Today I’d like to teach you how to hem knit fabric and share with you a few tips to get great results with my latest pattern creation called the Charlotte dress. Knit fabric makes great dresses, t-shirts and pants and is so much easier to sew than you can imagine. All you need is the right stitch and needles and you will be on your way. The best thing about sewing knit fabrics is that there is minimal pressing so most garments come together really quickly.
How to Hem Knit Fabric - Sew Along
This week I was lucky enough to receive some new season stretch knit fabric from Riley Blake as part of their blog tour for March. Their tour features different projects from designers using their stretch knit fabrics.
When my package arrived I was excited to discover just how soft and silky their knit fabrics were. Spring is just around the corner and the fabric colors were perfectly fresh and vibrant. The Cottage Garden Print in Teal coordinated perfectly with their Small Dots in Hot Pink and I topped it off with a row of ½ inch (12mm) lace across the yoke and cuffs.
How to Hem Knit Fabric - 4 Top Tips
Jersey knit fabric dresses are so comfortable to wear and are usually quick and easy projects to make. All you need is a few extra tips to get started.
My main tips for sewing knit fabrics are:
- Check your pattern for seam allowances
- Use the right sewing needle and thread
- Choose the correct stitch for sewing seams and knit hems
- Use hemming tape underneath hems that pucker
Tip 1 - Check Your Pattern
The Riley Blake knit fabrics I used had approximately a 50% stretch factor so I made sure I took careful measurements of my model to ensure the finished dress was not too loose.
My model was a size 2 in the chest and 3 in height so I lengthened the pattern pieces using the instructions included in the Charlotte Dress pattern.
As the fabric is quite stretchy it is important to make the dress in the correct width otherwise, it will look too loose when worn.
Most of the knit fabric patterns I have come across have seam allowance added at the hems but if yours has a raw edge, then add at least ½ inch (12mm) for the hem allowance.
Further Reading: Seam Allowance
Tip 2 – Use the Right Sewing Needle and Thread
When sewing any kind of stretch fabric always use a ballpoint or jersey needle on your machine
Further Reading: Types of sewing machine needles
A ballpoint or jersey needle will make sure your stitches don’t skip and you get a professional finish to your dress.
The thread used when sewing knits should be a strong polyester thread. I find cheaper threads break more when sewing knits so stick to a good quality polyester all-purpose thread.
For an invisible finish on a knit hem, use a matching color thread.
Tip 3 – Use a zig-Zag Stitch
When sewing stretch fabric with a regular machine you can stitch your seams with a narrow zig-zag stitch and hems with a wide zig-zag stitch
Knit Fabric Seams:
- Try setting your machine on a width of 1.0 and a length of 2.0-3.0 for a strong stretchy seam.
- If you find the edges of the fabric are curling a little, just use extra pins to hold it flat and make sewing easier.
Sewing Knit Hems:
- For the knit fabric hems, fold over the raw edge by the amount indicated in your pattern. This is commonly ½ inch (12mm) on children's clothing and ¾ inch (2cm) on women's patterns.
- I generally find it best to press the knit hem if it is a cotton or cotton blend fabric. For synthetic fabrics such as Lycra or Spandex, you won't be able to press as more than likely your fabric will melt.
- Knit fabrics don’t fray on the edges so you only need to turn over the hem once. This is in contrast to woven fabrics where you will often turn over the edge twice to create a double hem.
- Stitch across the raw edge using a wide zig-zag stitch.
- Test a scrap at a width of 4.0 and length of 3.0. There is no need to stretch the fabric as you sew. Just gently feed it through the machine.
- After sewing, give your hem a bit of a press. If you find it puckering, go to tip 4 and add a bit of hemming tape.
- See how the raw edge has been caught in.
Tip 4 - Use Hemming Tape for Puckering
To create a smooth, non-puckered hem on the sleeves and bottom of the dress I often use hemming tape.
Hemming tape is great to use with stretch fabrics as it stabilizes the hem and ensures no puckering of the zig-zag stitches.
Some of the more popular types are Wash Away Wonder Tape, Dritz Wonder Tape and Vliesofix T10.
Steps for using Hemming Tape for Knits
- First press the tape across the hem of the wrong side of the dress or clothing item.
- Peel away the paper backing and fold up the hem by ½ inch (12mm). Press the hem in place.
- On the wrong side of the dress, zig-zag across the hem catching in the raw edge.
- Finish by giving your hem a final press. This is important as it flattens the stitches giving a professional finish.
Look at the difference using a hemming tape makes! You will see the most dramatic difference in thinner knits.
How to Hem Knit Fabric with a Twin Needle
If you don't like the look of the zig-zag hem, you can also use a twin needle. A twin needle (sometimes called a double-needle) creates 2 parallel lines of stitching on the right side and a zig-zag row on the inside.
If you look at the t-shirts in your cupboard you will see a similar look on the hems.
This special needle can be used in your regular sewing machine with a zig-zag presser foot.
Read all about how to use a twin needle.
How to Hem Knit Fabric - In Conclusion
And that's it, you now know how to hem knit fabric! Sew great looking clothing that is easy to make and comfortable to wear. What more could you want!
Head over to the Riley Blake blog to read about lots of other projects their bloggers have made with the new season stretch knit fabrics. There are lots of amazing projects for you to try.