Knit stitches

There are SO many different types of stitches and fabrics and sometimes it can be overwhelming trying to figure out what goes with what, especially if you’re new to sewing!
The very first class you take as an apparel design student is basic construction – where you learn how to sew. My classmates ranged from others like me, who’ve been sewing for basically our whole lives, to a couple people who’d never touched a sewing machine and every skill level in between. We spent the first few classes creating a binder to show we had mastered different stitch types, and it is still something I reference occasionally when I want just the right stitch for a particular project that maybe isn’t one of my most common stitches.

In this post, I’ll be going over the best stitches for knit fabrics. A lot of people are intimidated by sewing with knits, so hopefully this will ease some of that anxiety. Dive in, you won’t regret it when you’re wearing super soft, comfy items that fit like a glove.

When sewing with knits, you want to keep a few things in mind:

  • Your fabric stretches, so your stitches need to stretch too
  • Using the right needle is just as important as your stitch type
  • You will almost always want to use a ballpoint needle for knits
  • Even with the right stitch type and needle type, you still need to be careful not to stretch the fabric while you sew, this is what causes ripples in the finished garment.

 The basic zig-zag stitch.


  • A good amount of stretch
  • Leaves a pretty clean edge on the inside of the garment
  • Available on virtually all modern machines


  • On snug fitting garments, this stitch can look less than smooth on the outside, giving a more homemade and less professional look
  • This is not the strongest stitch for knits, so it can sometimes snap, especially in high stress areas (think the crotch of leggings)

 The 3-step zig-zag stitch – this is a variation of the zig-zag where there are 3 tiny stitches going each direction of the zig-zag instead of just one.


  • The additional stitches make this stronger than the basic zig-zag, meaning you’re less likely to have stitches snap in high stress areas
  • Available on most machines


  • Much like with the basic zig-zag, the appearance can sometimes be sloppy on the outside of a very tight fitting garment


 The stretch stitch. This stitch looks like a little lightning bolt. (For machines that don’t have this stitch, a very narrow zig-zag can be substituted in most cases, but you give up a little bit of straightness of the seam from the outside)


  • A lot of stretch, so it can bend and stretch with you
  • The more narrow aspect of the stitch helps it look much straighter from the outside of the garment, even on snug fitting items
  • This is a pretty strong stitch, so it can be used for things like the above mentioned leggings crotch seam (but I still reinforce this seam because I’m paranoid about my pants splitting….)


  • Because this stitch is very narrow, it doesn’t help finish the insides of the garment, depending on your seam allowance and how much your knit rolls, this can add bulk. I like to add an additional stitch (often a basic zig-zag) to the seam allowance to finish the inside.
  • Adding an extra stitch to finish takes more time. I think most people are lacking in the time department
  • Quite a few machines don’t have this stitch. It is relatively common, but not so common as the above stitches.

 Straight stretch stitch. This stitch looks like 3 straight stitches in a row.


  • Lots of stretch
  • Looks like a straight stitch from both the outside and inside of the garment, meaning no puckering of the seams in very tight fitting areas
  • Very strong


  • Like the previous stretch stitch, due to the narrowness of the stitch, you often need to finish the inside of the seam in another way to avoid the bulk caused by the seam allowance rolling. As mentioned, this adds time.

 Faux serged edge/flatlock . I use this as my main stitch (photo on left) to simulate a serged seam and sometimes as a secondary stitch to simultaneously finish the inside of the garment and add a little extra to the outside (middle photo) which looks similar to a flatlock stitch you often see on commercial knits. I also frequently use it for hemming knits (photo on right).


  • Super strong
  • Very Stretchy
  • Much more professional finish


  • Uses a lot of thread
  • Not all machines have it

So go sew those knits you’ve been afraid of! You can do it!


1 thought on “Knit stitches”

  1. So happy I came across this site. I haven’t sewn cloths in many years and when I did it was cotton. I’ve only made a handful of things for myself years ago. Never with knits yet. I’m purchasing the tank top with different style sleeves. Looking forward to making some tops.
    Now, to figure out what kind of knits to buy. So many types of knits itd confusing.
    Happy sewing.

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