Sewing jersey fabric

A friend is expecting his first baby to arrive any day now, and a few weeks ago asked me to make the little chap some babygros. Of course, I’m always up for turning my hand to sewing something new, so I accepted the challenge and started finding out how it would be best to make the items.

I figured the fabric had to stretch, be soft, wash well, and be reasonably sturdy (although, that’s a lesser concern for a newborn since they don’t move around a whole lot yet!). Cotton jersey seemed ideal, and it comes in lots of fun patterns and prints which makes it even better.

Not having ever drafted a pattern for a baby I thought it best to use a shop bought pattern. I chose a Mccall pattern M6223:


I picked a nice plain blue cotton jersey to get me started, and 2 patterned ones for once I was feeling more confident. Hey ho – All set to sew!

I’m not by any means a stretch/knits expert, but here a re some tips I’ve gleaned along the way. I hope they might be useful to someone out there!

When sewing jersey, or any stretch fabric for that matter, its best to use a ballpoint needle instead of the usual universal ones. The ballpoint needle will slip between the threads of your fabric instead of slicing through, meaning that you don’t damage the knit and make it likely to unravel.

You need to pick a stitch which has some stretch to it. If you use a regular running stitch it won’t stretch when the fabric stretches, and the stitches will break.

Good ways to sew seams on a stretch fabric? Use an overlocker if you have one: Jersey doesn’t fray, so although it doesn’t actually need an overlock stitch to finish the seams it does usually look neater. If you don’t have an ovelocker but your sewing machine has a stretch stitch setting use that. It also fine to use a zigzag stitch.I decided to use my newly purchased double needle on this occasion, as I thought it would give me the neat finish I was after.

Double needle

You don’t need a fancy machine to be able to use a double needle – just one with two pins for spools of thread. I think even the most basic machine I’ve used has had 2 spaces for reels of thread so pretty much everyone should be able to have a go!

The double needle has one pin to insert it into the machine, and two needles come down from it instead of 1.

You then thread the machine pretty much as normal, but with the 2 threads going either side of the tension plate – the thread which will be in the RH needle goes to the right of it and the one which will be in the left needle goes to the left.At least, that’s how its done on my machine – do check the instructions on your own. The bobbin thread is drawn up in the usual way.

Once all threaded up I did a few test runs on scrap material. I was a bit worried because some instructions I’d read suggested that a walking foot instead of the zigzag foot is really essential for sewing jersey successfully. I had a look for one, but since it cost £99 (ouch!) I thought I’d try without. After a a couple of goes where the tension seemed too tight I found that I got the best results if I increased the stitch length to about 3.5, and turned the tension down to 3. This is the stitch you end up with:

A nice, neat double stitch on one side

And a zigzag on the reverse.

Its strong and stretchy – ideal!

I was using some very easy-to-work jersey – cotton doesn’t slither and slide as you sew, so its a good place to start for sewing stretch. It isn’t very pricey either, so you won’t worry too much if you make a mistake and have to unpick or recut a a panel. The thing to remember with stretch is that its really forgiving.

Have try and let me know how it works out for you.



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