How to sew with Jersey fabric

Sewing tips for jersey knit fabric - which thread to use, which hand sewing needle to use, machine needle and which machine to use.

The first time I sat on my new sewing machine to sew, I thought I would start with an easy job. My T-shirt was a little too long. I decided to cut it short and then hem it. It was my first time attempting to sew after dreading sewing for a long time and keeping the machine locked up. I was ‘excited and nervous’. But this soon turned to ‘frustrated and irritated.’ Nothing was going as I hoped, and everything was going as I feared. After all, as I now know, these are the pitfalls of sewing with a thin, jersey-knit fabric.

sewing tips for jersey fabric - which thread to use, which hand sewing needle to use, machine needle and which machine to use

Sewing with a thin t-shirt Jersey on a regular domestic sewing machine is, at best, a challenging project for an experienced sewist. This is on account of simple problems like puckering, holes, dragging, and breaking of stitches …..

Cotton jersey, with which most t-shirts are made, is a lightweight knit fabric with stretch, and like any thin fabric with stretch, it needs to be sewn with care to avoid these issues. There are many varieties of jersey knit fabrics ranging from light to medium weight, but all of them have one thing in common -stretch. You have to keep jersey fabric from over-stretching when sewing.

Related post: What is jersey fabric?.

Jersey fabric may be made from cotton, wool, silk, bamboo, and rayon and may also be fully or partially synthetic fibers. The advantage of using jersey knit in sewing is that you get a drapey fabric that looks equally good for body-hugging clothes as well as gathered and full clothes. It is soft and comfortable and is an all-seasons wear fabric. You can do all kinds of manipulations on the fabric. Jersey fabrics with lycra added can have a 4 way stretch.

The best way to deal with the stretch of Jersey fabric is to use a serger or overlocker. You can use the serger/overlocker to sew the seams. You can use a 3 or 4-thread balanced tension stitch to sew the seams. The 4-thread overlock stitch is best for 4-way stretch jerseys. A serger will sew the seams and then cut the extra seam allowance all in one go without any problem of breaking stitches.

For sewing hems, finish the edges with a 3 or 4-thread overlocker and then use a twin needle to finish the hem or even sew the whole hem with it.

But How to sew Jersey fabric without an overlocker or serger? Can you sew a jersey on a normal sewing machine? Yes, you can, of course. It is not perfect, but you can.

What stitch to use on jersey fabric?

neck warmer scarf

You can use an overlock stitch or a Stretch stitch. You can also use a close zig-zag stitch for the sewing. These stitches will stretch with the stretch of the fibers, and the stitches will not break.


overlock stitch

Overlock stitch on a regular sewing machine

list of sewing machine stitches

Stretch stitch on many sewing machines. This is usually under SS section on the machine stitches.

What is the best sewing needle for jersey fabric?

Use a stretch or ballpoint needle. These needles have a blunt point/tip and do not cut into the structure of the knit fabric.
The size of the needle should be according to the weight of your fabric. For thin jersey fabrics, you can use a stretch 75/11 needle. 12 to 14 needles can be used for thicker jerseys. A twin 2.5/75 needle can be used to make double-needle hems.

Which Thread to use with Jersey fabric?

polyester thread

Polyester thread or cotton covered polyester can be used.

Which interfacing should be used?

Whatever interfacing is used, it should have the same stretch of the fabric. You can buy a soft knit interfacing. Specifically, a lightweight fusible tricot interfacing.

How to sew the seams on jersey fabric?

The stretch of the fabric should be matched with the stretch in the stitches. This will result in a  seam that will stretch.
To sew seams on your regular sewing machine, use a small zigzag on a conventional machine (2.0 length, 1.5 or 2  width) or use your machine’s built in “stretch stitch”. Jersey does not ravel, so fabric edge finishes are not necessary.

neck warmer scarf

How to do Hemming?

You can sew hems with a twin stitch needle. You can top stitch with the twin needle, after folding the fabric to the inside. It can look very similar to a cover stitched hem.

How to prevent the rippling or waviness when sewing?

You can use a walking foot to prevent this. And most importantly, Do not stretch as you sew. This is the first thing. And for thin jerseys loosen the tension a little bit.

How to deal with the thinness of jersey

If there is twisting of seams, you can use tape to stabilize. This will also prevent the fabric from stretching later. The tape is sewn close to the seam on the seam allowance. This will stabilize the seam. On jersey clothes, necklines are always prone to overstretching. Another area that can be stabilized with tape is the shoulder seams. You may also stabilize the hem. Did I miss any other seam 🙂

Should you prewash jersey fabric before sewing?

You should prewash jerseys made of natural fibers because they can shrink later, and the ‘how’ will depend on the fiber of the jersey you have. Delicate jersey fabrics like silk jersey fabric should be carefully hand washed. You can use baby shampoo for this.
But synthetic jersey fabrics can be washed in a washing machine and can also not be pre-washed because they may already be pre-washed.

As for my first sewing project, after reading about it and changing the stitch, needle and the tension, I managed to get the fabric to cooperate, and the hemming was done, though not to my satisfaction. It is still wavy ( as I had stretched it at the first go) and not perfect, but that is ok. Hope you will have a better experience.

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Author: Sarina Tariq

Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.

3 thoughts on “How to sew with Jersey fabric”

  1. Thank you so much for this. I had an overlocker which is what I used when dressmaking with Jersey fabric, however no longer have it. I needed to shorten a tunic and a long dress, differing weights of Jersey. I made a real mess of the tunic (no big deal it was old) but no way did I want to damage the new dress. So using all your tips, correct needle and stitches it has come out fine. My tip to add if I may, is that I stitched it all before I cut off the 2″ hem I needed to shorten it by. It helped stop the overlocker stitch from puckering and the fabric from moving so much. My thanks again.

  2. Hi Sabrina, like you, it has been quite awhile since I’ve been sewing. I want to sew some jersey summer t shirt dresses but keep putting it off. Your technique sharing has taken the concern away from me and replaced it with enthusiasm! Thank you so much for sharing.

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