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Blog + Tips




Sewing Knits without a serger

Ann Siegle

This stretch stitch is available on many modern sewing machines. Even a simple zigzag machine can sew knits professionally and securely.

This stretch stitch is available on many modern sewing machines. Even a simple zigzag machine can sew knits professionally and securely.

We get this question all the time at Christine Jonson Patterns since our patterns are designed for stretch knit and stretch woven fabrics. Do you need a serger/overlocker to sew knits? Can you sew knits without a serger? 

You can construct great knit garments without a serger.

  • If your machine has a walking foot, use that. If it does not, reduce the upper presser foot tension disc to a less-firm setting and lengthen your stitch length. 

  • Do NOT pull the fabric in front or back of the presser foot as you sew, 

  • Do NOT let the fabric fall off the table as you sew (pool it in your lap in front, and on the table to your left as you sew.  Keep the extra length of fabric up on your sewing surface.

You can use several stitches for construction:

1)    Zigzag: Use a narrow zigzag along the seamline and a wider one just to the right of that between the seamline and fabric edge

2)    Use the Lightning bolt stitch – this is a long zig and a short zag that almost resembles a straight stitch. This can be used for construction and for hemming.

3)    Use a stretch stitch that your machine has – some machines have this as a vertical stitch, and an angled one that goes off to the right, followed by another vertical. If you use this one, trim your SA’s to ¼” before sewing. Be sure to baste first to test out your fit (machine basting with your longest stitch length is fine.)


From left, the Three Tees cap sleeve top with curved hem extension free add-on sewn in a rayon/lycra front with stretch printed lace back. Sewn entirely on a sewing machine including a turned and stitched neckband (tutorial available on our YouTube channel.)

Stitches for hemming knit garments:

For hemming, unless the hem is under stress, you can simply turn and single needle topstitch. We recommend using Wonder Tape or Steam-a-seam to hold the hem in place before stitching, as it will keep it from stretching as you sew over it. 

If it is under stress, consider double lining it (e.g. a cap sleeve) and sewing the hemmed edge right sides together as per the construction stitches methods and then turn right side out, press,  join the raw edges with a basting seam and then insert the sleeve into the garmet right sides together and use the construction stitches to sew it in. 

You can also use the lightning bolt stitch to hem where the area might be under stress (such as cap sleeve hems.) 

We also get these questions a lot:

  • Can I sew leggings without a serger?

  • Can I sew skinny pants without a serger?

  • Can I sew a knit pencil skirt without a serger?

Yes to all of these! Just follow the construction steps listed above and sew the garments as usual.

On the Christine Jonson Perfect Pants , or The Christine Jonson Split Hem pants, or the Christine Jonson Travel Trio One pants, with the vertical front and back seaming, you can also press the seam to one side and topstitch over it when you’re done seaming the front and back seams. Be sure to reduce presser foot tension or use a walking foot on your machine.

Why would you want to sew knits with out a serger? If you don't have one is the first, obvious reason, but also if you’re sewing, say, on vacation and don't have access to two machines. There’s nothing more delightful than taking a sewing machine with you to a cottage, and sewing by the lake, but you probably don't want to drag your whole sewing room with you.