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This guide was written by Nicole Doig the owner of Dots n Stripes online fabric store which specialises in colourful jersey fabrics.

 

How to sew with jersey fabrics


What stitches to use when sewing jersey fabric

 

Sewing with jersey

Sewing with jersey fabrics is not as difficult as you think. All you need is the right stitch and needle and the right choice of fabric for your garment. This article will tell you about the different types of jersey fabric, how to cut them, how to sew the fabric and how to finish hems and seams.

There are various types of knit fabrics out there, below is a guide to the main types you will come across:

 

Cotton jersey 

  • Usually single knitted jersey with a percentage of 90-95% cotton and 5-10% elastane. This fabric is perfect for t-shirts, leggings, hats, etc. and mainly comes in a light to medium weight

Viscose jersey

  • Light to medium weight fabric which is usually made of about 92-95% viscose and 5-8% elastane. It drapes better than most cotton jerseys and is therefore used in ladies wear such as dresses and tunics

Interlock jersey

  • Heavier than single jersey as two layers of jersey are ‘knitted’ together which makes  the front and back look the same. It can either be made of cotton or viscose and is suitable for dresses, tops, leggings, etc

Polyester jersey

  • This fabric is made of a synthetic material so it doesn’t have the natural feel to it that cotton jerseys have. The percentage of polyester and elastane is about the same as with the other jerseys. It tends to be more stain and wrinkle resistant and can be used for ladies wear such as tops, t-shirts, dresses, etc

Ponte di Roma

  • This is a stable double knit fabric. It’s not as stretchy as cotton or viscose jerseys and therefore fairly easy to work with. It can be made from various types of yarn and is suitable for garments like tunics, tops, cardigans, etc.

The majority of jersey fabrics have a 4-way stretch, which means they stretch crosswise and lengthwise. But there are also some knit fabrics, usually heavier types, with only a 2-way stretch so it’s always best to check the fabric recommendation on your pattern before choosing your material to make sure you are using the correct fabric.

TOP TIP - I recommend to always pre-wash your fabric – some jerseys tend to shrink quite a bit in the wash so it’s best to do it before you start cutting it.

 
How to cut out with jersey fabric


Cutting your fabric

The most important thing when cutting jersey fabric is not to stretch it. Lay it flat on the table, either single or double layered depending on your pattern, and place your pattern pieces on it. Make sure the fabric doesn’t hang over the side of your table as this will stretch it out of shape. You can either pin your pattern down and cut it out with scissors or use paper weights and a rotary cutter, whichever you are most comfortable with.

 

Which needles should you use to sew jersey


Sewing your jersey fabric

All knit fabrics should be sewn with a special needle, either a ballpoint or stretch needle. A ballpoint needle has a round tip and pushes the fibres away when sewing rather than piercing through them and tearing them. The size of the needle depends on the type of jersey, a size 75/11 and 80/12 for light to medium weight knits and 90/14 for heavier fabrics. No special thread is needed, normal polyester thread works absolutely fine on knit fabrics.

 

Best sewing machine stitches for sewing jersey knit fabrics


The best stitch for sewing stretchy fabrics is either a stretch stitch (looks like a lightning flash as per the image above) or a very narrow and short zigzag as shown in the image below.

Zig zag stitch for sewing ponte di roma fabric


If your machine doesn’t have a built in stretch stitch, you can use the zigzag stitch and adjust the width and length. On my machine I narrow the width and length down to 1, but the settings on every sewing machine are different so you’ll need to play about with them to get it right.

 

Overcast stitch for sewing knit fabrics


You can also use an overcast stitch which sews and finishes your seam at the same time.

I wouldn’t recommend sewing stretch fabrics with a normal straight stitch as it doesn’t have any ‘give’ in it and when you stretch your garment the thread might snap.

Gently guide your fabric when stitching through the layers, don’t pull from the back or hold on to the fabric as this will result in puckering and the seams will look messy. If you can adjust the presser foot pressure on your sewing machine, I suggest to reduce the pressure slightly which also helps reduce puckering.

Most patterns suggest to stabilise your shoulder seams, necklines or armholes. I’ve found that on shoulder seams clear elastic tape, also called swimwear elastic or Framilon, works quite well. But you can also use iron-on seam tape which prevents seams from stretching out of place during wear. And if you don’t have any of those on hand, ordinary strips of thin cotton fabric or iron on interfacing  cut to size will do the job.

 

Finishing seams and hems

 

What stitches to use for sewing knits


Most jersey fabrics don’t fray so basically you don’t need to finish your seams off at all. If you still want to give your garment a more completed look you can either use a three-step zigzag as shown in the photo above or overcast stitch (shown previously) to finish the seams. Both stitches are flexible and stretch with the fabric.

 

Sewing jersey hems with a twin needle


The best way to hem your jersey garments is by turning your hem to the wrong side and topstitching them in place from the right side. You can either choose a straight stitch and sew it with a twin needle (shown above), or, what I often use on children’s clothing, is the three-step zigzag (pictued below).

What stitches to use on polyester jersey fabric


Both stitches give your garment a nice finish and both have ‘give’ in them, so they won’t snap so easily when stretched. You can also use a piece of tearaway backing on the underside to give the hem more stability if needed.

Tip: Always try your stitches on a piece of fabric first before sewing your actual garment. This way you can find out if your stitches look right or if they need adjustment.

 

For a variety of jersey and dressmaking fabrics visit Dots n Stripes’ online shop at www.dotsnstripes.co.uk and follow them on facebook at www.facebook.com/dotsnstripes.uk

 

 Beautiful jersey fabrics available in the UK