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I am a mother, a grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge was published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon



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Friday, November 3, 2017

Sewing and hemming knits Exhibit B

Wow are the comments great with this topic!

Make sure you read them all.

Some of your suggestions are incorporated in later exhibits as this story unfolds. However I really wanted to start off with a common by the book suggestion (included in many Indie patterns BTW too) so we can all have a look at how that goes.

We are testing here folks.

And also BTW I did steam press this last hem, although lightly. I am very careful about over pressing knits - something I have seen too many new sewers do over and over again and completely flatten the poor fabric permanently out of shape every time, so I work with the lots of steam, no direct pressure on the fabric, or my own hand instead.

Which now leads us to Exhibit B and my own take on it.

Last time we talked about the fact that straight stitches can break because they don't give when the fabric is pulled as knits do.

Despite this fact many well-respected sewing gurus and many Indie designers still advise on using a straight stitch for hemming any way.

Rather than do this when I already know that the stitches might pop and I would lose my mind, I did it with my own favourite adjustment and the one Great Big Secret  I have to share after having sewn a million hems and that is - to use Wooly Nylon thread in the bobbin.

The trick here is to wind the bobbin by hand - speed on the machine will stretch the thread out and then it will bounce back once in the hem and pucker things up.

Hand winding a bobbin is not hard at all. I for one am quite happy with a few minutes of mindless activity whenever I can get it.

I also should add that wooly nylon thread can be hard to find in many colours in many places and it can be expensive.

I have one terrific source that solves this problem Cleaner's Supply  These folks will send you out nice highly interesting catalogues with astoundingly low prices on stuff sewers use and also do a Canadian catalogue in Canadian dollars which is of high interest to those of us who live and sew at least part of the year on this side of the border.

When hand wound this is what your bobbin will look like:

Once the bobbin has been wound you can just go along and sew a straight stitch hem, no need for "finishing" the raw edge as of course knits don't fray. I also feel it useful to insert here that it is worthwhile to question the need to over finish raw edges in knits, particularly the fine ones, because I have found all the extra thread of say serging for example, can add to bulky see through on the right side.

The hem can be just straight stitched with a longer stitch length, I used a 3.0, although some folks prefer a slightly zig zag stitch - the famous wobble stitch, a width of only .5 or less.

Here is what it looks like, note I have not trimmed down to the stitching in this view although I did it a bit later:

I found this hem was both stretchy enough not to break and hung well, helped I am sure by the lack of busy action by the machine that might have stretched out the fabric.

Here is what this hem looks like on a garment:

BTW the fold is in fact centre front! Just doesn't look that way from this angle

I also used this combination of threads and stitch to turn the neck binding of this neckline to the right side which I folded under and top-stitched down:

  • Easy to do, no special machine
  • Little fabric distortion, some stretch

  • Not as stretchy as other treatments
  • Requires the hand winding of a specialty thread
  • Specialty thread is an additional expense
  • The raw edge on the wrong side must be tolerated or still finished
Grade : A

Now what do you think of this one?


Karen said...

Looks really good and you may have me converted from hand-sewing!. I have yet to find woolly nylon here in the Philippines, but am now off to hunt for an on-line source which may ship worldwide. Can't wait for your next "experiment"!

Laceflower said...

This looks like a very good finish and quite easy. I could never understand why anyone would serge the hem edge of a knit before hemming, it isn't going to ravel and only adds bulk. I use a narrow strip of steam a seam to keep my hem edge in place so I don't get a fabric dam up against the pins.
On long sleeve Tees I use a sewn on, double fabric cuff instead of hemming the edge, it's a more finished look and the sleeve end doesn't flab out of shape from pushing up your arms.

Anonymous said...

This series is so compelling! I feel like I'm on the docks waiting for the next chapter to arrive. Thanks for all the effort!
Laurie in Port Joli

Sasha said...

@laceflower, I serge knit edges before hemming to stabilize the edge AND make it look more like coverstitching. Serging is more fun, too, than applying fusibles for me. So many ways to accomplish the same goals!

Donna D said...

I sometimes use my blind hem foot and I haven't had any problems with the hem giving way. I find hand stitching only lasts a short time for hems. I must pull them on while pulling on the hems of tops. I have used a twin needle successfully and don't mind the ridge it creates, as long as I have ironed up the hem evenly.
Thanks for the wooly nylon tip--I'd forgotten that one.

LWS said...

I too find that serging the edges of knits can stabilize them and prevent stretching. The differential feed on my old Pfaff also makes ALL the difference when it comes to preventing puckering.

I can not wait to try the wooly nylon — up until now I have relied on the wobble stitch or hand hemming (which I think will still work best for heavy knits like ponte). Great series! Looking forward to the next installment!

Anonymous said...

Great info' and great timing Barb.
I am helping a 13 year old neighbour who wants to learn to sew. She doesn't have a serger/coverstitch and now I will be able to help her make a make a tee shirt with just her very basic sewing machine. Sometimes we forget that it still can be done without the machines with all the bells and whistles.

Donna E

Sydney Brown said...

Good timing! I just used hand wound wooly nylon in my bobbin and a walking foot, with a slight zigzag on very stretchy, very drapey rayon/Lycra and it worked great! Looks good and has stretch, without being "stretched out" at all.

Jan said...

I use one of three methods for hemming knits. Spray starch stiffens some knits and makes them very cooperative. An even feed foot also works well, especially if you don't stretch the fabric as you sew. And lightweight fusible stretchy interfacing makes a nice hem with a bit o f weight.

Kay said...

This is very helpful, thanks! I do have a question about winding a bobbin with woolly nylon thread. How tight should it be wound? I bought some at some point, but when I tried to wind it on a bobbin I had a terrible time trying to figure out how much tension to put on the thread as I wound. As I remember I was not very consistent and my results were, let's say, less than optimal.

I ended up having to delay hemming my joggers a day and then rushing, so I just used a double needle with a regular presser foot. I still want to try it with my walking foot to see if I get a smoother stitch.

Margaret said...

Hi Barbara,

Interesting series. I have recently made Christine Haynes Varda dress several times in double knit and ponte fabrics (even though the pattern is for a woven) and have hemmed them with iron on hemming tape then a straight stitched twin needle hem finish an inch from the edge. Same for the sleeve hems. This makes a really professional looking heavy hem that then hangs nicely, I believe. This would only be suitable for low stretch knits I think. I have otherwise usually only hemmed stretchier knits with zigzag, or by hand. Looking forward to your next posts, and very much appreciate your knowledge sharing, as a long time reader.

Cathie said...

Great series! Great shared info too. When you use the wooley nylon in the lower bobbin, do you have to change the upper tension? So eager to try this. Cathie (a lovely stack of folded knits calling me....). I have been lucky enough to find several neutral cones of this at charity shops, for a song....

TracyKM said...

I will admit, I don't hand wind the woolly nylon on the bobbin. I pull out some slack and don't thread it through the tensioner when I wind the bobbin on the machine. It's a bit slower than winding regular thread, but my fingers would cramp if I tried to wind a whole bobbin by hand.