How to Hem Knits …The Secret Trick

 The secret to hemming knits. It's the type of thread you use! Rae Gun Ramblings

I love sewing with knit first because they are so comfy to wear but also because the fit is so flexible. Flexible fit means I don’t have to worry about fluctuating body size (you know post having baby and just liking fried food as I do). You don’t have to hem knits since they won’t fray on you but it does really add a nice finished quality. Until recently I almost never hemmed my knits and if I did I would just throw it through the serger on the rolled hem setting. But once I learned this method for how to hem knits I’ve been hemming to my hearts content.

Learn how to hem knits so that they still stretch but don't look all ripply - Rae Gun Ramblings

If you’ve ever tried to hem stretchy fabric you might have experienced either stretched out stitches, wavy edges o    r a hemline that doesn’t stretch with the fabric. But you don’t have to put up with those issues. Let me introduce you to my friend wooly nylon. It’s a type of thread that has stretch in it and my secret for making store quality double needle hems.

The Secret to Hemming Knit Fabric (it's all in what type of thread you use) - Rae Gun Ramblings

What You Need

What to Do

  1. Fill the bobbin thread with wooly nylon.  I wind it on the machine but I don’t putt it through the tension when I am winding. I usually don’t have to fiddle with it since I have it on a cone thread holder but if it acts weird I just kinda hold my hand under the thread to raise it while it’s spinning. This is how I wind elastic thread for shirring too!
  2. Use a twin needle to sew using regular (not wooly nylon) thread.
  3. Marvel at your beautiful double row of stitching that magically has a little give making it the perfect knit hem without popping stitches or leaving you with a rippled effect.

So easy right? I hope you’ll give it a try. Seriously I felt like I was given magic after I tried it the first time and I’ve been hemming knits like this ever since!

How to hem knits - Rae Gun Ramblings

Here’s Teddy modeling the gray long sleeve shirt that I made into short sleeves since it got too hot and he still fit into the gray shirt. And of course I had to Harry Potterize the shirt. Have you seen my cute Future Hogwarts Student Shirt Tutorial?

Let’s connect! You can also find me hanging out here.

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Comments

  1. Thanks for the tip! Teddy is The Cutest! -Marci @ Stone Cottage Adventures

  2. Cynthia Bell says:

    Thanks so much for the well needed information.

  3. Do twin needles work on all machines? Mine is really basic so I hope so! I have a great maxi skirt that I have been avoiding hemming because I didn’t want that wavy hem. Thanks for the help!

  4. This is great! What stitch are you using? Is it just a straight stitch? No need for zigzag? I’m new to sewing knits and everyone has told me to use zigzag but I prefer the look of a straight stitch.

    • Just a regular straight stitch. The zig zag will work with the stretchy fabrics since you aren’t pulling straight against the stitch but if you want a more professional look I love the twin needle and wooly nylon with a straight stitch.

      • Be careful with your twin needle when you’ve just used a zig zag!!
        I was just about to use my twin needle for the first time and forgot I
        still had the machine in zig zag, and that was the end of that twin needle :(

        • Yes I did not mean to suggest using a zig zag with the twin needle! I meant using this method in my post (twin needle/straight stitch) vs. regular single needle zig zag

  5. I love my twin needle for hemming knits but I’ve not used the wooly nylon in the bobbin before. Gonna give this a try!! I’ve got a Craft Gossip post scheduled for this morning that links to your trick:
    http://sewing.craftgossip.com/marissas-secret-trick-to-hemming-knits/2014/09/05/
    –Anne

  6. I always thought a twin needle produced a stretchy stitch already. No? I’ve used it a lot, and it seems to be somewhat stretchy, at least.

    • Maybe very slightly stretchy but in my experience sewing with a twin needle with regular thread still gives ripples in the hem and if the piece is not very spacious you can pop the stitches. The wooly nylon definitely maintains much more of the stretch of the knit than sewing with a twin needle and regular poly/cotton thread

  7. I recently saw wooly nylon in the store and remembered someone talking about it, and now I know why. Thanks!

  8. Is Wooly Nylon serger thread the same as Bulky Nylon overlock thread? My local chain store only has the latter…

  9. Do you use wooly thread in both needles, or does one needle have regular thread?

  10. Thanks I’m going to try this. It will make my knit hems neater.

  11. Nikki Pacheco Theard says:

    Hi, love your knit hemming post, in the past I’ve had all the problems you listed while attempting to sew a knit hem. Looking forward to using your double needle wooly nylon trick. One question for you, what type of thread are you using in the top twin needles? Thank you for sharing with us this helpful post.

  12. Thanks for sharing this great tip. I just love all the great ideas that are shared on the internet.

  13. Thank you!!! I was given a bag of overlocker threads and was planning to throw out the stupid nylon stretchy thread, not realising HOW useful it will be. THANK YOU!!

  14. Hmm I’m intrigued. I haven’t had any luck hand winding or machine winding elastic thread so I’m not sure the woolly thread will work for me. I usually use knit stay tape but this might be faster.

  15. Thanks for posting this, I will try it soon!

  16. I bought nylon thread this summer but haven’t tried it… I guess I need to!!

  17. Karen Hilinski says:

    Well, gee darn. I was told that my Bernina Overlock foot would do the trick. And it does work but not as great has I had hoped. If the wooly nylon thread works as well as you say, do you think they will give me my $35.19 plus tax back? Thanks for the tip and the clarification as to where you put the wooly nylon thread!

  18. Marissa- Do you use a neutral color or match your projects? I want to order some but not sure if a neutral (gray or ecru) will be ok.

    Thanks!

    • I just use natural/white for everything because I’m the laziest. I’ve did it on dark blue onesie and it didn’t show through. But I also always serge in white so that kind of stuff doesn’t usually bother me anyways.

  19. Can’t wait to try this!

  20. Evie Vrakas says:

    Do hype use ball pointed needles rather than regal needles?

  21. What kind of.stitch and.stitch length do you use? Do you change the tension setting at all?

  22. Colleen Brickner says:

    Thank you so much. I have passed up many really cute pants because they do not come in petite. I love to sew with knits, however, I usually use ribbing on the sleeves just because I cannot stand that rippled look. It totally ruins the whole outfit. Now I want to get out my machine and start sewing again.
    Thanks again,
    Colleen

  23. I’ve done this before with wooly nylon. Sometimes I need to adjust the tension, etc. My big question is how do you make sure you are catching the backside. I usually find a spot or two that either have to little or too much fabric?

  24. Sheralyn East says:

    I love wooly nylon and have recently gotten back into garment sewing with knits. I tried the twin needle hem method and for some reason, it puckers up like a pintuck between the twin needles. This makes the hem kind of stiff and it wants to roll outward. Do you have any insight into what is causing this?

  25. Hi, Can I use this technique on an industrial straight-stitch sewing machine? I wouldn’t be able to use a twin needle though. Thanks so much. I also love sewing with knits but avoid it because of the problems you have described.

    • I don’t think so I think you need the twin meddle for it to work. I’m not sure what the effect would be on a single stitch but I’d be interested if you give it a shot

  26. Newbie here, what does this mean exactly ” I wind it on the machine but I don’t putt it through the tension when I am winding.” The tension part, normally to wind my bobbins, I put on the top of the machine, and put the thread on the spool and it winds its

    • when you normally wind a bobbin you’re supposed to hook the thread around a tension knob this pulls it really tight when you are using stretchy thread. so I put the bobbin on the winder but just hold the thread in my hand instead of hooking it around that tension thing. hope that makes sense.

  27. Hi Marissa,
    I am curious, how do you thread a double needle? I am new to sewing. My machine has 23 different
    stitches, but I usually use the straight and the zig zag, but never have I used a double needle.
    Thanks.

    • Some machines will have a double needle setting. I usually forget to use it. I just have it on my regular straight stitch. If your machine has a divider in the tension area for the needles you want one thread to go on one side of the divider and the other to go on the other. besides that threading just just like normal.

  28. Great tip! My granddaughter will be so happy not have ripples in the pants I hem for her…which are many!

  29. i use the wooly thread but I was useing it wrong I put it on top not the bobbin thanks love everyone comment .

  30. Is there a reason you don’t use wooly nylon in the needle as well? What would happen?

    • I haven’t tried. But you’d have fuzzy thread on the right side of your garment I’m not sure how that would look or wear. If you’re going for more of your standard finish you would probably want to stick to the standard thread in the needle. But if you try it out I’d love to hear what you think.

  31. Dotty Graddy says:

    where can you order Woolley nylon thread? I can no longer find it at Jo Ann’s or any of the fabric stores in Springfield, Mo please let me know where to order it! Thanks!

  32. Hey Marissa,
    I think we’ve actually met in person at SNAP! Thanks for this great tutorial. I love to sew, but I’ve never had fancy equipment. My old Brother sewing machine {from Walmart – no kidding} just broke & my hubby upgraded me to a better Brother. I would love to conquer my fear of sewing on knits!!! I tried all the great tips in your tutorial with two problems. One is that the thread on my right needle kept breaking. I realize it might have something to do with user error! But I’m just wondering if it has happened to you. I have looked & looked on my machine & I can’t find a stitch that is just for a straight twin needle stitch. Do you just use the regular straight stitch? Also, I noticed in your photo that your fabric isn’t pinned. Which – it turns out is a great idea – because I bent my needle on a pin. But how can you sew on the right side of the fabric & know where your fabric is doubled over on the other side?
    Thanks so much! Michelle from Honey I’m Home {formerly Faith, Trust & Pixie Dust}

    • First off yay SNAP! are you going again this year, I can’t wait! And then with the needle breaking issue, I haven’t had that happen to me I wonder if it’s getting caught somewhere or if there is something weird with the needle. Are you threading the two threads are different sides of the needle tension slot? Not sure if that would do this but it’s worth chcking. And I don’t ever change my stitch off of regular old straight stitch. Most machines have a button for you to select two needles but I don’t ever push that either. For sewing on the right side you just have to make sure you judge right and then sew straight. I like to give myself extra cushion so if I want a 1/2 inch seam allowance I’ll fold under 3/4 inch and then make sure the edge of my fabric is lined up to the 1/2 inch mark on my guide on the plate of my machine. Hope that helps some.

      • Could it be that the breaking of the needle might be because you accidentaly have your machine in zig zag? This way it hits the iron foot, and this will break it.

  33. Linda Nelson says:

    That has me wondering if wooly nylon could be used in the bobbin for machine quilting. I have been using bobbin thread, but I have a shoe box full of wooly nylon. Guess I’ll give it a try. I’m thinking it will be soft with my flannel backed baby quilts..

  34. This is a really helpful suggestion that I am going to try. My figure flaw is a big belly, and I get frustrated that most tee shirts are too short to cover my gut or shrink in length after washing. So I have experimented with adding a 4-inch section of the bottom of another tee shirt (like one with stains) to the bottom of the desired tee shirt. I stitch on the hemline of the top shirt, but have had stretching and popped stitches, like you described. I have some old wooly nylon from my serving days, and a twin needle somewhere, so I am going to give your method a try! Thank you!

    • I love your re-invented tee idea! I’m not a tiny girl either plus I’m a bit tall so longer tees are just my style.

  35. I just shortened a cotton knit dress for my granddaughter, using your method…. FANTASTIC, it worked so well… I wound the wooly thread on the bobbin by hand… THANK YOU SO SO MUCH FOR THE TIP… ANNE

  36. PS I forgot to say that I basted the hem first, so that the fabric would not slip under the needles, since I was sewing with the right side up.

  37. Great tips, thanks. I’ve been trying to make this work for a while but I never seem to get that hand-wound thread tension right. Have the same struggle with elastic for shirring. Oh well, you’ve motivated me to give it another whirl!
    P.S. — I get all my poly & nylon threads from Wawak.com, you might want to check them out. Usually much better pricing than Amazon for those items. Though I’m a huge fan of Amazon in general.
    Happy sewing, all!

  38. I’ve always loved this post. this is so. much. better. than tweaking the bobbin casing tension I’ve seen going around lately. that’s just crazy talk. I’d venture most home sewists are happy sewing along on midlevel machines or simpler, and don’t want to get an extra bobbin case or start messing with the temperamental bobbin case tension. I can just imagine the chaos that advice is going to cause. ugh. this, post, however, is spot on. if any of you readers here are comparing advice, this one is the simpler and easier of the two. even when you’re ready to move up and get a overlocker and/or coverstitch machine, this is still golden advice.

  39. Could you possibly have pictures or a video of winding the bobbin with the woolly nylon? I’m a visual learner so I need to see how it’s done to really get it. Thanks!

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