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A cautionary tale about stretch percentage

A cautionary tale about stretch percentage // Megan Nielsen Design Diary

You know I try to be really honest about my sewing mistakes, so I feel I must tell you this little cautionary tale about always paying attention to the stretch percentage of your denim. You may have noticed that when I suggest stretch denims for the Ash jeans I not only recommend a fabric content to look for, but also to always test the stretch percentage before you sew to make sure it stretches enough – regardless of whether the fabric content seems right.

A cautionary tale about stretch percentage // Megan Nielsen Design Diary

That’s because I learnt the hard way that the percentage of spandex/lycra/elastane doesn’t necessarily equate to the appropriate level of stretchiness across denims.

I have been on the hunt for the perfect pair of black skinny jeans for quite some time, so while i was developing the Ash jeans it seemed like the perfect opportunity to make some. I ordered a beautiful black denim from MRecht that had 2% spandex, and just started sewing. I had already sewn a lot of Ash jeans at this point, and a lot of denim from MRecht so i didn’t both baste fitting, and didn’t bother checking the stretch percentage of the fabric, nothing. I just finished the whole pair, down to rivets and possibly the best topstitching i’ve ever done. I went to put them on and… couldn’t get them past my thighs.

Is there anything worse than the feeling when you get stuck halfway into trying something that doesn’t fit?

At that point i realised something horrible had gone wrong. I went back to the pattern, yup I cut the correct size. I checked the specs and the finished garment measurements were right. Only then did i check the stretch percentage.

It was less than 5%. I wouldn’t even class that as a stretch denim. I made an entire pair of jeans in fabric with stretch content and they didn’t stretch enough. I was devastated.

This epic failure taught me to pay careful attention to stretch percentage – and I’ve found that stretch percentage across denims with the exact same percentage of spandex/lycra/elastane can vary wildly!

I always think that a mistake is worth it if you learn from it – so here is a lesson I learnt the hard way so that you don’t have to – always ALWAYS check the stretch percentage of your denim before you sew with it, even if the content is appropriate for a stretch denim. If you need some help calculating stretch percentage, you can always check out this post and download our stretch percentage ruler.

A cautionary tale about stretch percentage // Megan Nielsen Design Diary
A cautionary tale about stretch percentage // Megan Nielsen Design Diary
About Author

Meg is the Founder and Creative Director of Megan Nielsen Patterns, and is constantly dreaming up ideas for new sewing patterns and ways to make your sewing journey more enjoyable! She gets really excited about design details and is always trying to add way too many variations to our patterns.

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Lisa
Lisa
3 years ago

I’ve made the same mistake a number of times. Put a tuxedo stripe down the side and they will be totally wearable! I usually taper the upper hip denim so the waist isn’t too big because I don’t put ease in my waistbands even for stretch fabrics. I always get tons of compliments on the “mistake”. I go for a satin or velvet so it’s not a big deal if the colors do not match perfectly.

Megan O (meggipeg)
3 years ago

I printed out your stretch percentage ruler a while ago and taped it to my cutting table. It is super useful having it handy all the time!

KS Sews
3 years ago

Nooooooo! They look so, so good. This is also the caveat with TNT patterns…it happens to the best of us :(

Cathey Clarke
Cathey Clarke
3 years ago

Thank you so much for sharing this. Life is too short to make every mistake myself, you have saved me one big one.

AnnS
AnnS
3 years ago

That is some perfect topstitching. Did you use blue thread on black denim? Or is is blue on blue. I love the way the topstitching contrasts just a bit :)

Abbey
3 years ago

Well on the bright side, you now have a perfect pair of black jeans for display purposes! I was working on a denim shirtdress when I learned the hard way about checking the stretch percentage. My sister was happy though and delights in letting me know whenever she’s wearing MY mistake dress.

Lia
Lia
3 years ago

OH NO! Well, it might be time to make a smaller-scaled friend very happy. ^^ The finishes do look beautiful, I guess you could just treat it as a objet d’art!

Sassy
Sassy
3 years ago

How does one get a copy of the stretch ruler? Indicated if I subscribed to your newsletter one would be automatically emailed to me. Subscribed a few days ago but didn’t receive it. Did get a thank you for subscribing email. Is there another way of downloading it ? Thanks.