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Knit fabric, especially single-knit jersey used in t-shirts, is known for its characteristic curling or rolling at the fabric edges.
Typically, jersey knit selvages roll toward the “wrong” side of the fabric, while cut edges curl toward the “right” side when the fabric is stretched.
While this annoying rolling helps differentiate the fabric front from back, it makes working with knits SO frustrating.
Not only do you have reduced cutting area when edges roll, but trying to sew and manipulate curling fabric decreases accuracy.
I absolutely despise trying to fold small strips of rolled jersey for neckbands, and stopping a jersey hem from rolling is pure torture.
So, to make sewing with knit fabrics much easier and more fun, here’s how to stop knit fabric from curling and rolling during a sewing project!
How to Stop Cut Fabric from Curling and Rolling
While avoiding stretching your fabric and sewing soon after cutting minimizes rolling the most, you will still encounter curled edges if you prewash your knit fabric before sewing.
Here are five methods I use when working with curled stretch fabrics.
Depending on how unruly your fabric is, some methods will work better than others.
1. Use Pattern Weights
If the rolling is slight and you don’t think you’ll have issues sewing the pieces later, place pattern weights near where the pattern pieces overlap the rolling edges.
This is a simple temporary fix to help you cut fabric more easily.
2. Serging Knit Fabric Edges
Neatening fabric edges on most knit fabrics is not necessary to prevent unraveling.
However, serging adds weight to the fabric edges.
This added weight, along with the width of the serger stitch, stops fabric from rolling up and curling in on itself. Thus, the fabric lays flatter.
I own a Brother serger, and it’s the best $200 addition to my sewing room!
If you don’t have a serger, use an overcast stitch on your sewing machine to mimic a serged 3-thread overlock finish.
As a note, serging stretch fabric edges works best for large yardages with simple shapes.
So, a rectangle of fabric for a skirt is perfect to serge. A small circle piece of knit fabric–not so much.
And, if you choose to neaten the edges of pattern pieces and trim any fabric off with your serger, adjust your seam allowances accordingly.
Lastly, if you do decide to stretch the fabric after serging, you may still have some slight inward rolling. That’s where the rest of these methods for helping fabric to lay flat come in!
While I’m not a fan of using interfacing in many instances, the best way to decrease the rolling of knit fabric permanently is by adding a small strip of fusible interfacing to the back of the jersey fabric at the cut edge.
I also use fusible tape or hem tape on neck bindings to get them to behave. Same for t-shirt hems before using my coverstitch.
Just make sure to pick interfacing with some stretch to it, or your fabric may not behave as it should after garment construction. (For example, you may not get the neckband to stretch over your head if the interfacing is heavyweight with no give.)
4. Stiffening and Pressing Knit Fabric
Before cutting knit fabric, it’s a good idea to give your fabric a good press to get wrinkles out.
Make sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions on your fabric to ensure it will tolerate heat well first. (Knit fabrics often require a lower temperature setting than woven cotton, and you don’t want to scorch fabric or add an unfortunate to it!)
Unfortunately, just pressing the selvage and cut edges will not completely undo the hough.
So, as you’re de-wrinkling your fabric, use a light layer of starch on the edges to help flatten less stubborn rolls. No steam is needed on your iron, either!
I also really love Best Press, but it’s more expensive, so I save it more for quilting and when I don’t plan to wash items later.
If your iron is dirty or you’re worried about marring the right side of your fabric, press from the wrong side. And, use a pressing cloth and test on a small swatch of fabric first with the starch.
Starch uncurls most knit fabrics and is affordable and easy to use.
It also washes out in the first laundry. Just clean your iron if you notice build-up after frequent use!
5. Terial Magic to Uncurl & Stiffen Knit Fabric Edges
If your cut fabric is particularly resistant to uncurling and won’t budge with spray starch, I’ve never met a fabric that doesn’t respond to Terial Magic.
Terial Magic is a fabric stiffening agent that makes fabric feel almost like paper.
I bought it at first to help stabilize thin cotton fabrics that I planned to embroider. However, I’ve discovered MANY other uses since then. Such as uncurling the most stubborn of knit fabrics.
Here’s how to use Terial Magic:
- Spray the rolled edges of your knit fabric so they’re damp but not drenched. I spray mine over the bathroom sink to avoid messing up my sewing corner.
- Hang your fabric, letting the stiffener soak into the fibers. I drape mine over the side of my cutting table as it dries.
- After 10 minutes (or whenever the spray is soaked in well), press the fabric as directed by the manufacturer’s instructions.
The fabric will then become stiff, paper-like, and SO flat. This is safe to sew through without gumming up your needle, and the fabric can still be turned and creased for a hem with no rolling up.
One thing I don’t love about Terial Magic, though, is it temporarily darkens light fabrics until it is washed out.
It does wash out easily with water, though, and does not leave any residue on your iron, unlike regular spray starch.
I like using this for rolling hems on very thin fabrics when I don’t want to add interfacing when it will change the fabric drape.
6. DIY Water-Soluble Stabilizer Solution
If you’re a machine embroiderer who uses water-soluble stabilizer or topping like Sulky Solvy, you can dissolve residual scraps in water to make a stabilizing solution.
Here’s an official recipe from the Sulky blog. (I don’t usually use rubbing alcohol, and I also use room-temperature water to make mine. I’ve never had a problem as long as I use it within a short period.)
Once you’ve created your liquid stabilizer, spray this on the curled ends of your fabric. Let it soak in, and then iron once the fabric is damp.
Depending on your concentration of Solvy stabilizer in your concoction, you can create just a slight stiffness to unroll edges or make the fabric paper stiff like with Terial Magic!
Solvy-based stabilizers also wash out with water, leaving no one the wiser about how you got those edges flattened while constructing your latest garment.
I hope you enjoyed these ways to stop knit fabric from rolling at the edges. Any other solutions you’ve found along your sewing journey?