Ask Sewing School: Sewing With Jersey and Knits

Posted in: Ask Sewing School — By on November 18, 2010 7:44 AM

Jen asked:

I’ve always wanted to learn how to properly sew knit fabrics, like jersey. Should I use my regular sewing machine or a serger? I don’t know where to begin!

So here’s the deal with knits: They’re stretchy and so comfy to wear, but they can seem scary to work with. Let me preface this by saying that I am by no means super experienced with sewing with knits. I’ve sewn a couple of projects in the past and used these tips to get by. You don’t need a serger. They are helpful though and give you a very nice finished look.

Start by using the right needle. This is a good tip for any type of fabric, but something that people usually skip because they think it’s not important. Well it is – so get a ballpoint needle! Get one in the right size for your weight of fabric and you’re all set. The ballpoint is rounded (just like the name suggests) and won’t snag your fabric.

A second very important thing is choosing the right fabric for your pattern. Using a pattern made for knits will probably fit better and if you use the right type of knit for your pattern you’ll probably enjoy wearing what you make a lot more. Pay attention to terms like double or single knit, which mostly refers to the weight of the fabric. Knit fabrics can be cotton, polyester, wool or anything in between, so check your pattern and ask at the fabric store when in doubt.

Your thread can help too. Sewing with knits is all about the stretch, so you want your seams to stretch too. So get something with at least a bit of polyester to it. Natural fibres don’t stretch.

When you actually start sewing, use a stitch that stretches, too, such as a zig zag or special stretch stitch.

We hope this gives you a good basic understanding of sewing with knits! Check out the Required Reading below… consider it homework!

Required Reading:

Got any questions? Ask Sewing School! Send us an email at, or leave your question in the comments.

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  1. Hayley says:

    Hello! I am ordering fabric to make headbands for babies. I’ve read that any knit will work but while ordering online I noticed some knits are 97% Polyester 3% Lycra, others are 50% Polyester 48% Rayon 2% Lycra, and still others are 50% Rayon 47% Polyester 3% Lycra! Are there any fabrics/combinations of fabrics I should avoid for this project? I want something that won’t have too much stretch (so it doesn’t become too loose) but obviously it needs some stretch for an easy fit. I’d appreciate any advice! Thanks!

    • Jessica says:

      Hi Hayley,
      Hmmm… I’d recommend making a few prototypes using different knits, and then recruit some little volunteers to test them out! That’s the only way you’ll know what works best for your specific design and you’ll avoid wasting money on the wrong fabric.
      Hope that helps!

  2. Tivani says:

    Hello! I have a brand new industrial sewing machine (JUKI brand).
    I have a problem when I sew invisible zippers. The fabric underneath puckered up as I sew the zipper along. When I checked the stitches, it was kind of smaller although I had set the stitch setting to 2.5 (normal setting). I think I had tried to use wider setting (3-3.5) but it makes the zipper loose. As a result, I had to pull the fabric when I sew the zipper (I know it’s not proper. Instead it’s exhausting to sew that way) & it didn’t make much different either.
    I tried to re-thread, change the needle, re-adjust the tension & nothing works. I doubt it was the zipper’s quality either. I used the YKK (standard and good one) & the fabric stil puckered up.
    It never happens when I sew regular seams, the machine works properly.
    Is there anything wrong with the feed dog or perhaps the bobbin case?
    Your reply would be much appreciated.

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