Mastering Stretchy Fabrics: The Best Hand Stitching Techniques

Are you struggling to find the best hand stitch for stretchy fabrics? Look no further because we have compiled a list of the top hand stitches that will work wonders on stretchy materials.

hand stitch stretchy fabric
(Credit: canva)

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced sewer, these stitches will help you achieve the perfect hem or seam on your stretchy fabric projects.

Here are the top hand stitches for stretchy fabric:

  • The backstitch: This stitch is great for creating a strong and durable seam on stretchy fabrics. It involves sewing forward one stitch length and then sewing backward two stitch lengths, creating a secure stitch that won’t come apart easily.
  • The whip stitch: This stitch is perfect for hemming stretchy fabrics because it allows for some give and flexibility. It involves sewing over the edge of the fabric with a series of small stitches, creating a neat and tidy hem that won’t bunch up or pucker.
  • The blanket stitch: This stitch is ideal for finishing the edges of stretchy fabrics because it creates a clean and professional-looking edge. It involves sewing a series of small stitches along the edge of the fabric, creating a decorative and functional finish that won’t fray or unravel.
stretchy fabric
Cotton stretchy fabric(Credit: canva)

Understanding Stretchy Fabric

When it comes to sewing with stretchy fabrics, it’s important to understand the characteristics of these materials. In this section, we’ll take a closer look at the different types of stretch fabrics and their properties.

Types of Stretch Fabrics

  1. Knit Fabric: This type of fabric is made using a knitting process that creates loops of yarn. Knit fabrics are stretchy in both directions and are commonly used for clothing items like t-shirts and leggings.
  2. Jersey Fabric: Jersey is a type of knit fabric that is lightweight and stretchy. It is commonly used for t-shirts, dresses, and skirts.
  3. Double Knits: Double knits are made using a double knitting process that creates a thicker, more stable fabric. They are stretchy in both directions and are commonly used for jackets and pants.
  4. Lycra/Spandex: Lycra and spandex are synthetic fibers that are added to fabrics to give them stretch. They are commonly used in athletic wear and swimwear.
  5. Elastane: Elastane is a stretchy synthetic fiber that is often added to fabrics to give them elasticity. It is commonly used in clothing items like leggings and underwear.

Stretch fabrics can also be categorized as 2-way or 4-way stretch. 2-way stretch fabrics stretch in one direction, while 4-way stretch fabrics stretch in both directions.

It’s important to note that not all stretchy materials are created equal. Some fabrics have a lot of stretch, while others have very little.

Cotton thread is not recommended for stretchy fabrics, as it can break easily. Polyester thread is a better choice, as it is stronger and more durable.

needles thread
(Credit: canva)

Choosing the Right Needle

The Importance of Choosing the Right Needle

A needle that is too large or too small can cause skipped stitches or even break the fabric. Additionally, the wrong needle can cause the fabric to pucker or create uneven seams.

Types of Needles for Stretchy Fabrics

  • Ballpoint needle: This needle has a rounded tip that allows it to slide between the fibers of the fabric without damaging them. It is ideal for knit fabrics and other stretchy materials.
  • Stretch needle: This needle has a slightly rounded tip and a deeper scarf, which allows it to better accommodate the stretch of the fabric. It is perfect for sewing elastic fabrics such as Lycra and spandex.
  • Jersey needle: This needle has a medium ballpoint tip that is suitable for sewing knit fabrics. It is also ideal for lightweight woven fabrics.

Choosing the Right Needle Size

  • Use a smaller needle size for lightweight fabrics, such as 70/10 or 80/12.
  • For medium-weight fabrics, use a needle size between 80/12 and 90/14.
  • For heavy-weight fabrics, use a larger needle size, such as 100/16 or 110/18.

Always test your needle and thread on a scrap piece of fabric before sewing your final project.

Tips for Using Ballpoint Needles

When using a ballpoint needle, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Use a new needle for each project to ensure that it is sharp and in good condition.
  • Avoid pulling or stretching the fabric while sewing. This can cause the needle to bend or break.
  • Use a shorter stitch length to prevent the needle from pushing the fabric down into the throat plate.
  • Use a stabilizer or interfacing to help prevent the fabric from stretching or puckering.

Tips for Using Stretch Needles

  • Use a new needle for each project to ensure that it is sharp and in good condition.
  • Use a slightly longer stitch length to allow the fabric to stretch.
  • Avoid pulling or stretching the fabric while sewing. This can cause the needle to bend or break.
  • Use a stabilizer or interfacing to help prevent the fabric from stretching or puckering.

Thread Selection

Choosing the Right Thread

  • Choose a thread that has some stretch to it, such as a polyester thread. This will allow the thread to move with the fabric, preventing it from breaking or snapping.
  • Avoid using cotton thread, as it is not as stretchy and may cause the fabric to pucker or bunch up.
  • Consider using a thread that matches the color of your fabric. This will help your stitches blend in and create a more polished look.

Types of Thread for Stretchy Fabrics

  • Polyester thread: This is a popular choice for sewing stretchy fabrics because it has some stretch to it and is strong enough to hold up to the fabric’s movement.
  • Wooly nylon thread: This thread has a fuzzy texture that helps it grip the fabric and move with it. It is a great choice for sewing activewear or swimwear.
  • Stretch thread: This thread is specifically designed for sewing stretchy fabrics. It has a lot of stretch to it and is great for creating seams that need to move with the fabric.

By choosing the right thread, you can ensure that your stitches will hold up and your finished project will look polished and professional.

hand stitching
(Credit: canva)

Stitching Techniques

Straight Stitch

  • Thread your needle and knot the end of the thread.
  • Insert the needle through the fabric and pull it through until the knot catches.
  • Sew straight through the fabric, making sure to keep your stitches evenly spaced.
  • Tie off the thread at the end of your stitching.

Zigzag Stitch

The zigzag stitch is another popular stitch for sewing stretchy fabrics. It allows the fabric to stretch without the thread breaking. To create a zigzag stitch:

  • Thread your needle and knot the end of the thread.
  • Insert the needle through the fabric and pull it through until the knot catches.
  • Sew a diagonal line through the fabric, going back and forth in a zigzag pattern.
  • Tie off the thread at the end of your stitching.

Triple Stitch

  • Thread your needle and knot the end of the thread.
  • Insert the needle through the fabric and pull it through until the knot catches.
  • Sew three parallel lines through the fabric, making sure to keep your stitches evenly spaced.
  • Tie off the thread at the end of your stitching.

Catch Stitch

  • Thread your needle and knot the end of the thread.
  • Insert the needle through the fabric and pull it through until the knot catches.
  • Sew a diagonal stitch through the fabric, catching a small amount of the material with each stitch.
  • Tie off the thread at the end of your stitching.

Diagonal Stitch

  • Thread your needle and knot the end of the thread.
  • Insert the needle through the fabric and pull it through until the knot catches.
  • Sew a diagonal line through the fabric, making sure to keep your stitches evenly spaced.
  • Tie off the thread at the end of your stitching.

Hand Stitching

  • Thread your needle and knot the end of the thread.
  • Insert the needle through the fabric and pull it through until the knot catches.
  • Sew through the fabric, making sure to keep your stitches evenly spaced and follow the direction of the stretch.
  • Tie off the thread at the end of your stitching.

By using these stitching techniques, you can create strong and flexible seams in your stretchy fabrics, ensuring they retain their elasticity and don’t tear.

Using a Sewing Machine

Sewing Machine Settings

  • Stitch type: A narrow zigzag stitch or an overedge stitch are great options for stretchy fabrics.
  • Stitch length and width: Use a shorter stitch length and a narrower stitch width to help prevent the fabric from stretching out.
  • Tension: Adjust the tension on your machine to ensure that the stitches are even and secure.

Presser Foot

The presser foot on your sewing machine can also affect how your stretchy fabric turns out. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Use a presser foot that is designed for stretchy fabrics, such as a walking foot or a roller foot.
  • Adjust the pressure on your presser foot to ensure that it is not too heavy, which can cause the fabric to stretch out.

Walking Foot

  • Adjust the pressure on the foot to ensure that it is not too heavy, which can cause the fabric to stretch out.
  • Use a longer stitch length to help prevent the fabric from stretching out.

Twin Needle Stitch

  • Use a twin needle that is designed for stretchy fabrics.
  • Adjust the tension on your machine to ensure that the stitches are even and secure.

Narrow Zigzag

  • Use a shorter stitch length and a narrower stitch width to help prevent the fabric from stretching out.
  • Adjust the tension on your machine to ensure that the stitches are even and secure.

Hemming Techniques

There are several options available, including raw edges, hemming with a sewing machine, and hemming by hand. Let’s take a closer look at each one.

Raw Edges

Raw edges are an option for those who want a quick and easy solution. However, this technique is not recommended for stretchy fabrics as the edges can fray and unravel over time. If you do choose to use raw edges, make sure to trim any excess fabric and use fabric glue to secure the hem.

Hemming with a Sewing Machine

  • Use a ballpoint needle to prevent the fabric from stretching or puckering.
  • Set your sewing machine to a narrow zigzag stitch to allow for some stretch in the fabric.
  • Use a walking foot to ensure the fabric feeds evenly through the machine.
  • Fold the hemline twice to create a double-fold hem.
  • Pin the hem in place before sewing to prevent it from shifting.

Hemming by Hand

Hemming by hand is a great option for those who want more control over the hemline.

  • Use a catch stitch to create a hem that has some stretch and flexibility.
  • Fold the hemline twice to create a double-fold hem.
  • Use a thimble to protect your fingers and make it easier to push the needle through the fabric.
  • Knot the thread securely at the beginning and end of the hemline to prevent it from unraveling.

Troubleshooting and Tips

Preventing Puckering

  • Use the right needle: Choose a needle that is appropriate for the type of fabric you are using. A needle that is too thick can cause puckering, while a needle that is too thin can cause the fabric to pull and stretch.
  • Adjust the tension: Puckering can also be caused by incorrect tension. Make sure to adjust the tension on your sewing machine according to the type of fabric you are using.
  • Iron the fabric: Before sewing, make sure to iron the fabric to remove any wrinkles or creases. This will help prevent puckering and ensure that your stitches are even.

Dealing with Stretchy Materials

  • Use the right stitch: When sewing stretchy fabrics, it is important to use a stitch that will allow the fabric to stretch without breaking the thread. The best stitches to use are a narrow zigzag or an overedge stitch.
  • Use a walking foot: A walking foot can help feed the fabric evenly through the machine, preventing the fabric from stretching or puckering as you sew.
  • Support the fabric: When sewing stretchy fabrics, it is important to support the fabric as you sew to prevent it from stretching or puckering. You can do this by using your hands to guide the fabric through the machine or by using a fabric stabilizer.

Finishing Touches

  • Use the right thread: When finishing your sewing project, make sure to use a thread that is appropriate for the type of fabric you are using. A thread that is too thick or too thin can cause the fabric to pull or stretch.
  • Use the right button: When adding buttons to your sewing project, make sure to choose a button that is appropriate for the type of fabric you are using. A button that is too heavy can cause the fabric to sag, while a button that is too small can cause the fabric to pucker.
  • Iron the finished product: Once your sewing project is complete, make sure to iron it to remove any wrinkles or creases. This will help give your project a professional finish and ensure that it looks great.
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