Cutting and Sewing Stretch Fabrics

Cutting out stretch fabrics:

Stretch fabrics with pile, like toweling and velour, should be cut with all the pattern pieces laid in the same direction, otherwise the garment will have a shaded effect, once made up. Take care to follow the pattern layout. The maximum give is across the width of the fabric. To judge the correct pattern positioning, check the design of the fabric first.

Fold the fabric right sides together, especially when using pile fabrics, as the pile holds the layers together during cutting. It is also easier to work on the smooth, knitted side.

If using striped or checked stretch fabric, make sure the pattern matches on both layers of fabric.

Support the fabric on a table while pinning and cutting out, to prevent it stretching out of shape. If there is too much fabric to fit on the cutting table, then the excess fabric can be supported on a chair.

Pin the fabric with ball-point pins which is designed especially for knitted fabrics. They penetrate between the knitted loops, while ordinary pins break the fibres, causing the fabric to run.

Reinforce the pattern seamlines with sticky tape.
Use long-bladed sharp shears, with serrated edges. These stop the fabric layers from slipping. Rotary cutters also work great on swimwear, but do use a cutting mat when using a rotary cutter. Pin the pattern to double fabric layers, but cut each layer separately to prevent the lower layer from being smaller than the upper layer. DO NOT LIFT THE FABRIC AWAY FROM THE TABLE WHILE CUTTING, AS THIS WILL STRETCH THE FABRIC.

Mark the fabric on the wrong side with tailor's chalk or fabric marking pencils.

Sewing stretch fabrics:

Sewing with stretch fabrics involves introducing stretch into all the stitching processes to prevent seams from bursting open. It is best to use stretch needles or ball-point needles on all knitted fabrics. Zigzag or stretch stitches must be used, but simple styles can be sewn with a straight stitch. A stretch twin needle can be used to finish the hems.

Seam strength depends on the correct stitch tension and pressure. It is best to make a test sample, using scrap fabric.

Types of seams:

Stretch fabrics may have plain seams, which are pressed open, or double-stitched seams which are trimmed and pressed to one side of the seamline. When making garments for babies or toddlers, where the seams are subject to stress,it is best to stitch the seam twice. Stitch on the seamline, then stitch again 5 mm within seam allowance. Trim to second stitching line. Curved seams should be clipped, unless they have been double-stitched and trimmed. Tack the garment before sewing.

Stitches to use:

Use a narrow zigzag stitch while stretching the fabric as you sew.
Modern sewing machines have a special stretch stitch. Although a zigzag or a stretch stitch is preferable, a straight machine stitch may be used while stretching the fabric as you sew.

Sewing thread to use:

Floss/Acafil nylon sewing thread and good quality polyester cotton may be used when sewing stretch fabrics. Floss nylon sewing thread is ideal for sewing underwear and swimwear.

Finishing raw edges:

Bindings, welts and cuffs used to finish stretch garments have to be flexible so that they slip over heads, hands and feet easily. Apply elastic or ribbed bands or make casings for drawstrings at waistlines and cuffs.

Bindings made from bias strips, or woven fabrics are useful for necklines and armholes. Apply binding in the normal manner and always stretch as you sew.

Have a great week further!

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