4 TIPS FOR SEWING WITH SWEATER KNITS
If you’ve ever been intimidated to sew with sweater knits, keep reading because I want to share 4 tips for sewing with sweater knits to help ease your discomfort. Now, when I say “sweater knits,” I’m not talking about knitting your own fabric then sewing a garment, although you can totally do that. However, there are tons of sweater knit fabrics on the market, ready to be purchased and sewn. So, if you’re like me and don’t know how to knit, check out these tips.
But first, let’s talk about the pattern I used to make my sweater. I used Vogue 1835 which includes a top with short or long sleeves, a pair of pull-on pants, and a pair of slippers. I sewed View B with long sleeves and I love it. This is an easy-to-sew pattern. The top I made uses only three pattern pieces (two pieces for short sleeve version), making it perfect for the beginner. This is also an excellent pattern for showing off amazing print fabrics.
The fabric I used is a super stretchy knit that I purchased from JoAnn Fabrics. The fabric is soft, fluffy, and has the feel of cashmere. It’s 100% Nylon and I would not recommend this fabric for beginners because of the excessive stretch. However, if you are an advanced-beginner or above, the tips I share here will help you to sew this type of fabric without stretching it further. If you’re new to sewing, I suggest choosing a fabric with no more than 35% stretch, which is the recommendation on the pattern envelope.
TIP #1: Cut Fabric on a Single Layer
Lay out your fabric on the cutting surface, making sure that it doesn’t hang off the surface. Sweater knits stretch easily and if you cut your fabric with a portion hanging off your table, you will certainly end up with warped pieces.
When cutting sweater knits, I usually cut the fabric on a single layer, especially when working with bulky knit. The reason I use this technique is because sweater knits don’t usually fold as neatly as other fabrics. Lay out the fabric with the right side facing up. If cutting a piece that needs to be placed on the fold, lay that piece down, cut around the top, side, and bottom. Flip the piece over, aligning it at the top/bottom point where you left off. Then cut the same as the other side. McCall’s 1835 provides a single layer layout.
Use pattern weights to anchor your pattern pieces to keep the fabric flat on the table. Use a rotary cutter instead of scissors. Because of the stretchy nature of sweater knits, they can become distorted when cutting with scissors.
TIP #2: Use Sticky Dots to Transfer Markings
Marking pens, pencils, and chalk don’t work for transferring markings from the pattern pieces onto sweater knit fabrics. There are two other techniques you can use — tailor’s tacks or sticky dots. The 1/4″ colored labels work perfectly on fabrics with a low pile. But if your sweater knit has a long pile, you may need to use tailor’s tacks instead (not demonstrated here).
Use the dots to mark circles, squares, triangles and notches. Use tailor’s tacks to transfer darts and pleats.
TIP #3: Use a Zig Zag Stitch
Because sweater knit stretches, you need to use a stretch stitch on your machine. I use a zig zag stitch when working with sweater fabric because it has the least amount of movement, compared to other stretch stitches. I think the less the fabric is manipulated, the less it will stretch.
I set my Baby Lock Soprano sewing machine with a zig zag stitch, at a 3.0mm stitch length and 1.0mm stitch width. This is considered a narrow zig zag stitch and at a glance looks like a straight stitch. With other knits I use a more narrow stitch. However, using a longer and wider stitch with sweater fabric lessens the chance of stretching. Also, be sure to use a ballpoint or stretch needle.
TIP #4: Stabilize Stress Seams
The main seams you want to stabilize when working with sweater knits are shoulder seams and zipper insertion seams. Stabilizing prevents the shoulder seams from growing and helps to alleviate the wavy seams that occur when inserting zippers onto knits. You can use clear elastic or stay tape to stabilize your seams on sweater fabric.
If you have a walking foot, I highly recommend using it when sewing with sweater knits. The walking foot feeds the top layer of fabric through the machine while the feed dogs feed the bottom layer. This helps to prevent stretching. If you don’t have a walking foot, no worries. I actually used my all-purpose zig zag foot on my Soprano this time.
Because the fabric I used is extra stretchy, I stabilized all my seams, including the hems. I used stay tape to stabilize the shoulder and side seams. Then, I used knit interfacing to stabilize the neckline and hems. When working with a very stretchy fabric, if you skip stabilizing, the garment will stretch during wear. I call them growing garments. Hahaha! If I had skipped stabilizing, the sweater in this photo below would be something totally different that I wouldn’t show you. Hahaha!
When sewing your seams, be sure to support your fabric so that it doesn’t hang off the table or machine. I stabilized by sewing the stay tape onto the seam line. I held the fabric up with my right hand to prevent it from hanging off the machine and stretching.
Another way to prevent stretching while stitching, is to pinch a fold into the fabric before it reaches the presser foot. This helps to prevent the presser foot from pulling the fabric when you’re not using a walking foot.
Hemming Sweater Knit
I think the absolute best way to hem sweater knit is by using a coverstitch machine. It does a fine job of creating a perfect stretch stitch without stretching the fabric. I used my Baby Lock Euphoria to hem my sweater and the stitches disappeared into the fabric perfectly. You can also use a twin needle or zig zag stitch to hem your garment, but make sure you stabilize your hem area first.
You will see in the photo below that the neckline on my sweater doesn’t look distorted. It’s an off-shoulder style but the neckline isn’t wavy or stretched out of shape. Because my fabric is very stretchy, it wouldn’t take much for the seams to grow if I had not stabilized. The Euphoria Coverstitch is a total dream when it comes to hemming very stretchy fabrics. I couldn’t be more happy with this machine.
TIP #4: Secure Seam Allowance
Sweater knits do unravel, and for that reason, it is crucial that you finish off the seam allowances. To ignore this step will prove to be disastrous down the road when your fabric starts to unravel pass the seam. The best technique for finishing seam allowances on sweater knits is to us a serger. I used my Baby Lock Vibrant Serger to finish the seam allowances on my sweater.
If you don’t have a serger, you can use a zig zag stitch, on your regular machine, within the seam allowance to prevent the raveling from reaching the main seams.
Using these 4 tips will help you to sew a garment confidently with sweater knit fabric. Give it a try and remember to test your stitches on a scrap piece of fabric before working on your main fabric cuts.
SEW IT! STYLE IT! WEAR IT!
I really like my sweater and look forward to wearing it dressed up and down. Here are a few photos of the sweater with a pair of jeans and heels. It would also look really cute with boots or sneakers.
WOULD YOU SEW IT?
So, what do you think? Would you sew this pattern? Have you sewn with sweater knit before?
Thanks for stopping by,
Remember: When you live in your DESIGN, it is from there that God SHINES!
(DISCLAIMER: This blog post may contain affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a small commission on qualifying purchases. All opinions in this post are my own.)
Get on the list
You Should Share This Blog Post With Your Friends
(DISCLAIMER: This page contains some affiliate links. If you click on an affiliate link, I’ll receive a small commission on qualifying purchases. All opinions in this post are my own.)