Dear friends, we don’t have to give up sewing with knitted fabrics because we don’t have an overlock machine in our sewing workshop. Moreover, the control that we can have with our flat machine (a little tuned, yes) when sewing these nice and special fabrics, is of a high note.
There was a time not so distant when a servant sewed almost everything with the overlock machine. Its indiscriminate use began with elastic fabrics but ended up encompassing all projects. It goes without saying that the results, for the most part, were satisfactory but that the roundness of the handling of this type of machine is not very suitable for certain parts of a garment, which need more delicate and calm treatment.
Perhaps it is not so much a question of being 100% overlock or 100% flat users, but of using a combination of both machines and adapting them to our work rhythm, type of garments and character (more handmade or industrial).
After this reflection, let’s return to the crux of the post, which is the use of the flat machine to sew elastic fabrics and, either, to sew the entire garment (in case of not having an overlock) or choose to sew certain parts such as pockets, covers or necks
These are the points we will see:
- Specific stitches and tensions
- Sewing a stabilized hem
Let’s go there!
Below we have an overview of the recommended materials for knitting with our flat machine. Its use radically changes the quality of the results and comfort when working, we could say that they are essential!
- Elastic Polyamide Thread
- Double drag foot
- Transparent elastic or clear elastic
- Knitted Thermo adhesive interlining
- Specific needles for stretch fabrics
If you think, we will know its features in more detail
It is important not to confuse it with the rubber thread used to gather, its appearance is bulky and soft and the composition is 100% polyamide. Its thickness goes unnoticed so that the seams (especially in the overlapping) become lighter.
Keys to use:
- It is always used on the bobbin and on the anchors of the overlock. Never in the upper needles.
- The bobbin can be wound by machine, it is not necessary to do it manually.
You can find this thread in several colors, but having a more special and restricted use, I advise you to have a basic palette of neutral colors that combine with most projects.
Double Drag Foot
This slightly diabolical-looking foot helps make the tissue drag in our machine more uniform. If you look, it has two white tooth bars that help to slide the tissue over the top.
In addition to helping you sew the stitch and other elastic fabrics better, velvet fabrics, patchwork projects and other necessities composed of several layers will thank you.
Before launching to buy this foot, check with the store your machine model as well as placement and use. That instruction manual by hand!
We have several options when choosing a needle and not always the most logical option or the first attempt will work. For this reason, a good assortment in the drawer and a test session with a piece of tissue will reveal the appropriate needle.
The two determining characteristics of a needle are:
- The tip: rounded or sharp.
For the point, we need a rounded tip that slides between the loops of the structure of the fabric and that above all does not pierce.
- The thickness: the diameter of the needle trunk must be directly proportional to the thickness of the fabric we want to sew.
The thickness is indicated with a double numbering type 70/10 (European numbering / American numbering). In this example, this type of thickness is the finest (there is 60/8) and is indicated for very light fabrics such as gauze or batiste. The thickness of the needles can reach up to 120/20 for fabrics with high thickness such as leather.
To sew stitches, we will move with numbering thicknesses between 70/10 and 90/14. In the boxes of needles, you can find an assortment of thicknesses for the same type of needle, a delight!
Now that we have seen the characteristics that define a needle, we are going to see the types of needle suitable for sewing stitches and elastic genres in general:
- Jersey needle: it is the official choice for its medium ballpoint.
- Stretch needle: with its medium ballpoint, false stitches are avoided and it is indicated for elastic fabrics and extremely elastic knitwear. Needless to say, it is among the favorites in the ranking of seamstresses.
- Microtex needle: with an especially thin and sharp tip for easier penetration into very thin or extremely dense tissues. While it is not specific to the point, it is worth giving it a try.
- Stretch Twin Needle: This needle makes us the function of a coating, creating a pair of parallel stitches to finish low and hems so richly.
When giving certain weight or strength to certain parts of a garment, we have to adapt the choice of these stabilizers to the nature of the fabric. So if it is elastic, the stabilizer in question must also accompany.
For this, we have two very successful materials: the Thermo adhesive knitting interlining and the transparent elastic.
The first can be purchased in linear meters or we can be lucky to find it cut into a roll with a width of 1.5 – 2 cm. It is ideal for interweaving views and other parts in a classic way and for hems and hems.
And the transparent elastic is one of those materials that have broken into the sewing scene with all its exorcism. Stabilize necklines, shoulders and pocket openings or add a little curl are some of its virtues. We won’t talk about him anymore, because you have at your disposal a couple of the most complete post: Transparent elastic and Knit dress with a transparent elastic.
Before addressing the appropriate stitches and their characteristics, there are a couple of points concerning the important sewing machine and that we will have to modify:
- The pressure foot: although not all machines can be controlled in most there is a dial where we can adjust it to the minimum pressure (for knitwear or very fine). In the case of not having this option, we can use tissue paper.
- The tension of the upper thread: when the stitch was chosen is not straight, it is advisable to lower the tension a bit compared to usual to give the thread a certain margin in the reciprocating stitch.
That said and without further ado, we can say that zigzag sewing is the official stitch for sewing knitwear or elastic with our flat machine. Grace is in the choice of stitch length and width, responsible for the final elasticity of the seam.
The choice usually ranges between a length of 1-2 and a width of 1.5-3, but all is to try! The important thing is to get a seam with an acceptable elastic and that when opening it does not have holes or holes.
This is a good example of zigzag sewing with a start and finishes finish. Surely a little more width in the stitch will give you extra elasticity.
In our sample of stitches, we can not stop doing the “Pop!”, in which we will check the elasticity threshold, seeing when our stitching explodes (if it does). It is not necessary to pass stretching, it is necessary to apply a proportional stretching to the one that will be in the garment.
Another widely used stitch is triple elastic, highly recommended for areas with high stretch resistance (collars in baby clothes, the crotch of pants). His drawing corresponds to three stripes in parallel and the machine moves forward and back in its seam, resulting in one of the strongest and most durable stitching.
And finally the elastic zigzag tip, a great ally to sew rubber bands and finish off certain parts.
Surely you have many more elastic stitches on your sewing machines. I encourage you to try them on different types of knitted fabrics and see how they improve their results with the proper use of thread, needles and double drag feet.
After seeing all the materials, stitches and technical characteristics we will see this simple step by step to make a hem in knitwear, in which we have a stable low and with firm stitches.
STEP 1 Prepare the hem
- Place a 1.5 cm wide ribbon of knitted thermo-adhesive interlining on the reverse side of the fabric.
- Fix with the iron on the edge.
- Fold the stabilized hem width.
STEP 2 Prepare the machine
- Place the double drag foot.
- Place the twin stretch needle.
- Thread the machine with polyester thread on the upper needle and with elastic polyamide thread on the bobbin.
- Choose the zigzag stitch with an appropriate length and width.
- Lower the upper thread tension and foot pressure.
STEP 3 sew
- Nail the needle 5 mm from the edge of the fabric to start sewing, do not do it to the edge, as there may be thread jams (very safely).
- Start sewing.
Personally I do not use safety stitches with the twin needle, I prefer once the stitching is finished, turn the loose thread ends upside down and finish them by hand.
And this is the result of the double-needle in our stabilized hem. There have been no wrinkles or tissue movements when sewing thanks to the stabilizing interlining.
In the case of not having the twin needle, we can make two passes of zigzag stitching very parallel and get a good result!
And here the post today, which contains a lot of information that can be very useful for sewing elastic garments with your usual machine.
Good advice is to have a small list with all the requirements (needle, foot, tensions, thread …) near your job to review it before starting to sew. And, not least, for when you return to more normal genres, leave the machine “reset.”
See you next time!