Such great questions! I can’t answer all of them today (I do have to sleep a little!), but I have a list printed out, and I’ll do my best to provide more answers in later posts.
There were quite a few questions about the other stitches that are recommended for sewing knits. The three primary ones are in this picture above. The first is the “stretch stitch”. It sort of looks like a lightning bolt. The stretch stitch is designed for use with stretchy fabrics and is a great choice to cut down on broken stitches. I don’t use it, simply because I don’t care for the look of it. The second set of stitches is a regular zig-zag, and the third is the three-step zig zag. Those are also good choices because the zig-zag gives a bit more room for the fabric to stretch.
There is also the option of using a twin needle for hemming your knits. That is another great choice because you get two lines of straight stitching on the front of your fabric and a zig zag on the back. I don’t use it because :bag over head: I’ve never been able to get it to work well on my machine. Mastering the twin needle is on my to-do list!
Valarie, Jill and Michelle S. asked, “Do you use a straight stitch for your topstitching?” Laura B. asked, “Do you find that a straight stitch pops over time?”
I use a regular straight stitch for topstitching with stretchy nylon serger thread in the bobbin. So far, I’ve not had any problem with those stitches popping. When I was just using a straight stitch for my hems, I did notice those stitches popping over time.
Laura B. wrote, “Recently I sewed a maternity top for myself out of a lightweight jersey knit. It came out beautifully, except for the shirt hem and sleeve hems, which always flip up. Is there any way I can remedy this? I just serged the edge, turned it up 1/2″, and topstitched it, as per the pattern.”
There are a couple of things that you can try out, Laura. It sounds to me like the hemming allowance on that particular top isn’t enough for the lightweight jersey that you’re using. I would suggest if using this pattern again with the same type of fabric that you increase the hemming allowance to 1″. I think that will make a big difference. My second suggestion is to not hem it at all and just let the jersey roll up on the hems instead. I actually have a few ready-to-wear tops in my closet that are finished that way!
Barbara asks, “Do you find it neccesary to use your sewing machine to sew over a serged edge to reinforce the threads?”
When I’m sewing knits, no, I don’t go back and sew over the serged edge. When I’m sewing wovens, I do, but with knits, I’ve always found that the serged edge holds up great!
Jill and Kimberly both asked, “How do you go about putting stretchy nylon serger thread in the bobbin for your sewing machine?” and Kimberly also wanted to know, “Does it change your thread tension?”
This really depends on your machine. I use my machine to wind the nylon serger thread onto the bobbin, but I do have to be really careful to make sure that it doesn’t go on too tight. I’ve actually had a few bobbins break when I wasn’t paying close attention. Many sewists wind the wooly thread onto the bobbin by hand. As far as the tension, it does not change on my machine, but that’s, again, something you’ll have to test out on your own machine to be sure.
Valarie wrote, “What seams can/should be sewn with a coverstitch machine, if a person has one?”
For those who don’t know, a coverstitch machine is what hems on most ready-to-wear clothing are finished with. It sews two rows of straight stitches on the right side of the fabric and an overlocking stitch on the wrong side.
I used to dream about owning a coverstitch machine, but recently I’ve decided to forego purchasing one. Most home seamstresses don’t have access to one, and I want to be able to provide instruction and inspiration to as many sewists as possible. All that said, because I’ve never used a coverstitch, I’m actually not sure if you can use it for seams other than the hem.
Ananda asked, “Do you switch the needles on your serger to ball point needles as well?”
Yes. I do use ball point needles in my serger when working with knits, as well.
Erin’s question is, “When buying knits how do you know what is an interlock knit? I noticed you said they have a “v” on the front and back but I don’t really know what that means. Is there a special word when shopping at a store to look for? I don’t think I have ever seen a separate interlock knit section.”
I snapped a few pictures of a pair of longies that I’ve been knitting because I think the pictures will help. Knit fabrics are knitted similarly to the way we knit when we knit by hand. Here’s a picture of the what the front of a traditional stockinette stitch looks like. See how it has a repeating “v” pattern?
Interlocks have this same “v” pattern on both the front and the back of the fabric. Here’s what the “-” purl pattern looks like on the back of my knitting.
On jerseys, you’ll see the “v” pattern above on the front and the “-” pattern on the back. Now let’s look at the waistband of my longies. When knitting, this ribbing is produced by knitting two stitches and purling two stitches.
If you look closely at the top of the picture, you’ll see that the pattern is the same on both the front and the back. Ribbed knits look just like this.
When you go into your local fabric store, you can definitely ask if they have a section of cotton interlocks. Joanns carries solid interlocks in a cotton/polyester blend and children’s print interlocks in 100% cotton. Hancocks carries a selection of solid interlocks in 100% cotton.
Jada wrote, “I have been having trouble with thinner knits (I think jersey, but some are interlock) getting chewed up in my sewing machine. I’m using the correct needle and everything, but the fabric just gets pushed down and chewed up. Do you have any suggestions?”
I hate when that happens! First, try a few maintenance things: Change out your sewing machine needle and brush off the feeddogs to make sure that neither of those is an issue. If that doesn’t help, toss that thin knit in the trashcan, yell a few times, turn off the machine, walk around the house and cool off a little. Whew! Feel better? Okay, now pull the fabric back out of the trashcan, and try these things. When you start a row of stitches, start in about an inch and backstitch first but don’t go quite all the way to the edge, then forward stitch. When you hem, be sure to fold over and fold over again so you have a little more thickness to work with. Hopefully, those things will help.
Bekah asks, “#1- What was the first thing you ever made with knit fabric? (mine was a fitted diaper) #2- What is your current favorite knit (print) on the market?”
I don’t think it was actually the very first thing that I sewed with a knit fabric, but sewing fitted diapers for my now four-year-old is definitely what kick-started my love for sewing knit clothing! These were some of the very first diapers that I sewed about five years ago:
As far as my favorite knit print that’s on the market right now . . . I’m not sure that I have an absolute favorite. I mostly sew for my boys right now, so I love the Dino Dudes by Michael Miller. The puppy print that I used for the applique tutorial yesterday is a definitely a favorite, although I wish it didn’t have a white background. The old Joann’s farm print is one of my all-time favorites. I actually just used the last of what I had of it in a coverall for Charlie. Jeanne at Nature’s Fabrics has some Znok Fabrics that are due in this week, and they make my heart skip a beat. They’re a little expensive, though. I keep putting a few yards in my basket and then closing the window before I check out. This Zoo Animals print and this Train Adventure print from The Fabric Fairy are both so cute in person! Okay, I must stop window shopping, or I’ll never finish this post!
Valarie wants to know, “Is it ok to sew garments with rib knits containing 5% spandex or should it just be used for neck lines and cuffs?”
You can definitely sew with ribbed knits that contain spandex. Ready-to-wear ribbed tanks are often made with a little spandex mixed in the fiber.
Ananda asks, “What do you do with ribbing that comes in a tube? Cut one side so it’s flat?”
That is exactly what I do with it.
Colleen wants to know, “Can you tell us how many layers you use to make your cloth tissues? Thanks!”
Sure! I use two layers of cotton velour in our tissues so they end up double-sided. I cut them about 8 1/2″ X 6 1/2″ then serge.
Alisa writes, “How do you know if the knit you order online (as I am assuming you do) is going to be a good quality fabric? I once ordered some knit fabrics online and I was so dissappointed with the quality. I have also used Michael Miller’s knits which were great to work with. Are there certain names or manufacturers that have a reputation for quality knit fabrics?”
I do order most of my knit fabrics online, and sometimes I just end up with fabrics that aren’t what I’d expected. The Little Miss Sunshine fabric that you see in this post is a case in point. I’m pretty sure that it’s the thinnest rib knit I’ve ever seen. I love shopping at The Fabric Fairy because they list the weight of each fabric which really helps when you can’t actually touch the fabric. My favorite weight knits are between 9.5 and 11 ounces per yard. Most online shops, if you are unsure about a fabric, will let you order a swatch (often for FREE!) to check it out before ordering.
Trisha asks, “My question is how to get the hems lined up nicely when you hem them before you sew the side seams together? No matter how much I measure and try to get my hems the same size, the stitching just does NOT match up at the seams.”
You mean your side seams look like this?
Honestly, my seams never line up exactly, and I’ve never worried much with it. I just make sure that the bottom of the hem, the underarm seams and the bottom of the sleeve hem line up. I don’t think that a little bit of difference in the how the hem seams line up is noticeable when the clothing is worn.
Finally, Yara asks, “What is the best place to buy knits?”
Well, I’ve mentioned the The Fabric Fairy more than a few times, and they are giving away a $20 gift certificate to one of my readers, so you should definitely start there! They are a great store to work with and have amazing customer service.
There are a few other online shops were I enjoy shopping, as well:
A&A’s Fabric Attic
Wise Sewing Supplies
The Fabric Zoo
I’m sure I’m missing a few. If you have a favorite that I haven’t listed, please add it to the comments section!
Alright, I think that’s all I can manage for now. I have a list of later blog post topics including rolled and lettuce edging, serging tips, reinforcing seams (I’ve never done this, but I want to research it a bit) and working with swimsuit fabrics.
Finally, there’s a giveaway to do! Thank you all so much for all your questions and comments. I’m hoping that this series will prove valuable for many more sewists in the months and years to come! There were 143 comments and questions between the four posts. I let random.org choose a number:
Then I counted starting from post one, and found the winner in post number two, and that winner is . . . Katie! Congratulations, Katie! I can’t wait to see what fabrics you buy and what you sew with it for your family. You have to be sure to share pictures!