comes to the hem it looks messy. thanks again.

      1. Palady | | #8

        Do post again please & let us know how your hem resulted, and how you resolved.

        Your most kind to be able to read over my typo's.  There are days my proof reading falls short.


        1. decoratrice | | #9

          On unhemmed hems--in the current trend for thin jersey-like tops, I don't like the look--just flimsy (don't get me started on the cleavage-baring, tarty styles themselves).  On heavier knits it can be just fine.  I am making a heavyweight rayon-and-lycra skirt with an asymmetric hemline--saw the sample made up and it looked great with no hemming, nothing to get in the way of the drape.  On most knits, I turn up the edge and stitch on the right side using a double needle, feeling my way as I go.  Since I don't have a serger, this seems the best solution for me.

          1. Palady | | #10

            Ageed.  Double needle hemming works well. 

            Caveat being is 1.) use the correct size width double needle - 2.)  sew slowly.   

            You likely do this.  I post it for the beginner lurkers who might be reading.


          2. sewslow67 | | #28

            I also use a double needle (when hemming) - and have used varying widths and all have worked very nicely.  I taught sewing with knits for Ann Person shortly after she started her company years ago, and have sewn with knits ever since with no problems.  While I didn't use a serger in those days, I do now, but not always, and still have success with a regular sewing machine. 

            Frankly, I think the machine used has more to do with it than how I do it - so I give the credit to the machine as long as one is very careful in using the correct needle.  Some machines are just plain cranky ...and others are more friendly, esp. when it comes to knit fabric.  Just my opinion though.

            Edited 8/12/2009 12:06 pm by sewslow67

          3. Palady | | #32

            "... some mcahines just plain cranky ... >>

            So very true!  Newer machines offer a wide variety of choices in what can be sewn with them.  But, like you, I've been sewing for enough years to realize "olders" did many things much better in some instances. 

            For example, buttonholes.  There's an entry on a blog that addresses this rather clearly.


            Any one fortuante enough to set up a machine dedicated to but one function udoubtedly finds this very helpful in compeleting a project.

            When using a double needle one does have to be certain the needle hole will accomodate the double's width since machines do vary.

            Your working with knits before the arrival of what is now in the market for these fabrics is familiar with me as well.   It's been interesting for me to realize how the sewing arena has evolved.



          4. sewslow67 | | #33

            I must have not been clear, as I much prefer my new machines to the old ones, especially when it comes to button holes.  I've used all the old gadgets that attach, and never liked them years ago and don't use them now.  My Pfaff makes many different kinds of button holes, and each one is always perfection. 

            That said, I can see that, if ones main machine doesn't make nice button holes, than a machine set up ...just for that function ...would be very handy.  I do that with my sergers; one is set up for finishing seams and the other is set up for the cover stitch.  Unlike Mary from Colorado, I'm not skilled enough with my sergers yet to do all the wildly creative things she does with hers.  But ...she is encouraging me to learn, so maybe before I leave Mother Earth, I'll be able to give her a (very mild) little challenge.  However, don't hold your breath!  ;-)  She goes beyond being an expert.  I just wish I were back in Denver so I could take some lessons from her.

            Back to button holes.  Probably it's all a matter of preference and what we are used to.  After all, it seems like many sewing techniques include what is most comfortable for each of us.  And if we enjoy ...it matters not what our equipment includes, don't you think?

          5. Palady | | #34

            With your Pfaff making excellent buttonholes, your enjoying this function with it is understandable.  Machines being what they are, like ones in the same make & model might work differently. 

            >> ...  many different kinds of button holes ... <<  Can you make keyhole ones?

            View Image

            I ask because these seem to absent from the automatic makers and are done with cams on the buttonhole attachment makers to my knowing.


          6. sewslow67 | | #35

            My Pfaff makes 16 different types of button holes and yes ...it makes several different styles of keyhole button holes as well, and beautifully done at that.  No problem.  That said, hopefully we all like what we've got ...which is probably good.  I sew a lot, so I use most all of them.  However, it's probably overkill for many who sew.  After all, how many styles does one really need?  Probably not that many.

            Edited 8/22/2009 11:38 pm by sewslow67

          7. Palady | | #36

            >> ... how many styles does one really need ... <<     Agreed.  Yet when we need 'em we got 'em.


          8. sewslow67 | | #38

            Hi Nepa:  No doubt that's right.  However, as much as I like my Pfaff, DH got me a little Janome Platinum 760 to take for traveling and for classes (it's light weight, as I'm no longer allowed to lift more than 10-12 pounds), and I love that little machine, too.  If I didn't have the Pfaff, I'd be perfectly happy with the little Janome.  It also makes perfect, one-step button holes and is a little work horse.

            Probably more than the piece of equipment we use, is the skill we develop over the years.  I remember a friend in Denver who had one of those little Elna Lotus machines.  Did you ever see one of those?  They looked like a child's toy.  Anyway, she was Swiss educated in the profession of sewing, and made garments that could be part of the Paris fashion shows; absolutely exquisite! 

            To make my point about those new, "magnificent" sewing machines:  I was working 80-90 hours a week at the time and needed a special dress for an event - and no time to sew, thus I hired her for the job (using her little Elna Lotus).  It was a two-piece wool paisley Karl Lagerfeld design ...and she charged $750.00 for the labor.  Unfortunately, it never occurred to me to ask her (ahead of time) what the charge would be.  It was the first (and the last) time anyone else ever sewed for me.  It's funny now; but I nearly had a heart attack at the time.  Chuckle, chuckle!

            Edited 8/23/2009 7:20 pm by sewslow67

            Edited 8/23/2009 7:22 pm by sewslow67

          9. Jacquie09 | | #39

             Greetings to ALL,

            I am new to this website and it is GREAT.  All of oyour comments are fantastic.

            Thank you for sharing....yes, I am new at sewing...what to learn tailoring techiques.



          10. Palady | | #40

            It reads as though your Denver friend understands the value of her talent.  Granted it was a "heart stopper" for you.  BTDT in overlooking establishing costs on a couple of times.  Mine came in other arenas & at a lesser amount than did yours.  Still I just "absorbed" the pay out as did you.


      2. Teaf5 | | #14

        On a conventional machine, I've had great success using an overcast foot to stitch the raw edge before turning it.  The foot has tiny bars that hold the narrow knit hem flat and keep the zigzag from tunneling the fabric, and once the knit is stabilized with the thread, it's easy to use a conventional hem finish on it.

        1. User avater
          canei | | #15

          Thanks, I will try this!!!!

          1. Britomartis | | #16

            The main problem is that the fabric stretches out under the presser foot (I'm assuming you are stitching the hem by machine). Some people like the look (I forget the name of it, sorry), but if you wish to avoid it without stabilizing it and thus ridding the hem of stretch, I recommend that you finish it with a rolled hem loosely stitched by hand with elastic thread (this would likely affect the drape however). I rarely sew knits though, so I could be leading you amiss.

          2. Josefly | | #18

            There's a wonderful video on the Sawyer Brooks website, done by Jennifer Stern, which demonstrates a good method of hemming knit t-shirts. Actually, it's a set of 4 videos, the last of which includes the hemming method. The series takes you through the entire process of making Jennifer Stern's t-shirt, from laying out the knitted fabric, through cutting and sewing, adding neckline binding, and hemming.The site for the videos is here:http://www.sawyerbrook.com/salon/tee-shirt-sew-along-f25/sewing-topic-200.htmlAnd Jennifer Stern's website is here:http://jsterndesigns.blogspot.com/(I haven't read all the postings on this thread, so forgive me if you've already seen this.)

          3. User avater
            canei | | #19

            Thanks a bunch!!!!! I will check it out.

        2. sewelegant | | #17

          This sounds like a good thing to try.  Would you liken it to serging the edge first?

          1. Teaf5 | | #20

            I don't have a serger, but I think it's similar to a serged seam finish.  The overcast foot holds a 1/4" seam allowance flat and allows the zigzag (or any other wide stitch) to stabilize the edge without curling it.  I use a light pressure foot tension and  very loose top and bobbin thread tensions, too.

          2. sewelegant | | #21

            I'm going to have to keep this on file (in mind) because I know I have that foot with my machine and haven't touched it since it was demonstrated in my introductory classes back when the machine was new.  I can think of several things I might like to use it for.

            Edited 8/10/2009 9:17 pm by sewelegant

          3. Teaf5 | | #23

            The overcast foot came to my rescue when my son wanted to re-style sweatshirts to fit his skater/boarder designs; he just assumed I could sew whatever he sketched, but I had a hard time making smooth seams for his color-blocked combinations.

            After many, many experiments with other feet and stitches, the overcast foot worked like a charm, making professional-looking seams that neither puckered or stretched the heavy sweatshirt knit. 

            The only problem now is that my son is even more convinced that I can sew anything he dreams up, and he thinks I should spend my eventual retirement doing so!

          4. sewelegant | | #24

            Maybe he'll grow out of the skateboard scene. Or find a new interest that won't require color blocked clothing?  But, I'm glad you found the answer to that sewing dilemma and that he could admire your capabilities.  It makes it all worthwhile, doesn't it.

  7. User avater
    artfulenterprises | | #11

    No one seems to have mentioned the ultimate choice for hemming knits which is a "cover hem". It does require a serger that will accommodate that stitch...but knits are what it was designed for. ( It stitches two or three straight lines of stitching on the top and lays a stretch stitch overlock "cover" on the edge of the hem on the underside.) Very slick.

    1. Palady | | #12

      Your absolutely correct.  Cover stitch capable machines address hemming knits very well.  Using them has a learning curve.  MO. 

      Price, and or the need to convert some machines, can be an issue for some sewists.  Which when the double needle comes into the picture.  Using one of these also takes some practice.


    2. 2sewNMe | | #22

      Hi, thanks for the mention of the cover stitch. I have been sewing on knits for over 30 years...have used a variety of hemming stitches. The twin needle is a great hemming option. I recently purchased a used Pfaff serger just to get the cover stitch. The first dilemma that presented itself was that you couldn't hem without opening up one of the side seams (to start and finish) Would you care to share any techniques ? Thanks !

      1. miatamomma | | #25

        It seems that when I use my coverstitch, I just continue stitching for a few stitches over where I began.  Then pull the threads underneath and tie.  Hope this works for you.


        1. 2sewNMe | | #26

          Thanks Sue ! I will re look at it. It seemed to me I could not "start" on the piece of fabric but come on to the fabric like you would with any serger, but I will be glad to revisit that. Susan

          1. miatamomma | | #30

            I probably should have explained a little farther on using a coverstitch on a hem.  My Babylock Coverstitch instructions are the following.  If you hem it flat make sure you mark each side of the open seam so you can match the hemming perfectly.

            If you hem in the round--After you finish stitching and overlapping a few stitches (do NOT raise the presser foot at this point). Turn the handwheel towards you until the needles are in the lowest position in the fabric.  Carefully reverse the handwheel until the needles are in the highest position.  Now raise the presser foot.  Carefully and firmly pull fabric and threads to the left.  Pull threads to back and tie off.  May want to use seam sealant ar tie off.  I have done it this and it does work.



          2. 2sewNMe | | #31

            Thanks again Sue ! Will give that a whirl. I appreciate the input. Susan

      2. User avater
        artfulenterprises | | #27

        It would seem "miatamomma" has essentially answered your question on a technique for hemming with a cover stitch ie: restitch over the beginning point for about an inch to end the hemming. I find it is a good idea to stitch slowly over any thicker areas and at the end so that you are able to stitch directly over your previous stitching. I generally start the stitching in front of a joined seam so that the machine doesn't have to work so hard going through multiple layers. Other than that, it's simply a question of being certain your machine is in good working order and adjusted properly.

        1. 2sewNMe | | #29

          Thanks...I appreciate the input. I have been sewing a long...long time 50 plus years...and have been on top of the sergers/sewing machines...have Berninas and Vikings and two sergers....but it is always good to get more input. My mother was one of the early Stretch and Sew instructors...so have that additional benefit. Thanks, will give that cover stitch another look see ! Susan

  8. Tatsy | | #13

    One trick I didn't see posted is to use a contrasting color of the same fabric, or even another piece of the fabric itself to make a Chanel-type binding at the bottom of the fabric instead of a hem. Since this is a knit and there is no need to finish the fabric, you just cut a length of fabric on the cross-grain, the direction with the most stretch, fold it in half, press it flat using a press cloth and lots of steam, then stitch through all three thicknesses of fabric. It makes a nice finish and is simple to do.

  9. woodruff | | #37

    Threads magazine has a LOT of helpful tips and videos right on their website, though unfortunately not organized in any particular way. Nevertheless, information is available, and when one has a question about working with knits or bias, it can be amazingly helpful to go up to the searchbox on the upper right of the screen and simply type in the word "Tilton" (as in Marcy Tilton), who has devoted years to these subjects.

    Here is what she says about hemming knits:

    "If you're sewing a soft knit without much body, topstitching the hem, especially with a twin needle, may result in tunneling and rippled edges, since knits stretch more on the crossgrain. My solution is to stabilize the hem with strips of fusible interfacing, which also anchor the hem during stitching. I prefer the results I get with two rows of topstitching rather than twin-needle stitching.

    It's easiest to stabilize the hems before assembling the garment. Prepare the hems by pressing them into place (I use an oak-tag template). Cut 1/2-in.-wide strips of soft, all-bias knit fusible interfacing like SofKnit. Sew or serge the right side of a strip to the wrong side of the hem edge (adhesive side is up). After constructing the garment, fold the hem up, fuse it in place, and topstitch from the right side. "

    This information and more can be found at this Threads page:


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