Trick to Sewing Spandex

by Cara Batema, Demand Media

    Clothing made from knit fabrics is at the core of many personal styles. If you like to sew, you may want to make a garment from knit fabrics. Spandex, like other knit fabrics, has a great deal of stretch to it. Sewing spandex improperly can lead to puckering and easy-to-rip seams. Learn a few tips and tricks to help you sew spandex effectively.

    General Tips

    When sewing spandex, stretch the fabric very slightly as you sew, especially if you are using a straight stitch. Do not pull the fabric going across the feed dogs, or the two or three bars with serrated edges just under your presser foot; doing so will cause puckering. Sometimes you will not need to stretch the fabric at all. All machines are different, so you will have to find what works best for you. Consider using a stretch needle, which is a special needle designed for sewing stretch fabrics. Use extreme caution when cutting out your fabrics; you do not want the fabric to stretch at all as you cut it out, or else you will end up with pattern pieces that do not match or fit.

    Stitches

    Choosing the right stitch is important. You can use a straight stitch for stretch fabrics, but you need to gently pull the fabric as you sew, and using a single row of straight stitches can make it easier to pull out the stitches. No one wants to have holes in their garments, so you will need to sew a double straight stitch. The second row of stitches goes closer to the raw edge. You may also use a zigzag stitch, which stretches along with the fabric. Use a narrow zigzag (about .5 mm). Set your stitch length between 2.5 mm and 3 mm. Use a top stitch or blind hem stitch to hem your garment.

    Stabilizing

    When patterns suggest that you staystitch, or stabilize a piece of fabric for your garment, do not ignore those directions. These stitches help keep areas such as the collar or shoulder seams in place as the garment stretches from wear. Also use interfacing to stabilize certain areas. Use fusible interfacing that you attach to the fabric with an iron, and make it just a bit longer than the raw edge of your fabric, so the interfacing is sewn into the seam. Do not use a very heavy interfacing because you want it to be able to stretch with the fabric, and you do not want to add bulk.

    Tools

    If you sew a great deal of knit fabrics, consider getting a serger or overlock machine. If your machine only sews straight stitches, invest in a more versatile machine, unless you really enjoy sewing two rows of stitches for every seam. Use a good quality polyester thread; very inexpensive or poorly made thread will increase the chances that you can tear the seam too easily. You may also use a good cotton thread.

    About the Author

    Cara Batema is a musician, teacher and writer who specializes in early childhood, special needs and psychology. Since 2010, Batema has been an active writer in the fields of education, parenting, science and health. She holds a bachelor's degree in music therapy and creative writing.

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