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This is a guest post from Wendy Ward. Wendy teaches sewing, dressmaking and pattern cutting at MIY Workshop in Brighton and has her own range of sewing patterns called MIY Collection, available to buy online through her website

How to sew with knit or jersey fabrics



Many sewers both new and experienced think that you need an overlocker to sew knitted fabrics.

Not so, all you need is the following:


1) A jersey or “ball point” needle in your machine – get yourself a mixed pack of sizes, as a guide, a size 90 would be fine for not too heavy sweatshirt fabrics, a size 75 or 80 for some of the finer more fluid viscose jerseys so that you don’t snag or ladder the fabric.

2) Use one of the “stretch” stitches on your sewing machine, like the ones in orange in the photograph below:


Jersey stitching - sewing with knit fabric 


  1. Don’t worry if you have an old machine – even a narrow zig-zag stitch will work!
  2. Make sure you don’t stretch the fabric as you’re feeding it through the machine.
  3. If you can adjust the presser foot pressure on your machine, it can help to reduce this when sewing thicker knit fabrics and trying to match stripes.


Finally, be careful when choosing patterns and fabrics. 

When sewing knitted fabrics, you must use a pattern that’s been designed for knitted fabrics to achieve the correct fit.

As for fabrics, most important – wash your fabric before you use it.  Due to their construction, knitted fabrics can shrink a lot and it tends to be more in the length than the width.  Cotton rich jerseys and interlocks are likely to shrink most.


There is a wide range of fabrics that fall within the description of knitted fabrics and they vary massively in how stretchy they are and how they will hang on the body, here’s a few examples to give you an idea:


  1. Sweatshirt fabric is fairly thick, has raised loops on the wrong side, is often cotton and doesn’t have a huge amount of stretch, a good choice for cardigans, jumpers and looser warmer garments that need a more casual look.
  2. Viscose jersey is a lovely heavy drapey fabric that will make beautiful draped, cowled and gathered styles.  It is much heavier and has a far better drape and hang than cotton jersey.
  3. Choose a knit fabric with Lycra (also known as elastane) if you’re making a close fitting style that needs to stretch a lot with the body ie. leggings.
Wendy has published a book A Beginner’s Guide to Sewing with Knitted Fabrics that is an in-depth manual for sewing with knits. 

a Beginner's Guide to Sewing With Knitted Fabrics


 Top image credit: Calico Laine