We were extremely excited to have our very first Knit & Stretch Fabric class in the shop in May with one of our new dressmaking tutors, Kate. Students that had attended courses in the past,were keen to learn how to work with stretch fabrics, and the class filled up very quickly!
In preparation for the class and for some of the other dressmaking workshops we’ll be running over the next few months, we purchased a selection of Art Gallery Fabric Knit fabrics for the shop (you can buy the range here). Previously we have only stocked woven fabrics, which are extremely versatile and great for a wide range of home sewing and dressmaking projects. The main difference with knits is that they are stretchy, making them the perfect lifestyle fabric as they’re comfortable to wear for adults and children alike!
If you have sewn with stretch knit fabric, you will be aware of the difficulties in handling it. Firstly, if you sew a stretch fabric with a straight stitch as soon as the fabric is pulled the threads in the seam will break. Secondly, if the fabric is not supported when being sewn on a standard sewing machine a seam or hem is likely to extend creating a wavy, rippled edge.
The answer, when hemming a stretch knit T-shirt or leggings, is to use a twin (sometimes called a double) needle. The single shaft has two needles to create the parallel lines on the right side similar to the cover stitch effect and on the reverse the bobbin thread produces a zigzag as it travels between the two needles. This works because the zigzag stitch of the bobbin straightens out when the fabric is pulled so that the thread does not break!
Alternatively, when sewing with stretch fabrics, you can choose to use jersey needles as they will part the fabric as you sew, whereas “normal” or universal needles will leave holes in the fabric similar to the kind of whole you might poke through your tights if you’re putting them on in a hurry.
Jersey needles have a medium ballpoint tip designed especially for knit fabrics because it slips between the knit fibers and does not break or damage them while sewing.
If you use a straight stitch on knit fabrics, your fabric will stretch but your stitches won’t — this leads to ripped seams. A good way to solve this problem is to use a zigzag stitch with a polyester thread such as Gutermann Sew-All — cotton thread won’t be sturdy enough.
The great thing about knits is that they don’t fray. We show you how to overlock the edges as part of the Knit & Stretch Fabric class to give you a neat and professional finish, but if you need to whip something up in a hurry and don’t have time to overlock the edges it doesn’t matter too much!
We’re also running a Two Day Dressmaking workshop making the Myrtle dress from Colette patterns which although is taught using woven fabrics in the class, has a set of instructions on how to make it from stretch fabric too!
We will be adding more designs to this collection soon, so watch this space!