Because knits don’t fray like wovens, appliqueing with them is really easy! Here are the few things that you need to get started: a fabric that you’d like to applique, a fabric cut to applique on and a lightweight iron-on adhesive product like HeatnBond Lite (you want one that says it’s “sewable”).
Begin by using a washable marker to outline the sections that you’d like to cut out of your applique fabric.
Trim down your applique fabric so you have just a little extra left outside of the actual applique outlines, and cut out a piece of iron-on adhesive the same size as the applique fabric you have left.
Iron the applique fabric to the iron-on adhesive.
Cut out your appliques. (I cut just inside the washable marker.)
Peal the backing off of the iron-on adhesive.
Decide on the position of your appliques keeping the seam allowances in mind. (This is the side panel from the vertical colorblocked Charlie Tee, so it has a 1/2″ seam allowance.) You’ll see here that I decided after laying them out that I needed an additional smaller applique at the top to balance things out.
Iron the applique on to the main fabric. (If you’ll be overlapping them a bit like mine, start with the one on the bottom of the overlapping.)
Now just stitch around the applique. I generally keep my stitching about 1/8″ to 1/4″ from the edge. I intentionally did these a little messy, and I love the look!
Add a few more, if you’d like. Now wasn’t that easy?
I’m covering hemming last, but when I sew knits, I always hem first. I’ve found that hemming when you have a flat piece of fabric cuts down tremendously on the amount of puckering that you’ll have in your finished project. I covered hemming on my blog a while back. You’ll find my original post here: Hemming Knits Part 1. All of those tips are still great and work really well. I have, however, personally changed my hemming method a little. The way I was hemming then worked great for my guys until they got a bit bigger and started stretching and pulling on their clothes. Then, even with the stretchy nylon thread in the bobbin, our hems were breaking.
I was sharing my frustration over this with my friend, Michelle, one day, and she asked me if I used the triple-stretch stitch on my machine. Hmmmm. . . I’d never even heard of that! See–I told you I’m still learning new things along the way. Now, though, thanks to Michelle, I have a method of hemming that never fails! It takes a few extra minutes, but I think it’s worth the extra effort to have a finished product that not only will last for one season, but that I can pass down from child to child.
Here’s what that triple stretch stitch looks like on my machine. It’s stitch #5. (Am I the only one who didn’t know about it before?)
I start out my hemming by either folding up part way and folding up again or by serging off the edge and then folding up the hem allowance. (If you’re just starting with knits, use the first method because stitching through that extra layer will help cut down on the stretching while you’re sewing.)
If your knit fabric is really stretchy or if it’s rolling on you, use a little spray starch before you press.
Now, when I sew with knits, I always (ALWAYS!) have a stretchy nylon serger thread in my bobbin. (I’ve used Wooly Nylon in the past. Now I’m using Maxilock Stretch.) When I start my hem, I like to sew on the inside. If you only have white stretchy nylon serger thread, then you’ll have to sew on the right side if your fabric isn’t white, though. In this case, I’m sewing on the inside for the first step: straight across the top of the hem using a regular straight stitch.
I left the orange thread from the applique above as the top thread so you could see that I sewed this step on the inside.
Then I flip my fabric piece over and switch to the triple stretch stitch, and sew again on the front side of the fabric right on top of the original stitching.
(Now you’re wondering why I don’t just use the triple stretch stitch and skip the first step. I tried that, but the triple stitch pulls the fabric back and forth under the presser foot to make three stitches side by side, and I found that if I didn’t sew down the whole length first, I always ended up with wonkiness. I’m assuming that’s because of the back and forth motion of the triple stretch stitch.)
All done! A hem that won’t disappoint you!
When I wrote the above information about hemming knits, I was looking for a great way to hem that wouldn’t come undone. The preferred way to hem knits is with a twin needle. It gives a nice side-by-side double stitch on the front with a zig-zag on the back which allows the fabric to stretch without the stitches popping. At the time, I’d been unable to master using a twin needle which, frankly, given that I have a business built on sewing with knits, was a bit embarrassing.
Not too long after this Knit Knowledge Series wrapped up, I got determined to figure out this twin needle thing once and for all. I sat down at the machine, pulled out my twin needle and grabbed the manual for my machine. I skimmed over the instructions as I’ve done in the past, but something new caught my eye.
Do I admit that it was there all along, or do I try and convince you that someone must have added this little detail to my owner’s manual secretly at some point? What is this little bit of important information? Well, the instructions for twin needle sewing begin, “Press the twin needle key to enter the twin needle sewing mode.” Wait! What?! There’s a twin needle key? Oh, look, there it is. (In fact, if you scroll up to where I posted the picture of the touch pad on my sewing machine, you can see it on the bottom center of the screen.)
And guess what happened? I pressed that little key, installed the twin needle, threaded everything up, and I’ve stitched all my hems beautifully with a twin needle since. I suppose that’s a good lesson in reading the instructions . . . and if it still doesn’t work after you’ve read the instructions, maybe you should read them again.