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Three Different Ways to Hem Knits

Learn how to hem knits 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 knits I’ll show you three and don’t forget to check out how to use a twin needle.

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.

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! 

Three Different Ways to Hem Knits (Which is my Favorite) + GIVEAWAY

There are lots of different fusible hem tapes on the market. 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. Here’s some tips for sewing knit fabric or you can sew knit fabric with a sewing machine. Learn tips for sewing jersey fabric or try one of these Jersey knit sewing projects.

Fabrics Used in This Post: 

The three methods I used for hemming the knits were 1) hemming without anything extra, 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*.

Ways to Hem Knits

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.)

Three Different Ways to Hem Knits (Which is my Favorite) + GIVEAWAY

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

Three Different Ways to Hem Knits (Which is my Favorite) + GIVEAWAY

1. Cut the soft stretch the length you need. (If you have a curved hem then cut the strips in 3″ to 4″ 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.

Three Different Ways to Hem Knits (Which is my Favorite) + GIVEAWAY

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 depth
Cons
Tunneling
Wonky seams
Needs pinning
Knit Hem – Fabric Facing
Pros
Inexpensive
Sometimes prevents tunneling
Fast
Can control hem depth
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 it’s there
Crisp hem
Cons
Costs money
Needs pressing before sewing
More time than the other two
Hem depths determined by tape
width


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.

very 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.

Three Different Ways to Hem Knits (Which is my Favorite) + GIVEAWAY

lightweight bamboo rayon spandex jersey

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

Three Different Ways to Hem Knits (Which is my Favorite) + GIVEAWAY

Lightweight cotton spandex jersey

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

Three Different Ways to Hem Knits (Which is my Favorite) + GIVEAWAY

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.

Three Different Ways to Hem Knits (Which is my Favorite) + GIVEAWAY

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.

Three Different Ways to Hem Knits (Which is my Favorite) + GIVEAWAY

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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Thank you for the blog post. I've been using a zig zag stitch because I can't quite get my twin needle to work.

I have never used a twin needle for this, only a narrow zigzag along the folded-up raw edge. Occasionally I might use two single rows of straight stitch on the hem of a full skirt.

This is great! I have to try this. I don't sew all that much these days – but hemming knits is something that is so sloppy when I do it.

I use a twin needle, or upcycle the existing hem if possible.

I use my coverstitch and hope for the best.

I do a ziczac stitch…

I have been so afraid of having to do a decent hem in knits that I'm afraid to use them. With these awesome tutorials, I will definitely be trying knits out now! Jadahlgr at Yahoo dot Com

Thanks for doing the detailed comparisons. I'd love to try Soft Stretch. I'm at the beginning of my sewing journey.

Great info! I use cover stitch but would love to try tapes!

lenelson(at)mail(dot)com

Thank you so mch for all the detailed information. I've been experimenting withbrwin needle hems a bit lately. Somehow the width between the two needles in relation to the weight of my fabric seems to make a difference. I look forward to trying your technique. Thanks again.

Would love to try this! I use knit stay tape and it usually does the trick. Or I serge and press once and sew on the serged area.

Still learning how to sew knits

I really hate hemming knits. I upcycle to avoid it whenever I can! I have had the best luck with a wash-away tape to hold it in place temporarily.

It's been a long time since I hemmed any knits.
I've always used the sewing machine with a
longer stitch length. the new tapes
would make hemming so much easier and faster.

I use a Juki coverstitch and that has largely eliminatedy issues.

I have had the best luck with knit stay tape + wooly nylon in the bobbin. Is this similar to knit stay tape?

I'm a Soft Stretch convert after Sweet Red Poppy posted about it! Love these comparisons too!

I've been super lazy lately and just gone for a zip zag stitch.

Totally going to get some of this and try it. I like sewing with knits…until it comes to hemming. Then I hate it! That and I need a new twin needle. I accidentally tried to sew a hem on a shirt with my sewing machine setting still on zig zag with my twin needle still in. It was a very sad moment. 🙂 Thanks for sharing this info. I just bought some gorgeous black plaid on white knit to make a shirt out of.

I use a twin needle with a zigzag stitch set to 0-.5 width. But I'd love to give Soft Stretch a try.