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How-to

4 Essential Stay Tapes for Knits

Threads #215, Fall 2021
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I design patterns for knits and frequently sew knit garments. After much experimentation, I’ve settled on some simple methods that yield stable, professional-looking seams, necklines, and hems. You can solve the problem of knit necklines that gape or do not lie smoothly by applying the proper stay tape.

You may not have had ideal results with stay tapes in the past. This could be because you haven’t found the right stay tapes to match your fabric. Many of the knit fabrics we sew with today are thinner and more drapey than knits used to be. They require stay tapes that are fine and lightweight.

Contemporary knits also frequently have four-way stretch. In a shoulder seam, the fabric tends to stretch crosswise as well as lengthwise. Without stay tape, you may discover that all of a sudden the shoulder seam is drooping or sliding down your arm.

Achieve stable, ripple-free results with a soft knit by applying stay tape. Pattern: Pamela’s Patterns 104 The Perfect T-Shirt. Fabric: wool-blend sweater knit.
Achieve stable, ripple-free results with a soft knit by applying stay tape. Pattern: Pamela’s Patterns 104 The Perfect T-Shirt. Fabric: wool-blend sweater knit.

Closures in knits, such as zippers, also benefit from the support offered by strategically placed stay tape. A strip of fusible interfacing can make the zipper installation, even in tissue knits, look smooth. Read on to see some of the ways I apply stay tapes in garment construction. These methods are straightforward and fast, but they are almost never included in commercial pattern instructions. Start adding stay tapes to your sewing toolkit for topnotch results with knits.

Must-have types

After trying many stay tapes, I recommend the SewKeysE brand (sold at PamelasPatterns.com or EmmaSeaBrooke.com). With these four, you can stabilize a variety of knits for most purposes.

1/2-inch-wide fusible woven stay tape:

1/2-inch-wide fusible woven stay tape: This stay tape is cut on the straight or cross-grain and is stable. It is thin and has a little give, but it is not meant to go around curved edges. A twill tape or nylon tape alternative is bulky in a seam; this type is thin but stable.

1/2-inch-wide fusible knit stay tape:

1/2-inch-wide fusible knit stay tape: This lightweight, stretchy stay tape conforms to curves at necklines and armholes and does not change the hand of drapey knits.

1-inch-wide double-sided fusible stay tape:

1-inch-wide double-sided fusible stay tape: Apply this to fuse hem allowances in place and prepare a smooth, stable edge that’s a breeze to sew without ripples.

1-1/4-inch-wide fusible knit stay tape/interfacing:

1-1/4-inch-wide fusible knit stay tape/interfacing: Fuse this knit interfacing to stabilize select garment edges in preparation for installing a zipper, for example.

Editor’s note: This is the first of a six-part article about stay tapes, based on the feature “Stay Tape Know-how” by Pamela Leggett, Threads #215 (Fall 2021). For more expert advice from Pamela about applying stay tapes, continue to the article’s other sections:

“How to Stabilize a Shoulder Seam with Stay Tape”

“Use Stay Tape to Stabilize a Foldover Neckline Finish”

“How to Hem Knits Faster with Stay Tape”

“Apply Stay Tape for Easier Blind Hemming”

“Sew Ripple-Free Zippers in Knits”


Pamela Leggett creates Pamela’s Patterns and teaches sewing and fitting across the country and at her Vernon, Connecticut, studio. PamelasPatterns.com

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  1. user-7863167 | | #1

    Fantastic photo tutorial great followup to this wonderful earlier video https://www.threadsmagazine.com/2021/08/10/when-and-how-to-use-stay-tapes-for-knits

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