Sorry, this next post has taken a little longer to get all put together and posted. Life is happening around here--as I'm sure yours is as well.
Now that you have some information and a few of our hints for knits we can get started putting a t-shirt together. You have your correct needle (ballpoint) and now you need to figure out what stitch you are going to use so that your knit fabric will stretch, like it is supposed to, once you are finished with your project.
There are a number of options you can use.
By all means if you have a Serger use it. This is probably the best method for knits. However, you can achieve nice garments without one. So don't be discouraged and rush right out and buy one.
Most machines are equipped with a some sort of stretch stitch option.
Below are 2 of my (both Kenmore) machines. The yellow stitches shown on the bottom row are all the stretch stitch options. Some are more decorative than constructive stitches, but lots of options nonetheless.
I have used mostly #1 and #6 (starting from the left).
You just need to change the stitch length dial (left) to the stretch option to get to those stitches.
Same thing on this machine, but with not as many options.
Check your manual to see what it recommends.
Practice and test, then do it again, and again, on some knit scraps.
You'll find which stitch(es) you are most comfortable with and what gives you the best result based on your machine and settings and the particular fabric you use.
You may think that this is a bit of a cop-out; however, even pattern companies can't agree on the same method to use for knit fabrics.
Just looking at some of my patterns I found that this is what they had to say.
McCalls, Butterick & Vogue
- "Stretch fabric slightly while stitching."
I have to admit I do use this method a lot. However, (big pause) I've also sewn for a lot of years and kind of have the "feel" for it through trial and error. If your tension and settings aren't right then the fabric will not hang right or even stretch at all. (Done that more than once) Or if you stretch more than "slightly" you can completely distort your garment. Or your fabric will distort on its own without you even helping it. So annoying! I think this method takes a bit of practice and then it'll change with different types of knits. So until you've sewn awhile with knits I would recommend finding a stretch stitch on your machine that you like or use the zig-zag method which we talk about below.
If you've never sewn with knits before, Kwik Sew really does include the best instructions about sewing with knits (including swimwear). AND they have pics--even better. I copied the little section that is included on one of the t-shirt patterns I have from Kwik Sew. Click on pic to enlarge and read it easier.
Here is how she sets up her (White) machine normally.
Top dial is stitch LENGTH
Bottom dial is stitch WIDTH
Length at about 2 1/2 and width at 0.
And then her set up to sew on knits.
Length at 1 and width at about 3 1/2.
And here is a side by side of her zig-zag compared to a straight stitch based on the numbers listed above.
This allows for a lot of stretch and also can use up a lot of thread. Once she has the fit right on her t-shirt she then goes back over and uses her serger to complete the garment covering up the zig-zag for the most part. If you don't have a serger, you certainly don't need to use one as the knit will not fray or ravel. It just makes your garment look more professional.
Having not used this method much I did a little practicing myself to see if I liked it. I tried to go more on what Kwik Sew recommendations are: narrow stitch width and medium length, so that I could have a comparison.
So my machine is set up like this.
Left dial is stitch LENGTH and right dial is stitch WIDTH.