Last Updated on May 23, 2023
Stretchy fabrics, such as knit or jersey, are becoming increasingly popular in fashion and home decor. However, they can be challenging due to their elasticity and tendency to stretch out of shape. Avoid ending up with a wonky or uneven stitch with the right techniques. But don’t worry, you can easily learn how to sew stretchy fabrics with a sewing machine with the help of a few simple tips and tricks.
Here, we will go over the best practices for sewing these materials with an advanced sewing machine, so you can create beautiful and functional projects without any frustration. These guidelines can help you create a professional-looking finish every time, whether you’re a beginner or an expert seamstress.
Can I sew stretchy fabric with a sewing machine?
Yes, Stretchy fabric can be sewn with a sewing machine. However, using the correct needle and stitch settings is important to avoid damaging the fabric or creating uneven stitches. Use a ballpoint needle designed to slide between the fibers of stretchy fabric without damaging them.
Also, Use a stretch or zigzag stitch as well to allow the fabric to stretch without breaking the thread. It may also be beneficial to use a walking foot to ensure that the fabric is fed evenly through the machine. Switching stretchy fabric can be a breeze with the right tools and techniques.
How to sew stretchy fabrics on a sewing machine? (10 Tips to Remember)
1. Use the right needle: Choose a ballpoint or stretch needle designed specifically for sewing stretchy fabrics. These needles have a rounded tip that pushes the fabric fibers aside rather than piercing them, preventing fabric damage and skipped stitches.
2. Choose the correct thread: Use a good-quality polyester or stretch thread that has some elasticity. This will ensure that your seams can stretch with the fabric without breaking.
3. Use a stretch stitch: Many sewing machines have built-in stretch stitches such as zigzag, stretch straight stitch, or triple stitch. These stitches allow the seam to stretch along with the fabric, preventing popped stitches.
4. Test your settings: Before beginning your project, test your stitch settings on a scrap piece of the same fabric. This will help you determine your specific fabric’s best stitch length, width, and tension.
5. Use a walking foot or a Teflon foot: A walking foot or Teflon foot helps to evenly feed the stretchy fabric through the sewing machine, preventing it from getting stretched out or puckered during sewing.
6. Hold the fabric gently: Avoid pulling or pushing the fabric through the machine when sewing stretchy fabrics. Instead, guide it gently, allowing the feed dogs to move the fabric at their own pace.
7. Stabilize the fabric: Using a stabilizer like tissue paper, tear-away stabilizer, or wash-away stabilizer can help prevent stretching or distortion while sewing. Simply place the stabilizer under the fabric while sewing and remove it after the seam is completed.
8. Use a lower presser foot pressure: If your sewing machine has adjustable presser foot pressure, reduce the pressure when sewing stretchy fabrics to prevent them from getting stretched out or distorted.
9. Use stay tape or clear elastic: To stabilize shoulder seams, necklines, or waistlines in garments made from stretchy fabrics, use stay tape or clear elastic to reinforce these areas and maintain the garment’s shape.
10. Steam and press carefully: When pressing stretchy fabrics, use a low heat setting and a pressing cloth to prevent fabric damage. Steam can help relax the fabric and remove any puckering or distortion caused by sewing. Be cautious not to stretch the fabric while pressing.
What are the best sewing settings for stretchy fabric?
When sewing stretchy fabric, it’s essential to use the proper settings to avoid puckering or stretching out of shape. Here are some of the best sewing settings for stretchy fabric:
- Stitch type: Use one of the recommended stitches for stretch fabrics, such as a narrow zigzag stitch, overedge stitch, straight stretch stitch, or twin-needle stitch. Each stitch has its own benefits, so choose the one that best suits your project.
- Stitch length and width: For the narrow zigzag stitch, set the stitch length equal to the stitch width. This will create a balanced, flexible seam. Consult your sewing machine manual for the recommended length and width settings for other stitches.
- Needle: Use a ballpoint or stretch needle, which is designed for sewing stretchy fabrics without damaging them.
- Thread: Opt for a high-quality polyester or stretch thread that has some elasticity, ensuring that your seams can stretch with the fabric without breaking.
- Presser foot: Use a dual feed foot or walking foot attachment to prevent fabric layers from stretching unevenly while sewing. Check your sewing machine manual to find a compatible attachment.
- Presser foot pressure: If your sewing machine has adjustable presser foot pressure, reduce the pressure when sewing stretchy fabrics to prevent distortion.
- Test your settings: Before starting your project, test your chosen stitch type and settings on a scrap piece of the same fabric. This will help you fine-tune your specific fabric’s stitch length, width, and tension.
- Guide the fabric gently: Avoid pulling or pushing the fabric through the machine, and allow the feed dogs to move the fabric at their own pace.
- Stabilize the fabric: Use a stabilizer, such as tissue paper, tear-away stabilizer, or wash-away stabilizer, to prevent stretching or distortion while sewing.
- Steam and press carefully: When pressing stretchy fabrics, use a low heat setting and a pressing cloth to prevent fabric damage. Be cautious not to stretch the fabric while pressing.
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What tension should I use for stretchy fabric?
When sewing stretchy fabrics such as lycra or elastane, it is recommended to use a higher tension setting, typically between 2-3.
This will help create a secure seam that can stretch with the fabric. However, tension settings may vary depending on your specific sewing machine and the fabric you’re working with. Always test your tension settings on a scrap piece of the same fabric before starting your project to ensure optimal results.
What stitch is best for stretchy knit fabric?
The best stitch for stretchy knit fabric is the zigzag stitch. A zigzag stitch is ideal for seaming knit fabrics because it allows the fabric to stretch and move without the risk of breaking the seam.
On light to medium-weight knits, use a stitch length of 1.5 and a width of 5. These settings closely mimic the appearance and functionality of an overlock stitch, providing flexibility and durability to the seam.
Why is my sewing machine skipping stitches on stretch fabric?
There are several reasons if your sewing machine is skipping stitches on stretch fabric. Based on the information provided, consider the following factors that may be contributing to the issue:
- Thread tension: Ensure that the thread is properly seated in the tension disk. Incorrect thread tension can cause skipped stitches or uneven stitching.
- Spool placement: Double-check that the spool is placed correctly on the machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Incorrect placement can affect thread feeding, and cause skipped stitches.
- Bobbin issues: Make sure the bobbin is inserted correctly and tightly threaded. A poorly wound bobbin can lead to skipped stitches or other sewing problems.
- Thread quality: Using good quality thread is essential for smooth, even stitching. Poor quality thread can cause skipped stitches, tension issues, or thread breakage.
In addition to these factors, ensure that you use an appropriate needle (such as a ballpoint or stretch needle) and stitch type (e.g., narrow zigzag, overedge stitch, or straight stretch stitch) for sewing stretch fabrics.
What size needle is best for stretch fabric?
Based on the provided information, the best needle size for stretch fabric is a ballpoint needle in size 90/14 to 100/16. These sizes can handle a variety of stretch fabrics and help prevent skipped stitches. Remember to choose the appropriate needle size based on the thickness and weight of the fabric you’re working with.
What is the best thread for stretchy material?
The best thread for stretchy material is an all-purpose polyester thread. Polyester thread has some give when stretched, making it suitable for sewing stretchy fabrics without compromising the seam’s flexibility. Cotton thread is not recommended for stretchy materials, as it lacks the necessary elasticity.
Consider using elastic thread for garments or projects that require additional stretch or form-fitting properties. However, an elastic thread should only be used in the bobbin of your sewing machine and should be wound by hand to prevent overstretching or uneven tension.
So, sewing stretchy fabric with a sewing machine may seem daunting at first, but it can be a breeze with the right tools and techniques. Remember to use the right needle and thread, adjust your machine settings, and practice on scrap fabric before diving into your project. With these tips, you’ll be able to conquer any stretchy fabric project with ease. Happy sewing!