Basic tips for sewing knit fabrics

  • Be sure you are using the right needle ( need more info on needles read this Choosing the right needle) .  Ball point or stretch needles are best for knits.  Most “universal” needles will be fine and fit your machine.  Always check your machines manual for the best fit. Single needle packs
  • For hemming knits you will need cover stitch machine (I like this one Brother 2340 CV or Cover Pro 1000 CPX) or a twin stretch needle.  I like the 4.0 size.  You can grab your needles  Here.
  • Use your longest stitch setting.  Mine maxes out at 4, so that is what I use. For my serger I also set it to the longest stitch length (also 4).
  • Loosen your tension.  If you are used to sewing cotton woven fabrics, your tension setting will be different with knits.  Not all knit fabrics are the same, you can grab a test swatch and sew on that while adjusting your tension until it is nice and you are happy with it.  Example:  I set my tension to 4.5 for cotton woven, and 3 for most knits.   On my serger I do the same- Test piece first.  Lower your tension dials.
  • Did you know your bobbin has it’s own tension too?  That little screw on top of your bobbin casing, that is your bobbin tension.  With knits tension is key.  You can turn the screw (I just use my finger nail), just a little at a time to loosen or tighten the tension.
  • Don’t pull or push the fabric through the machine.  Let the machine do it’s job.  If you pull, push, try and “help” the fabric along, it will bunch, stretch, and become wavy and distorted.  You don’t want that.


  • My serger settings for brother 1034D 
  • This is how I normal keep my tension dials set while sewing knit fabrics.  Of course you will want to do a test to sample piece of fabric to make sure it works well for your fabric type.

*Note- Every sewing machine/ serger is different.  Even if you are using the same brand/ model as I am.  The tension discs that your thread lay in can become worn over time and basically those numbers on the discs can become useless.  Go with what works for your machine.  These are just suggestions based on my machine and what works for me. If you aren’t sure about your tension/ settings, always do a test on scraps of the fabric you will be sewing.

Here are my other settings left to right – Differential feed (There are two sets of feed dogs under the foot of a serger.  One in front, one in back.  The differential feed changes the speed ratio of these feed dogs.  This is great for gathering and other helpful tricks), stitch length (how long the stitches are), and knife setting ( how wide your serged edge is)

  • Thread is also important with knits.  If you are using a serger, I recommend using stretch thread in your loopers.  I like Maxi Lock Stretch Thread and regular maxi lock thread it comes in tons of colors and it is a great quality thread at a really nice price.
  • Since you already have cone threads, you may want to get a cone thread holder.  I have 2, so I can use my twin needle with them.  I have had the plastic ones in the past and they literally have snapped in half while I was sewing.  Not fun!  I strongly recommend spending the extra few bucks and getting heavy cast iron and metal one.
  • A walking foot can help with most knit issues.  It feeds the fabric through your machine evenly. On a standard sewing machine you have one set of feed dogs (those little teeth under your presser foot).  They only move fabric from the bottom.  a Walking foot will move fabric from top and bottom so that it sews at an even speed.

Now that you have your settings figured out, the right thread, and correct needles your are good to go.  Just practice and remember to take your time, and slow down.  If you are a new sewist or just new to knits, practice is the best thing you can do.  Don’t get frustrated and remember that if there is a problem, there is a solution.  Most of the time is a simple and easy solution.  Very rarely is a mistake catastrophic.  You. Can. Do. It.

Happy Sewing!

Need more help?
Join me in my facebook group.

Other helpful tips:
3 step hems
neckband 101
4 things you need to know about knit fabric shopping
How to finish your serger thread chains


  1. This blog has been so helpful for me! I was getting super frustrated with a project and found the layout of information here to be really understandable. I was also very grateful for the pictures as I am a very visual learner. I don’t think I would have tackled my failed project a second time with as much confidence if it weren’t for this blog! Thank you!

    • I am so happy I was able to help you! Congrats on your project and keep that confidence for all future projects.
      Happy Sewing!
      – Little Ragamuffin

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