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Top 10 Sewing tips for sewing with stretch fabrics:

Updated: Mar 4, 2023

1 Wash and dry your fabric before starting your sewing project. If the fabric is going to shrink it is best to do so before you make your garment.

2 Choose an easy to sew pattern. Generally, the fewer pieces the pattern has, the easier it is to sew. For example, the Debbie Top pattern has only 3 pieces, Front, Back and Sleeve.

3 Cut out carefully with sharp scissors. Do not let the fabric hang over the edge of the table. If it does hang over it will stretch all of the length of fabric, then when you pin on the pattern and cut it out, it will “shrink” back to its original size, and the pattern pieces will not be the shape they were meant to be.

4 When pinning the pattern piece onto the fabric, always pin within the seam allowance, then if any holes are made by the pins, they wont show when the garment is finished.

5 An overlocker is usually used for sewing stretch fabrics. An overlocker sews and neatens the seams at the same time and produces a stitch that stretches. If you are new to sewing, you probably won’t have an overlocker. Don’t worry, you can sew stretch fabrics with a normal domestic sewing machine. Below are 3 different ways to sew the seams:

(a) Use an ordinary straight stitch, stitch length approximately 2.8, remember to stretch the fabric slightly as you are sewing. This is important because it will allow the seams to stretch when you have finished sewing. If the seams don’t stretch the thread may break when you wear the garment.

(b) You can also sew seams with a small zig zag stitch, I use a stitch width of 2 and a stitch length of 1.5.

(c) Some machines have a built-in stretch stitch. Check your manual, and if you have a stretch stitch, you can choose to use that.

6 Ball point needles are recommended for sewing stretch fabrics; however, you can use a Universal needle, I usually use a size 70 or 80.

7 Always test stitches on a swatch of the fabric you are going to use, before starting to sew. You can use some of the waste fabric that is left after cutting out your garment.

8 If you are a beginner, I recommend that you pin each seam before sewing it. Place all of the pins facing the same direction (the head of the pin towards you and the point of the pin nearest to the sewing machine. This way you can sew up to the pin, then pull it out before sewing to the next one. Do not sew over pins.


9 Stretch fabrics don’t normally need to be neatened as they don’t fray. However, when you have stitched your seam, you can sew an additional row of zig zag stitches and trim close to the stitches to produce a neater finish.

Seam sewn using a straight stitch and neatened with a zig-zag stitch. Seam sewn using a zigzag and neatened with a zigzag stitch.

10 Save your scrap fabric, there is so much you can make with scrap pieces of stretch fabric.

WATCH THIS SPACE for tips and ideas for using up you stretch fabric scraps!

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