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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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 areas
Sulky Solvy (water soluble) stabilizer as a topper
Finished Top with buttonhole drawstring
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.
Topstitched hem using twin needle and wooley nylon in bobbin
Also used double-sided fusible at side slit to allow for a professional neat finish.
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.
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.
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