September 2002 Sewing Q&A Index
Please tell me how to get a stretchy, non-rippled hem on a knit top or skirt.
There are several hemming techniques to try, depending on the amount of stretch and type of knit fabric used to make the garment. If the fabric is very bulky or stretchy, reduce the presser-foot pressure slightly. This way the machine won't push the fabric in front of the presser foot causing the fabric to stretch as it's stitched. Note: See your machine manual for how to adjust the pressure.
One method is to hem with one or two rows of topstitching (1).
Another method is to hem using a zigzag stitch. The fabric doesn't need to be stretched while sewing since this stitch has built-in stretch (3). Decrease the presser-foot pressure to eliminate more stretching when stitching to avoid a rippled look.
A third method is to use a double needle which produces two rows of stitching on the right side and a zigzag stitch on the wrong side (4). This stitch also has some built-in stretch. Consult the machine manual for instructions.
Many machines also have built-in stretch stitches. Test-stitch on a fabric scrap since these stitches are quite difficult to remove. Don't stretch the fabric as you sew. Test several methods to see which one gives the best results for the chosen fabric.
Terry Siemsen is former home economics teacher who's always looking for the easiest way to achieve a beautiful-looking garment inside and out. She is the owner of Thimbles, Etc., specializing in custom-sized sterling and gold thimbles.