I was asked how to sew knits on an overlocker. Answer – really easily! Honestly, it is so quick and easy, I LOVE it and I’m sure you will too.
At college, I was told to tack (baste) every seam before sewing it. So when I made my first jersey vest top, I went through the trouble of putting it on my mannequin, pinning then tacking every seam, armband, neckband and hem. This is soooo time consuming, plus my mannequin stretched the jersey really badly, that thing isn’t really suitable for my body size and shape but I just can’t bring myself to part with it! Anyhoo, that vest top was the only time I bothered to do any of that.
Now I don’t bother with tacking at all, I just pin the pieces together and remove each pin as I sew. And no, you can’t sew over pins with an overlocker, especially if your pins are sideways. You just end up getting caught on the cutting blade and panicking that you’ve broken your machine – been there! Thankfully I hadn’t broken anything, just had to remove the pin and keep going.
Before starting a project, I recommend doing a couple of tests on scraps to make sure the tension and other settings, such as the differential feed, are set correctly for the type of knit you’re using.
Also, when you’re cutting out, you should cut the notches as a triangle, pointing outwards so it can be cut off later. If you snip into the fabric like you would on woven fabric, it could cause unravelling of the knit fabric – not ideal!
If you’re making a top with sleeves, it’s soooo much easier to pin the shoulder of the sleeve into the armhole whilst the bodice is still flat, with only the shoulder seams sewn (it’s also easier for raglan sleeves too).
Be sure to sew SLOWLY around the shoulder, easing the shoulder into the armhole. If you go too fast, it can affect how well you ease the sleeve in. Believe it or not, I was sewing relatively slowly and still managed to get a pucker in the seam as shown below. Easily unpicked (see my video here), not all the way, just a centimetre either side of the pucker then resewed with the overlocker, easing it in. Changing the differential feed may have helped with this as it controls how the fabric is fed through the machine.
To sew the sleeve and side seam in one continuous line, start at the cuff and sew all the way up the sleeve towards the armpit. Now this bit is important! You CANNOT pivot on an overlocker. So you need to manipulate the fabric so you can keep sewing. See in the picture below how I’ve pulled the body of the jumper down and I’m holding it to create a straight line? My index finger is on the sleeve/shoulder seam, holding it flat so it’ll go through the feed nicely. This is what you need to do so you can then sew down the side seam to the hem.
Another question I was asked was about seam allowances. When I was at college, I was told seam allowances are 1.5cm but then at uni, I was told they’re always 1cm. So now I’m in the habit of sewing every seam at 1cm. I tend to read the instructions before I start sewing a project to see if there is a reason why the seam needs to be that wide.
The difference with sewing on an overlocker and a normal sewing machine is that the overlocker cuts off fabric as you sew and prevents fraying. So if you’re sewing a 1cm (3/8 inch) on an overlocker, approximately 3 or 4mm (1/8 inch) gets cut off when you’re sewing. I have noticed some indie patterns put a 1.5cm seam allowance on knits but I personally still sew at 1cm.
So I hope this helps if you want to sew knits on your overlocker. If there’s anything you want to know, just ask and I’ll do my best to answer. And don’t forget to stay tuned for future posts in The Overlocker Series on my blog!