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.

Photos of stitch samples in this tutorial from Blueprints patterns.

Here’s a brief overview tutorial by Nancy Zieman.

For detailed guidance about different sewing processes for knits, here are links from Sewaholic to tips for sewing knit fabrics.

Here’s a tutorial from Coletterie on bands and bindings for knit edges.


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

And here are a couple of videos from Nancy Zieman, about sewing a wardrobe of knits using McCall’s 7331.
Part One
Part Two

At Craftsy there are about 20 classes, not free, on sewing knit fabrics, fitting and designing knit clothes, and using serger / overlocker and coverstitch machines.

Some on-line video classes (not free) specifically on learning to sew knit fabrics using a conventional sewing machine are :
Creative Bug
pdf pattern and sew-along for one-hour top with cut on sleeves.
pdf patterns and sew-alongs for fleece hoodie, tees with round and V necks, yoga shorts and pants, skirt, surplice empire-waist dress.
Tilly and the Buttons
pdf pattern and sew-along for stylish tee.
Sew Over It
pdf patterns and sew-alongs for dress w princess seams and zip, gathered front top.
Craft University
Burda Academy
the same course at both sites – techniques, no patterns for specific projects

Some intro comments

You can sew knits on any machine which has a zigzag stitch.
Use a ‘ball’ or ‘stretch’ needle for knit fabrics.
Polyester thread has more natural stretch and recovery than cotton thread.
Best to use an overcasting foot. These have a flange or spike which stops the thread from pulling tight and crumpling the fabric.

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, increase the stitch width to 1 and try again. Continue increasing width until you have a stitch that’s right for your fabric.
Make samples sewing the fabric both widthways and lengthways, they probably stretch differently.

Good photos of these tests in the beginning of this tutorial.

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 :
– 3-step zigzag,
two versions of this : (1) each zig consists of 3 short stitches, (2) each zig repeats 3 times (also called triple stitch),
– 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

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.

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.

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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, revised February 2017

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