Conquering Knits: A Self-Help Guide

23 Feb

Chevron Renfrew

So you wanna sew some knits, huh? Maybe you picked up the Renfrew pattern and haven’t worked up the courage to slice into the pattern tissue yet. Or maybe you’ve been romanced & wooed by all the amazing printed knit fabrics out there. Or maybe you’re just ready for a new challenge that doesn’t involve zippers! Whatever you reason, it’s time to talk knits. Get a coffee and get comfy, this is gonna be a long ‘un.

First off, let me say something very important.

Knits are not scary or super difficult to work with!

I don’t know who is responsible for freaking out millions of sewers to be afraid of knit fabrics, but I wish I did know so I could stick some needles in his (or her!) face. Knit fabrics are actually MUCH easier to work with than a basic woven fabric. Yes, you have to pay special attention to the grainline, but aren’t you doing that anyway with your other sewing projects? πŸ˜‰ Yes, knits do curl up – but they don’t unravel! Yes, you have to use a special stitch & needle to keep your seams from getting too wavy and/or snapping – but what’s so scary about that?

Here is what is so awesome about knits. I made you a list.
– Don’t wanna hem? Don’t hem! That shit ain’t going nowhere.
– No tedious fitting! Cut your size correct size based on the pattern measurements and let the stretch of the knit do all the work handling those sexy curves you were blessed with.
– No zippers, buttonholes, or closures in general! Pull that shit over your head and get on with your life!
– Finding the grainline is easy – just follow the direction of the greatest amount of stretch.
– Knits are great for using teeny tiny scraps – you can piece the hell out of them (call the seams a ~design feature~) and use them for things like side panels, cuffs and collars, contrasting yokes, colorblocking, insets, creating stripes, pockets, etc. As long as you are paying attention to that grainline, you are pretty much limitless with what you can make!
– You are not limited to *only* using knit yardage to make tshirts – use your pattern to resize a large shirt! Add zippers and hoods or just play with the colors to jazz it up!
– While you don’t need a serger to sew knits, it’s your bestest excuse for buying one πŸ™‚

Now that I’ve gotten you all excited about your new life with knits, let’s talk about those stitches.

Whether or not you plan on using a serger to sew up knits, you will want to keep a pack of Ballpoint Needles on hand. These are perfect for knits because the tip is slightly rounded, which means they push between the loops of the fabric, rather than pierce little holes to make their way through – this is bad for knits!

Stripey - topstitching
You may also want a twin needle for topstitching – especially if you don’t have a coverstitch machine (Does anyone here have a coverstitch machine? Can I borrow it?). Twin needles are awesome because they will do a perfect row of double stitching on top, and a neat little zig-zag on the bottom. You can get these in all sizes, weights – including ballpoint! – and stitch widths. I use them in place of the zig zag for my top stitching, as I think it looks a little more professional. Keep in mind these are for topstitching only; the stitches they produce are not strong enough to handle seams. You do need two spools of thread to use a double needle; wind some thread onto a bobbin if you don’t have a second spool on hand.

Special stitches are used to construct knits (assuming you aren’t using a serger – if you are, high five!) – you want the stitch to stretch with the fabric, or else you’re going to hear a lot of popping when you pull on your new tshirt. A straight stitch won’t do. And by “special stitches,” I am referring to the good ol’ zig zag stitch. If you want to make your seams a little more sturdy, adjust the zig zag width to be slightly more narrow – but not too narrow, or you’ll make the stitch too dense to actually stretch. Play around with a few scraps of your fabric and see what works best for you.

If your machine is computerized and has the ability to end a stitch in the “needle-down” position, go ahead and engage that – it it helpful for stretching as you sew, without risking pulling everything off the sewing machine. If your machine doesn’t have this feature, just turn the handwheel until the needle is down before you start pulling on your fabric.

If you have a walking foot or dual feed, these are also very nice for keeping the knits from getting too ripply. If you don’t have anything like that, no worries! You can still sew up some pretty knits πŸ™‚

stripery dress with pink colorblocks

Knit Tips!

When sewing with woven (aka non-stretchy) fabrics, you can kind of fudge the grainlines. It’s not ideal, but the garment will still work as long as you’re not trading bias for straight. With that being said, this does NOT work with knits! It is important to place your pattern on the fabric according to the stretch direction (if you’re not sewing up a 4-way stretch jersey or whatever), otherwise you may not be able to get that shirt over your head.

You want your stretch to run horizontally across the body, not vertical. For neck/sleeve bands, the stretch needs to run the length of the band. I know this sounds really “Well no shit, Sherlock” but you’d be amazed at how many failed knit projects I chucked in the trash due to not figuring out where stretch was necessary. Learn from my mistakes.

Sewing on knit bands with a serger

Using the stretch to your advantage is the easiest way to get your knit garments looking supa fly. I am a big fan of foregoing an actual hem on my knits and just making little neck and arm and hem bands to keep everything nice & clean. However, these can really make or break a garment – especially if they end up too loose & floppy when sewn in. The bands need to be a bit shorter than the edge that they are being sewn onto, especially when dealing with necklines & arms. This allows the band to curve nicely and lie flat, without the use of additional stitches to hold it down. If you are sewing up your Renfrew top with something more stretchy than a stable knit, you will want to cut your neckband pieces down an inch or so to take advantage of that nice stretch. When you sew up your pattern, carefully stretch the band to fit – you should just be able to pull gently. It helps to sew with the band on top, so you can control how much you pull.

If you do want to make a hem on your knit that doesn’t involve bands, you can do a nice basic hem using your twin needles. Patty’s Knit 101 post has a lot of great info for this!

Knit - stabilizing shoulders
Make sure you stabilize your shoulders – otherwise you will risk stretching them out. A little piece of twill tape or clear elastic is perfect for this. I like to pin mine to the back, centered on the seam, and then top stitch with a double needle. Quick and gets the point across!

PROTIP: Knits look wavy when they are laying flat on a table. This does not mean you failed at sewing. Nine times out of ten, when you put the garment on, the fabric will stretch to accommodate and smooth itself out. Don’t stress unnecessarily over a wavy seam!

white/purple plaid sweater dress

I think that about covers the basics – really, the best way to learn is to just jump in & play around with fabrics & stitches! Try starting out with something really basic & easy – the Renfrew is a great, hand-holding pattern. You could even use it to resize a larger tshirt, which will help you get more comfortable with stretchier fabrics & that zig zag stitch. Don’t worry if your first few attempts leave a little to be desired – it takes practice!

Fabric Stash - knits
A giant stash of knit fabrics to play with doesn’t hurt either πŸ™‚

I am by no means a professional, but I’ve definitely sewn up my share of knit fabrics πŸ™‚ Have any questions you don’t see covered here? See any designs you want a tutorial on? Leave a comment & I’ll see what I can do!


91 Responses to “Conquering Knits: A Self-Help Guide”

  1. scruffybadger February 23, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

    This is great knit motivational writing! It is exactly as you say- knits rock! They make up so quick and are super comfy to wear plus oftentimes don’t need ironing after washing. What’s not to love! Great getting a peek of your knit stash!

  2. PendleStitches February 23, 2012 at 12:18 pm #

    I love this post! I recently attended a Palmer Pletsch course and one of the key things I brought away from this is that it’s only fabric…nothing to be afraid of.

    Since then I’ve embraced knits and this post gives me even more faith that I’m on the right track! We’ll see when my next project, a viscose knit with a mind of it’s own, is finished. I may take your advice and decide not to hem that sucker!

    And I’ve got to tell you that your chevron version of the Renfrew is the one that comes to mind when I think of the pattern. That pattern is so on my list…thanks to you. πŸ™‚

  3. Claire (aka Seemane) February 23, 2012 at 12:37 pm #

    Great post Lauren :)!

  4. Jo February 23, 2012 at 12:42 pm #

    Thanks for this! I will definitely refer to it- I bought a Renfrew top, yay, my first Sewaholic Pattern! But before I crack into it I want to buy some fabric I’m not afraid of messing up (I have a nice striped black and white knit… wanna know something annoying? I bought it before I saw all these striped black and white Renfrews/knit tops on the internet! So now I look like a copy cat! lol)
    Seeing all the cool stuff you’ve done with knits is great- you truly are the master!

    • Ololi February 23, 2012 at 1:01 pm #

      Thanks for the explanations and the encouragement πŸ˜‰ Although I sewed a knit (wool blend) dress all by myself, I still can’t say I’m 100% comfortable with knits. Hope it will get better with practice!

  5. prttynpnk February 23, 2012 at 12:57 pm #

    Yay you! Can I get you to do a motivational lecture tour? Great post!

  6. sue February 23, 2012 at 1:14 pm #

    I’m so glad you’ve created this guide to sewing knits!

    I’ve got the Renfrew (LOVE your versions you’ve created) and some doubleknit (wasn’t sure what exactly qualified as a ‘stable’ knit, so tried to play it safe) but have never sewn with knits, ever, and have been stalling a bit on getting started (I’m scared! and I don’t have a twin needle, so I’m kind of waiting until I get one).

    Do you think the zig-zag stitch is necessary for doubleknit? I’m obviously clueless.

    Thanks πŸ™‚

    • LLADYBIRD February 23, 2012 at 2:04 pm #

      I think a doubleknit might actually be a little too stable for this pattern. To be safe, you may want to cut a size larger & test the fit before sewing on the bands.

      I haven’t ever sewn with a doubleknit (I know! Shame!) but I’m fairly certain they sew up just fine with a straight stitch. Gertie has a great post on working with doubleknits if you want to check it out!

      • Sue February 23, 2012 at 7:41 pm #

        Thanks for the advice! I’ll check it out.

  7. Seraphinalina February 23, 2012 at 1:37 pm #

    I’m not sure why people think knits are scary. Stretch is so forgiving to fit.

    Great post!

  8. Debi February 23, 2012 at 1:37 pm #

    Great post! I think you should run a Renfrew sewalong!!!

    • LLADYBIRD February 23, 2012 at 2:01 pm #

      Hee I thought about it, but it’s such a simple pattern I don’t think it really warrants a sew-along. I may consider putting up a post to cover modifications, though, if anyone is interested!

  9. Noas'Libellule February 23, 2012 at 1:50 pm #

    That is a great post, I am have to give Renfrew a go now, I am feeling all inspired. I love your top by the way!

  10. symondezyn February 23, 2012 at 1:52 pm #

    YAY YAY!! Thank you!! Thank you for this post!! I have wanted to try sewing with knits for awhile, particularly since your first post on the Renfrew top, which I recently ordered, and this gives me a great deal more confidence – now I’m actually excited, particularly since my first experience with fitting a bodice is becoming quite trying LOL!! πŸ˜€

    One question – you mentioned in a previous post, that you can grade sizes instead of doing pattern adjustments, when you cut your pattern for a knit garment. I just recently discovered that I definitely need to make a FBA when working with wovens; is this something I should incorporate with knits, by doing a pattern grading? Thanks!!!!

    • LLADYBIRD February 23, 2012 at 2:01 pm #

      Yay! I’m glad it inspires you πŸ˜€

      Knits require very simple pattern grading – just cut whatever size you need for each part, and merge the lines in between with a ruler. I would *just* grade up the bust, though – keep the smaller size for your neckline & shoulders. So for my Renfrew, I cut a 4 in the bust, a 0 at the waist/hips (to allow for negative ease, since my knit was pretty stretchy) and my usual 2 at the neckline & shoulders. Does that make sense?

      • symondezyn February 23, 2012 at 2:29 pm #

        Yes that totally makes sense, as that’s something I’ve done with basic skirt patterns, so pattern grading is familiar territory – thanks so much for the tip!! πŸ˜€

        I think I might also take your advice and maybe try this on a loose tshirt first, as I think that would be a wonderful way to practice both the pattern grading and knit sewing techniques! πŸ™‚

  11. Rochelle New February 23, 2012 at 2:05 pm #

    Great post! Thanks πŸ™‚ I need to get my hands on a Renfrew asap…

  12. Janice February 23, 2012 at 2:09 pm #

    That’s a great post for the few of us out there (read: me) who are afraid of knits. What about finishing necklines? I know we can’t use seam binding, but is there a knitting equivalent?

    • LLADYBIRD February 23, 2012 at 2:20 pm #

      My favorite way to finish necklines is with bands of knit fabric! The best explanation of this is really in the Renfrew pattern, but here’s a basic run-down – you would cut your band twice as wide as you want it to be when finished + seam allowance, and the length needs to be approximately as long as the entire neckline (minus an inch or so for stretch, depending on how much stretch your fabric has). The stretch will run the length of the piece. Sew the ends together to make a circle, then fold it in half wrong sides together lengthwise. Pin it to the right side of the neckline with the raw edges matching, in four sections (center front, center back, and shoulder seams). It will be a little short, so you have to stretch it to fit as you sew. Then sew it on – it will flip up so the seam is on the inside of the shirt. You can top stitch down with a zig zag or a twin needle if you feel so inclined.

      That sounds like a bigger process than it really is lol. Look at a t-shirt with a rib knit neckline or check out the Renfrew pattern if you need visuals πŸ™‚

      • patternandbranch October 21, 2015 at 7:49 am #

        Alright, I know this is a really old post, but I’m hoping you get this anyway…So, I’m sewing Megan Nielsen’s Briar and I have this very stretchy knit without a ton of recovery, and I tried the basic idea of what you said above, but rather than folding it in half, I cut a band that was half the width, so I could have a raw edge. Anyway, I didn’t line it up perfectly (my mistake), and had to stretch it to attach it…and then I had wavy seams. I’m going to redo it, but I don’t want the wavy seams again. I’ve had them before when attaching ribbing cuffs to a shirt sleeve that I had to stretch to attach. The waviness stayed and I couldn’t iron it out. How do you get rid of the waviness in those situations–when you have to stretch the band or cuff to attach it?

        • LLADYBIRD October 22, 2015 at 2:36 pm #

          Oh yeah, I always get comment notifications regardless of how old the post is πŸ™‚ You’re getting the waviness because you are stretching the neckband when you attach it. It should smooth out and lose the waviness as long as it stretches when you’re wearing it, and pressing can also help. If that’s NOT helping, it’s likely that you stretched it too much. Try cutting a longer band and stretching it less, and see if that helps! FWIW, whenever I sew very stretchy/lightweight knits, I actually like to do the bound neckline option in that pattern. Super stretchy and lightweight knits are gonna end up wavy almost no matter what, so binding the neckline reduces the chance of that happening. Hope that helps! πŸ™‚

          • patternandbranch October 22, 2015 at 3:58 pm #

            Thanks so much for answering my question! I really appreciate that about you (also that you know so many of the answers!). I will look at the shirt again, and take everything you said into consideration. Thanks for the tip about the bound neckline on those kind of knits, too.

  13. Jill February 23, 2012 at 2:10 pm #

    Thanks so much for this! I’ve really been wanting to try knits but I find them intimidating. I don’t think my machine allows for a second spool of thread. Do you have any suggestions for those of us who can’t use a double needle?

    • LLADYBIRD February 23, 2012 at 2:21 pm #

      Use a small zig zag stitch – it won’t look as clean as a stitch from a twin needle, but it serves the same purpose πŸ™‚

  14. SuzySewing February 23, 2012 at 2:19 pm #

    What a fantastic post, thank you for this Lauren! I have my Renfrew pieces cut and have some scrap jersey fabric to do a 1st run ready to go but I am a bit intimidated. I have sewn with double knit but I don’t think it can compare to jersey as it is much more stable. Your post has definitely inspired and motivated me so will probably have a go at it at the weekend.
    Thank you πŸ™‚

  15. Kerry February 23, 2012 at 2:20 pm #

    Thanks for this post, I’ll come back to this again for reference.

    I have quite a basic machine and I’ve tried sewing jersey before (with ballpoint needles and experimenting with stitch length and style) but it was going nowhere, so I got put off, thinking that my machine wasn’t up to it – I really want to give it another go tho!

  16. kaitui_kiwi February 23, 2012 at 2:24 pm #

    Great post! High five to you for encouraging others to tackle the myth πŸ˜‰ I don’t know who started these scary rumours about knits either but I LOVE them, especially when I can just use my overlocker, so fast!! Ohh, you make me want to go out and shop for more knits even thought I have enough already and should really do some sewing since I haven’t touched the machines for a while

  17. francine February 23, 2012 at 2:55 pm #

    Some great advice here! I like sewing with knits, but do find that the sturdiness of the fabric can make a huge difference. The worst experience I’ve ever had was with a cheap t-shirt knit. When it was stretched, it wouldn’t bounce back at all. I didn’t have a walking foot at the time and even the slight stretch from going under the presser foot was enough that all my seams were permanently wavey. It put me off knits for a while. Now when I’m in the fabric store, I make sure the fabric bounces back after being stretched. I also have a walking foot which helps.

    • LLADYBIRD February 23, 2012 at 2:57 pm #

      You are totally right – stretch recovery is very important! Sucks to make a knit garment and then have it stretch way out of shape the second you pull it over your head 😦

  18. Fiona February 23, 2012 at 3:37 pm #

    Brilliant post! I’m one of those sewers who has been avoiding knits like the plague, I think I over think it and make up in my head all the things that could possibly go wrong or be too difficult and fiddly. But just reading this has made me feel a whole lot more positive! Basically I think I need to just get on with it!!

  19. irononmaiden February 23, 2012 at 3:47 pm #

    Just have to say … I’ve got the Renfrew pattern, I’m scared to try knits, I’ve been gearing up to experiment with my serger, AND I had just made a cup of coffee when I started reading this post. Hi, I’m Alicia, and you apparently wrote this just for me. πŸ™‚

    • LLADYBIRD February 23, 2012 at 3:49 pm #

      Lol wonderful! My target audience πŸ™‚

  20. Joanne February 23, 2012 at 4:11 pm #

    FYI this is getting bookmarked, printed and blown up to A3 for my sewing room wall. I have sewn one knit dress before and actually… it was ok! But I think not doing another knit or a while made me get the fear again – so this is awesome. Cheers Lauren πŸ™‚

  21. Vicki Kate February 23, 2012 at 4:58 pm #

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! For some amazing advice, the FBA answer above and the stretchy grain thing! answers to the things I was confused about – particularly the FBA!

  22. msleesh February 23, 2012 at 5:12 pm #

    Ok, weird question coming up from a knit-novice – why doesn’t twin-needle topstitching cause a problem, if putting things together with a straight stitch does?

    • LLADYBIRD February 23, 2012 at 5:29 pm #

      Not a weird question at all! The bottom (bobbin) thread in twin needle stitching is a zig zag, so it has some slight stretch properties πŸ™‚

      • msleesh February 23, 2012 at 5:44 pm #

        ok, cool. GREAT post :o) I have a knit top cut out that I’ve been avoiding putting together, so you may have saved it from months of hiding in the cupboard.

  23. Miss Celie February 23, 2012 at 7:40 pm #

    I will be stealing this qoute “- Don’t wanna hem? Don’t hem! That shit ain’t going nowhere.

  24. kalinchen February 24, 2012 at 2:21 am #

    Thanks for the post – exactly the encouragement I needed to consider sewing my first knit piece! I

  25. Justine February 24, 2012 at 2:28 am #

    Thankyou! This is awesome. I have a few knit patterns and fabrics at home just waiting to be sewn up. I have been sewing on and off for over twenty years ( that sounds scary, I’m really not that old!) and have sewn a few knits in my time but the more I read and learn about sewing and techniques the less confident I am about actually doing it, sounds strange I know! This post, however, has given me the inspiration to give something a go! Maybe I will start with something simpler like the Renfrew top before moving onto the knit wrap dress pattern I’ve had on my to do list for two years!!

  26. Laura Mae February 24, 2012 at 3:02 am #

    One of these days I am going to get around to conquering my knit fabric fear . . . and this post just may have put me over the edge. You are absolutely right – there is nothing to be afraid of. Thank you for the much needed motivation and encouragement!

  27. didyoumakethat February 24, 2012 at 4:24 am #

    Great post! I love your attitude.

  28. Sassy T February 24, 2012 at 5:21 am #

    Thanks. I have been looking forward to your rundown on knits. I have collated a lot of info on them but I like hearing different perspectives it really helps.

  29. thesecretlifeofseams February 24, 2012 at 9:53 am #

    I love this post! Totally share your attitude to knits, they’re a stretchy friend not an enemy. It’s great to have info like this to get you rolling, I used the ‘Sew U Home Stretch: Built by Wendy’ book as my psychological crutch when I started out.
    Plus your knit stash looks amazing. And it makes me feel better about stockpiling my knits for that nuclear winter.

  30. Cation Designs February 24, 2012 at 12:27 pm #

    Thank you for this excellent, detailed rundown of knit sewing! I’ve dabbled in knits, but despite some successes am still occasionally scared. Your post is so reassuring!

  31. Anne February 24, 2012 at 4:20 pm #

    Great post! I for one have been scared to death of stretch fabrics…but having read your post, maybe I should give it a go!!! Would the New Look 6000 in a stretch qualify I wonder? πŸ™‚

    • LLADYBIRD February 24, 2012 at 4:25 pm #

      Oh, I LOVE New Look 6000! I’m not sure if it’s appropriate for a stretch knit, though – you’d have to really wrangle the pattern to get the sizing right (and collars like that, while doable, can be difficult to make with knits). Maybe a double knit? Jane made an amazinggg version of NL6000 in red double knit!

  32. Chris February 25, 2012 at 1:11 am #

    Thank you! for this very timely Guide –
    It made so much sense and really helped me.

    PS Love your Renfrew top!

  33. LLBB February 25, 2012 at 1:17 am #

    OKOK, this post motivated me to cut into my renfrew!!!! It’s going pretty well so far. Have done the shoulders and neck (scoop). Should’ve heeded your advice and made the neck band a bit shorter– i think my knit is pretty stretchy, but I don’t really know what I’m doing and don’t have much to compare to, so hard tellin not knowin…. Anyway, it doesn’t lie perfectly flat but I’m ok with it bc, well, it’s not a total disaster and bc I think/hope it will be a simple fix when I tackle my next one.
    So good luck to everyone else inching closer to her knits project. You probably already were planning to, but I’ll say it anyway: listen to Lauren πŸ™‚

  34. StephC February 25, 2012 at 7:04 pm #

    Awesome awesome post! You cracked me right up!!

    The only thing is, you can play with knit grainlines quite a lot. In the industry, most t-shirts are cut slightly off-grain to get more shirts from the fabric. That leads to twisting side seams. Not ideal, not awesome, but once again the clothing industry has set the bar extra low for us home sewists…

    Also, I just recently did all kind of unholy things to knit grainlines with pretty good effects… It’s called the Bow Tie Tee and the front is sideways knit, rightways knit, and the back is “bias cut” knit… It works pretty well… πŸ™‚

    Great post!

    • LLADYBIRD February 26, 2012 at 2:06 pm #

      You’re right- I should have clarified. I think playing with grainlines is fun with knits, as long as you don’t make the non-stretch grain the majority of your garment- unless there is a zipper involved! I lurked your Bow Tie Tee.. what an awesome top and a fabulous way to play with grainlines πŸ˜€

  35. Lee February 26, 2012 at 12:33 pm #

    I’m totally the target audience & grateful for all your specific guidance with knits! I have yet to make friends with my serger. The main problem I have is with tubular seams– like hems and necklines. How do you make the seam clean at the end? I have a hard time where the end meets the beginning and always end up cutting off too much. I also have trouble serging the sleeves, I guess because it’s a really curved seam and I’m a novice. So yeah, I always cut too much off and get pissed at the serger. Anything I should do besides practice more?

    • LLADYBIRD February 26, 2012 at 2:12 pm #

      For keeping the end of the seam clean, I just kind of run the serger needle off the edge- similar to what you do when sewing a dart. Does that make sense? Then just tie off your thread tail. For curved seams, try putting the sleeve opening as the bottom layer with your sleeve on top, and slightly stretch the sleeve as you serge them together.I think that is the easiest way to do it! You can also try disengaging the knife until you feel more comfortable with your serger πŸ™‚

  36. puu February 27, 2012 at 1:46 pm #

    wonderful post! thank you f or taking the time to share it!

  37. The Dreamstress March 1, 2012 at 3:25 pm #

    Thank you for all the awesome tips. I’m just beginning to really make myself sew with knits again – I did it professionally for dance years ago, but have worked as a historical seamstress ever since, and there is no jersey in historical sewing. But now I want to start sewing for me again, which means the occasional T-shirt.

    The one correction I’d want to make is that sewing with knits is NOT easier than sewing with wovens, it is JUST as easy, but different. They are simple different techniques. It doesn’t have to be a “one is better than the other” thing. That only gets people worried about wovens, and that’s not helpful either! πŸ˜‰

  38. Tilly March 31, 2012 at 4:27 am #

    Awesome post! Somehow missed it first time round but just found it via Marie. Feeling really inspired to make some more jersey stuff now!

  39. kelley August 6, 2012 at 11:48 am #

    Thank you! I just sewed my first project using a knit. Your post gave me the confidence I needed to give it a shot.

    • astitchtoofew September 2, 2012 at 2:00 am #

      I’m seconding kelley’s comment. I’ve just sewn my first knit project and your post was super helpful. Thanks!

  40. Steph September 25, 2012 at 1:00 pm #

    I just finished my first knit project and it looks good, but I have yet to see how it will hold up (I didn’t stabilize the shoulders, egads!). I read what to do, used most of what I thought I should use, so we’ll see. This post is great because a) helpful, b) funny!, and c) it reminds me to repeat to myself “it’s just one project of many for your two year old daughter who is going to tear the hell out the dress and doesn’t give a damn about the hem”. So, thanks!

  41. ndi October 5, 2012 at 8:56 am #

    hi and thank you SO much. Wow. That was concise, interesting and really helpful!

    I do have one question though. I have been trying to work with a 4 way stretch knit to make a pencil skirt. (I wasn’t able to get any other knit). I love the fabric. It’s stretchy, opaque and more formal looking than most knits-which means the skirt could be multipurpose. BUT i’m having a mad issue trying not to get wavy seams. Basically the pulled parts really stick out instead of giving me a smooth seam line on wearing.

    So PLEASE let me know if there is ANY way to stop this from happening. I apologize if you mentioned it in your article already- but i definitely need more help. I really hope you answer. I’ve wasted a tonne of the same fabric and really want that perfect pencil skirt! Thanks a bunch again- for your help and this article.

    • LLADYBIRD October 5, 2012 at 9:14 am #

      Ah man, I loveeee 4 way stretch knit & that sounds like the comfiest pencil skirt ever! But you’re right; knits like that can be a total wavy/bumpy mess if you’re not super careful. Have you seen StephC’s blog? She’s doing a whole series on knits this week, with test photos. Check out her posts on threads, feet & stitches and also stabilizing knits – lots of info on getting a nice smooth seam. You may have to play around with the type of stitch you are using, the tension, possibly get a walking foot and/or use a serger, or stabilize the seams with sewing tape. I would also suggest trying different degrees of stretching the fabric while you sew it, to see if that makes a difference. Dig out your scraps & play with those so you don’t waste anymore fabric πŸ™‚

      I hope this helps!

  42. Teresa January 25, 2013 at 10:34 pm #

    So I have this super stretchy 4 way stretch knit that has a ruffle. I want to cut it on the diagonal for a maxi skirt. Any suggestions for cutting and sewing on the bias?

  43. Tara April 12, 2013 at 6:53 pm #

    “Put that shit over your head and get on with your life!”–LMAO! I’m dying right now–hilarious!

  44. Niko April 25, 2013 at 9:01 pm #

    Hey there, so I sew with knits almost exclusively but have never really crossed into the pockets area.. I recently made a maxi skirt with pockets, out of knits. And the pockets kind of make an odd flare right at the hips and I can’t for the life of me figure out how to make them lay flush with the side seams in the skirt… Do you have any knit-pocket tricks for skirts??? πŸ™‚ I’d be much obliged. This post was awesome BTW! I do believe Ill be a frequent visitor to your site!

    • LLADYBIRD April 26, 2013 at 8:42 am #

      You know, I’ve sewn a few knit pockets and they’ve *always* turned out lumpy. I think that’s just the nature of the best. The only suggestion I can give you (other than “leave out the pockets” haha) is to try making the pockets in a lighter weight fabric so there’s less bulk. You may want to even consider making them out of a woven fabric – for one, they’ll be nice and flat, and two, you won’t have to worry about the fabric stretching out all crazy if you put something heavy in them πŸ™‚

  45. Ashley Dickerson July 10, 2013 at 9:20 pm #

    I am desperately trying to sew a shirt with a very stretchy jersey knit. Can you please tell me with more detail how you use elastic in the shoulder seam?

    • LLADYBIRD July 11, 2013 at 4:17 pm #

      I just basted it down with a wide zig-zag stitch right over the middle of the seam allowance, so when it came time to sew the seams together, it’s permanently sewn in without actually showing on the outside, if that makes sense πŸ™‚

      • Vickey Gerrish September 2, 2013 at 12:06 pm #

        I just made my first Tshirt with a jersey knit — came out okay, wearable, but barely– when I serged seams, they came to a point at the end — tried adjusting the pressure foot pressure, diff feed, using ball point needle, etc — have you ever experienced that? Kind of makes the seams “wonky” as the saying goes. I want to make another Tshirt – but don’t want it to come out like the last one!!

        • LLADYBIRD September 3, 2013 at 11:11 am #

          Hm, I’m not sure if I understand what you’re describing? If you’re still having issues, email me a photo (lladybirdlauren at gmail dot com) and we can diagnose from there πŸ™‚

  46. Lorna October 16, 2013 at 12:45 pm #

    Thanks so much for this – and all of your other tutorials, they’re incredibly helpful. I have a really weird shape, and find stretchy soft things so much more comfy than woven fabrics – yet I find myself sewing more and more wovens because I’m intimidated by knits My otherwise lovely Janome really likes to eat knits, for some reason. I use a ballpoint, and try to get my tension right, but the fabric seems to get chewed up in the plate. Any suggestions would be very gratefully received!

    • LLADYBIRD October 17, 2013 at 9:52 am #

      Hm, does it only eat at the beginning of each seam or all the way through? I find that by (gently!) tugging your thread tails as you start sewing keeps the first few bits of fabric from getting sucked into the throat plate, and after that it’s generally smooth sailing. Hope that helps!

  47. sewplentiful November 17, 2014 at 4:04 am #

    I love that last picture, especially your Singer Featherweight sewing machine! Thanks for the tips! My fear of knits is skipped stitches (when fabric flags). I’ve done a few zig zag stitching on some knit projects, they skip every few stitches even with the ball point needles, it’s frustrating. I have adjusted and even changed threads and needle size. I’ve read that you should not stretch the fabric during stitching, but I have and they ripple badly. In the end, I had to sew straight stitches over the zig zags. What would you do?

    • LLADYBIRD November 17, 2014 at 2:56 pm #

      Sometimes the ball point needles can be the reason why there is skipped stitches, have you tried using a different type of needle? For the rippling fabric… well, some machines love to sew knits, and some machines really hate it. For me, I’ve found that I get the best results (i.e., non ripply) when I use a walking foot. These are not available for every machine (and they are pricey – like, $100 and up), but if you have access to a walking foot, that would be the first thing I’d try.

      • Darrell Fleury February 18, 2016 at 5:47 pm #

        Skipped stitches were so frustrating on my Singer. I tried increasing and decreasing needle size, changing from Universal to Ball point and back, cleaning the machine, oiling it. Nothing worked until I read somewhere that Singer is picky about needles. Using a Stretch needle works better with Singers. It certainly worked for me and I got an even better seam by slowing down. Now I love sewing knits and I get really good results. I keep a wide selection of needle types and test before every knit project.

  48. Bekah September 7, 2015 at 4:59 pm #

    I want to make Maxaloones and am buy a 95% cotton 5%rayon knit. I want the I need the stretch to run the width of my pants pieces and waist band. Should
    I buy a fat half or a regular half? Thanks!

  49. Annie July 1, 2016 at 3:52 pm #

    The best tip I use ? Fill rubber balloons with sand to use as fabric weights. a 12″ balloon with 1/3 cup sand, baking soda..whatever you got. Bigger balloons 1/2 filled for Big project cutting.


  1. Look! Here are some people who actually sew! | Dulcie Bee - February 28, 2012

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    […] knit from Fabric Land. It’ll be perfect for Renfrew and I’ll be committing to memory Lauren’s Conquering Knits guide […]

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    […] “Conquering Knits: A Self-HelpΒ Guide” by Lauren Taylor at Lladybird, an excellent introduction with fun tips and good ideas. […]

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