Tips for sewing with Jersey fabric

I made this dress on my overlocker, using the sewing machine to topstitch.  If you have an overlocker the chances are that you’ve had at least some experience of sewing with jersey – you must be a pretty keen sewer to have invested in a second machine, right?  If you don’t have an overlocker, have never sewed with jersey, or have overheard whispered stories about how scary and difficult sewing with jersey is – fear not, it isn’t.  It’s actually really easy, although there are a few things you do need to bear in mind:

Change your needle.  If you use a standard needle it will cut through the fibres as it sews.  This can cause you problems with your stitches and weaken the fabric.  Get Stretch or Ballpoint needles to sew knit, stretch of jersey fabrics – you’ll find them in your sewing shop.  As the name suggests, the needles have a teeny tiny little ball on their tip, this stops the needle from cutting through the fibres, and instead pushes the threads in your knit fabric out of the way without damaging them.

If you have a walking foot, use it.  If not, don’t worry about it.  A walking foot will keep the jersey from stretching under the presser foot during sewing.  If you don’t have one, just take your time and keep an eye on your fabric to make sure it isn’t stretching out of shape.

Choose an appropriate stitch.  Fabrics such as jersey stretch, and straight stitches don’t.  Check your sewing machine manual to see what stitches it can offer for sewing with stretch fabrics and try them on a scrap piece of the fabric you’re going to be sewing to see which you prefer and which would be most suitable for your project.   Be aware though, if your machine does a  ‘Stretch Stitch’ and you need to unpick it, you’ll be there until next Tuesday.  I speak from sour experience.  If you have a simpler machine with just straight or zigzag stitches, a narrow zigzag will work perfectly.

Finishing your seams.  On an overlocker your seams will be finished for you as you sew.  With a sewing machine you need to finish them yourselves.  A Zigzag stitch close to the cut edge will do, but your sewing machine might have other options to explore, including perhaps even a faux overlock stitch that you might like to experiment with.

Topstitch using a twin needle.  Twin needles are basically two parallel needles attached to a single shank.  They come in various widths, make sure you don’t choose one wider than the hole in your throat plate.  Check your sewing machine manual for instructions of how to thread the twin needle and then use it to sew two perfectly parallel lines of straight stitching wherever you need to topstitch.  Because of the way the bobbin thread links the top two threads, there is just enough stretch in a twin needle stitch to allow the topstitching to move and stretch with your jersey fabric (within reason, don’t expect lycra elasticity here).

That’s all you need to know about sewing jersey fabric – honestly, it’s not nearly as tricky as people like to make out.  So if you’re ready, read on for my quick tutorial on how to cheat at making a jersey dress!

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