Stitches for Sewing Knits

stitches for sewing knits

If you’re already a confident sewer-of-knits then you can probably just skip over this post and jump right into sewing your Conifer Skirt. If you want a refresher or haven’t done a lot of sewing with knits, then this should bring you up to speed and help you feel conifdent enough to get started!

stretched straight stitch

There are several different options for stitches you can use when sewing knits. The first option is to use a standard straight stitch and stretch your fabric as you sew. This is also the option I recommend the least – your stitches often end up looking stretched out and uneven and there isn’t much stretch in the seam so it’s prone to breaking. You may have okay luck with this technique with a stable knit that has very little stretch like a ponte, but I do not recommend it for any knit that you would use on the Conifer Skirt.

lightning stitch

If you have any specialty stitches on your machine, you likely have a straight stretch stitch. This is sometimes called a lightning stitch. This is a great stitch to use because it has a lot of stretch and is sturdy and working with it is just like sewing with a normal straight stitch, just a bit slower. The one thing you do want to be careful of is that it isn’t great for sewing on delicate fabrics. The needle goes back and forth through the fabric in the same place multiple times so it can weaken light-weight fabrics. If in doubt, sew a test seam or two on some scraps and run them through the wash a couple of times to make sure the fabric holds up.

zig zag stitch

The most tried-and-true stitch for sewing with knits is the good ol’ zig-zag. Although you want to test any stitch on a scrap of your fabric before sewing your whole garment, you most definitely want to test your zig-zag because the weight and stretch of your fabric will strongly affect the necessary length and width of your stitch. The wider your zig-zag is the more stretch it has, making it perfect for hems. However, you don’t want to use a too wide a zig-zag for a construction seam that will be pressed open in the final garment because you will see the zags all the way down the open seam. Again, test your zig-zag on fabric scraps, play with the width and length of the zig-zag, and pull on the seam and press it open as it will be in your garment.

triple stretch stitch

Finally, the most super-duper-stretchy stitch that you will find on machines with specialty stitches is the triple zig-zag or stretch zig-zag. This stitch is awesome for sewing knits that need to stretch a lot like in lingerie or swimwear. However, I’m not as big of a fan of it for use in the Conifer Skirt for a couple of reasons. It’s very visible, so it stitches a lovely hem but the stitch line is highlighted, so that becomes an aesthetic choice. Also, it doesn’t work that well for side seams or any seam that will be pressed open because it is a zig-zag and the zags become visible as the seam opens.

stretch needles

No matter what stitch you use, make sure that you are using the correct needle. You want to use a “stretch” or “jersey” needle to prevent skipped stitches and damage to your fabric.

Comments 2

  1. Great post, Erin! A stitch I recommend for seams is the “wobble” stitch. You just turn the width of your zigzag waaaay down until it is almost a straight stitch, but not quite. For some reason, this will give you some stretchability. I find it better for lighter weight fabric and even mid weight, because the stretch stitch on my machine just eats the fabric up!

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