Tricot stitch has its origins in the French word "tricoter" meaning to knit or tricot, knitted work. It is a knitted fabric or a fabric resembling knitting. The tricot stitch is a multiple zigzag stitch often used to finish the ends of a knitted or stretch fabric. The tricot stitch is very stretchy and therefore very useful for sewing fabrics with a high stretch factor. Tricot stitch can be used for stitching on elastic and for stretchy underwear.
Although many avid seamstresses have a serger for the ease of sewing stretch fabrics it is still possible to sew stretch materials using a tricot stitch. This stitch will work on these fabrics and will neaten and stretch with the fabric.
Zig-Zag Stitch vs Tricot Stitch
Here is a close up of zig-zag stitch vs tricot stitch. See how the tricot has 3 tiny stitches per zig. This means it is slower to sew but much stronger than a regular zig-zag.
How to Sew Tricot Stitch
Here are some tips to help with the process of sewing stretch fabric with a tricot stitch.
Firstly – know your Fabric
There are different types of stretch fabrics with two basic differences. Here is what you should consider. Are they woven or a knit stretch? A woven fabric with stretch will have the addition of spandex to give it the stretch. Woven stretch fabrics are not as stretchy as stretch knits and do not need the same special sewing techniques.
The added dimension to stretch fabrics is the four-way or two-way stretches. Two-way stretch is capable of stretching in one direction along the cross-grain, that is from selvage to selvage. This means the best fit will come with the stretch going around your body horizontally. Four-way stretch stretches in both the straight grain and the cross grain. It will contain spandex and is used most often for stretchy items like leggings and active sport’s wear.
Jersey knit is one of the most popular knits because it is cool and soft and ideal for t-shirts. Spandex is the other favorite stretch fabric and is best for costumes and bodysuits. The colors and patterns are amazing. Knowing how to use a tricot stitch to sew these fabrics is worthwhile especially if you are not able to use a serger.
There are a few stretch stitches available on most sewing machines including the zig-zag stitch and the tricot stitch. The tricot stitch, also known as the triple zig-zag, can be found on the stitch variation dial of the machine. It is good for neatening, but not for sewing seams. The tricot stitch is perfect for stitching on elastic.
Here are some preparation tips to help work with tricot stitch on stretch fabrics:
- NEEDLE - Change your needle to a needle suited to stretch sewing. A ballpoint needle can be a good option for stretch sewing.
- PRESSER FOOT - You may need to change the presser foot if the fabric puckers. Consider a Teflon foot or walking foot. A walking foot is a handy gadget if you find the fabric is puckering. The walking foot has teeth that match the feed dogs and help to ease the fabric through the machine.
- CUTTING - As far as possible cut the two knit fabric pieces together for seams and sew them together without separating them. This keeps the two knit sides together better.
- DON'T PULL - Let the fabric feed naturally through the feed dogs of the machine. Try not to pull or push and upset the stretch of the fabric.
- PINS - A few pins pinned horizontally rather than vertically, help to secure the fabric.
- SEWING LARGE PIECES - Give support to the fabric if it is a long piece using your lap or a table as support. If the fabric drapes down to the floor it may stretch whileseam you are sewing.
- FINISHING - Leave the seam allowance wider than the neatening stitch. This puts the neatening stitch closer to the seam and prevents the seam from getting stretched. Trim excess fabric away after the seam is neatened.
- HEMS - Using a double or twin needle for hems is a good idea to prevent curled edges. Check your machine can allow for two threads by looking to see if there is a place for two spool pins. Check on the size of the double needle first and be sure it fits into your needle space on your machine. The distance between the two needles should not be wider than the widest zig zag setting on your machine.
- TEST - Test the stitches on a scrap of the fabric you plan to sew on. Stitches will respond differently to stretch fabrics. You can see the effect of changing the length and width in the photo below.
How to use Tricot Stitch to sew elastic
One of the great attributes of the tricot stitch is it is able to sew elastic or stretch lace onto fabric and allow for the stretch at the same time as sewing on the elastic. Stretchy elastic and lace can be used in underwear or for sleeves and for children’s wear needing a quick but easy opening and closing of sleeves or pants.
Step 1 - Sew Seams
Finish hems and seams in the region where elastic is required.
Step 2 - Mark Elastic and Opening
Measure the required elastic to finish the opening. Fold the elastic into quarters and mark with a marking pen. Mark the area where the elastic will be stitched in quarters as well.
Step 3 - Pin
Pin the elastic to the marked area on the fabric. Match the pins or marks at the quarter intervals. Usually the elastic will be shorter than the opening so will be stretch between the marks.
Step 4 - Stitch
Pin the elastic to the wrong side and pull the elastic taut with one hand as you sew in tricot stitch across the elastic. Stretch the elastic between the marked points. This should pull the elastic evenly across the area to be elasticated. The stretchy tricot stitch allows the elastic to stretch as necessary and encloses the elastic neatly and securely.
Step 5 - Finishing
Check the elastic is able to stretch easily and then sew up the side seams to finish the part of the garment where the elastic was required.
Tricot Stitch - In Conclusion
Tricot stitch is essentially a decorative stitch on a normal sewing machine. It has the versatility to be used on stretch fabrics and for attaching elastic. In contrasting colors of cotton, the tricot stitch can be used decoratively too. It is a tough, versatile sewing stitch and is there to help with sewing stretch fabrics when a serger is not available.