Stitching Knits using a Plain Ol' Sewing Machine

By Sarah

I've been sewing with knits for years, even before I had a serger. I think one of the first things I made with this delightful and forgiving fabric was a baby blue interlock knit tank top with brown and white striped bias tape, also made from an interlock knit, that trimmed both neck and arm holes. I wore that thing for years! Offered on my family's Kenmore sewing machine, purchased at our local Sears, the humble zigzag stitch option was the key to my shirts' longevity. I could make a joke here, about how 'it definitely wasn't the quality of the machine that made it last so long', but that would be lie. That Kenmore was a darn good machine and bought for a very reasonable price- a steal compared to some machines on the market. Never feel inferior about your machine's capabilities even if you sew with Hello Kittys' help. But, I digress. If you are scared to sew with knits because you don't have a serger or for whatever reason, follow these tips below for sewing knits on a regular sewing machine, no serger required! 

Ballpoint needles are pretty important when sewing knits. Hard to see with the naked eye and not truly a ball in shape these rounded tip needles are designed to slide through knit fabric without tearing or splitting any of the yarns, as they likely would with a sharp needle. Furthermore, neglecting to use a ballpoint needle may cause the dreaded skipped stitches we all loath. Another important thing to remember is to use polyester thread, not cotton. It is much stronger and with all the stretching a knit garment endures, the sturdier the better. Now, on to the zigzag stitch.  

Most newer model machines, post 1960's?, have the zigzag option. If your machine only has a straight stitch then sewing with knits may be a challenge. Stretchy thread isn't a thing so unless you are making a knit garment that is looser in fit, where the seams won't be stretched, straight stitches risk popping or breaking because the stitch is stationary and doesn't have the flexibility of a zigzag stitch. If your only choice is to use a straight stitch, consider stitching two lines, side by side, to help reinforce the seam and maybe hem or finish neck and armholes by hand. 

When I use my zigzag stitch I like to adjust the stitch width so that the zigzag isn't so zigzagy, it's more wavy-like. Play around with different widths until you get your desired stitch. On my machine I like to set the zigzag stitch width to 3.5, which I've found works great. I didn't touch the default stitch length at all. It doesn't look too much like a zigzag stitch and it stretches nicely with the jersey I am using here. That being said, every fabric is different, so take a scrap of the fabric you will be working with and before you start sewing run some test stitches to see what works best and make a note of it. 

I allow a little more for seam allowance than what most knit patterns call for, because I think most assume you have a serger and their seam allowances can be as little as 3/8". (note: this does not mean I added seam allowance when cutting my pattern out) I also went ahead and stitched two rows, for a stronger seam. Sergers overlock raw edges making a super secure stitch and finish, something a regular sewing machine cannot do. So, for piece of mind, I like to stitch in a little bit more from the raw edge for better durability. It is also very hard to stitch that close to the edge with jersey, it stars to get a mind of its' own. Scary!

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The seam from the outside looks pretty darn good, huh? Think about were the garment will experience the most stress and reinforce those areas with a second row of stitching, if you like. Knits do not fray, they ravel and the majority of jerseys and interlocks will be fine if left not overlocked, because they are knitted very tight. The closer a fabric is woven or or the tighter a fabric is knitted, the less it will fray or ravel. The knit garments I have made with my regular old machine have not raveled at all. It's OK to leave those raw edges raw. Really! If you decide to work with a looser, sweater knit, then you need to think about binding those raw edges somehow because they will eventually ravel.

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The pattern used here is the Lark by Grainline and is the boatneck version. The instructions have you turn in the raw edge of the neckline and stitch it down, so there's no fussy bands to mess with. I used the same zigzag width setting for this, the hem and the sleeve hem. Voila! That is how you can sew with knits using your sewing machine. It really is a breeze!

*This post is dedicated to all the naysayers out there who shun knits because of the misguided notion that one needs a serger to sew them. Come all ye sewists! Try your hand at a garment made of knit. We have a gorgeous selection of solids and prints in jersey, interlock, ponte and sweater knits! Many are available through our online shop as well. Thanks for reading!!!

New Online (and In The Store!) - Patterns Galore

by Cameron

Summer is officially here (and unbelievably almost over!) and we're loving meeting so many of our out of town customers. For those of you who haven't been able to make the trip to Portland this year, we have some exciting updates to the online store to share today - lots of new patterns!

First up, we're very excited to be carrying Papercut Patterns from New Zealand. Their polished designs are perfect for intermediate sewists. I particularly like the coats and pants patterns.

Friday Pattern Co. offers knitwear patterns that are comfortable and elegant. If you like sewing and wearing knits, these will be workhorses. Stylish and simple, you can really fill in some holes in your wardrobe.

We've also added some of our favorite patterns lines to the online store this week. Wiksten makes beautiful patterns for children (and women!). We're big fans and our local customers are, too. We're very pleased to have them available online now.

We've also added Made by Rae patterns, including the brand new Cleo skirt. If you're not familiar with Made by Rae yet, they're excellent patterns, beginner friendly, and so wearable. Rae's customers are devoted and make her patterns over and over.

For The Love of Double Gauze - Swaddle Blankets

by Cameron

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We have such a beautiful collection of double gauze right now. Sevenberry prints, dreamy solids, and bushels of gorgeous Nani Iro. Do you know what I really want to do with all this beauty? I want to wallpaper my house in it! But that's not practical, so I've started doing the next best thing. Making dead simple blankets.

You start with a big square of double gauze and then you hem it. Done. If you have a serger, this is easier than pie. I used wooly nylon thread and a narrow three thread stitch with a very short stitch length. I originally tried using a rolled hem, but the gauze is too delicate and the hem kept pulling away from the fabric - not exactly what you want.... If you don't have a serger, just make a narrow 1/4" or 1/2" hem on your sewing machine.

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In a cute print this is a swaddling blanket. In a Nani Iro double gauze, you've got a swaddling blanket and a beautiful scarf/breastfeeding cover up for the new mom in your life. But why does this have to have anything to do with a new baby? It could be a beautiful scarf for you or piece of art you hang up on the wall.

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You could fairly accuse me of not pushing any sewing boundaries with my blanket/scarf/wall art, but I don't care because I'm swaddled in some of the most beautiful fabrics I've ever seen.

Come by the store to enjoy our double gauze collection or pop over to the online store!