Machine Sewing and Knitting? Yes!

Finishing is one of my favorite parts of knitting; I want all of my hard work to look as nice as possible, and good finishing skills help immensely.

A beautifully sewing-machine–installed zipper

I'm always looking for ways to improve my skills, and in the new knit.wear, Eunny Jang introduces handknits to the sewing machine. Eek! But as always, Eunny is an expert and after reading the article, I'm pulling out my sewing machine!

Here's Eunny to tell you how to use your machine to make your knits shine.

Seams Great

I used to believe that sewing machines and handknitting were two great things that had no business together—I couldn't understand taking mechanical shortcuts in lovingly handwrought items. Since I've become more of a sewer, however, I've learned that sewing machines can provide seamstress-worthy solutions to tricky knitting finishing problems without sacrificing quality or aesthetics.

In fact, using a sewing machine to finish handknitting used to be a standard technique. If you look at many vintage cardigan patterns, you'll see that the instructions call for installing buttonholes with a sewing machine. Although I probably wouldn't use a machine on particularly special or delicate knits, I've found that you can use a sewing machine anywhere you need a quick, strong finish.

Basic sewing machines are fine for sewing handknits. As long as your machine has an adjustable zigzag stitch, you'll be able to sew nearly any handknitted fabric. A walking foot can be helpful for making sure that fabric feeds evenly, and adjustable presser foot pressure is helpful when working with particularly thick fabrics, but neither is necessary. Make sure that you know how to adjust thread and bobbin tension on your machine and that it is in good working order. And have swatches of knitting ready for practice before you start to work on the project itself.

Installing Zippers
Sewing zippers into sweaters by machine can make a normally tricky process quick and straightforward. Make sure you use a separating zipper of the correct length for cardigans.

Block zipper opening edges before sewing. Fold excess zipper tape above zipper stops toward the right side of the zipper and slightly away from the center, making sure that teeth are unobstructed. Hand baste zipper to wrong side of knit fabric with running stitch and a contrasting color thread, making sure zipper teeth barely show beyond edge of knit fabric.    Sew as close to the edge of the knitting as possible with a zipper foot and matching thread, using a medium-length (2.5 mm) straight stitch.
Try to sew along on channel between or down the center of a column of knit stitches for the least visible stitches. Backstitch at the beginning and ending of each seam. Cut off excess zipper tape below opening if necessary.

General Seaming
A sewing-machine seam on a handknit is strong and hard-wearing. Executed carefully, it should not change the drape or hand of the garment. Choose longer and wider stitches for bulkier knits and shorter and narrower stitches for lighter knits.

Finishing Edges
Use a sewing machine to make selvedges on bulky knits thinner and flatter before seaming by hand or with a machine and to prevent stretching along shoulders, necklines, and other stretch-prone areas.

Securing Before Cutting
Use a narrow and short (1.5-2 mm wide, 1.5-2 mm long) zigzag stitch to secure knitting before cutting it for a steek or alterations.

Machine sewing and handknitting aren't such an odd coupling, after all.

—Eunny Jang, from the Fall 2012 issue of knit.wear

Knit.wear has so many modern classic designs; you'll want to use your very best finishing skills after the knitting is done.

Get your Fall 2012 knit.wear now!


P.S. Have you ever used a sewing machine on your handknits? Leave a comment and share your story!

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