Hopefully helpful hints for rolled hems on knits

I emerge from a fug of winter illness to share some tips on doing a rolled hem finish on a knit fabric. There's plenty of resources out there on how to do a rolled hem on a woven using a serger/overlocker but not so many for knit fabrics. A rolled hem is a great way of finishing a raw edge where you want to spare length or if both sides of the hem might be seen, such as my recent twist top neckline/hem.

The first thing that will make a rolled hem look nice is using a textured thread in one of the overlocker loopers (the upper). This helps to fill in the gaps between the stitches. I used Woolly Nylon (I sourced mine off Ebay and bought several colours - good value and no postage costs from an Australian seller). There's varying opinions on whether it melts under the iron. Mine did but was fine with a pressing cloth on the wool setting.

I wont go into the overlocker set up as this varies for each machine, but the bare essentials are removing the left needle, disengaging the blade and changing the settings to whatever your manual says for a rolled hem.  Current Sarah was very happy that Past Sarah had the idea to take a photo of her overlocker settings before changing to the rolled hem setting - I'd recommend you do the same (or at least write it down!). 

Test swatches are essential, particularly when sewing across the stretch of the fabric. I guess it depends what effect you are after - a nice smooth non-rippled rolled hem vs a lettuce edge (often seen on kiddies garments, but also a nice way to finish the hem of a singlet). This post has a good explanation on why some knits can become rippled when seamed (and is also relevant for a normal overlocked or serged seam). I found this You Tube video to be the single most useful resource on this technique.

After checking my thread chain was producing a lovely little narrow chain I started on my swatches. I pretty much swatch every fabric before I use the real deal on my overlocker as there can be huge variation in the outcome, especially knits. 

My swatches:

1 - Across the stretch, fabric fed through flat allowing the machine to control the rate the fabric moves through:

Verdict - not bad, some slight rippling - this is because the differential feeds stretch the fabric ever so slightly as it goes through.

2 - Across the stretch, fabric fed through slightly pushed into folds so it is taken into the machine under less tension like so:

Verdict - much better, rippling minimised and any that occurred disappeared with a quick steamy press.

3 - Across the stretch, gently stretching as it sewed:

Verdict - creates a fluted lettuce edge.

4 - Number 2 technique, done twice:

Verdict - compared to one lap the finish is nicer. This may just be because my fabric was a marle, so some of the white fibres stand out more against the navy thread.

This really was a very quick and easy technique - yes a little faffing with the machine set up but very much worth it.

And as a quick post script to my twist top - it does indeed seem to be out of print, but I realised you could draft your own version fairly easily using the Tessuti Mandy Boat tee. This is the front piece of the Kwik Sew:

And folded in half:

And with Mandy over the top (ignore the fact that I've trimmed a little off the side seam):

So if you used the Mandy Boat tee front piece and created an inverted mirror image you'd have a very similar front piece! Extend the sleeve length if you want long sleeves. Reinforce the back neckline, sew one shoulder, twist your fabric and sew the other shoulder, then insert sleeves and sew sleeves and side seams in the flat, all one seam. Finish your edge with an awesome rolled hem and you are done! I'd consider hemming my sleeves in the flat, as they are very narrow and stretched out a little (I did a rolled edge on them too).

Enjoy rolling my lovelies! 


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