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!

Other Things You May Like to Check Out:


Finishing & Construction, Knitting Daily Blog
Kathleen Cubley

About Kathleen Cubley

Hello daily knitters! I'm the editor of Knitting Daily. I've been obsessed with knitting for about ten years now and my favorite projects are sweaters. I like the occasional smaller project, but there's nothing like yards of stockinette with a well-placed cable or a subtle stitch pattern here and there. I crochet a bit now and then—especially when I need to produce a baby blanket in time for the baby shower. I've been in publishing for 20 years and I'm finally exactly where I want to be: at the crossroads of knitting and communication. I live in Spokane, Washington and when I'm not knitting I enjoy gardening, snuggling with my dogs, swimming, reading, and playing in the snow in the winter. But, really, I'm pretty much always knitting!

13 thoughts on “Machine Sewing and Knitting? Yes!

  1. The title of your daily post said “Machine Knitting . . . .”, however it wasn’t mentioned again. Was this an oversight? I’d love to see you write about machine knitting, perhaps converting hand knit patterns to machine, etc. Thank you.

  2. The title of your daily post said “Machine Knitting . . . .”, however it wasn’t mentioned again. Was this an oversight? I’d love to see you write about machine knitting, perhaps converting hand knit patterns to machine, etc. Thank you.

  3. I don’t like the unfinished look of bind off sticking of collars around the neckline, so I sewed a cloth collar to a lacy dress I made my granddaughter last summer.

  4. I have been using the sewing machine for years to finish my sweaters. I use an iron on tape to put on backside when I make a buttonhole. It strengthens the buttonhole and makes a nice clean look. The sleeves really come out professional when I sew them in on a sewing machine. I especially like to do this on my grandchildren’ s sweaters. They are very hard on them and they hold up beautiful.

  5. I used my sewing machine to put a nonseparating zipper in a size 24 months baby hoodie, much easier and stronger than sewing by hand. Also quicker and cheaper than buttons on a give-away. Pam.

  6. I’m a garment sewer first and foremost…so I read this blog interest with great interest. There’s no need to interface the zipper? It’s been a while since I’ve sewn a zipper but I think that would help…also personally I’d install a zipper long than I would need. Yep,longer. That way you don’t have to sew around the ‘bump’ of the zipper pull…which can be temporarily slipped out of the way, off the garment. When you’re done sewing, make sure pull is at bottom of stitching, then cut off excess. Make sure your pull is in the right spot before you cut! Otherwise your pull might be in the part that’s been cut off.

  7. I am very interested in learning how to sew my knitted items together with my sewing machine. I have wanted to try it but worried about the feet on the machine tangling the yarn.
    Would be very interest in hearing more about it.
    thanks, Dee

  8. I understand the excitement of sewing a zipper in a knitted garment but how about sewing the seams. Has anyone tried that? I am at a point with a vest I just knitted and I have tried quite a few times to stitch the front pieces to the back but no matter which way I use to stitch them together it just looks “Ucky!”. So can a person “SEW” them with a machine????
    Again Dee

  9. Although I both sew and knit, I was initially hesitant to combine the two until a quilting friend shared her freezer wrap secret several years ago. Now, I baste a layer of freezer wrap between the knitted fabric and the feed-dogs of my machine; it allows me to apply more tension without fear of the projected getting pulled into the bobbin area. I also use a zipper foot regardless of what I’m sewing; this allows me to ensure the stitches are right in the middle of a groove. I’m afraid I’m still not comfortable with the idea of button holes, but never say never…:-)

  10. Yes the first thing I knit I was to sew a tape down one edge. The machine wouldn’t feed the knit thru and there were lots of knots and snarls and never again!