Sewing with Jersey. It's Not Happening.

Back at the start of April I posted about my upcoming sewing projects, including View 5 from Simplicity 6138 in a red floral jersey. I've never sewn with a stretch fabric before and it really didn't cross my mind to check in my sewing machine manual to see if my machine could cope with it. It's quite a basic machine (Singer 4205) and when I later checked the manual, I found out it doesn't have a stitch suitable for sewing stretch fabrics like knits or jersey. After some research, it seemed that I could use a zig zag stitch and a ballpoint needle, though it might still be difficult. Ideally a serger/overlocker is the best way to make seams on jersey. If you look at the seams on any t-shirt you have, you'll see that this is how they look;

So in the spirit of productivity, I was in town first thing this morning to buy ballpoint needles for my machine. However when I tried sewing on some fabric scraps, the results were really disappointing.
Using a normal (and brand new) needle gave this result for a a zig zag stitch (on left) and straight stitch (right):
Pretty dodgy looking, but I wasn't expecting much when using the wrong type of needle.

Then I tried a ballpoint needle for a straight stitch (on left) and zig zag (right):

Hmm. I don't know why the zig zag is not very zig zaggy and would have thought that the ballpoint needle would have given a better result.

I'm kind of stumped with this one, so if anyone has any tips they can provide I would be grateful. Otherwise this project is being shelved until I can get access to an overlocker.

As for my other sewing projects, the pieces for my Crescent skirt are all cut out and ready to begin with the sewalong. I'm hoping I have a bit more success with that. In preparation for participating in Me Made June, I have purchased a couple of new patterns for easy to make tops I can make with stash fabrics. More on that soon.

In the meantime, back to the knitting....

K x


  1. In case this is useful here's you how I sew knits with a sewing machine and no serger... I use needles that say on the packet they're for stretch fabric, a walking foot on my sewing machine (which makes a big difference) and my machine's stretch stitch which is a tight little single step zig zag. In terms of the stitch, can you make your zig zag both narrower and shorter? It should be a really small zig zag ... and you won't be able to get away with straight stitching as the seams will pop when they are stretched (I'm sure you can guess how I know that). My seams don't look like RTW as I don't finish them but even with lots of wear this doesn't seem to be an issue - I found that trying to finish knit seams stretched them out, and this was sometimes visible on the outside of the garment, making the seams a bit lumpy. Good luck!

  2. Hi, my machine does this sometimes on knits as well, what i think is happening it when the needle comes up it is pulling the fabric up with it, so it misses the stitch, I have found using a super fine needle stops it from happening(mostly, I still get an occasional missed stitch) when I sew knits I use a stitch length of about 2.5mm and have it on a really shallow zig-zag (so its just off from a straight stitch) otherwise you are likely to get a bit of a wavy effect going along the seam. hope this helps!

  3. So glad you've asked this question as could do with the advice myself! Also good foresight to have a go on some scraps first...I probably wouldn't have done that and would be sat there cursing myself for it!

    Good luck!

  4. Thanks very much for the helpful replies! I think a walking foot might help, and now you've said that, I have a recollection of reading somewhere that it's useful for knits, amongst other things. Will have to check that out as I don't currently have one. Once that is sorted I can tackle the stitch length....

    Mimi I hope this helps you too :)

  5. I'm not much help on the knit front, Kestrel. I detest sewing with knits and I have an overlocker. I really like the pattern you've chosen and I'm looking forward to seeing the top. :)

  6. My previous machine was a 1970's Singer and I managed to sew jersey with a very fine needle and a simple zig zag. Maybe you need to change the pressure on the presser-foot? But having said that, I get much better results from my new Bernina, which has a wider range of stitches. Sorry not to be more helpful.

  7. I love love love retro fashion/sewing catalogues.

    And I can barely sew to save my life so am very entranced by your skills. ♥

    The Cat Hag

  8. oh, good luck! I really wish i could sew. Great blog xxx

  9. Some knits need ballpoints, others don't...for whatever reason, the wrong needle skips stitches! That's all I know...I avoid knits.

  10. I agree with trying out ballpoints instead of jersey needles. You could also try changing the thread tension (upper thread not bobbin) and using either a narrow zigzag (looks like an L shape) or narrowin down your zigzag to the smallest width. You can then use a stretch stitch (if your machine has one) it looks like a twig (straight line with every alternate stitch at a 60 degree angle to the main) to finish it. It wont look like rtw but it works fine-I do it all the time.

    1. Thanks for the suggestion - I really need to re-visit sewing with jersey!


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