We pretty much all own a garment which is stretchy, yet so many people are nervous to sew with stretch fabrics.
Here are our top 5 basic tips to sewing stretch fabric.
- Use the correct needle!
Ballpoint (also referred to as jersey) or stretch needles are best when working with knits.
Ballpoint/jersey needles work great for knits without a low spandex content. For example: rayon lycra, sweater knits and jersey.
Stretch needles will work better when using fabrics with a higher spandex/lycra content.
Choose the appropriate size needle for the weight of your fabric, for example: 80/12 is your middle size and suitable for most weights however if you’re sewing a stretch denim you might need something heavier like a 90/14. Equally if you’re sewing a light weight stretch fabric you need a thinner needle like a 70/10.
- Always use a stretch stitch.
All modern machines will have the most basic of stretch stitches: the faithful zig zag stitch. If you sew a straight stitch, and the seam becomes under stress (stretches) it will pop! We advise that you look at your machine to investigate which other stretch stitches it may have.
- Check your grainline.
Some stretch fabrics stretch one way (called 2 way stretch) some stretch both on the warp and the weft of the fabric (4 way stretch). Always make sure the direction of greatest stretch is going around you body, not up and down!
- Make sure you are using the right pattern
Not all patterns are sized for stretch. This means that they are meant to be made from either a fabric that is woven or knit with or without elastane/lycra/spandex. Commercial patterns and Indie patterns will tell you that you need stretch fabric or non stretch fabrics for the garment you are making. Most patterns will also have a gauge to help you determine if the fabric you wish to use has enough stretch in it to make the garment of your choosing. This is called stretch percentage.
- Do not pull your fabric while sewing.
It can be really tempting to give your machine a helping hand getting your fabric through but if you do this while sewing knits you run the risk of stretching the fabric out. We advise having a practice with your machine, adjusting tension if necessary. We also like to use quilters clips and a walking foot to help us through.
If you want to learn more about sewing with stretch, book onto one of our Advanced stretch classes where we teach you about different types of stretch, stretch percentage, retention, how to cut a pattern from your measurements, cut stretch and sew the cut fabric into a wearable garment.