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Stabilizing Knits – Why?

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Stabilizing Knits – Why?

Much of your success when sewing knits is determined by what you do prior to sewing.  Stabilizing shoulder seams, necklines and hems is one of those important steps that shouldn’t be ignored if you want a professional looking garment.  If you skip this step, you might end up with a droopy neckline that doesn’t fit well.   The front of the garment was worse making it unwearable. 

Why stabilize knits - droopy back necklin   Why stabilize knits - droopy front

I typically stabilize shoulders seams and necklines and depending upon the knit may consider stabilizing the armscye.  Loosely woven knits or heavier knits can stretch in the armscye, so stabilization is key to ensure the sleeve fits well.  In the dress below, initially I didn’t stabilize the armscye and during fabric fitting realized that the armscye stretched several inches.  To return the garment to the original shape, I gently scootched the fabric back into place using the pattern piece to ensure I restored the shape prior to fusing.  The fusible stay tape isn’t even noticeable, and the sleeve shape has been retained over several years of wearing and washing. 

Fusible stay tapes applied to neckline and armscye

Knit dress stabilized neckline and armscye

Knit dress finished look


Below is a duster coat I made from a beautiful Italian wool.  It is quite heavy so to prevent stretching I stabilized the armscye.  It worked beautifully even on this very textured sweater knit.  I was quite pleased with the results as there was no additional bulk in the armscye.     

Fusible stay tapes applied to neckline and armscye       
Sweater Knit coat - fused neckline and armsyce               

 Sweater knit coat finish


I must admit I am a big fan of fusible stay tapes over sew-in stay tapes.   I just love the SewkeysE brand stay tapes.  They come in both woven or knit, two different weights, and a variety of widths and colours.    I always test to determine which weight, colour and width I prefer prior to adhering to my garment. 

SewkeysE woven fusible stay tape   SewkeysE fusible stay tapes - knit

When fusing isn’t a great option, I do consider sew-in stay tapes.  With this mesh top I needed something to stitch into to ensure the seam held.  I tried fusible stay tapes, but it was too visible, and I wanted something more transparent.  The sew-in option worked great giving me the stability needed in the shoulder seam.

Sew-in stay tapes used to stabilize all seams

Stabilizing shoulder mesh T   Sewing in stay tape Mesh T

Finished Mesh T


In the situation where a fusible tape might crush the pile, sew-in stay tapes are good alternatives, as in this boucle knit jacket that I hand-basted the sew-in stay tapes in the neckline and down the jacket front.  This helped to prevent stretching at the jacket front. 

Sew in tapes Boucle Jacket    Finished Boucle Jacket

Fusible stay tapes are also great for stabilizing zipper and buttonhole areas in knits.  In a French Terry top, I wanted to add buttonholes to the bamboo jersey neckline and found with some experimentation that a combination of fusible stay tape and Solvy film provided the desired results.

Fusible stay tape applied to buttonhole areasBamboo Jersey buttonhole - fused area with stay tape

 Sulky Solvy (water soluble) stabilizer as a topperBamboo Jersey buttonholes - Solvy topper

Dab fray block on each buttonhole end 
Bamboo Knit Jersey buttonholes - Fray Block

Finished Top with buttonhole drawstring

Finished top - Bamboo Jersey buttonholes


Another area to stabilize is the hem.  I find the use of double-sided fusible or a combination of both double-sided and fusible tapes provide a very professional finish.  The double-sided fusible tape fuses the layers together making it a dream to topstitch the hem without any pulling or buckling.  The addition of fusible stay tapes adds weight to the hem and allows it to hang nicely.  Depending upon the garment you could try either or both.  I elected to do both in this T-shirt dress made of TENCEL™ Modal.

Applied fusible stay tapes through the hem crease  
Pink TENCEL™ Ribbed Modal - fused stay tapes thru crease
Due to the curve and depth of the hem, I used the differential feed on my serger to gently gather the hem.
Pink Ribbed TENCEL™ Modal Jersey - gathered hem
Pressed up the hem to set the crease
Ribbed TENCEL™ Modal Jersey - pressed hem
Applied double-sided fusible to edge of hem.  Once applied, removed paper backing and folded up hem at crease line, then pressed to fuse all layers. 
Ribbed TENCEL™ Modal Jersey - Double sided fusible

Topstitched hem using twin needle and wooley nylon in bobbin

Ribbed TENCEL™ Modal Jersey - topstitched hem

Also used double-sided fusible at side slit to allow for a professional neat finish. 

Ribbed TENCEL™ Modal Jersey - Split hem double sided   Ribbed TENCEL™ Modal Jersey - split hem finished

For a great article on stay tape basics I would recommend, Stay Tape Know-How (Threads magazine #215), written by Pamela Leggett.  It provides tips on how to apply it as well as neckline and hemming techniques.  It’s worth the read with lots of great information.

Threads Magazine Issue 215

Checkout out for SewkeysE and Design Plus fusible stay tapes.

I would love to hear what you do to stabilize knit garments.  There are multiple techniques and products available, and the above mentioned stay tapes are just a few of my favs.

1 Response

Pamela Leggett
Pamela Leggett

November 04, 2021

Janice, you have some really great examples in this blog of why stay tapes are so important for quality workmanship in knits! Here’s my tip: Use the 1 1/4" Knit Stay Tape Interfacing behind zippers in knits. They will lay smooth and ripple free.

And thank you for mentioning my Stay Tape article in the latest issue of Threads Magazine. There is also a video that goes along with the article, available to Threads Insider subscribers.

-Pamela from Pamela’s Patterns

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