Cutting Knit Fabrics

Cutting knits may seem like a no-brainer. But extra thought needs to go into pattern piece placement and the direction of stretch on these types of fabrics. However, many of these suggestions will apply to wovens also. It is important to follow some rules so that your lines are accurate, making the fitting and sewing that much easier!

Pattern layout is first

fabric, target, bullseye

Consider where print motifs will be located on the garment. (This is true for wovens too). You don’t want a big flower right on top of your breast point (etc., etc). I just saw this in a mall store garment, and couldn’t believe it. It was like the designer purposely put those huge flowers where they would just draw a perfect circle around each breast. Argh!

Whether your knit is tubular or flat, make sure you’ve got the wales straight lengthwise. Knit fabrics that have been stretched, washed, folded, hung, etc., may be quite distorted, and you don’t want to place your pattern pieces before your are sure the knit is straight.

Slippery knits or thick pile

You may find slippery fabrics are more difficult to handle. Place an old bed sheet on the table first, and your knit fabric will stay in place. You don’t need to ruin the bed sheet -leave it separate from any pinning you do, or use weights as suggested below.

At the opposite extreme, if your knit has a pile (like fake fur or velour) than place right sides together before laying out your pattern pieces. Much easier to cut!

Where will the stretch go?

Don’t pin until you’ve checked, and double checked the direction of stretch on the layout instruction sheet. Most pattern pieces will have directional arrows to guide you in correct placement. In most cases, if the pattern calls for a one-way stretch, you want to place ALL the pattern pieces in such a way that the stretch goes around your body (not up and down). Droopy hemlines are not attractive! (Or maybe you want to – long dresses are making a comeback).

Don’t try to save fabric by placing a pattern piece in a different direction than called for. Unless you want your garment for a one-time wear Halloween costume, it’s going to stretch out in funny places.

To pin or not to pin

Many of the TV show seamstresses show the use of weights on top of patterns, in place of pinning. They say it saves time (no pinning), but you may find it cumbersome, inaccurate, and expensive to buy dressmaker weights. Try using some cans of soup from the pantry if you want to try this time-saver.

If you like the accuracy of pinning, make sure you are using very sharp pins, and be aware that they might pierce the fabric, causing holes and runs. Place pins in the seam allowances of the pattern only. If your knit is lacy or has holes, you can use safety pins to pin the pattern in place.

Using a rotary cutter and special rotary cutting mat is sometimes preferred for knits that are not slippery.

Time to cut

Because knit fabrics have stretch, it is very important to support the full weight of the yardage on the table. Letting the yardage drape over the edge will cause the fabric to elongate due to the weight and drape, giving you inaccurate, stretched out or jaggy edges.

Another important reason to make accurate cuts is that some pattern companies have ¼” seam allowances for stretchy knit pattern designs, instead of the usual 5/8”. That doesn’t leave much room for inaccuracy.

Make sure you have your best scissors in hand to do the cutting. If your scissors have a snag or haven’t been sharpened in awhile, it’s going to make the process more difficult, and definitely less accurate.

Now that you have all your cutting done, here are our tips for sewing knit fabrics.