Mastering Sewing with Knit Fabrics

Mastering Sewing with Knit Fabrics

Hello fellow sewists!  Tamar from Tamar HOPE Designs here.  It’s the last Tuesday of the month!!!!  And that means I have another sewing 101 blog post for you!  I have had so much fun bringing you sewing basics this year.  I look forward to this post all month!  This month I’m going to walk you through sewing with knits!  How many of you have tried sewing with knits?  Knits are one of my favorite fabrics to work with.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a good woven dress with all the ruffles and pleats.  However, my kids love a good knit make.  They wear my knit makes far more often than they wear my woven makes.  And if you want to sew your kids' wardrobe, knits are a necessity.

Speaking of sewing your kid’s wardrobe, today I’m using the perfect pattern for summer wardrobe sewing!  Clove is a great staple shirt and shorts for boys and girls!  It’s so good.  And you can grab this pattern for 20% off using the code KNIT20OFF during the month of May!!!  It’s the perfect opportunity to get a jump start on that summer wardrobe.  And if you post any of your makes with this pattern and the hashtag #learnwithsunflowerseams on Instagram or in the Sunflower Seams Facebook Group, you’ll be entered to win a free pattern of choice!!! 

Are you ready to grab your pattern and tackle knit sewing?  The good news is that with a few tips, knit fabrics are really not any more difficult to sew on than woven fabrics.  And in fact, knit patterns are usually much quicker to sew than woven patterns.  So let’s get into it!


The first thing you need to do is pick your fabric.  With knit fabrics, the quality of your fabric has a lot to do with how easy or hard it is to sew.  If you are just getting started with knits and using a regular sewing machine (not a serger), start with a knit that isn’t too thin, has at least 50% stretch, and has good recovery.  Cotton lyrca or cotton spandex are wonderful options for your first knit project.  Look for at least 5% lyrca or spandex to ensure good stretch and recovery.  Art Gallery knits are wonderful to sew with.  I used the gorgeous print, Fly Away Laat for this project.  I just love the whimsical and sweet hot air balloons in this print. 

You may not always know how much spandex or lycra is in your knit fabric, but you can easily test the stretch to see how well it will function in your pattern.  To test the stretch of a knit, measure a length of four inches.

Stretch that length as far as it comfortably will stretch.  If it stretches to 6 inches, it has a 50% stretch.

 If it stretches to 5 inches, it only has a 25% stretch.  If it stretches to 7 inches, it has a 75% stretch. 

After you stretch it, check to see if it immediately goes back to how it was before it was stretched.  If it does, it has good recovery.

If it remains stretched out in some parts, it does not have very good recovery and won’t make a very good garment. 


Once you pick your fabric, you need to be sure that you have the correct tools to make sewing on knits a breeze.  You will need a stretch needle or a ball point needle.  These needles are made to simply go between the fibers of the fabric rather than piercing through the fibers.  I also like to use a double needle for topstitching and hemming.

A walking foot is not necessary, but can help if you have troubles with the seam puckering.  I find that if you use a sturdy knit with good recovery, a walking foot is less necessary.  If however, your knit is thinner, you will benefit from using a walking foot.

Stretch thread or wooly nylon thread can be helpful.  This again is optional.  You will be fine without it, but it can prevent seams from popping if the garment is subject to lots of hard wear.  Stretch thread can be used in both the needle and the bobbin.  Wooly nylon thread can be used in the bobbin.


First of all, if you have a serger, use it!!!   That is hands down the best way to sew knits.  If you don’t have one though, don’t worry.  You can have plenty of success with a regular machine!  You just have to make sure that your stitches will stretch with the garment.  There are a number of stitches that you can use, but my favorite stretch stitch is the zigzag.  The zigzag is very strong and has great stretch.  I have found that using the zigzag with a stitch width of 2 and a stitch length of 2 has the best strength while still allowing the seam to have adequate stretch.

As you are sewing, make sure you don’t stretch the fabric.  Just let the machine feed the fabric through and gently guide it.  Also, don’t start right at the edge of the fabric.  Knit is easily pulled down through the sewing machine plate.  Instead start ⅛” or even ¼” from the edge.


For hems, I like to use a twin needle.  For the twin needle, simply thread your machine twice, once for each needle.  Don’t worry, you don’t need to buy two spools of thread for a twin needle.  Just fill an extra bobbin and use that for one of the needles.

When using a twin needle, use a straight stitch with a stitch length of 4.  Go slowly.  A walking foot can be helpful for sewing with a twin needle.  If your seam gets wavy, iron it with lots of steam.  An iron with lots of steam does wonders for wavy knit topstitiching!



When sewing a band always quarter both the band and the neckline.  Match the quarter points on the neckline and the band and clip/pin them together.  Then stretch the band to fit the neckline between the quarter points.  When sewing, sew with the band on the top.  Stretch the band just enough to fit the neckline.  Do not stretch the neckline while sewing.  I like to stop with the needle down and stretch the band.  Then I back off the stretch as much as possible while still keeping the neckline flat.

Also, be sure to sew slowly and maintain an exact seam allowance.  Bands take a little practice, so if your first band doesn’t look perfect, don’t get discouraged.  Keep practicing and before you know it, you’ll be sewing beautiful neckline bands.

Knits are not scary.  I promise.  Just keep these few tips in mind and you’ll be sewing knits like a pro in no time. 

Happy Sewing!

-Tamar (Tamar HOPE Designs)

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