Stay stitching happens right at the beginning of the process of producing a fine garment. It is often skipped by the ‘eager to get started seamstress’ (this is often me!) and this is a big mistake.
What is Stay Stitching & Why
What is it, why and when should you do stay stitching, you may ask. Here are the answers.
What is Stay Stitching?
It is the line of stitches indicated in your pattern instructions to hold curved raw edges in place and prevent them from stretching on the bias cut (or diagonal) of the fabric. Stay stitching is done through a single layer of fabric and is typically done on the necks of garments. Another area you will often stay stitch is the shoulders when they are cut on a slope.
Why should you do stay stitching?
The stay stitching is there to prevent unnecessary stretching of the fabric before you even start the job of making up the garment. It will keep the edge from going out of shape.
If you cut out a pattern with a curved neckline or a v-neck or armholes, then the direction of the pattern will automatically cross the bias of the fabric in some areas. This is where you need to put in your stay stitching. Open weave fabrics tend to stretch more on the bias than tightly woven fabrics. This means that stay stitching is a must on open weave fabrics such as cotton and linen.
When should it be done?
Stay stitching should be done immediately after cutting so the fabric does not have a chance to stretch out of shape at the neck in particular. Even if you are in a hurry, don't skip this step!
Now you know the what, why, and when of stay stitching here’s the how.
How to Do Stay Stitching
Every commercial pattern will have stay stitching either clearly marked on the pattern piece or in the instructions. Make sure you start your stay stitch immediately after cutting before you start handling the pieces too much. You don't want the neck to stretch out before you have a chance to stay stitch.
Where is it Sewn
Stay stitching is sewn on curved areas that risk stretching out. Typically the neck and armholes may be stay stitched. It is sewn with a smaller stitch, a length of 2.0 or less, to keep the curving edge firm.
Put your machine on straight stitch and have your all-purpose presser foot attached.
Distance from Edge
You will be sewing each piece of fabric separately through a single layer. The line of stitching should be done on a single layer of fabric following the seam line but keeping 1/16 inch (1.5mm) to ⅛" (3mm) under the stitch line (seam allowance) so that when you come to stitch the neckline the stay stitching is not visible.
For example if the seam allowance is ⅝ inch (15mm) then you will sew the stay stitch ½ inch from the raw edge.
Direction of Stay Stitching
The stitching should be started from the shoulder on one side to the center of the front on a neck curve and then stop.
It is continued from the shoulder on the opposite side to the middle of the front neck to meet the stay stitching from the other side. This keeps each side in check and stops stretching as you sew around the curved edges. If you are new to sewing, you may need a bit of practice sewing curves.
While it is possible to sew it all in one pass, you increase the risk of wrinkles in your neck on one side.
Here are the directions you should stitch your stay stitching in a bodice. This is the most common place you will be required to stay stitch.
Stay Stitching Facings
Don't forget your facing pieces as they will have curved edges as well and will need to match your main pieces. If you stay stitch the main pieces but not the facings, you may find that they do not match up later.
Stay stitching can reinforce corners or tricky v-neck points. Once again start at the shoulders and sew towards the bottom of the v.
Do I Remove Stay Stitching?
Stay stitches remain in the garment because they are below the seam line on the inside of the curve and so will not be visible when the neckline and facing are complete.
Simple Points to Remember When Stay stitching
- Always stay stitch immediately after cutting out your fabric.
- Sew with a small tight stitch (2.0).
- Make sure you stitch from the edge to the center on each side so you keep the sides evenly matched and don’t pull the fabric at all.
- No need to unpick! Stay stitching stays in the fabric even after the garment is sewn….it is STAY stitching.
Stay Stitching - In Conclusion
Don’t be tempted to skip this very important part of preparing your garment for sewing. It really doesn't take long and will give you a nice looking finished neckline.
Now you have done the stay stitching, the next step is to sew the facing in the neck and armholes. In my facing tutorial, I will show you how to make your own facing pattern and sew the facing for smooth, professional results.