Creative articles about sewing

Sewing with knit fabric

Uptown downtown dress54It just so happens that most of the things I sew for my girls are made from knit fabric. One of the first things that I sewed at the start of my quest to make clothes for a year and not buy any, was this top. At the time I didn’t even know what knit fabric was, let alone know that I needed to sew it differently.

Uptown downtown dress2

It took me a while to figure out that knit fabric was not the same as knitwear. What I eventually figured out was that knit fabric is the opposite to woven fabric. Without getting at all technical, knit fabric has strrrreeeeetch.
Uptown downtown dress3Which makes it the perfect fabric for active young children. They can jump, climb, run, dance… uptown down town dress1…even stand on their heads and still feel comfortable in what they are wearing.

I love it, my kids love it, but….  some people hate it. What!!! Well they hate sewing with it, to be more precise.
Uptown downtown dress4

When I made my first top out of a tissue thin jersey, I did pretty much everything wrong, but I had no clue what wrong was. I just went for it and it looked good and turned out wearable.

Uptown downtown dress6

But I hear quite a few people say that they are afraid of knit fabric. And I see quite a few blog posts about ‘Not being Afraid of Sewing with Knit Fabric’, which may be the reason why sewing with knit fabric seems scary in the first place. I mean why would you even need to mention ‘being afraid’?

When it comes to learning to sew, I think it’s important not to be afraid of getting things wrong. It’s a learning process. I got it wrong but I still love that first knit top I made nearly 2 years ago, just as much as this knit dress I made 2 weeks ago.

The pattern for the dress is by Sew Straight & Gather, once cut out it doesn’t take long to sew together, I’ve made 2 so far.

In the window of a local fabric shop, I saw advertised a four week course, ‘How to Sew with Knit Fabric’. Seriously! How can it take 4 weeks to learn how to change your needle to a ballpoint needle and change the stitch on your sewing machine to zig zag. That’s it. That’s pretty much all you have to do differently. Change your needle to a ballpoint needle and use a zig zag stitch on your sewing machine, and it took me 4 seconds to say that.

zigzag stitch

The image above shows a zig zag stitch on knit fabric that I did on my Bernina 350. If you stretch the fabric the stitches should not break. That’s the key. You need the stitches to stay intact as you move, dance, twirl, cartwheel…

And that’s all there is to it.* 
Bernina zig zag stitch setting

On my Bernina 350, I set my width to 1 and my length to 2 (shamefully I haven’t yet input it into my machine memory). That has done the trick for me on everything I have made so far. I haven’t even tried the walking foot yet. Maybe that will make a difference but as I haven’t any problems (yet), I’m sticking to what I know.

So if you haven’t sewn with knit fabric yet, give it a go. There’s nothing to it. Really.

*OK, there maybe other things to take into consideration, I don’t want to any experts coming at me with their sharp scissors and telling me about fabric grain and whatnot. But a ballpoint needle and zig zag stitch are the main things. Now off you go and make yourself a t-shirt.




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  • Julia Monroe EditEditing comments on the BERNINA blog is only possible after logging in with a blog user account. Sign up now or create a user account if you do not have one yet.

    Thank you for this info! I’ve been sewing for over 40 years and have even sewn wedding garments. But I screeched to a halt at a little knit dress started for my granddaughter. How funny! Fortunately I found this page right away in a search for How to sew with knits. I will finally try the ball point needle that’s been with my machine forever. 😀 Thank you!

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