SEWING KNITS WITHOUT AN OVERLOCKER (SERGER)
Knit fabrics (and some wovens with lycra/elastane or spandex) stretch when you wear them, so you need to use a stitch that will stretch with the fabric and not break. A "4-thread" serger (over-locker) stitch is perfect for sewing stretch and knit fabrics because it not only allows the seam to stretch but also neatens the raw edge by cutting it off and “overlocking” or “binding” the exposed seam with cotton as it sews. Note that 3 thread sergers are only good for finishing raw edges as they are not strong enough to hold a seam. We recommend sewing your stretch or knits with a 4 thread serger if you are lucky enough to posses one.
But you can still successfully sew knit fabrics and stretch without an overlocker or serger. You just need to sew your seam using a stitch that allows the seam to stretch. Here’s how:
1) The simplest is to use a ZIG-ZAG stitch on your sewing machine. The width of the zig-zag stitch will determine how much stretch you get. The length of your stitch will determine how close together the zig-zag is. If it is too close, it will take forever to sew a seam. If the stitch length is too long, there will be larger gaps in the seam itself. A mid length stitch is best but will depend on the type of fabric you are sewing. Practice on an old piece of fabric first.
2) Some machines also have a built in stretch stitch (the simplest of which is often a combination of straight and zig-zag sewing). We suggest testing this stitch on unwanted fabric prior to using it as this stitch often has a "good" and "bad" side (depending on which way the zig-zag falls). Refer to your sewing machine manual.
3) Finally, you can use a double needle. A double needle will create a nice double line of sewing and is great for hems on stretch garments (the cuffs and hems of stretch tops for example). Double needles are usually reserved for HEMMING a garment (like a Tee shirt). You can get different sizes of double needles, and one particularly for stretch sewing. Two separate cotton reels are threaded through your machine like normal, but are threaded through the 2 needles to create the double row of sewing. As it sews, the needle creates a zig-zag pattern underneath to allow the stretch.
OUR RECOMMENDATION (if you do not have access to an overlocker or serger) is to use a stretch stitch to sew the seam and a zig-zag stitch over the raw edge to tidy up any seam that requires strengthening or neatening.
A LITTLE TIP – Double needles can be a little less robust than a standard needle so take care when sewing over several layers of fabrics, particularly when sewing over other seam joins.
Have fun sewing up the following sewing patterns and practice sewing with stretch and knits: