It’s easy to sew knits on a conventional sewing machine instead of a serger/ overlocker.
The inside of the garment doesn’t look the same as RTW, but the garment will wear as well.

Written tutorials

Here’s a post from Tilly and the Buttons on cutting out knit fabrics.

Here’s a general post from Melly Sews on the stitches you can use for sewing knits.
Her first suggestions are versions of zigzag done on a domestic machine.
2 thread coverstitch and 4 thread overlock need special machines.

Tutorial from Coletterie on bands and bindings for knit edges.

Videos – free

I haven’t watched most of the videos, so no guarantee of quality.

Here’s an intro from Ann Steeves of Gorgeous Fabrics.

Free pdf patterns and videos on sewing knits with a regular machine from Angela Kane.

Videos – not free

Some on-line video classes specifically on learning to sew knit fabrics using a conventional sewing machine :

Look around at Creative Bug.
I didn’t get on well with making a one-hour top with cut on sleeves, but there are many other classes there on drafting and sewing a tee, dress, hoodie, leggings, including for children.

Tilly and the Buttons
pdf pattern and sew-along for stylish tops.

Sew Over It
Intro to sewing knits, making a dress from a stable knit, then a top for more stretchy fabric – pdf patterns.

See ‘knits fabrics’ section of the second Techniques page, for links to many other tutorials on sewing knits.

Some intro comments

You can sew knits on any machine which has a zigzag stitch.

Use a ‘ball’ or ‘stretch’ needle for knit fabrics. ‘Stretch’ needles are designed for sewing more closely woven stretch fabrics. On a knit fabric : try both, also a ‘universal’ needle, as different machines give a better result with different needles – no idea why !

Polyester thread has more natural stretch and recovery than cotton thread.
There are also several stretch threads, it’s not necessary to use them – better to use a stretch stitch (see below).

It may be helpful to use an overcasting foot. These have a flange or spike which stops the thread from pulling tight and crumpling the fabric. But test that the needle doesn’t hit this foot during making the stitch, by stitching by hand (turn the hand wheel) one move at a time.

If you need some seams not to have any stretch (such as at shoulders), use a stabiliser such as (bias) stay tape or tricot interfacing.
It’s not enough just to use a straight (non-stretch) stitch – the thread will probably ‘pop’ (break).
For a bit of stretch with good recovery, use clear/swimwear elastic.
Fold-over elastic makes an easy edge finish.


For best results you can’t just put your foot to the pedal. You need to make test samples to find what’s best for a specific fabric.

You can use plain zigzag.  
The ‘wobble’ stitch is .5 wide and 2.5-3 long.
Sew a sample of this and test if the stitching stretches as much as the fabric. If not, change the stitch and try again.
Make samples sewing the fabric both widthways and lengthways, they probably stretch differently.

Better if your machine has some special stretch stitches.
Even the simplest modern sewing machines have a few ‘utility’ stitches.
Some stretch stitches to try.
On my machine these are called, from left :
– 3-step zigzag, each zig consists of 3 short stitches,
– blind hem,
– overcast,
– closed overlock.

For seams that look like a conventional seam from the right side : use one of the 3 stitches to the right.
Take care with the position of the stitching. Notice the stitching line is on the left, not in the centre of the presser foot.
Here’s a note on getting the presser foot in the right place
Stretch stitch settings on a sewing machine

There’s another ‘3-step’ stitch, not on all machines, which I find works well for me when sewing knits.
3-step stitch

After stitching, trim the seam allowances.
Trim off the allowances a little beyond the stitching. Make sure not to snip through the thread.

For knit fabrics that fray or run : use a stitch which has a line of stitching on the right edge as well, such as the ‘closed overlock’.
For loose open lace or sweater knits : sew the seam with a narrow zigzag (1.5 wide, 2.5-3 long). Finish the edges with a wide zigzag (3 wide or more).

Different knits and stretch fabrics stretch different amounts lengthwise and crosswise.
Test several zigzag stitch widths and lengths, and other stretch stitches, to find which stretches the same amount as the fabric. Test both directions of the fabric.

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Tricot – French for ‘knit’.
In French it’s pronounced ‘tree-coh’. In some countries it’s pronounced ‘try-cott’.

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First written December 2014, links checked November 2021 (sadly some good ones have disappeared)

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