Our organic knit fabrics by Stof Fabrics of Denmark have finally arrived (I ordered them in November) and I am so excited to have them in the shop. I have already started sewing with them and will have some wonderful ideas coming your way in the next few weeks. I know some people are hesitant to sew with knits, or think that you need a serger, but sewing with knits, while different, is easy! There are tons of tutorials on knits all over the internet, and quite frankly all that info can get confusing, so my goal with this post is to put in one place just the essentials. These are the resources that I use and find helpful.
First up - understanding knit fabric. Knit refers to the way the fabric is made (it is a knit as opposed to woven), not the quality of the fabric or material it is made from. These two videos will walk you through how knits are made and explain the different terms.
Colette Patterns also has a free guide to knits you can download while you are there. Now that you understand the different terms, our Stoff knits are all Jersey knits made of 95 to 96% cotton and 4-5% spandex (known as elastene in Europe). Our Liberty knits are also Jersey knits and are 95% rayon and 5 % spandex.
When sewing with our Jersey knits, I use a size 80 Jersey needle and a slight zig zag stitch. By a slight zig zag, I mean 1.5 - 2L and .5 W. I don't bother with any of the built in stretch stitches which take a long time to stitch. Stretch stitches are necessary for shapeware, or bathing suits, and other very close fitting knits, but for regular knit garments, a small zig zag gives the necessary stretch to your seam, and still allows you to sew like you are sewing a straight line. Please don't feel you need a serger to sew knits! I have been sewing knits for years without one. In fact, even though I now have a serger, as I was sewing a Baby's Breath sample up this week in one of our knits, the majority of the garment needed to be sewn on my sewing machine! This article from Seamwork magazine gives some wonderful suggestions for sewing knits without a serger.
Knits have alternatives for finishing the edges and this tutorial by Colette Patterns explains the difference between bands and bindings, all in one place.
Hemming knits can result in a stretched out edge, but the easy solution is to stabilize the hem. I use a great product called Steam a Seam Light.
Steam a Seam Lite comes in rolls that are 1/4 inch wide. It works just like Wonder Under, but once in place gives the needed stability to the knit to prevent stretching as you sew. I iron my hem in place using Steam a Seam Lite and then stitch the hem using the Herringbone Stitch on my Bernina. (The directions for Steam a Seam tell you to just press the product in place. I attach the first side by ironing it in place for a second or two, then removing the paper and following the directions to press my hem in place.) Alternatively, you can use a twin needle - I prefer not to mess with a twin needle, but again Colette has a great tutorial on using a twin needle if you prefer that look.
I hope you give sewing with knits a try. Kids love wearing knits and moms love the ease of upkeep that they provide.