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How to Sew a Stretch Material

Using a stretch material ensures the creation of a comfortable-wearing garment.

Sewing with stretch material enables easy construction of attractive clothing because stretch fabric has a sturdy weight and maintains its shape. Clothing made from knit fabric is comfortable, with loungewear, sweatshirts and fleece clothing as first choices for comfort for many people. Check the stretch of the fabric against the stretch gauge printed on the pattern to ensure the fabric you use has the right amount of stretchability to fit the pattern.

Lay out the knit fabric you want to use and find the stretch gauge printed on the back of the pattern. Look carefully at the grains of the fabric to find the lengthwise ribs and the crosswise lines running perpendicular to the ribs. Fold over the fabric along the crosswise grain 4 inches below the edge.

Place the ruler along the folded edge and mark the beginning and end of a 4-inch section with a fabric pen.

Hold the marked section of fabric along the stretch gauge, matching up the end of the section with the beginning point of the gauge. Stretch the fabric along the gauge to see how much stretch it has. Match your fabric to the stretch gauge (stable, moderate or very stretchy) and consult the pattern to see what kind of stretch fabric it recommends.

Wash and dry the stretchy material using the same washing method you will use after sewing the item. This removes sizing chemicals that make sewing on stretch material difficult.

Lay out the fabric on a flat work area with right-side facing down and follow “with nap” cutting directions for the pattern pieces to ensure the grains of the fabric will line up correctly. Cut out each pattern piece from the knit fabric.

Stabilize lightweight knits with fusible interfacing along necklines, closures, collars and cuffs. Fuse the interfacing to the wrong sides of these fabric areas with a medium-hot iron.

Use a 10/70 needle in your sewing machine for lightweight knit fabric, a 12/80 needle for medium-weight fabric and a 14/90 needle for heavy fabric.

Sew seams with a serger to create an overlock stitch if possible. The overlock stitch will make the seam and overcast the raw edges of the fabric at the same time. If you do not have a serger, sew a straight seam with a medium stitch length on the sewing machine followed by a narrow zigzag stitch along the raw edges.

Hem stretchy material by top-stitching with your sewing machine. Loosen the presser foot slightly to prevent it from pulling on the fabric and stretching the material as you sew. Stitch a medium-length straight stitch or a narrow zigzag stitch to hem the fabric.

About the Author

Kathryn Hatter is a veteran home-school educator, as well as an accomplished gardener, quilter, crocheter, cook, decorator and digital graphics creator. As a regular contributor to Natural News, many of Hatter's Internet publications focus on natural health and parenting. Hatter has also had publication on home improvement websites such as Redbeacon.