I realized a couple of weeks ago, as I was prepping materials for last Saturday's sweater knits workshop that I have indeed becoming better and faster at making folded knit hem tape. What is folded knit hem tape, you ask? It's the knit tape that's my current favorite for hemming sweater knits. Bands and bindings as are great, but sometimes I want to hem a sweater knit. With Burda sewing patterns the tape can be used instead of regular bias tape or the special and elusive Vilene Bias Tape when hemming sweater knits. Except for shoulder stabilization, I'm not a fan of bias tape with a sweater knit. I want something stretchier and prefer using a knit tape when hemming a thick knit fabric. I sew the folded knit tape to the edge of the sweater knit garment before the hem is turned. Here are instructions from a Burda pattern for hemming a knit:
Fold bias tape in half lengthwise and press. Stitch folded bias tape to right fabric side of neck edge so that folded edge of tape lies on garment piece, 1 cm (3/8 in.) past seam line. Trim seam allowances. Turn bias tape to inside. Sew inside edge of bias tape in place by hand.
Making folded knit hem tape is not nearly as clever as making continuous bias binding. (I've actually never made continuous bias binding, but it looks fun, and I'll make it one day when I have need for such a thing.) I find the act of making knit hem tape before it's actually needed to be quite relaxing, and it's super nice to have on hand. I used flyweight cotton rib to make my most recent batch. In the past I've used lightweight rayon jersey or nylon mesh. Making it with a rib fabric is easier, because the rib doesn't roll at the edges. I also prefer the feel of the flyweight cotton rib. I've sometimes cut the flyweight parallel to the ribs (the least stretchy direction) when I wanted to contain the stretch of the sweater knit edge a bit. This time I cut the hem tape perpendicular to the ribs (the more stretchy direction). I bonded the layers together to hold the fold and make it easier to sew to the sweater knit. There are many variations; this is how I made the tape pictured above.
Materials and Tools
- A half yard of cotton flyweight rib (I purchased mine at Mood Fabrics in NYC. It doesn't seem to be available online at this time.)
- Heat 'n Bond Tape Lite (affiliate link) - 7/8 in. wide, paper-backed
- Rotary cutter and mat
- Transparent ruler
Step 1. With paper side up, I aligned the adhesive side of Heat 'n Bond parallel to trimmed edge of fabric. Leaving just a little fabric uncovered at the bottom edge prevented the adhesive from sticking to the ironing surface in Step 2. (Learned that one the hard way!)
Step 2. With the iron set to "#3 Polyester" and no steam, I pressed tape along edge of the fabric for no more than 2 seconds per section.
Step 3. After fabric became cool to touch, I peeled off the paper backing.
Step 4. Next I folded up the edge. The width of the hem tape is determined at this point. I made mine about 1 1/8 inches.
Step 5. To bond the folded edge, I pressed without steam and the iron at "#3 Polyester", this time for about 6 seconds per section.
Step 6. I placed the rib fabric on a cutting mat and cut the folded edge with the rotary cutter.
(I'm guessing that Stitch Witchery (affiliate link) or similar fusible web would work instead of Heat 'n Bond, though the bonding instructions are slightly different.)
The resulting folded knit hem tape is stretchy. The raw edge was sewn to the raw edge of the sweater knit and then seam allowances trimmed. I'll sometimes steam the seam allowance toward the tape and stitch the seam allowance to the tape with a zigzag, before hemming. The permanently folded tape edge makes a nice reliable edge for sewing hems by hand or machine. Folded knit hem tape is not fancy or difficult to make. It's just a little thing and so worth the effort.
ETA: You can see the folded knit hem tape sewn to sweater knit and ready to be hemmed here.