15 January 2015

Tips for Sewing Sweatshirt Knits

Sweatshirt fabric is lovely and easy to sew with, and will create super snuggly outfits to see you through the winter. My sweatshirt Cocos have quickly become wardrobe staples, and there are some other cute patterns out there that you may like to try – such as Lola by Victory Patterns, Linden from Grainline, and White Russian by Capital Chic Patterns.

Today I’m sharing some tricks I found helpful for sewing with thick sweatshirt material. My starting point is my usual method for sewing knit fabric (as opposed to woven fabric) on a regular sewing machine, so use these tips alongside the tips in the Coco sewing pattern instructions and/or our Learn to Sew Jersey Tops video workshop.

1) Beware shrinkage

Sweatshirt fabrics can shrink quite a bit. I discovered this the hard way! Embarrassing story – my red Coco sweatshirt was originally supposed to be a dress, but the second time I washed it, it became so indecently short I had to re-hem it as a top! So you may want to pre-wash your fabric twice before cutting it out, and also add some length to the hem and sleeves to be on the safe side. For the second (black) version, I lengthened the hemline by about 7cm (3in).

Tips for Sewing Sweatshirt Knits

2) Allow extra fabric for folds

As well as lengthening the hem to allow for shrinkage, if the pattern your using isn’t designed specifically for thick sweatshirt fabric, it’s a good idea to increase the length on any area that involves a fold, since thicker fabric needs extra allowance to fold over itself. I found I needed to add about 7cm (3in) to the depth of the funnel neck piece on Coco, since the fold was so bulky. It’s also a good idea to create a deeper hem allowance so the thick hem doesn’t pop out or sit awkwardly.

3) Ease off on the presser foot pressure

Since sweatshirt fabric can be pretty thick, it helps to reduce the presser foot pressure on your sewing machine so you can get multiple layers under it without too much squidging. Your sewing machine manual will tell you where the presser foot pressure dial is on your model, if it's adjustable.

Tips for Sewing Sweatshirt Knits

4) Adjust the stitch length

I also lengthened the stitch length slightly from my usual 2.2mm to 2.6mm, and lowered the thread tension slightly, again to avoid too much squidgeage (technical term) of the thick fabric under the stitches. (You can sew with straight stitch on the vertical seams and zigzag stitch on the horizontal seams as usual.)

5) Go easy on the iron

Not so much a must, just a time-saving tip ;) The good news is that I found I didn't need to use my iron much between stitching. Don’t tell me off! Finger pressing was enough to fold most of the seams down neatly enough before the next bit of stitching, and I just gave everything a good press at the end. Hooray!

Tips for Sewing Sweatshirt Knits

Do you have tips of your own for sewing with sweatshirt knits? Do share!

19 comments:

  1. Thank you, Tilly! I'm just getting ready to make a pair of pants with sweat shirt knit. You have perfect timing!

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  2. Great tips! I think I may need to make a cozy warm Coco or two as my office is always too cold!

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  3. I love this pattern, where can I purchase it?

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    1. You can buy the pattern from my shop, or from one of our stockists. Enjoy!

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  4. I love this pattern, where can I purchase it?

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  5. My tip would be to get a pack of long pins - the ones with the large coloured heads, it's so easy to loose normal pins in thick fabric.

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  6. wow a goog locking Sweatshirt, i need one of this for my own :)
    thanks for all the Tips

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  7. I play a lot of tennis and love sweatshirt fabric, but it is hard to find in the USA.

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    1. Carole, I shop on Fabric.com and they have lots of beautiful colors of sweatshirt fabric.
      xo

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  8. I actually made myself a sweatshirt Coco just before your first sweaatshirt Coco post! I live in Washington state where it sounds like the weather is very much the ame and it just seemed like the perfect idea! I'm glad you put up these tips - looks like I'll be hang drying my Coco!

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  9. Great tips! I am sorely tempted to make myself a lovely red Coco top!

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  10. Thanks, this is a really useful post. Must watch out for shrinkage! Currently in the middle of washing my denim 3 times before cutting into it.

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  11. Hi Tilly, thanks for the shout out!
    I've had nothing but great experiences sewing with sweatshirt fabric. I overlock all seams and any raw edges and that works a treat for me.
    Just one point to note. Like jerseys, all sweatshirt fabrics have different amounts of stretch, so for things like neckbands in a traditional sweatshirt you may need to experiment a little to get the right length so it lays flat.
    Sally
    Capital Chic Patterns

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  12. That's an excellent tip about allowing extra for the folds! That makes a lot of sense. I would say if you're binding sweatshirting with another knit, the other knit should not be too much lighter weight than the sweatshirt. If it's too much lighter, the sweatshirt fabric will outweigh the binding and the binding will be droopy and sad.

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  13. This post was so timely! I have some beautiful springy orange sweatshirt knit sitting in my cart at Girl Charlee, and I knew I wanted a dress. I've tried the Lola but I couldn't decide if I wanted to do that again and I had your Coco in the back of my mind. Now that I see it in sweatshirt knit...I've made up my mind! Sweatshirt Coco, here I come!

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  14. What a great idea for cosy tops / dresses. Any good suggestions for where to get sweatshirt fabric on line?

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  15. I don't think I would have ever thought of making Coco this way, I'm so glad you did! It's on my to-do list this week. I'm going to give polar fleece a try and make myself and top.

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