Overlocker Tips: Sewing a Knit Neckline

OK, so another overlocker quickie today. If you’re not new to overlockers, then look away now, because you’ll already know this. But if you are sewing your first steps on an overlocker, after sewing side seams, this is the next thing you are going to want to know. Adding a neckline band…how to sew a knit neckline

(Actually this technique can be applied at the cuffs and hem too, as an alternative to straightforward hemming. Only difference there, is that the edges are straight and not curved and the band you are applying doesn’t necessarily need to be that much shorter than the edge you are applying it to. But that’s another post! )

And before anyone asks, because yes, this fabric is awesome, it’s from here 😉

Back to necklines. A neckline band is simply a long strip of fabric, sewn together (at the short ends with RS together) to form a loop, then folded in half (WS together with raw edges aligned)….how to sew a knit neckline

The total circumference of the neckband should generally be 2-3″ shorter than the circumference of the neckline you are applying it to. (This can be dependant on the amount of stretch in your fabric, but in most cases 2-3″ gets you there. I have an in depth post on that coming soonish). The band is cut shorter,then the stretch inherent in the knit fabric is used to ease it onto the neckline. Once attached, it will ping back to it’s original size and in the process it will pull the neckline inwards slightly; and this action is what allows the neckband to sit flat against the body. Make sense?

With the neckband sewn in a loop and folded over, mark the CB (the seam on your band), CF, and sides with pins. (Essentially 4 equally spaced pins dividing your neckband into quarters). On your neckline mark the CB and CF with pins…how to sew a knit neckline

 

With your garment right side out, we are pinning the band to the neckline with raw edges aligned. We are pinning at 4 points initially. Pin the CB and CF of your band to the CB and CF of your neckline. Then pin the sides of your band, to the shoulder seams points of your neckline…how to sew a knit neckline

 

Between those four points you have pinned,  the neckline will be longer than the band as pictured below. Obviously, because we cut the neckband shorter…how to sew a knit neckline

 

By stretching the neckband we can get it to “temporarily” be the same length as the neckline…how to sew a knit neckline

 

Work your way around each quarter section of the neckband, (the gaps between each of the original four pins) stretching it to fit the neckline and pinning in place as you go. Pin perpendicular to the raw edge (vertically) as pictured.how to sew a knit neckline

 

There it is all pinned in place. Don’t worry that the neckline looks longer and wavy still. We sort that out at the machine…how to sew a knit neckline

When you serge around this seam, you will need to stretch the neck band again. So you are holding the whole thing at tension, (so the neckband and neckline sit flat and flush against eachother) as it passes under the presser foot. (Remove the pins as you go! )

It helps to orientate the garment so that when you sew, the neckline (which is slightly longer) is facing the feed dogs, and the neckband is on top. In the same way as a sewing machine will feed the bottom layer of fabric ever so slightly quicker, so does a serger. Not massively. But it helps. ( You can also engage the differential feed on your serger to aid this process. But that’s another post.  Stretching the neckband manually like this works just fine!)how to sew a knit neckline

When serging “in the round” like this, just before your needles reach the point where you started, manouver the edge of your seam to the inside of the blade. So you continue sewing but are no longer cutting. (You don’t want to cut the overlock stitches you have already sewn). Continue sewing about 1″ past your starting point, so you have a double section of overlock stitch. (It’s a bit like the equivalent of a backstitch on a standard machine without the going backwards part! You’re securing the first part of your stitching by going over it again). At this point, stop sewing, lift your presser foot, then serge off a chain long enough to tie off.  (See previous post on finishing off your thread tails).

Et voila. A neckline to be proud of!how to sew a knit neckline

Thing with an overlocker is, it’s more noisy than it is actual scary. Just like your standard machine, it will only go as fast as you stamp on the foot pedal. Don’t stamp on the foot pedal is what I meant to say! Go gently, and you’ll be fine. And in no time at all you’ll be wondering what all the fuss (and fear) was about and you’ll be whizzing through necklines lighting fast. (Oh and at this stage above, you would press the seam to the inside and topstitch down using your standard machine. I’ve pressed but not topstitched here because my Janome HATES knits. So I’m on the hunt for an alternative to replace her. Any suggestions welcomed. If your standard machine sews knits like a dream, I wanna know!)

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33 Comments

  1. Yvette Chilcott November 23, 2016

    Great post! Although I’m an advanced sewer, and you did tell me to look away, I peeked, lol. I sew on a Husqvarna/viking Opal 690Q and love everything about this machine. Plenty of decorative stitches, great stretch stitch, sensor system that senses the fabric thickness, sewing advisor, and I could go on and on.

    Reply
    • Portia Lawrie November 23, 2016

      Ha ha! You peeked you naughty advanced sewer, lol! Thanks for the recommendation 🙂 How is it on topstitching and hemming knits?

      Reply
  2. ParisGrrl November 23, 2016

    They’re pricey (and the cost of their specialty presser feet is doubly annoying), but I have yet to find the fabric or challenge my Bernina couldn’t handle. It’s scary good, the sewing machine equivalent of driving a Lamborghini, and I’ve heard praises sung from other people–with various models–as well. Definitely worth a test drive if you’re in the market.

    Reply
    • Portia Lawrie November 23, 2016

      Ah Bernina! High on my wish list but probably out of my price range 🙁

      Reply
      • Peggy October 25, 2017

        My Bernina is an 830–very old and as reliable as the day is long. I’m sure you could find an old one like mine for alot less than the scarily priced new ones!

        Reply
  3. Marilee November 23, 2016

    I thought my problem with my Janome was personal. I bought a rather expensive [$2,000] model last year and am very disappointed with how it handles knits. Of course I’ve played with tensions, dual feed, stitches, etc, frankly trying every trick and adjustment without seeing much improvement. I made a huge mistake buying my machine mail order without actually trying it out. Yes, it had good reviews, but I now realize they may have been based on wovens rather than knits. My new Baby Lock serger [which I tested thoroughly at the dealer] works well, thank goodness.

    Don’t make my costly mistake. Take machines for test runs on the types of fabric and sewing you prefer, prior to purchase.

    Reply
    • Marilee November 23, 2016

      PS. My previous machine was a Viking. It was trouble free, but elderly and didn’t have the latest technology, so it’s gone. I truly wish I’d bought another Husqvarna/Viking or a new Bernina.

      PS. I neglected to say thanks for the tutorial on serging in neckbands. Very helpful.

      Reply
    • Portia Lawrie November 23, 2016

      That’s interesting that even a higher range machine struggles with knits! Makes me think that Janome is a no go. Which is a shame as otherwise, I really love my Janome:(

      Reply
  4. Emma November 23, 2016

    Thanks for a very helpful post!
    I’m quite new to serging, so been looking for a post like this. I have a Janome coverpro 2000 cpx coverlock (got a better price when I bought both a server and a coverlocker) and I’m very satisfied with it.

    Reply
    • Portia Lawrie November 23, 2016

      Thanks for the recommendation!

      Reply
  5. Ann Grodzicka November 23, 2016

    Thanks for the neckline overlocking tutorial. When I was doing my first neckline, I wondered how to avoid cutting through the stitches as I came to the end. Not too sure about how to manouver the edge of the seam to behind the blade, but I’ll give it another go. My Husqvarna Viking copes well with knits.

    Reply
    • Portia Lawrie November 23, 2016

      To the left of the blade as in, inside, rather than behind. Does that make sense? So the overlocked edge is butted of against the blade, but not under it. Px

      Reply
      • Ann December 1, 2016

        Thanks Portia, I’ve tried another two circular seams on my overlocker and I’m getting the hang of it now. Ann x

        Reply
  6. Fabric Tragic November 23, 2016

    Nice tutorial! I find it slightly less scary to machine baste first with a zigzag to attach the neckband, make sure there’s no puckers and it’s all even etc then I don’t need to worry about pins and the overlocker having a barny.

    Reply
    • Yvette Chilcott November 23, 2016

      I loved the tutorial, too. I’m experienced but I peeked anyway, lol. With really slippery knits I’ve basted with a zig zag, too. Then serged. Foolproof.

      Reply
    • Portia Lawrie November 23, 2016

      Like that idea!

      Reply
  7. Sally Boyes November 24, 2016

    Great tutorial, thanks. I too had a Janome. It didn’t like knits or buttonholes! A bit useless for a dressmaker… I bought a second hand Bernina record electronic 930 from eBay! It’s over 40 years old but fabulous. I use it most days. It comes with a fabulous selection of feet & sews like a dream

    Reply
    • Portia Lawrie December 7, 2016

      Ah, Bernina would be high on my wishlist but out of my budget. Even the second hand ones on ebay. (I’ve just bought a new Pfaff in the Black Friday sale) Interesting you had similar issues with your Janome. We are not alone apparently! (Although mine was fine on the few buttonholes I did. It was just knits it would have a fit over).

      Reply
  8. Victoria Osborne November 24, 2016

    Hi Portia, this is the method I use for attaching neckbands on my serger and it really is easy.
    I’m interested in your comment about your janome hating knits. I find that my janome shears my thread with thinner knits. If I go more slowly it is better but ultimately the thread shears which is irritating – especially when it happens multiple times on a hem. I thought the problem was me/or specific to my machine. Is this the sort of issue you have too?

    Reply
    • Portia Lawrie December 7, 2016

      That’s exactly what happens Victoria! And skipped stitches/failing to pick up the bobbin thread from underneath. Do you get that too? I’ve tried every combo of needle type and tension setting. Sewing through tissue paper helps a little but is a faff lets be honest. I emailed them to ask for advice but they never came back to me. So I’m now awaiting delivery of a brand new pfaff. Oooops! Fingers crossed the new machine does the job on knits!

      Reply
      • Victoria Osborne December 7, 2016

        Same as me Portia. Let me know how you get on with the new one, please. I love my knits and I would love a machine that works well with them xxx

        Reply
        • Portia Lawrie December 9, 2016

          Victoria…find me on Instagram and check out the photo comparison I posted!

          Reply
          • Victoria Osborne December 10, 2016

            I have seen the comparison pics. They are amazing. I can’t stop thinking about them. I am saving my pennies now. I am thoroughly convinced that a new machine would be a good investment. Thank you.


          • Portia Lawrie December 10, 2016

            I’ve only had my janome a year. But so pleased I changed machines. I’ve only sewn a few swatches on the pfaff so far…but already it feels like a pleasure to sew on it!


  9. Janet November 26, 2016

    I’ve struggled with this in the past so I’m off to try it with the neckband on top! My overlocker (serger, sorry) has complained when I’ve asked it to sew through a double layer of ribbing for a cuff and two layers of jersey so I’d love to know if you have any tips for helping it get over this.

    Reply
    • Portia Lawrie December 7, 2016

      I only call it a serger because it’s less of a mouthful and quicker to type than overlocker Janet, ha ha! Alas, this MAY be that your machine is not powerful enough (as in the motor) to cope with multiple layers or very thick fabric. My first overlocker was the Singer spesh from Lidl; and that was certainly the case with that one. Fine on t shirt jersey. But sweatshirt cuffs were a no go and it finally had a meltdown over some medium weight scuba! I now have a Brother 4234D. Which handles everything I’ve thrown at it so far.

      Reply
  10. Sewing with Kate November 28, 2016

    Portia
    I recently invested in a ‘good’ machine after years of making do. I bought a Bernina 380 and it’s a god send. I bought a walking foot with it and it changed my life when sewing knits.
    Kate x

    Reply
  11. Nicky P December 2, 2016

    I used to have a Husqvarna Viking Emerald 183 which sewed perfectly on knits – most of the stuff I make is some kind of secret pyjama alternative to real clothes! 😉

    I’ve now got a Juki machine which cost twice as much and does half as good a job on jersey!

    Reply
    • Portia Lawrie December 7, 2016

      Ooooh, I nearly bought a Husqvarna!! (Secret pyjama alternative, ha ha!)

      Reply
  12. Cara December 22, 2016

    Portia: I have followed your blog for eons and so appreciate your work. I have a Baby Lock that doesn’t mind knits, but the best tip is to switch to a quilting foot: the differential feed is the same for the top and bottom fabric (using a knit ball point needle, of course). Eureka! Perfect top stitching, or any kind of stitching, on knits. I purchased a CoverPro coverstitch machine figuring it would be even better for knits, but it is a nightmare learning curve – eats more fabric than it sews. The quilting foot was a much smaller and wiser investment. Have you tried a quilting foot?

    Reply
    • Portia Lawrie December 31, 2016

      Yep, quilting foot/walking foot and every which kind of stretch, jersey and ballpoint needle I have. Even emailed Janome to ask for assistance but they never got back to me. So I’ve chopped it in for a pfaff! Full review to follow on the blog soon!

      Reply

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