Sewing with Sweater Knit Fabric

When I first started sewing I was terrified to sew with fabrics other than basic quilting cotton.  But the truth is, sewing garments in woven cotton fabric is really limiting, especially since most of us wear knit fabric for day to day wear.  My love of sewing garments….really my whole mission to make my own clothing, increased triple-fold when I conquered my fears of sewing with a variety of textiles. As soon as you can sew rayons, jersey knits, sweater knits, silks and cotton lawn with confidence, you can make just about anything!   I realized yesterday while I was writing about the cardigan for my mom that sewing with sweater knit fabric is one of those substrates that can be intimidating.

But, it doesn’t have to be! In the spirit of encouraging others to stitch up a more adventurous wardrobe I decided to share my simple tricks for sewing with sweater knit fabric. Let’s make it easy and not at all intimidating, shall we?

Sweater knit fabric is a type of knit fabric that is lightweight, stretchy and knit like a sweater. Hence, the name. They have a lovely, close-to-the-body drape and tend to be very flow-y but also have a big of weight that can make them elegantly droop when worn.  See how the tunic below hangs close to my body and is a bit weighted down? That’s what I’m talking about.

Sweater knits are a bit delicate and require some skillful finessing but I’ve got you covered in that department.  Plus, It is worth the bit of extra work. Right? Right.

Ok. Enough of the plug, here are my tips:

+ Just like with all other jersey knit fabric, you need the correct tools.  Use a jersey or stretch sewing machine needle, 100% polyester thread and a stretch stitch such as the lightning bolt or zigzag stitch.

+  Sweater knits have a definite right side and wrong side that can be somewhat hard to discern. If you knit yarn, you will know this as the knit side and the purl side. The right side of the fabric is the knit side (where you can see a ribbing-type effect). The wrong side is the purl side (it is flatter and not ribbed).

Right Side

Wrong Side

Tips for Sewing Sweater Knits

+ Be ‘gentle’ with your pins. By that I mean, your pins are going to be pesky. They will want to slip out of your fabric and that may mess you up as you sew. So, once you have pinned everything, go easy on your garment as you carry it to your sewing machine. Alternatively, pin only what you are just about to sew. For example, pin one arm in place and then sew it before pinning the other arm in place.

Tips for Sewing Sweater Knits-Laurelhurst Cardigan

+ Pull gently on your threads as you begin sewing and continue to GENTLY pull the fabric along the whole stitch. You aren’t exactly pulling the fabric, simply guiding it a bit. Sweater knits are so lightweight, they have a tendency to get tangled up in the machinery of a sewing machine. Or as I like to say, “Sewing machines like to eat lightweight sweater knits.” By guiding the fabric a bit, you can make sure that doesn’t happen. Don’t pull too hard, however, it can cause stretched or skipped stitches.

Tips for Sewing with Sweater Knits

There you have it! The secrets to sewing with sweater knit fabric.  So easy!  They really have fantastic drape, are usually super soft and add a bit of elegance.

AND, just like other knit fabrics sweater knits do not fray! This means you can go rogue and leave something unhemmed, which is kind of fun. Have I convince you to go for it? I hope so! Stitch yourself something airy, unique and stunning!

P.S. Imagine Gnats is still running her sale on sweater knits until Monday, February 27!   25% off all colors. It’s a great time to experiment, don’t you think?!



3 Comments on Sewing with Sweater Knit Fabric

  1. Patricia Burns
    February 25, 2017 at 9:56 am (10 months ago)

    Such great information. Thanks.

  2. Kati
    March 18, 2017 at 9:24 pm (9 months ago)

    Excellent confidence-boosting post! Thank you.


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