I’ve noticed that a lot of people get really scared about sewing stretchy fabrics. I was too until I gave it a try a few years ago – and you know what? It’s not so hard! Really!!
Basically the only trick is to use stitches that will maintain the stretch of the fabric. There are just a few simple techniques you need to know, and then you’re set!
There are two main ways that I sew seams on stretchy fabrics
I either use my serger/overlocker as it creates a stitch that has stretch in it
2) ZIG ZAG
Or I use the zig zag stitch on my sewing machine, as the shape of the stitch will allow the fabric to stretch a little after sewing.
A lot of machines have built in stretch stitches, that many people swear by. I personally don’t use them, because I don’t think they add that much value – but check your sewing machine’s manual, as you may find you like using those stitches better.
One of the super cool things about strech fabrics is that you often don’t have to finish the edges as they won’t fray (unless it’s a loosely woven sweater type fabric).
If you used a serger to sew your seams you don’t need to neaten anything at all!
2) ZIG ZAG
But if you used a zig zag or other stretch stitch on a sewing machine, then you can either leave the seams as is – or you can neatly trim away the excess fabric. That’s it :) no stress!
Hemming is also not as scary as you might think!!
1) DOUBLE NEEDLE
My absolutely favourite method of hemming stretchy fabrics is using a double needle. I don’t often mention it though, as it seems to terrify many people. But double needles are awesome and you will love them if you try! You don’t need a special machine, and the resulting stitch has a great amount of stretch built into it.
You simply thread your machine as per normal, just using 2 spools of thread instead of one, and then thread your needles. Simple simple.
The only thing that is tough is that you have to do all top stitching on the outside (right side) of the fabric, which can be a little hard with wide hems that go beyond your machines measures.
My trick is to iron my hem, then place a piece of tape the correct distance from the needle on my machine, and then use that as my sewing guide.
Update: Since posting this, June had the brilliant idea of using a stack of post-it note pads, with the bottom sheet peeled off. Stick it at the desired location and then it provides a little “wall” that the fabric can run alongside. I think this might be even better than my tape solution!
2) ZIG ZAG
If you’re still worried about using a double needle, another easy method is using a zig zag stitch. Just top stitch your hem and you’re done!
** Just like in regular sewing projects, always prewash and dry your fabric in the way you will after sewing. Keep in mind that many stretch fabrics shrink a lot. I like to tumble dry mine after washing, as I know that’s more than likely how I’ll dry them after sewing my clothing.
** When cutting make sure that you lay your pattern pieces so that the stretchiest part of the fabric is going across your body (side to side) rather than up your body (up and down) – or else you won’t be able to get it on!!
** When sewing do not stretch the fabric unless the pattern calls for it. If you stretch your garment will more than likely come out misshapen.