How to hem knit fabrics

Written by virginia watson
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How to hem knit fabrics
Topstitching is one of the easiest ways to hem a knit fabric. (Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

Hemming knit fabrics can be a frustrating experience even for advanced sewers. Hems must be sewn with enough stretch for the wearer to put the garment on and take it off, and tightly enough to not ripple when worn. In addition, sewing with knit fabrics is a different experience from sewing woven fabric, because two- and four-way stretch must be taken into account. While there are numerous techniques for hemming knit fabrics, this article explores the basic topstitched hem, which is simple enough for most sewers to complete successfully.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Serger sewing machine
  • Ballpoint needles
  • Knit fabric
  • Ballpoint pins
  • Scissors
  • Thread
  • Iron
  • Water Soluble fabric stabiliser

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  1. 1

    Finish the raw edge. Using an overlock stitch on the raw edge of the garment helps to stabilise the fabric and give it a finished appearance. Additionally, while knits don't ravel like woven fabrics, overlocking the edge can help prevent the fabric from developing picks or runs.

  2. 2

    Fold the hem and press. Folding back your fabric at the hem and ironing it will help you handle the fabric better as it is going through the machine. Ballpoint pins can help hold your hem in place, but make sure there is enough ease between pins to that your hem doesn't stretch. Additionally, hems can be secured with water-soluble fabric stabiliser. The stabiliser is ironed into the hem and washed out when the garment is complete.

  3. 3

    Test the tension. With a spare scrap of your fabric, test the tension of your machine before you begin to hem. This will allow you to adjust the settings for the perfect hem.

  4. 4

    Choose a thread. It is important to use thread that has similar stretching abilities to your fabric. If you are sewing a four-way stretch fabric, such as lycra, choose a stretchy elastic thread. For two-way knits, cotton wrapped nylon threads are usually used.

  5. 5

    Topstitch the hem. With the right side of the fabric facing you, topstitch the hem of the garment with either a zigzag or straight stitch, depending on the placement of the hem and the amount it needs to stretch. Check your hem frequently to ensure a smooth edge.

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