How to Stitch Knit Hems
Below, you’ll find ALL my techniques for hemming a knit garment. There are many ways to ‘skin the cat’, in this case the ‘cat’ being a knit hem. What I CAN tell you is that the ‘way’ instructed in most patterns will NOT work! Simply turning up a knit hem and stitching WILL yield a wobbly mess. Give this technique a try and I think you might just LOVE it!
INTERFACE the hem allowance
That means put a knit fusible interfacing the entire depth of the hem allowance – the part that turns up. At seams, do NOT fuse over seam allowances! Slash the interfacing at the seam line as shown in the 2nd photo below. Be sure you put the rough, pebbly side of it down, or you’ll have a gooey mess on your iron. I keep on hand a couple of interfacings for this purpose, and cut them to the width I need. Those are cross-grain cuts, with a rotary cutter, so that the hem still stretches, but it is stabilized! Here is a link to the 8 way Fusible Knit Interfacing. French Fuse is another one I like, and it is 60″ wide! Here is a link.
BALANCE THE BULK!
Think along with me: Fold up a hem at a seam that will be pressed towards one direction or the other (not pressed open). Do you see that you’d have SIX layers? Bulky and then on the other side of the seam, only TWO layers. Bumps = YUCK! I credit Claire Schaeffer for this knowledge in my sewing. I had sewn for – oh my – 27 years already by the time Claire came to teach at my shop in 2003, and never realized this principle! It certainly isn’t ‘taught’ or ‘directed’ in most pattern directions. Really – even on the most lightweight knits, such as the one in the photo below, this would be bulky.
Simply snip into the seam allowance, right up to the seam line stitching at the fold of the hem. Then, flip the seam allowance the opposite direction in the hem than which it pressed in the garment. Yep – that simple!
STITCH THE HEM
Next, it is time to stitch. On knits, the stitch needs to stretch. Here are some choices:
3-step Zig Zag Stitch. I love this one, as it doesn’t ‘tunnel’. Recently, I had my girls use this stitch both on their bound necklines (since they don’t yet have enough control to ‘stitch in the ditch’, and so I also had them do it on the hems. Alter the default settings to width: 4.5 and length: 2.5.
Twin Needle Hem. This is my personal ‘go-to’ quick knit hem. I feel that, when stabilized as directed above, it looks just as good as a cover hem (next in my list). Note that on the back, the single needle forms a zigzag stitch. Some like to use Wooly Nylon for extra stretch in the hem, but I’ve never bothered to do that. I’ve also heard others lay tissue paper under the fabric while stitching. I don’t do that either. All machines are different – experiment with yours. Perhaps even play with the needle tension, or loosen the bobbin tension. Stitch SLOWLY and use a longer than normal stitch length. I like to use at least a 3.0 if not 3.5. In my Stretching Your Knit Sewing Know-How DVD (3 discs long), I fully teach how I stitch with twin needles. I’ll post that clip below. Twin Needles come in different widths and configurations. Make SURE that you have a KNIT stretch needle. In Schmetz, that means they are ‘connected’ to the single shaft with a BLUE BAR. Widths available are 2.5 and 4.5. I prefer the 4.5 (shown in photo). Links to each of these at my website are found Here and Here. Why make sure it is a STRETCH needle? Because the tip of a stretch needle is more rounded so as to not pierce the fibers of the fabric, but rather to separate the fibers.
Twin Needle Hem
Here’s that Video Clip. Again, from my 3 Disc DVD on sewing with knits found HERE.
Cover Hem. I know that a cover hem is how ready-to-wear garments are made. I know many of you have these machines and love them. I was ‘gifted’ a cover hem machine as a ‘designer’, and I’m glad I have it, but honestly, I rarely use it. IN addition, one of my sergers has the capability. I know how to use both, but my ‘default’ is simply the twin needle hem. I’m not telling you NOT to buy a cover hem, nor to NOT use it if you have it. I’m just being honest with you regarding my own everyday sewing practice. While any stitch can ‘come out’, I find that happening more often on the garments on which I’ve used the cover hem than the twin needle. Just my experience…
Regardless of the stitching technique you select, be SURE that both needles, or the stitching altogether goes through BOTH layers: the garment front and the hem allowance.
AVOID DIAGONAL DRAG
We’ve all seen it – the dreaded ‘diagonal drag’. A walking foot may help, integrated dual feed (Pfaff, Bernina) will help, but to be safe, I recommend that you machine (or hand) baste in a hem. Especially to locate a cover hem right at the edge of the hem allowance, this will also be handy. Many machines today have great, LONG basting stitches. Note in the photos below that I place one row in the middle of the hem allowance, through both layers, and the other right at the top edge of the hem allowance. That then gives you a guide along which to stitch so that you don’t need to do any trimming of excess hem allowance.
My sewing friend, Linda Lee, recommends serging the fusible to the hem allowance, FUSIBLE SIDE UP, so that you FUSE the hem into place. Try it – you might like it. I just don’t do well with that method as the interfacing seems to stretch on me, and I don’t personally like a fused hem – I think that can get heavy. Here’s a picture to make it more clear.
TRIMMING EXCESS HEM ALLOWANCE
I usually seem to have to trim some excess hem allowance. Watch the video and DO IT THIS WAY!!
That’s all gals. EVERYTHING I can think of to help you hem knit garment successfully. As with all hemming, my feeling is that the LESS you do to a hem, the better. In other words, as you have read in recent project posts, I do NOT serge finish a hem that I am going to twin needle OR cover hem – that is overkill. OH – and another ‘hem’ for knits: Just cut it off! Especially on Slinky Knit, cutting it as a finish is GREAT! My favorite ‘raw’ finish is the WAVE rotary cutter.
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