Master Jersey Fabric
The joys of jersey are yours - what are you waiting for?
Worried about cutting?
Jersey newbies tend to panic when scissors are involved, but handling knits is no big deal. Designer and writer Wendy Ward highlights the need for common sense. “Use more pins to hold your pattern pieces in place; a few weights or tins of beans can help.” As Nicola Doig of Dots N Stripes points out, the most important thing when cutting jersey is not to stretch it: “Make sure the fabric doesn’t hang over the table edge, as this will warp it, and cut with scissors or a rotary cutter.” Furthermore, says Lorna Knight, wash it first. “Jersey has a tendency to shrink, so pre-launder before cutting your pieces.”
Not sure of machine settings?
You don’t need lots of fancy knowledge or tools to master jersey. Lorna Knight recommends using a stretch needle to prevent skipped stitches. Alternatively, a ball-point is effective. “Choose 70 for lightweight silk or viscose jersey, 80 for cotton jersey, and 90 for interlock and ponte roma” says Wendy. Rachel Pinheiro advises a polyester or polycotton thread. A walking foot gives extra control, as Pretty Prudent creators Jaime and Jacinda point out. This moves the top and bottom layers of fabric at once to prevent stretched seams.
Afraid of fancy techniques?
When sewing with stretch fabrics, says Nicola, avoid a normal straight stitch, which has no give. Your machine should have a special stretch setting, useful for thicker knits whose edges don’t need any neatening. This stitch creates a seam that moves with your fabric. If you don’t have this, use a narrow zigzag; 2.5/.5 is a good starting point. “You can also use an overcast stitch, which sews and finishes at the same time,” says Nicola. Gently guide your fabric as you sew, and don’t stretch!
Confused by tension?
The best way to fathom machine tension is to experiment with samples of jersey, adjusting the dial to gauge the effects. “A lower number means a looser stitch, which you need for lighter-weight fabric or fewer layers,” says Wendy. “A higher number indicates a tighter stitch, for thicker fabrics or more layers. You shouldn’t need to adjust tension up or down by more than one number, usually within the range 3-5.” Adjusting presser foot pressure is a simple enough way to prevent stretching by the machine.
Fazed by fancy finishing?
Don’t worry – most jerseys don’t fray, so you don’t need to finish your seams. If you do want a more professional look, try a three-step zigzag. Interfacing is a great way of retaining garment shape, says Rachel. “Non-woven interfacing is best for small areas like patch pockets. For large areas, fusible tricot is fine.” Rachel also recommends a twin needle for a smart hem finish, and reiterates the importance of pressing at every stage.