How to stabilize a knit shoulder seam

How to stabilize a knit shoulder seam

Posted by Helen | March 30, 2017 | Blackwood Cardigan Sewalong
Stabilizing a knit shoulder seam

Stabilizing a knit shoulder seam

Stabilizing the shoulder seams in your knit projects can make a big difference in the longevity of your handmade garments. Shoulder seams are prone to stretching and sagging as time goes on, and stabilizing them prevents this.

There are a few things you can use to stabilize a knit shoulder seam:

  • Clear elastic
  • Twill tape
  • Woven fabric cut on the bias
  • Interfacing (with some stretch works best)

This is the second sewing step in the Blackwood Cardigan Sewalong


Let’s get started!

I will be using clear elastic, and I have coloured it blue in photoshop so you can see it. It was pretty much invisible, so I had to do something!

Start by laying out your project so the shoulder seams match up. You can sew the shoulder seams together before putting in the stabilizing tape, or do it in one fell swoop like I am.

Stabilizing a knit shoulder seam

Pin the shoulders and tape together.  I like to place mine on the front of the garment so that when the seams are pressed back, the elastic doesn’t get in the way. You may choose to use a thinner elastic or something softer, in which case you can put it on the back so it doesn’t show or press against the skin.  This is completely up to you.

Stabilizing a knit shoulder seam

Stabilizing a knit shoulder seam

Sew using a small zig zag stitch (accentuated with black below). Sew right through the elastic. It may be hard for the machine to get through the elastic. Try switching to a regular needle (they are sharper, so they can cut through the plastic). If backstitching is difficult at the ends, try leaving longer tails and tying them off. It will all be enclosed once we add the sleeves and neck band.

Stabilizing a knit shoulder seam

I finish this with my serger, but this is totally optional.

Stabilizing a knit shoulder seam

Stabilizing a knit shoulder seam

Press the seam toward the back of the garment to finish. Use a pressing cloth or press from the front side in order to avoid putting the iron on the clear elastic.

Stabilizing a knit shoulder seam


What is your favorite method for stabilizing a shoulder seam?  I remember the first time I tried this I thought it would bother my skin or make my shoulder bulky, but it does not get in the way. You see this method in higher quality ready to wear as well.

Tomorrow, we will be inserting our sleeves! See you then!

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Blog Comments

I’ve used the selvage strip from woven fabrics- works just like twill tape!

That’s a great idea! I find it hard to sew/serge on the clear elastic and was wondering if I can just glue it first before sewing. I’ll try your method of using twill tape or the selvedge strip.

I have heard that some machines do not like the clear elastic at all, so in this case an alternative stabilizer might be the ticket!

Great tip, Meg, thanks!

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