How To Set Sewing Machine Settings For T-shirts Right
Follow the 7 key areas in this episode on the podcast and set the right sewing machine settings for your T-shirts upcycle projects. Learn about the fabric, the tension, the stitches, and other insightful fine-tuning secrets I learned the hard way, but hopefully will help you enjoy sewing jersey knits sooner ;)
Enjoy Reworking Unused T-shirts Into New Eco Styles
Don’t you love a good T-shirt fabric? It stretches slightly and hugs the body, and it’s SO comfortable. Or you can drape and create a unique tunic top. There is SO much potential in a good old T-shirt for creating a new eco (aka upcycled/recycled/refashioned) style.
In EP13 we talked about different ideas how you can rejuvenate T-shirts you no longer wear.
Now, it’s time to demystify the sewing part. In this episode you are going to learn the important that will get you started upcycling T-shirts TODAY. In particular:
- How the fabric behaves and what to do,
- The machine settings, tension and other fine-tuning tricks
- The different stitches for your projects, and all other essentials that you need to know so you don’t miss on this wonderful material, easily available and affordable.
Here I wear one of my favourite makes for winter at one of the Perth Artists gathering.
I used two upcycling techniques to make the top. First I combined two old garments, technique I refer to as One New From Two Or More Old, and then finalised the top by using Embellishment & Decoration. Find these techniques explained with more examples in this episode on the podcast and in The Upcycling Beginner's Starter Kit you can download from this post.
The headpiece is another favourite. Made out of doilies and laces, it has a 3-D flower stitched to elastic lace ribbon.
Why To Know Sewing Machine Settings For T-shirts Upcycling
Now, when refashioning is absolutely rewarding to take up on a T-shirt project. Most T-shirts are still cotton, or viscose, which is amazing natural fibre. Well, if it’s a blend with polyester, then you know, once buried in the landfill, will stay for decades polluting the environment and harming wildlife and marine life, penetrating water we drink and eventually ending up as microplastics everywhere.
One big sustainable reason why I love saving a T-shirt is that for creating just one single T-shirt (that’s growing the cotton, then, producing the item) on average takes 2,700L of water! You already know that? Well, think again. 2,700L of water. This is the average amount of water a person drinks in 3 years!
Main Stumbling Blocks When Recycling T-shirts
Alright. No arguing on the sustainable part. But how exactly to handle the stretchy T-shirt material? For sure it is very different than woven.
What about the sewing needle? If you ever tried machine sewing T-shirt jersey, have you noticed some tiny holes where the stitch was made (I learned that the hard way)?
Furthermore, what about the seams? Knit fabric stretches and if was sewn by using just by using a standard straight stitch, then later, when the material gets stretched – often the seam cracks open…
And finally, if you managed to get the needle, the seam and all the settings right, then how about ending up with several inches of 'extra' top fabric? Sewing long seams may look like a straight forward easy task, but reality is different… When you reach the end of the seam, because the two layers end up misaligned in a complete disaster? This is another ‘hidden’ reason why getting familiar with the essential sewing machine settings for T-shirts...
So, hopefully noting of this will happen after you learn all the first-hand tips and insights in this episode #15 on the podcast.
To learn more about how to get reworking unused clothes into new creative fashions, if you haven't done so yet, subscribe and get a FREE copy of the Clothes Upcycling Starter Kit.
Listen to episode #15:
Sewing Machine Settings For Upcycling T-shirts
Or listen on the podcast page HERE.
Don’t forget to check design ideas (video with different projects I’ve upcycled so far) in EP 13: Redesigning Your T-shirts: Inspiration & Ideas.
Some Highlights Inside Today's Episode:
[2:10] Why recycling T-shirts is SO rewording. The single big sustainable reason I love reusing and saving existing T-shirts.
[4:00] The hurdles and issues you might have when upcycling T-shirts.
7 Pointers For Setting Up The Right Way
[5:00] What is important for getting the sewing machine settings right when upcycling. A quick overview of the 7 pointers that cover the different sewing machine settings for T-shirt knit jersey.
[6:15] Pointer #1: Handling the fabric. The different T-shirt jersey knits. Positives of the natural fabrics and have reconstructed (like viscose or similar). My not so great experience wearing T-shirt jersey that had synthetic fibres in the blend fabric.
[8:25] My Top 2 Tips and what usually works when handling the T-shirt fabric.
[10:00] Pointer #2: Setting up the machine, tension. More about further fine-tune settings in Pointer #7.
[11:15] Pointer #3 on sewing machine settings for T-shirts: Stitches and seams that you can use to upcycle. Learn when to use stretch stitches and when just a simple straight stitch would work, too.
[14:50] Pointer #4 is about the needle: What type and size of needles is best to use.
[16:00] Next up, Pointer #5: The thread and what kind is good for sewing T-shirts.
[18:05] Pointer #6 discusses what seams work for upcycling jersey knit, including finishes to the edge.
[20:15] Pointer #7 is about Fine tuning of your projects. We talk about some additional sewing machine settings for T-shirts.
These are things such as when to use stretch machine needle, how the pressure of the presser foot can make or break the sewing quality of your T-shirt project. Furthermore, how to adjust the pressure of the presser foot to get a nicer looking flat seam. Also, how to fine adjust the pressure and get different results depending on your design. A word about the walking foot and do you really need it to refashion. And lastly, learn when and how to support the main material.
[31:00] A quick recap of the 7 pointers.
[33:40] What can you do to take your upcycling to the next level.
Rate, Review & Subscribe On Apple Podcasts
If you love the conversation, please consider writing a review and rating the show. Podcasts are great way to get the word out to others who want to make change by buying second hand and/or refashioning.
Your actions will help me reaching out more people and helping them learn the ins and outs of refashioning. The ultimate goal: the more we are, the more valuable textiles saved from being wasted!
Go to the show page here and click “Listen on Apple Podcasts”. In iTunes then select the “Ratings and Reviews” tab à click 5 stars to rate and select “Write a Review”. Make sure to let me know what you loved most about the episode!
If you haven’t done so yet, subscribe to the podcast. It will secure you never miss out, including the free downloads which I’m adding to some of the episodes. Subscribe here.
Clothes Upcycling Starter Kit:
Create your own designer clothing from vintage and unloved garments
Valued at $37 - FREE for subscribers
Regardless the sewing experience (you could do different sewing crafts or make your own clothes) or how long you've been sewing, the Starter Kit is designed to help you started refashioning on your own with what you already have.
Other Podcasts Mentioned In This Episode:
Links & Projects Mentioned In This Episode:
Project related to Pointer #7 - supporting T-shirt material with fusible interfacing when adding to the main fabric: T-shirt refashion with lace
Project related to Pointer #7 - fine tuning by adjusting the pressure of the presser foot (and using a straight stitch on the knit jersey): Easy Zero Waste ‘One New From Two Old’ (hot pink tunic dress)
Books For Sewing And Upcycling Clothing From Knit Fabrics:
Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns by Natalie Chanin, 2015
Generation T, 108 Ways to Transform a T-shirt by Megan Nicolay, 2006
T-shirt Makeovers: 20 Transformations For Fabulous Fashions by Sistahs Of Harlem, Carmia Marshall and Carmen Webber, 2006
A beginner’s Guide to Sewing with Knitted Fabrics by Wendy Ward, 2018
Tilly and The Buttons Stretch by Tilly Walnes, 2018
Space Age Sewing with Knit and Stretch Fabrics, Course 1 and 2, by Beverly Sharp, approx. 1976 and onward
Remember, most sewists are scared from tackling T-shirt jersey but my first-hand advice is once you get the hang of it sewing machine settings for T-shirts are a breeze!
Happy refashioning your T-shirts
As a fashion graduate and sewing professional with several years bridal and alteration experience, Mariana Kirova is passionate about quality one-off upcycles.
She loves sharing her findings, observations and upcycling ideas with like-minded aspiring creatives.
It's time not only to start recycling those castoffs and add unique clothing pieces to your wardrobe. To enjoy it, you need to immerse into the making process. Once you feel the deep satisfaction of creating one-offs of your own, you'll never look back to retail!
At the end, the more people who sew start upcycling clothing already in circulation, the less valuable textiles will end up in landfill, right?