Improving Seams With Knit Fabrics

How did this, become this…?

Some of you may recall that I recently asked for help on a make working with a cheap knit fabric off Walthamstow market. My readers came good, as I knew they would, and I thought you might enjoy sharing how I improved my seam work.

1. I didn’t use clear elastic on the shoulder seam.

With heavy knit makes, where a lot of weight is hanging from your shoulder seam, it’s a good idea to reinforce the seam with clear elastic. But on the light top I was making, The Hectic Electic aka Mrs C aka Very Wise Woman advised me that I didn’t need to use clear elastic. There wasn’t a lot of weight to the make and the elastic was just adding bulk. On my second make I pressed the seams open and top stitched them, as suggested by The Overflowing Stash.

2. I trimmed that seam to within an inch of its life.

Roobeedoo assurred me that I could really trim that seam back, as knit fabrics don’t unravel. I took her at her word!

3. I bought some Lite Steam-A-Seam from Amazon. 

Deb said she used this product on her seams when sewing with knit fabrics. Out of sheer curiosity, I ordered some. It really helped to stabilize my seams, without being too stiff. You just cut pieces out, use your iron on a moderate heat to press them onto your seam, pull off the paper backing, fold over your seam allowance and press closed. Then you go over with your twin needle. Job done!

You may remember that I also had fitting issues, with a hugely gaping back. It’s better on version number two, though I’m still not 100 per cent happy.

Several of you pointed out that the Tiny Pocket Tank isn’t designed to be made with knit fabrics, but others suggested I just take a lot of room out of the back pattern piece. I folded an inch out at the top of the centre fold and graded it down. Seemed to do the job!

Robyn suggested that some of the issues may have been to do with the fabric quality. I’m certain she’s right. This was really cheap, really light knit fabric. Yes, it had a cute design but it was a bit of a killer to work with. Still, it set me a challenge and I did my best to meet it!

One last interesting point. I wasn’t sure if my recently acquired twin needle was actually a ball-pointed twin needle. How to tell? Sew Darn Tired revealed the secret! Ball-pointed twin needles have a blue plastic holder at the top, and for woven fabrics it’s red plastic. Oops – mine is red. But, no matter. So Zo assured me that she never bothers will ball-pointed needles and she sews a lot with jersey. If it’s good enough for So Zo, it’s good enough for me!

I feel as though my skills with knit fabrics are slowly improving. I hope this helps you, too!

Right, I’m off to collapse on the sofa with some knitting. I went to the V Festival yesterday, and it’s kicked my butt. I’m getting too old for this malarkey!

Wearing the skirt I made as part of Miss P’s refashion challenge.

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19 Responses to Improving Seams With Knit Fabrics

  1. punkmik says:

    this is a great resource! Love how we can follow and contribute to your sewing journey and learn something along the way! It is great to see interactive blogs like this! love it! :D

  2. Sam says:

    What a difference a few tips make! That second seam looks so much better than the first, and the back of your second top is vastly improved too. I love the way stitchers the world over can benefit from each others knowledge in this way.

  3. Meris says:

    I am struggling with the hem of a jersey knit dress, probably because it am not using a double needle. Going to have to see if I can find one for my singer machine. And maybe I will try that iron on seam stuff. Thanks for sharing all the tips!

  4. Robin says:

    Wow, that is some impressive work, Karen. You are an inspiration. The meaning of persistence personified. You have made a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Topping that off, you took your reader’s suggestions, made the most of them, and presented the results for all to benefit from. A big thanks from across the pond!

  5. Jenn-NY says:

    The new seams look great. If you want to be sure that the hem stays somewhat stretchy you can also use strips of water soluble stabilizer. I cut strips of Solvy and sew it under the twin-needle hem. This is particularly helpful for fairly stretchy knits and keeps the twin stitch lines from tunneling. (Tear-away stabilizer would work too). You may find that you need the ball point needles on some knits but not others. I tend to use them on all knits, just to be on the safe side.
    Glad to see your progress–good inspiration. Since summer sewing is about over, I’m returning soon to my quest for the perfect-fit T.
    ~Jen

  6. G says:

    Great post! For the back neckline, I used this idea for my wiksten tank: http://www.made-by-rae.com/2012/06/striped-wiksten-tank/
    Angle the pattern placement of the back piece so you take a bit out of the top of the back. I actually teased the fabric a bit to make just about the top 5 inches angled away from the pattern fold line, with the rest lined up as normal, as if I was taking a dart out of the centre back neckline. Fudgy, but worked perfectly.

  7. Molly says:

    D’ya know, I actually like the cowl-back look in the first version! It might need a little tweak in the lower back to make it fit more comfortably and look deliberate but it is very cute and great for a heatwave! The shoulder seam looks beautiful now. Makes me wonder if you could flatlock them on the overlocker or whether that’d be too weak at the shoulder?

  8. nothy lane says:

    I like the cowl neck back too. It makes it more elegant. Thanks for sharing the tidbits you’ve picked up…I need a lot of help with knits. I love wearing knits and I love that they rarely need ironed but I HATE sewing them because I find them quite difficult to work with….I will try the steam-a-seam for the seams. (I always pick up a ton when they are on sale because I include them at stocking stuffers at Xmas time for my non-sewing friends.)

  9. The difference in the before/after snaps of the straps is huge – much nicer finish.
    Thanks for sharing your tips Karen, I’ve a few thin ‘n’ tricky knits in my stash that will benefit from the joys of your posts – cheers :)

  10. You’ve done a great job with the back neckline and this is such a helpful post! I’m just about to start sewing with knits for the first time so these tips are great!

  11. Helen Made says:

    Wow, what a difference on the second version! Just shows how useful/helpful this online community really is!

  12. Zoe says:

    Thanks for sharing your findings Karen! Well done for harnessing the collective sewing brain of the internets to get to the bottom of this. Your second version is a world of difference. xxx

  13. LinB says:

    Oh, hurray! After you’ve sewn a bit longer with knits, these techniques will become so automatic that you’ll have to really strain your brain to sit down and explain them to someone else. It also helps with stretchy knits, I find, to “crowd” the seam behind the presser foot — mimics the action of a walking foot, but with even more force exerted to prevent the feed dogs from over-stretching thin knits. To achieve a “lettuce edge” finish, you do the opposite: stretch the fabric as hard as you can both front and back of the feed dogs, to force so many satin stitches onto the edge of the fabric that it cannot return to original tension.

  14. Really useful Karen, thank you for revealing your new found truths….I’m still learning and it’s sharing collective knowledge like this that helps :-)

    Steam a seam eh…..I shall also check the colours of my twins….I didn’t bother finding out if ballpoint or not as lladybird also uses a regular one I think

  15. symondezyn says:

    WOW! I am so impressed with your neat tidy seam!!! I’m just starting out working with knits and it sure is a wild ride! LOL One of the things I’m learning is how the amount of stretch a fabric has affects the fit IMMENSELY (as I’m sure you’ve discovered already! ^__^) Thanks for collecting all these great tips for us – it sure is helpful! ^__^

  16. Molly says:

    I’ve been perusing Craftsy’s latest offerings this morning and see they now have a Sewing with Knits course, including PDF patterns for basic garments (and after reading about that, went back to my emails to see McCall’s promoting it already!). Here’s the tutor’s blog with a discounted link (£13) if it’s of interest: http://sewliberated.typepad.com/sew_liberated/2012/08/my-craftsy-course-is-live.html

  17. Pingback: Im going to sew a coat

  18. One of the things I admire in you is the way you seek out new challenges and overcome them. I would have binned it! Well done. Perhaps the old me would have binned it.

  19. Brenda says:

    I just used this technique on a tank top. Spectacular!! Thank you for the tip. My machine doesn’t take a double needle so I had to top stitch twice and it still turned out great. I can’t wait to make more tanks and t-shirts.

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