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Crucial Dos & Don’ts of Sewing Jersey Fabric

Jersey fabric is something that students often have a fear of working with. Usually this a fear of the unknown. Or perhaps they have tried before and it didn’t work out.

But I’m here today to say, “Get over that fear! Follow these simple dos & don’ts and you’ll wonder what all the fuss was about!”

Don’t Stretch out Jersey Fabric

When you are cutting and sewing your fabric you want it to be as unstretched as possible.

If you were to stretch it when you were cutting out, then when it shrunk back to normal size it would make the pieces too small. And if you stretched the fabric when you are sewing what you get is a wavy seam that doesn’t lie flat.

Neither of these results will create a wonderful finished garment!

One of my top tips for not stretching your fabric is to support the weight of the fabric. Gravity is not your friend when working with stretch fabrics. Do not allow the length of the fabric to hang off the table when you are cutting out. Give yourself plenty of space on your sewing table, so that your fabric can rest there.

Do use a Stitch that Stretches

Although you don’t want to stretch your fabric when you are cutting and sewing, you do want it to stretch when you are wearing it. This is where the fit and comfort in jersey fabric comes from.

If your stitches don’t stretch with the fabric, then they will break when the fabric stretches. Nobody wants popped seams!

Stitches that will stretch are: Zigzag, triple stitch, lightning stitch and overlocker stitches. (Check out your sewing machine manual to find out your stretch stitch options.)

jersey fabric suitable stretch stitches

Test your settings on a small piece of your fabric before sewing your actual garment.

Don’t use a Pattern Designed for Woven Fabrics

Pattern designers put a lot of expertise and thought into designing their patterns. For a start providing you with suggested fabrics. This is because different fabrics have different characteristics and work best with different techniques and finishes.

Yes, it might be possible to do. But that doesn’t mean that you should try it, especially if you are a beginner.

The pattern will usually give you a percentage of stretch required in your fabric – make sure your jersey fabric has enough stretch for the style you are making.

Do use a Needle suitable for your Fabric

Use either a jersey/ballpoint/stretch needle for sewing with knit or jersey fabrics. These needles have a slightly rounded point that minimises breakages of the fibres which could create holes in your seams.

The rounded tip, pushed between the fibres rather than pushing through and breaking them.

Jersey fabrics - Needles for sewing machines

Using the correct needle can also reduce skipped stitches. A stretch needle is best suited to fabrics with a high Lycra/elastane content.

Again, test your settings before you start sewing for real. You will get a better stitch whenever you use the right needle.

Don’t forget about Following the Fabric Grain

Jersey fabrics don’t tend to have a selvedge like woven fabrics do. Most knitted fabrics are created on a circular knitting machine to create a tube of fabric. They are then sliced down one side. Glue will often be added to the cut edges to create stability.

This means that the edges are not always perfect and cannot be used as a guide to keeping your pattern pieces straight.

The easiest way to find the grain on your fabric is to find a row of the rib of the knit. You might have to look really closely to do this. Then draw a line along this with a fabric marker or tailors chalk. Use this to check that each grainline on your pattern pieces run parallel to this line.

Once you have successfully overcome your fear of sewing with jersey fabric, you will enjoy the freedom that they give you to sew comfortable, wearable clothes for you and all the family.

Have you sewn with jersey fabrics before? Have you been happy with your results? Do you have any tips you would like to share? (Comment below)

There are Sew Alongs in the Learn to Sew Membership Club that will help you increase your skills in sewing with stretch fabrics.

Love & Stitches

Alison xx

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