Thursday, September 11, 2014

Hemming Knit Garments with a Bernina 830

Quick and Easy Hemming Technique for Knits

You don't need a fancy machine or a serger to easily hem knit garments, be they t-shirts, pajama bottoms, or dresses and skirts. Even though I have a professional-grade blind hemmer for use on woven fabrics, I have for years successfully hemmed knit garments using only my Bernina 830.

Until you become familiar with this technique, I recommend that you practice it on scraps of knit fabric left over from your cutting. Doing so, you will learn how to adjust the width of the zig-zag to make the most minimal showing on the right side of the garment.
First of all, you need to have the Blindstitch Foot #016. Indeed it is a funny looking one, but it works well!
Next, you will need to adjust the settings on the top of the machine as shown. I've chosen stitch pattern #1, and moved the right hand lever to the upper (rear) position.

The third step is to adjust the stitch width to a setting that just barely catches the folded edge of the knit. On this example, which is a nylon/spandex knit skimmer dress, I used a setting just below #2 for the width of the zigzag.
The final setting is for the longest possible stitch length, which is #4 on my machine.

The machine is now good to go!
To prepare the garment, mark the hemline and then cut a 1.25" hem. On rare occasions I will make a wider hem, but for T-shirts and skirts, the 1.25" hem is optimal. It adds just enough weight to the hem to help it lay well, while at the same time allowing enough fold-back of the hem to allow for optimal stitching.
In this example, I'm sewing a dark blue printed knit, which you are viewing inside out. I have placed the pins that secure the hem perpendicular to the hemline.
The next step is the most tricky, because it's a bit counter-intuitive. Take the lower folded edge of the hem and fold it UNDER towards the right side of the fabric. You'll see that about .25" of the hem is now laying right on the table, with a fold at the edge of the remaining body of the dress. (My apologies for the poor quality of this photo.)

To begin the actual hemming process, you position the black thin metal bar on the machine foot right next to the fold of the dress body. In this photo, the metal bar is on the right side, pressing down on only a single layer of the fabric. The left hand silver metal portion of the foot is resting on the fold you created in the body of the dress.
Three straight stitches will be formed on the right side, going through only a single layer of the garment fabric (which is the upper-most part of the hem.) The forth stitch will be a single zig-zag, which will cross over the black metal bar to the left, and stitch through the very edge of the fold in the garment. The needle will then return to the right side, and repeat the pattern.
As you begin to stitch the hem, stretch the knit as you sew by pulling the portion of the garment closest to the front of the machine. This allows the hem to stretch during the wearing of the garment. (If this had been done on a blind hemmer, the hem could not stretch with the fabric.)

In the final photo, you can see the matching dark blue thread as it forms the stitches for this hem(remember, the fabric face is a dark blue print. You've been looking at photos of the UNDERSIDE of the dress)
Once you have stitched all around the hem, flip the garment over, and press the hem as usual. The ironing helps the single stitches the went through the fold sink further into the knit fabric, and become fairly invisible.