Overlock sewing machine
Safety-stitch machines simultaneously sew the seam and over lock the seam allowance.

1. Knits are comfortable.
2. Sergers speed sewing as they overlock the seam allowances as the seams are sewn. (The industry refers to sergers as overlocks) 
3. The knife in the overlock trims away excess from the 5/8 inch seam allowance as the seam is sewn.

The industry drafts a 3/8 inch seam allowance on knit patterns. The knife is used to cut away threads, not reduce the seam allowance.

4. Many people who sew at home love to sew with knits. It just seems SO easy. Because the knits stretch, it would seem the problems with fit are gone.
5. Smaller sizes fit. If one needs to purchase a size 14 pattern when one sews with a woven, if one chooses to sew a knit, a size 10 pattern will  fit! Who wouldn’t want to be a size 10?


However, if one wants truly professional results, knits aren’t that easy to work with. This is why:

1. Knits are often off grain throughout various areas of the fabric.
Even through the selvage may align with the straight-grain line on the pattern, if the fabric is off-grain where one cuts, with few wearings the garment will soon twist and look worn. When cutting one must check all of the pattern’s edges. Note that if the fabric is off-grain under the pattern, as long as the fabric is cut on grain at the pattern’s edges, the finished garment will be on grain.

Woven and knit fabrics’ stretch directions differ. Woven fabric’s bias has the most stretch. Its strongest direction is its straight grain, which parallels the selvage.

2. Woven fabrics’ maximum stretch (bias) is on a 45-degree angle to the selvage.

Most, but not all knit fabrics’ maximum stretch is on a 90-degree to the selvage, requiring different considerations when designing and sewing a knit garment.

Tulle and tullenette are knits. Their strongest direction is at a 45-degree angle to the edge of the fabric. Lay and cut as shown.





Most lycra fabric’s strongest direction is its cross grain. It has the most stretch on the straight grain. Cut most Lycra fabric as shown below. Lycra is the trade name for spandex.







A woven sleeve cap needs its sewing line to be longer in its cap’s sewing line to sew into the armhole;, a knit sleeve cap, because of its cross-wise stretch, needs its sewing line to be shorter than the armhole’s sewing line.

Lycra's direction of least stretch.
Cut most Lycra as shown.

3. Knit garments, as a general rule, do not hold up as long as garments made from woven fabrics.

4. Knits often requires minute changes in the pattern. Since knits stretch, it seems as though they are easier to fit. But it’s their stretch that makes obtaining correct fit more difficult.

5. Because knit fabric’s stretch on the cross grain, knits should be stored folded in a drawer. Wovens can be hung or folded, unless the garment is cut on the bias.

6. Wearing a smaller size because one can stretch the garment over the body, gives the appearance that the wearer has gained considerable weight. The body often appears to be bulging in various spots. When fit correctly, a knit does not stretch over the body.

Patterns for wovens usually need to be reduced 1 inch in circumference.

7.  A pattern drafted to be used with woven fabric usually needs 1 inch graded out of its circumference if it is to fit the body correctly. Each of the four sides of the body: the right-front, left front, right back, and left back, is reduced 1/8 inch in width – shown as dotted lines in the diagram on the left.

8. Knits have considerable  variance in their drape and fit. A pattern that has produced a good fitting garment in one knit cannot be depended to do so with another knit.

9. Because knits seem to be so easy to sew, beginners often insist on lessons that involve knits.
A student needs to be well familiar with sewing wovens, before sewing with knits.




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© Laurel Hoffmann, 2022

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