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How to Hem Knit Fabric: Three Different Ways

Learn how to hem knit fabric three different ways and which one is my favorite. Each works for different fabric for the perfect hem.

I have been sewing with knits for a long time. I fell in love with knits when I was still in college and realized how forgiving sewing with knits was, and there were so many ways to hem knits.

I didn’t know anything about different kinds of knits and how to work with them. I just used them all and treated them all the same. Some of my projects turned out great, and some did know.

I never had a problem hemming with a twin needle when I sewed swimsuit knits, but early on I realized it was really hard to get a nice flat, stretchy hem when I used a twin needle. Of the many ways to hem knit fabric I’ll show you three that I use.

This post was created in partnership with Thermoweb. All opinions are my own. There are affiliate links in this post. 

how to hem knit fabric

Over the past ten years I have tried almost everything to get a nice hem with a twin needle. I have read every article and tried every trick.

I tried changing bobbin tension, changing needle tension, sewing slowly, stretch thread in the bobbin, different fusible hem tapes, higher sewing machine foot pressure, inserting a strip of jersey fabric in the hem, and using tissue paper in the hem. I could never make it work.

jersey knit fabric

I even took a break from sewing knits this year because I was so frustrated with tunneling and wonky hems! I found a new product HeatnBond Soft Stretch Lite* and my knit hems will never be the same. I was surprised at how well this product worked, and now I want to sew all the knits! 

how to hem knit fabric with hem tape

There are lots of different fusible hem tapes on the market, and I used some of them. I just wanted to compare HeatnBond’s other products because I feel like the Soft Stretch* is so unique.

They have three kinds that need to be sewn and two all for wovens. One does not need to be sewn, but it is for wovens. There’s only one, the Soft Stretch*, that is lightweight and for knits.

I decided to use 5 different knits and test out three different ways of hemming to see which one I liked the best. There’s a roundup of pros of cons of each method at the end of the post.

Love to sew? Try one of these sewing projects:

How to Hem Knit Fabric

Fabrics Used in This Post: 

The three methods I used for hemming the knits were 1) hemming alone, 2) hemming and inserting a strip of fabric in the hem, and 3) hemming with the Soft Stretch*.

I’m not going to show you ways to hem knits with a twin needle without anything extra. You can find that in other tutorials. I will show you how to hem with fabric and how to hem with Soft Stretch*.

Hemming with Fabric

Out of everything I’ve tried, this has been the most successful. (My hem thread still pull out though, so I wasn’t completely happy with it.)

how to hem knit fabric with fabric
  1. Cut 1/2″ strips of the same fabric you’re working with with the stretch going the long way.
  2. Lay the strip of fabric along the edge that needs to be hemmed.
  3. Fold the fabric up 1/2″ enclosing the strip of fabric inside the hem.
  4. Pin the hem and press. 
  5. Sew with a twin needle and tie of the ends.

Hemming with Soft Stretch

how to hem knit fabric with hem tape
  1. Cut the soft stretch the length you need. (If you have a curved hem then cut the strips in 3 inch to 4 inch to go with the curve.)
  2. Place the soft stretch on the edge that needs to be hemmed and press for 5 seconds.
  3. Let cool and then peel the backing off. The resulting interfacing is so thin you can hardly see it.
  4. Fold up the fabric and press for 20 seconds.
  5. Sew with a twin needle and tie off the threads.

I took pictures of each hem right after it was hemmed and then after I pressed it. The top row is a hem, the second row is a hem with a fabric facing, and the bottom row is a hem with Soft Stretch. Sewing the hem stretched out the fabric on all three, but it’s the most noticeable on the top two.

Even after steaming and pressing, the fabric didn’t really return to normal except with the Soft Stretch. Also, the top two are wonky seams after being pressed because they were stretched out. This is one of the lighter fabrics I used which is trickier, but it shows what a difference it makes.

hem knit fabric before and after pressing

Pros and Cons of Different Knit Hems

These are my lists of the advantages and disadvantages for each type of hem. I’m trying to be completely honest about each one. I’ve used them all and lots of other kinds, but Soft Stretch* really is my favorite. I finally feel like I can make flat and crisp hems.

KNIT HEM
Pros
Nothing else is needed
Free
Fast
Can control hem size
Cons
Tunneling
Wonky Seams
Needs pinning
KNIT HEM – FABRIC FACING
Pros
Inexpensive
Fast
Sometimes prevents tunneling
Can control hem size
Cons
Extra thing to cut out
Sometimes wonky seams
Needs pinning
Hems stretch out
Can make seam bulky
KNIT HEM – SOFT STRETCH
Pros
Prevents tunneling
Prevents stretching out
No pins
Impossible to tell if it’s there
Cons
Costs money
Needs pressing before sewing
Takes more time
Hem size determined by tape size

Comparing the Hems

I took a picture of every hem stretched from the front and stretched from the back. You can see that the top two hems of each fabric tunnel when stretched and the bottom hem does not tunnel or only tunnels slightly.

Lightweight bamboo rayon spandex jersey

This fabric is very lightweight with a lot of stretch and a pretty good recovery. It drapes well but is pretty thin.

comparing knit fabric hems

Lightweight bamboo rayon spandex jersey

This fabric is lightweight with a lot of stretch and pretty good recovery. It drapes well.

comparing knit fabric hems

Lightweight cotton spandex jersey

This fabric is lightweight with a lot of stretch and a lot of recovery. It does not drape well.

comparing knit fabric hems

Midweight cotton spandex jersey

This fabric is midweight with a lot of stretch and a lot of recovery. It does not drape well and looks best as a fitted garment.

comparing knit fabric hems

Printed midweight cotton spandex

This fabric is midweight with a lot of stretch and a lot of recovery. It does not drape well and looks best as a fitted garment. The print makes it a little less stretchy.

comparing knit fabric hems

Did you learn anything new today? Which hem will you use from now on?

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!

how to hem knit fabric

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Heather you are so adorable on top of being a great teacher! – I’ve been afraid to sew with knit fabric despite being a fairly accomplished seamstress – I can’t wait to start after this post – Thank you!

I need to try this because I'm always frustrated with my hems too!

Heather, thank you so much for the Tips ref the Soft Stretch…I'm off to find some today.
My knits are hemmed w/stretch stitch on my machine. Disastrous at times as I'm still learning knit weights, textures and of course the right needle.

schimmel(dot)db(at)gmail(dot)com

When I was young (20's) I didn't know that knits were any different from wovens in regards to how they are sewn. I made cute outfits for my girls and ended with a ruffly hem. Ripped it out and just didn't hem them. I haven't sewn with knits since then but now that I have grandsons I think it's time to try again!

Now I want to use Soft Stretch because I'm only using a double needle, and I'm about to go on a knit hem strike!!!

These are great tips! I usually just fold over & use wonderclips, and then hem with my coverstitch. I should press, but I usually don't! I have tried some hem stabilizer that didn't work well. I'm excited to try the Soft Stretch!