stretch stich on swimwear nylon

The best stitches for knit fabrics: no serger required

When you first start out sewing knits, you might be wondering what are the best stitches for knit fabrics?

It’d be nice if you could go with your good old reliable straight stitch. But with knits, straight stitches are not your friend here. The good news is that your regular home sewing machine has a big variety of stitches that work beautifully for sewing knits.

Let’s look at your best stitches for knit fabrics, we’ll look at some examples, and we’ll talk about when to use each one. The best part about all of these stitches is that you don’t need a serger to make any of them!

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Don’t use this stitch ever with knit fabrics!

straight stitch on knit fabric

Straight stitch + knits= sad face.

If you’ve ever tried to sew knits with a straight stitch, you know those stitches can very easily pop as the fabric stretches in the wearing. Why? Straight stitches have no stretch and knit fabrics do. Sew stretchy fabric with a non-stretchy stitch, and you’ve got a fight you won’t win.

Knit stitches for sewing seams and general construction

Zigzag stitch

A zigzag stitch is your #1 of best stitches for knits. There’s very few situations where you won’t get good results with a zigzag.

It has a little give to it, so when you wear it, those stitches don’t get stressed as the fabric stretches on your body.

A standard zigzag does really well on lingerie fabrics. Here it is on a RTW bra.

zigzag stitch on rtw bra

You can use this stitch for knit seams, necklines and also hems. It’s a little more casual on hems and necklines, but totally a legit choice when you’re sewing knits without a serger.

zigzag stitch on t-shirt neckline

Narrow zigzag stitch

A narrow zigzag is a zigzag that’s almost a straight stitch. It has just enough wobble to it to give the stretch the fabric needs, but it looks a little less homemade than a regular zigzag on your hem.

Narrow zigzags are also a great choice for ultra stretchy knits (i.e. those with tons of spandex).

swimwear and ITY knit fabrics with stitch samples

I talked about this on my how to choose the best knit needles post, but if you notice that you get tunneling on the stitch with a regular zigzag, try narrowing the width. A narrow zigzag will always sit nice and flat for you!

Stretch stitch, aka the lightning bolt

sewing machine stitch panel with lightning bolt stitch circled

The stretch stitch is another great choice for sewing knits. You might see it referred to as the lightning bolt stitch because that’s what it looks like. It’s another variation of a zigzag. The side to side is quite narrow and the up and down is a little longer. It’s funky!

stretch stitch on swimwear nylon

Play around with this one. You might like it better than a narrow zigzag.

Use this stitch for knit seams. I think it works great on thicker lycra knits in combo with a stretch needle. Any knit that gets tunneling when you stitch it is a good candidate for the lightning bolt.

Bonus: it’s great for sewing bias seams on woven fabrics.

3-step zigzag stitch

The 3 step zigzag is a great stitch for knits when you need an extra-wide stitch. It’s wonderful to use when you stitch down elastic to a knit as you do often in lingerie sewing.

3 step zigzag stitch on nylon tricot

Here it’s on nylon tricot. Tricot is pretty slippy and stitches have a tendency to pucker, so the 3-way zigzag is a huge help. You can use it for hems on lingerie and swimwear fabrics too! I used this stitch on my Jalie Valerie Rashguard that I made away from home.

Read on for the best stitches for knits for hems and seam finishes…

next page graphic with spool of thread

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