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Sewing stretchy materials Help!

Rubydarling | Posted in General Discussion on

I’m a beginner and need some advice on sewing stretch fabric. I know I need to use a zig zig stitch and I have trialed this on my fabric but the stitching is still restricting the fabrics ability to stretch. I’ve tried stretching the fabric out while sewing, is there anything else I show be doing? Oh and I don’t have access to a serger/ overlocker. Any suggestions gratefully accepted. Thanks


  1. Lynnelle | | #1

    What type of stretch fabric is it?  Is it a knit?  If so, then make sure you have ballpoint needles.  Also, have you tried using the stretch stitch on your machine? 


    1. Rubydarling | | #3

      Hi Lynnelle,
      I'm pretty sure it's woven interlock and I don't think my machine has a stretch stitch it's a 1975 Husquvana. The manual pointed me towards zig zag. I will have a look at my needles to, thanks for the advice.

  2. MaryinColorado | | #2

    I agree with Lynnelle, also a longer and/or wider stitch might help.  Do you have a manual for your sewing machine?  They usually tell you what stitches to use for knits vs wovens.  Are you using polyester thread?  Mary

    1. Rubydarling | | #4

      Hi MaryinColarado,
      my manual pointed me toward zig zag stitch for stretch fabric but is doesn't have much in the way of detail. I think your right about the longer/ wider stitch I'll have a go at that tonight. I'm not sure if the thread is Polyester, should it be? If not then what would be better?
      Thanks for all this.

      1. MaryinColorado | | #5

        I think the poly thread is less likely to break as it has some ability to stretch and more strength.  I wouldn't go very long on the stitch maybe 2.0, more width is best, 2.0-3.0.  Do you have a stitch that looks like several straight stitches, then a ziggedy zag, then straight again?  That might work too.  The tiny zig zag is more for extremely light weight fabric.  If the stitch is too long, it will look open when you stretch your fabric as in when you wear it.  Good luck! 

        1. Rubydarling | | #6

          I'm looking fwd to having a play with my machine tonight. I'll let you know how I go. Thanks again

          1. NewRenaissanceWoman | | #8

            You still haven't said what type of stretch fabric you are sewing. There is a lot of difference between sewing sport stretch such as cotton lycras and slippery swimsuit fabrics and the little bit of lycra woven and knit fabrics that only have a small amount of stretch for comfort and closer shaping. Will this/these garment/s be smaller than your body when finished? I.e. worn skintight? For a close stretched garment it should be no smaller than 1-2 inches smaller than your body measurements.

            I sew these fabrics all the time by the dozens. I have had no problems with using a straight stitch and stretching slightly as I sew. If you stretch too much as you sew the fabric will distort and have trouble going back to its original size after sewing or leave a puckered seam. These garments should not be subjected to maximum stretch after sewing however. Stretch garments should not be made that tight anyway. I use a stretch needle not a ballpoint needle - works better. The ballpoint needle is somewhat fatter and is rounder tipped than a regular sharp needle to push between the threads as the sharp point may cut the threads thus allowing 'runs' to occur in the fabric. The stretch needle is a combo of the 2 with a narrow but rounded point. I occasionally use a zigzag stitch at length of 1 or 2 and width of 2. Try using Poly embroidery thread. It is finer and tougher (and somewhat slick) than plain spun poly, even the long staple poly. Textured poly is the best thread but is not available through regular retail outlets. It comes in large cones and is available through websites that cater to the professional trade. It has a softer feel than the embroidery thread. A good web source for poly embroidery thread is http://www.threadart.com. JoAnn's and Hancock carry embroidery thread but at almost $6 a cone. The same thread is $1.65 at ThreadArt - same size cone. If this garment is to be worn skintight I would avoid stretchy thread such as wooly nylon or stretch nylon as the seams will stretch open when worn. These threads work with sergers as they are stretched as they are sewn and help the fabric to return to its resting state.

            Good luck practicing with some scraps. A little practice is all it takes.

          2. Rubydarling | | #9

            Thanks tmorris1, NewRenaissanceWomen and every one else who responded. I think I have it working now. I tried the different stitch sizes and a finer needle and I also took my practice piece to my local fabric shop (‘Darn cheap fabric’ in Glenhuntly, Vic Australia) where they also give brilliant advice. The very helpful staff there told me it looked good to her. So I think I’ll have a go at finishing the top tonight and see what happens. I will also investigate the stretch thread that was suggested. Gotta say, I love this discussion list!

  3. tmorris1 | | #7

    You could try sewing with a stretch thread if the fabric has that much give.

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