It’s been a quiet summer for me in terms of blogging, but now that I’m back in the swing of things I’ve been thinking generally about the content I create. Don’t worry I haven’t had any sort of melt down. No emotional crisis or epiphanies here. My ponderings have been focused in the direction of what I would like to write about in addition to sharing garments I’ve sewn. For the most part my writing will still be focused on finished projects because those are the posts I love to read myself for inspiration and finding new patterns. However I also love reading sewing blogs because they are an amazing source for tips to improve your sewing.
My plan for Behind the Seams is to create a series in which I share little techniques that aren’t included in the pattern instructions. Often there are a couple simple tricks that really improve the sewing experience and help garments achieve a professional, ready to wear look. I hope you’ll find these tricks as helpful as I have and please share some of your own with us too!
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When I began sewing with knits one of my great frustrations was rippling seams. Knits are supple by nature and prone to stretching under a presser foot causing wavy, unsightly seams. Over time I have discovered a couple methods that really help to minimize this issue. I hope they’ll prevent some vexation for you too.
Tips for Preventing Wavy Seams When Sewing with Knits
- A lot of unsightly stretching can be steamed out. I guess this should have been obvious to me, yet for the longest time I thought the serger loops or zig zag stitches would prevent the fabric from returning to its original shape. To a certain extent the thread does hold the fabric in place, but these stitches do have the ability to compress when the fabric is steamed probably for the same reasons the have the ability to stretch.Fill up that water reservoir in your iron and crank her up to the wool setting (unless you are using a synthetic fabric in which case you should play with temperatures on a test swatch). Once that baby is hot, hover the iron over your stitched or serged edge and press that steam button. In most cases my serger loops or zig zag stitches will compress as the fabric shrinks back to shape. After a few seconds of steaming I lower the iron to the fabric for a final press using the weight of the iron to apply gentle pressure. Don’t move the iron back and forth because this will stretch out the seam again. After a second on the fabric simply lift the iron and move to the next section of seam for steaming.
- If you are using a sewing machine rather than a serger consider purchasing a walking foot. Normally your machine’s feed dogs do the work of pulling fabric past the needle, but because the feed dogs are located underneath your fabric they can cause the bottom fabric layer to feed faster than the top fabric layer. This can become especially apparent sewing knits. A walking foot contains an extra set of feed dogs that pull fabric through the machine from above. The walking foot feed dogs attach to the needle and move up and down as you sew helping fabric layers to feed evenly.
- Adjust your presser foot pressure. Less pressure equals less stretching with soft fabrics. Unfortunately some sewing machines, such as mine, do not have a dial that allows you to adjust presser foot pressure. In this case a walking foot is your best bet. Fortunately my serger does have adjustable pressure. Consult your machine manual for more information an adjusting this setting.
What if your presser foot pressure is turned down all the way and your seams are still wavy?
- Gently lift the presser foot lever manually. I have found that even when my presser foot pressure is turned all the way down soft knits still stretch especially when I am sewing along curves such as my Hudson pant pockets. My trick is to manually adjust the presser foot pressure by partially lifting the presser foot lever. Your presser foot should still be in contact with your fabric, but by lifting the lever ever so slightly you can reduce the force applied by the presser foot. The amount of lift you apply to the presser foot lever is not an exact science. I usually play around with some scraps to get a feel for how much force I want to apply to the lever.
Unfortunately this method isn’t a complete miracle, on the softest knits I still experience some level of stretching, but I find that this technique helps to reduce the seam distortion to a level that is easy to stem out.
Have you discovered any tricks to prevent wavy seams?