Have you been avoiding sewing with knit (jersey) fabrics just because you don’t own an overlocker? Well, I have good news for you. While an overlocker certainly makes the process faster, you don’t necessarily need it to sew jersey. Your regular sewing machine can do a perfect job, as long as you choose the right settings and use the right equipment. So, if you’ve been wondering how to sew knit fabrics with a regular sewing machine, make sure you read this post.
Use needles appropriate for jersey fabrics. These are called ballpoint or stretch needles and have a rounded end, specifically designed for knit fabrics to avoid laddering and skipped stitches.
These needles come in a variety of sizes:
a size 70 for very lightweight fabrics, such as viscose jersey or silk jersey
a size 80 for medium (T-shirt weight) fabrics, such as cotton jersey
a size 90 for heavy weight fabrics, such as ponte di Roma, interlock, double knit jersey
For many medium to heavy weight knit fabrics your normal presser foot will do the job. But there will be times, especially if you are working with lighter weight fabrics, that your fabric will stretch as it goes through the presser foot and this will result to rippled seams. To avoid that, you can use a walking foot, know otherwise as dual feet foot. This presser foot is very famous among quilters, but it can be a great addition to your arsenal even if you don’t quilt. It has a top set of dog teeth which help to grip the top of the fabric as it passes under the foot. This top set works with the bottom set of dog teeth on your sewing machine, so it pulls both layers of fabric evenly and smoothly as you sew and results in nice flat seams on jersey.
Most sewing machines nowadays have a wide selection of stitches for stretch fabrics. But even if your model only does a straight stitch and a zigzag stitch, you can still sew knit fabrics with it. Your regular zigzag stitch will be just fine. The reason why you can’t sew knit fabrics with a normal straight stitch, is that this type of stitch will not allow your fabric to stretch. So as soon as you try to put it on, you will hear the thread snap. A zigzag stitch allows your fabric to stretch and that’s why it is ideal for knit fabrics.
As for the best setting to use, I recommend a length of 2-2.5 mm for most fabrics (or 3mm for thicker fabrics) and a width of 1-1.5mm. For hemming, use a wider and even zigzag stitch, like a 2.5 x 2,5 mm for most fabrics or a 3 x 3mm for thicker fabrics. Alternatively, you can use a twin needle if you have one.
When sewing with knit fabrics, try to not stretch your fabric. Make sure you support the weight of your garment while you sew it. Don’t let it hang from the sewing table while you sew it, instead leave some space on the table in the front and back of your sewing machine, so that you can lay your garment without stretching it. Don’t pull the fabric under the teeth as you sew, let it pass smoothly under them, using your hands to guide it.
Finally, the best advice I can give you is to always test your setting on a scrap piece of fabric before start sewing your project to make sure that everything works perfectly!
I hope you found my tips useful! And remember: nothing is too scary, as long as you put your mind to it. Sewing with jersey fabrics might sound intimidating at first, but once you get the hang of it, you will love the power you’ll have to create comfortable, easy-to-fit clothes.