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How to sew stretch fabric

Updated November 22, 2016

Lots of great fabrics have some stretch to them, including T-shirt knits, fleece and even stretch velvet. These fabrics can be fun and easy to work with. They generally don’t ravel, making them great for projects you don’t want to hem and for garments with non-ravelling seam allowances. You do, however, have to cut and sew stretch fabrics carefully to prevent them from getting stretched out of shape.

Cut the pattern pieces in the same direction, especially if the fabric stretches more in one direction than the other. In most cases, the fabric will stretch more from side to side than from top to bottom.

Place the fabric pieces right sides together. Some fabrics, like stretch velvet, have very obvious right and wrong sides since one side is fuzzy and the other side is smooth or glossy, while other fabrics may only have a subtle difference in colour or shine. Some stretch fabrics, such as polar fleece, don’t have a right and wrong side. For these fabrics, it doesn’t really matter which sides you use.

Pin the fabric pieces together, making sure both pieces of fabric stay flat and not stretched in any way.

Set the sewing machine to a normal stitch length. Straight stitches generally work best for stretchy fabrics. If you need to use a decorative stitch, you may want to baste the fabric together using a long, straight stitch first. Then do the decorative stitching next to the basting and remove the basting with a seam ripper.

Set the sewing machine to a slow stitch speed, if it has a speed control. This will make it easier to feed the stretch fabric evenly through the machine, without pulling it out of shape.

Sew the fabric pieces together, taking care to guide the fabric gently through the sewing machine’s feed dogs. Do not push or pull the fabric through.

Tip

After working with fuzzy stretch fabrics, such as fleece or velvet, you may want to brush the fuzz out of your sewing machine, since these fabrics can create a lot of lint build-up. Remove the bobbin cover and the bobbin. Use the small brush that came with your machine (or one purchased at a fabric store) to gently remove the lint from the bobbin area. You may also need to brush out the thread guides and the area around the light bulb.

Warning

Turn the sewing machine off before brushing lint from the light bulb area, since it will be hot. Use caution when working with sewing machines, scissors and pins.

Things You'll Need

  • Stretch Fabric
  • Matching Thread
  • Scissors
  • Straight Pins
  • Sewing Machine
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