I had a client this week who was having trouble altering her T-shirts. She was quite short in the body and needed to take up most of her tops or they were more like mini-dresses. She’d bought a new sewing machine last year, and came to me for help convinced that the tension was wrong. The top she had recently altered had several breaks in the sewing of the hem and there were lots of skipped stitches.
However, when we checked the machine’s stitching on a piece of scrap fabric, the tension was fine. As I suspected, the problem was actually much more straightforward than that. Jersey fabric needs to be sewn with a ballpoint needle or skipped stitches will inevitably be the result. Also there is a risk of making holes in the fabric if the needle pierces a thread. A ballpoint needle, just as the name suggests, has a rounded tip and forces the fibres apart. We also consulted the manual and found out the correct stitch setting for jersey fabrics. Unknown to my client, the machine had several stitches for sewing stretch fabrics, a specialist presser foot (like most machines), and even a needle-threader!
The client left much happier than she’d arrived, on a mission to dig out the accessories she’d got with her machine, but which had been stashed away in a drawer never to see the light since! And to invest in some specialist needles. Ballpoint needles may also be labelled ‘jersey’ or ‘stretch’ on the packet, and will also come in various sizes for sewing light to heavy fabrics. They can also be used for sewing woven fabrics, but not vice versa!
If you’ve recently bought a new sewing machine (or if it’s new to you), then take some time to read the manual, and try out the various accessories and presser feet. They are there to make your life easy, and help you achieve a better finish to your sewing! Even if you’ve had your machine for years, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut and forget that there may be a special ‘tool’ or stitch setting for your project, particularly if it’s a technique you’ve not tried before! So if you’re having a particular problem or issue and your machine isn’t sewing properly, go back to basics and check that you have everything set up correctly. It may be something very simple such as even having the thread running off the reel in the correct direction. Get to know your machine and what it can do for you and your sewing will be quicker and easier. Have fun!
Coming Soon: Different needle types and how to choose the correct one for your sewing project.