Tips and Tricks for Sewing with Knit Fabrics

Sewing with knits can be a bit tricky.   I know I've had frustrations over the years and have heard about many from those I teach.  Like what if I don't have an overlock or coverstitch machine?  What needle should I use?  Can I use any stitch on my machine?  

Great tips and tricks for sewing with knit fabrics with or without a serger.  Also, what needles to use.


*This post contains affiliate links to products I have used and highly recommend.  I do make a portion off any you may purchase.  But I wouldn't link to them if they weren't awesome!  See full disclosure here.


That's why we've put together some great tips and tricks for sewing with knits.  Our hope is we are saving you a bit of a frustration and wasted time and energy.  Because sewing with stretch fabrics can be SO fun and everyone loves wearing knit projects.

1.  Picking Your Fabric


The most important part of sewing knits is picking the right fabric.  We've put together an entire post on Choosing Knit Fabrics.  Make sure you check it out so you know which fabrics to use for which type of project.  We discuss knit fabric content, weight and the different types of knit fabrics to choose from.


2.  Wash. Dry. Press!
A lot of people don't like wash their fabrics after purchase.  WASH YOUR KNITS!  Serious people.  Knits can shrink a TON!  You'll thank me later.  Wash and dry your knits.  (Unless your fabric bolt says to lay flat to dry.)  If you are worried about dyes bleeding or fabric loosing something in washing, check out some of the great products that I use.  Natural laundering products and easy on your fabrics, washer and body.  {Plus, you'll get some really great FREE products to try.}


Knit shirt and iron

After you've sewn a seam, press it!!  Don't be to lazy for pressing, or ironing, your project.  I personally love my iron.  It has an auto off which means I don't have to worry about unplugging it when I walk away.  Also, always test a small section of fabric before pressing.  That way you don't melt it on accident.  (Not that I've ever done that....ever.  Hehehe...)

When you press your fabrics, you will see I huge difference in how your fabric lays and your seams look.  Just DO IT!  


3.  What Machine to Use
I think one of the biggest hurdles people face when thinking about sewing with knits is that they don't have the right machine.  Bologna!!  You don't need an overlock or coverstitch machine to sew with knits.  You can use your regular old sewing machine.  In fact, that's all I use.  I don't even own a serger.  (Not because I don't want one, but because I always seem to need or want something else instead.)

Here are a few examples of a regular sewing machine, an overlock or serger and coverstitch machine.  All these are great machines, but are not required when sewing knits.  But you can see in the images below the difference between the different machines.  If you are looking for a great beginner sewing machine for yourself or someone else, check out our list of sewing machines.




4.  What Needles to Use
The best needles to use on knit fabrics are called stretch needles, or Jersey needles.  The are designed to work with the loops on knit fabrics.  I also highly recommend grabbing yourself a double needle or twin needle.  This gives the fabric a nice finished look on all your hems.  Not everyone loves sewing with a double needle, but I love them and my hems always turn out professional looking.

Stretch needle and double needle


Check out the video below for a bit more advice on choosing needles.

5.  What Stitch to Use

Inside of knit tshirt
When sewing with knits it is super important to make sure you use a stitch that can stretch.  That typically means using a zig-zag or stretch stitch when using a single needle.  This allows for enough stretch and movement of the fabric from the wearer.  Some machines also come with a stretch stitch or other zig-zag stitches.  You'll need to look in your manual for exactly what stitches your machine has.  Or google and find a YouTube video about your machine.  It will make a difference.


6.  What Sewing Foot to Use

Walking foot

Another way to make life a little easier is to invest in a Walking Feet for your machine.  You don't have to have one, however, many sewists swear by their walking feet.  This foot helps move the fabric through the machine so it doesn't get caught in the feed dogs.  It isn't a requirement.  I typically use my regular foot.  Notice this foot says Bobbi.  I inherited it way after I started sewing with stretch fabrics.  It is up to you what foot you use to sew knit fabrics but a walking foot may be a way for you to cut out some of the beginner frustrations of sewing with knit.


7. Practice, Practice, Practice
Start small!  Just like learning to sew, it takes time, energy and patience to sew with knits.  You probably won't have a perfect garment the first time you try knits.  Don't worry!!  You're 4 year old won't mind a wonky shirt.  Just keep practicing.  In the end after some practice you will have a beautiful, comfy garment and feel so satisfied at being successful.
Little girl in knit shirt
Bowmont Tee
There's no reason not to sew on knits.  Just take the leap and have fun trying out new fabrics and patterns.  Don't be afraid of knit fabrics.  You will be successful if you follow these tips and just try.

Great tips and tricks for sewing with knit fabrics with or without a serger.  Also, what needles to use.


Not sure if you are ready to try sewing with knits?  Enroll in our free course