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Tips for Sewing Jersey Knit Fabric

Learn all the tips for sewing jersey knit with these sewing tips and techniques. Jersey is the best knit fabric to sew and wear!

When I first started sewing there were not a lot of great knit fabric options so it was hard to learn how to sew knit fabric. Pretty soon jersey knit was readily available in so many prints and colors.

Jersey knit is one of my favorite fabrics to sew with, and it’s perfect for fitted stretch clothing. The best is cotton spandex jersey which is the easiest to find!

I will teach you everything there is to know about how to sew knit fabric and share a video, so you can learn and become comfortable with sewing jersey knit fabric!

tips for sewing jersey knit fabric

What is jersey Knit fabric?

Jersey knit fabric is yarns or threads looped around each other. When the fabric is pulled the the loops pull against each other. The space in between creates space for the fabric to move and stretch.

Jersey fabric comes in all weights and stretches. It can be made from lots of different fibers and fiber blends. Clothing made from jersey is more often tight and fitted. Some of them don’t drape that well, but it really depends on the fabric.

jersey knit fabric drape

Tips for Sewing Jersey Knit Fabric

Know your jersey knit fabrics.

Jersey knit is one kind of knitting to create fabric, but there are lots of different fibers used to make jersey knit. Each jersey knit fabric behaves differently and stretches differently.

Jersey knits have little “Vs” on the front and “Ms on the back. There’s often a slight sheen to the right side, and it always curls towards the front. Sometimes it has spandex in the content and sometimes it doesn’t.

Most often jersey knit is lightweight or a medium weight. It can be found created from cotton, polyester, rayon, and spandex, and blends of these fibers.

Lightweight knit jersey fabrics

rayon spandex jersey, bamboo rayon spandex jersey, cotton spandex jersey, double brushed polyester jersey, and single brushed polyester jersey

Medium weight knit jersey fabrics

rayon spandex jersey, bamboo rayon spandex jersey, cotton spandex jersey, double brushed polyester jersey, and single brushed polyester jersey

jersey knit fabric

Learn how to figure out stretch percentage.

Each fabric stretches differently. There’s stretch percentage and then there’s returnability.

The stretch percentage tells you how much a certain fabric has the ability to stretch, and the returnability tells you how much the fabric can return to it’s original length. Jersey usually has a good stretch percentage and a good returnability especially if there’s spandex in the content.

To figure out the stretch percentage line up the cut edge of your fabric next to a ruler*. Hold the fabric at the selvedge and 4″ and stretch the fabric as wide as it goes. Then release it and see if the fabric returns to 4″.

This fabric stretched from 4″ to 7″ which means it has 85% stretch.

learn the stretch of your fabric

Use the correct sewing machine needle.

When you sew jersey knit fabric you want duller needles to push the fibers apart instead of poking holes in the fabric. A sharp needle will pierce and cause runs in the fabric.

There are two kinds of sewing machine needles you should use with knit jersey fabric. Each needle comes in different sizes which corresponds with the weight of your fabric: smaller needles go with lighter weight fabrics and bigger needles go with heavier weight fabrics.

Jersey or Ball Point Needle*

The medium ball point does not damage or break knit fibers. This is the best to use with jersey fabric.

Stretch Twin Needle*

Two stretch needles mounted on one shank that creates two rows of stitches simultaneously. I use a twin needle to hem all of my knits

sewing machine needs for knit fabric

Cut with a rotary cutter and cutting mat.

Knits are a little tricky to cut out especially with pins and scissors.

The most accurate way of cutting out jersey knit fabric is to use a cutting mat, pattern weights, and a rotary cutter*. Rotary cutters make cutting curves and notches easier.

cutting jersey knit fabric

Jersey knit fabric does have a grainline like woven fabric. The grainline runs parallel to the selvedge.

Usually when working with a pattern, the pattern indicates a line for the greatest stretch of the fabric which is perpendicular to the selvedge. You want the greatest stretch to go around a body.

Use the correct thread.

Different sewing machine thread can produce different results in your project.

All-purpose thread

I use all-purpose thread for almost all knit fabric especially any jersey fabric with polyester content. I rarely have a problem with it, and it works great.

Cotton thread

Every once in awhile I notice holes forming in knit seams. This is caused by the polyester thread being too strong for the jersey knit fabric and slowly pulling holes in the fabric.

The cotton thread is not as unforgiving as polyester thread and won’t pull holes in the fabric.

thread for knit fabric

 Use a stretch stitch.

seams for knit fabric

The most basic stretch stitches are a zigzag and a serger stitch. You cannot use a regular straight stitch because the thread will pop when the fabric is stretched.

You can use a zigzag on any sewing machine alone without a serger. I really want anyone without a serger to realize they can still sew knits! I have a serger, and I actually use a zigzag and a serger on every knit seam so I have double seams and don’t have to mend seams later. 

stitches for knit fabric

Zigzag

on almost all sewing machines, always works, has a chance of tunneling, shows thread from the outside

Ladder stitch

a slow stitch that uses a lot of thread and it looks like a straighter seam from the outside

3-step zigzag

doesn’t tunnel the fabric, shows thread from the outside

Lightning stitch

the straightest looking stitch that still stretches but it’s not a stitch with a large amount of stretch

Triple stitch

uses a lot of thread and a slow stitch

Use spray starch to combat rolling edges.

add starch to knit fabric to stabilize

If you really struggle sewing jersey knit fabric because the raw edges roll toward the front, use spray starch* and an iron to stiffen the edges. This is the best tip for lightweight jersey knits and especially rayon jersey.

I was skeptical about it working until I tried it. It really does help the edges stop rolling so much.

Reduce sewing machine foot pressure.

check for sewing machine foot pressure

Sometimes a sewing machine foot with a lot of pressure can make a fabric stretch out and become wavy. If you reduce the pressure you can help prevent this.

Some machines have a dial on the side to adjust the pressure and some machines you adjust the pressure by loosening a screw on the sewing machine foot.

Read your sewing machine manual to figure out how to do it.

If you still have trouble – use a sewing machine walking foot.

use a walking foot

I just got mine recently so I can’t give a lot of advice on this, but I’ve read lots and lots of posts about using a walking foot while sewing jersey knits.

A walking foot* is basically a foot with feed dogs and go in time with the bottom feed dogs so the fabric is moved evenly through the sewing process. I think I’ll use mine when sewing twin needle hems on jersey knit fabrics.

Use the pattern that recommends jersey fabric

If a pattern recommends jersey fabric than the stretch percentage should be really close and will work the best for your project.

I think once you have enough experience with knit fabrics you can deviate a little bit, but if you are just learning you will have a higher rate of success of you follow the recommendations.

Neckbands, cuffs, and waistbands should be 75%-85% smaller than what it’s being sewn to.

sewing jersey knit fabric

A neckband needs to be smaller than what it’s being sewn to so that it can pull it in. When you think of the two circles of a neckband, the folded side should have a smaller circumference than the circumference of the seam.

When you start sewing hold the thread.

hold thread when starting to sew

If you have trouble having your thread or fabric getting sucked down into the bobbin area, then holding the threads before and when you start sewing can solve this problem.

It prevents the threads from being pulled down, and it prevents the fabric from being sucked down in. 

Don’t stretch your fabric as you sew. Except when you are sewing on bands. 

only stretch when sewing band

When you are sewing jersey knit fabric you should never stretch or pull the fabric but let the machine do the work. Pulling and stretching causes the fabric to become stretched out and wavy.

Don’t pull and stretch the fabric EXCEPT when sewing on bands. Don’t stretch the main part of the garment, but do slightly stretch the band to fit the length of what it’s being sewn to. The band will suck the stretched fabric back in.

Press while sewing.

press seams and neckbands

Press every seam with steam because the steam can help the fabric return to its original state. Sometimes I even have to wash it once it’s finished before wearing to get it to fully return.

Use a twin needle and Soft Stretch hem tape. 

use soft stretch hem tape for hemming

I hem jersey knit fabrics with a twin needle. A twin needle sews a stitch that is two parallel stitches from the front and a zigzag on the back.

The only way I’ve been able to get a successful knit hem is by using soft stretch hem tape*. It’s a lightweight hem tape that stretches; it prevents tunneling and thread pulling out. Read more about how to use a twin needle and hem tape.

jersey knit fabric hem

Practice. Practice. Practice.

This is the best tip of all because you need to make mistakes and practice to learn and improve!

If you make something using this tutorial, I’d love to see! Please share it on social media with the hashtag #heatherhandmade and tag me!

tips for sewing jersey knit fabric

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Amazing
Bundle of thanks for sharing

this is great info! thank you. I have a double needle and no idea how it works -yet! keep up the great work you’re doing! I love upcycling clothing too. 🙂