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Topstitching on knits with a twin needle
Tips for topstitching when you don't have a coverlock
bathtubdreamer
bathtubdreamer
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Date: 2/23/09 8:59 PM

I've just started working with knits. I have a serger, which I've been doing well with as far as seams go, but it doesn't convert to a coverlock. So I've been using my normal sewing machine with a twin needle for topstitching hems.

Unfortunately, I'm having a terrible time avoiding flaring with the knit fabrics when topstitching--particularly when I have used a ribbing band on the neckline. For fold-over hems (sleeves, waist) I've gotten passable--not great, but livable--results by increasing the stitch length to 4mm and decreasing the tension for the pressure foot. But the neck doesn't seem to feed properly, and almost always flares unacceptably. I'm guessing it's because the serged seam for the ribbing is preventing the feed dogs from feeding properly?

I tried tearaway stabilizer with one top, thinking that perhaps the knit was just too lightweight, but when I tore it away I distorted the stitching and the fabric, so that didn't seem to help. If anyone has suggestions I'd love to hear them.

Thanks in advance,
Shannon

Kathi R
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Date: 2/23/09 9:27 PM

I use the double needle too, and I have found that if you hold the fabric both in front of and behind the needle (hold it very gently) it feeds OK. For hems I run a row of serger stitches around the area, pin and press the hem and then topstitch from the right side with the double needle.

It works, but I really want a coverstitch machine so I don't have to jump through these hoops to get something that looks OK.

------
2012 : starting stash 386, net additions 206, used 164, ending stash 428...I'm never going to get in front of this pile of fabric!

Diana M
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In reply to bathtubdreamer


Date: 2/23/09 9:37 PM

There's a great knit neckline tutorial here on Threads magazine site. Back in the early days of sewing knits Ann Person recommended a ratio of 2:3 (ribbing to neckline) with more stretch in the front and the back nearly 1:1, then finishing off with a good shot of steam.

For the hemlines, I LOVE the tip given here (scroll down to 01/04/09 -- Perfect Hems). Basically, is stabilizing the hem by fusing Solvy to the pressed up hem. What I really like about it is that it stabilizes beautifully, then washes completely out so the stretchiness of the knit isn't compromised. Cuts out the tunneling from twin needles, too.

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Sewing fills my life. And my living room, and bedroom, and closets, and car . . .
-----------------------------------
The advantage of a food allergy is that I get to choose the restaurant.

bathtubdreamer
bathtubdreamer
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In reply to Diana M


Date: 2/23/09 11:30 PM

Thanks, Diana and Kathi for your quick responses. I have seen the Threads tutorial and found it helpful for getting the ribbing length right and easing it in to the curves. I get to that point all well and good, but then I try to topstitch it and wreck everything (sigh).

I'll try the water soluble stabilizer. A coverstitch machine is unlikely to materialize in my sewing room any time soon--more likely I'll just give up on knits!

Donna H
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Donna H
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In reply to bathtubdreamer


Date: 2/23/09 11:58 PM

I do a mock coverhem on my sewing machine with twin needles and wooly nylon in the bobbin.

Lengthen the stitch to about 4.
Loosen the upper tension a bit. Not much.
You will have to adjust your bobbin case for the WN. It should be loose in there.
Use a Stretch twin needle about 3.5mm wide.

I have great results. HTH

------
The single most important discovery made by a group of women? The Empty Tomb!

http://www.donnahodgson.blogspot.com/

Debbie Cook
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Date: 2/24/09 0:06 AM

Two more things ...

1. Some knits, cotton interlock especially, do distort. You might want to perfect your techniques on more forgiving knits.

2. Steam is your friend. Don't lay the iron on the fabric, but from above, shoot steam at it and most knits will shrink back into shape.

Oh, one more ...

Practice on scraps.

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--
"I base my fashion sense on what doesn't itch." Gilda Radner
http://stitchesandseams.blogspot.com

Elona
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In reply to bathtubdreamer


Date: 2/24/09 0:35 AM

One of the hardest things to get right when doing that neckline, either the first seam or the topstitching, is to keep the neckline as flat and pretty as possible. That means no tugging, no pulling, and no mashing. Stop every few inches to let the fabric relax and then smooth it gently into shape. Basically, you want the fabric on both sides of the needle to feed at the same rate, so you get no ripples due to lack of support, sagging, or mismatched rates of travel. Sometimes you cannot just stitch a circle around the neck, but have to break the stitching into matched halves so that your stitching proceeds in the same direction up one side of the neckline as it does on the other.

Lots and lots of experimenting will help get the hang of it.
-- Edited on 2/24/09 0:36 AM --

tourist
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Date: 2/24/09 0:51 AM

Walking foot! I am soooooo much happier with all my knit stitching since I got a walking foot.

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rivergum
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In reply to bathtubdreamer


Date: 2/24/09 1:55 AM

I have very good results with a twin needle, but I never do ribbing bands. I just fold over about half an inch and stitch down at the neck, more on the hem and sleeves. The only exception is very fine poly knits where I need a stabiliser and also once I bought the wrong sort of twin needle (ballpoint instead of stretch, and I thought a ballpoint needle WAS for stretch knits) and got lots of skipped stitches.

Maybe it's your machine? I think too much pressure on the foot could stretch the hems. Why don't you take the needle and some scraps into a sewing machine showroom and ask to try on their demo machines. You might get some free tuition too if they think they can sell you a machine.

------
Taking in is happier than letting out.

Sydney, Australia

sew2006
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Date: 2/24/09 3:00 AM

How does the neckline look after the ribbing is attached before top stitching? When a knit is serged it is often stretched by the serger, if you have differential feed turn this feature on about 1/2 way right as the neckline starts to curve, turn off once you pass curve and it will keep it from stretching as you serge. Less stretching at this point the better it will look once topstitched on machine. The other alternative is to sew in a see through elastic at the front neckline where the fabric has the most stretch. Lots of steam in sewing is your best friend, or a damp cloth and press.

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Janome10001, Babylock ESG3, Brother ULT 2001, White 634D serger, Pfaff 1472, Singer featherweight, Singer 14T957Dc, Bernina FunLock 009DCC coverlock, Brother PQ1500S, Janome CP900.

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