Tips For Working With Stretch Fabrics

This week we will be adding some new knit fabrics to our range (watch this space!).

Therefore I thought I'd run though a few tips for working with knit fabrics, hemming, and how to assess stretch percentage. 

A few general tips for sewing with knits

1. Start by putting a stretch or ball point needle in your machine. I find stretch needles work well for fabrics with added elastane like lycra. These tend to be the more stretchy fabric. Ball point or Jersey needles are good for most other knitted fabrics, such as ponte or interlock. That said, a stretch needle will work for nearly all knit fabrics.

2. If you are working with a knit that rolls a lot at the edges try a little spray starch or best press and then give it a good press. This helps it to hold its shape.


Hemming with Double Sided Quilters Tape

Double sided quilters tape is great because it holds everything in place, eliminating the need for pins, whilst stabilising the seam at the same time. 

I would always advise testing this tape on fabric first, just in case!  

1. Press up your hem the desired amount. I'm using a Clover Hot hemmer here to help me. 

2. Stick the double sided quilters tape to the bottom of the hem. 

3. Remove the backing tape.

4. Fold up the hem and stick in place. Then press in place. 

 5. Use a stretch stitch. Alternatively you could also use a double needle or a cover stitch machine.


Assessing stretch percentage on knit fabrics.  

Two-way or four-way stretch?

  • If your fabric has two-way stretch it only stretches in the crosswise direction.
  • If your fabric has four-way stretch it stretches in the crosswise and lengthwise direction. Four-way stretch can have added elastane to the fibres.

In most garments (apart from swimwear and leotards) the greatest percentage of stretch should go across the body.

If you need to work out the stretch percentage of a fabric, take a ruler or tape measure that has either 0-20 cm or 0-8 inches marked. Choose which measurement you prefer to work in, either works.  

Take a double layer of your fabric. Place your fabric next to the ruler or tape measure. Hold the fabric un-stretched at the 0cm mark and the 10cm mark.

Hold your hand still at the 0cm mark and stretch out the other hand as far as you can from the 10cm mark. 

If you get to:

  • 11cm = 10% stretch
  • 12cm = 20% stretch
  • 13cm = 30% stretch 
  • 14 cm = 40% stretch
  • 15cm = 50% stretch and so on.

Do this for the lengthwise and crosswise stretch percentage to understand which has the greatest percentage of stretch.  

Happy sewing with stretch!! 



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