Do you want to learn how to sew stretch fabric? Winter is just around the corner and what better time to sew something out of a cozy stretch fabric! If you have been eyeing off some of my popular knit fabric sewing patterns but haven’t yet mustered up the courage to tackle stretch fabrics then keep reading.
Once you get the hang of it, sewing knits without a serger is really fast, satisfying and best of all has minimal ironing! What more could you want!
How to Sew Stretch Fabric
The main thing you need to know when sewing knits is that your seams need to have the same stretch qualities as your fabric.
If it doesn’t then the stitches may break in your finished garment. This is preventable by using some of the stitches available on most modern sewing machines.
RIGHT NEEDLE FOR SEWING KNIT FABRIC
If you use a regular sewing needle in your machine it may cause skipped stitches and holes in knit fabrics. This is easily preventable by switching to a ball-point or stretch needle.
Generally, ball-point needles are suitable for stable knits and stretchy knits and stretch needles are better for elastic and super stretch knits such as swim and dance lycra.
Refer to the needle manufacturers recommendations. Popular brands include Klasse and Schmetz.
DON’T PUSH OR PULL
When you sew the fabric pieces together, take care to guide the fabric gently through the sewing machine’s feed dogs. Do not push or pull the fabric. Setting your machine on a slow speed will make this easier to do.
RIGHT THREAD FOR SEWING KNIT FABRIC
A polyester thread usually works better than a cotton thread for stretch fabrics as it is less likely to break. If you only have a cotton thread on hand try loosening the tension.
STITCHES FOR SEWING KNIT FABRIC
Your sewing machine manual is probably a great place to start deciding on the best stitch for your fabric. Otherwise, if it is buried under a mound of books or otherwise hiding somewhere in your house grab a scrap of knit fabric and try some of the below stitches. My preference is always the narrow zig-zag stitch.
Option 1: Zig Zag
If you don’t have a sewing machine with a lot of fancy stitches, a basic zig-zag will do the trick. Just set it to a narrow width stitch. Try on a scrap of fabric a width of 0.5 – 1.0 and a length of 3.0.
Option 2: Stretch Stitch
Your machine may also have a “stretch straight” stitch where the machine goes forward two stitches and back one stitch each cycle. It does take a little longer to stitch seams using this stitch but the results can be worth it.
Option 3: 3 Step Zig-Zag
Another stitch you can use is a 3 step zig-zag stitch. Each zig-zag has 3 tiny stretches. This stitch gives a lot of stretch and is suitable for all kinds of stretch including really stretchy lycra. Like option 2, it does take longer to sew seams with this stitch.
Option 4: Straight Stitch
If your machine is really basic you can use your regular straight stitch. Gently stretch the fabric as you sew. When you let go the fabric relaxes and the stitches will retain some stretch. You may find the stitches look a little loopy but this will prevent them breaking when the fabric is stretched.
READ MORE ABOUT HOW TO SEW STRETCH FABRIC
- How to sew stretch fabric without a serger
- How to choose the perfect stretch fabric for your pattern.
- How to determine the stretch factor of fabrics. (Includes a printable chart).
- How to sew perfect stretch hems with a regular machine
- How to sew fold over elastic to stretch fabric edges
- How to use a serger