Sewing Spandex Tips

Posted by on Apr 25, 2013 in Sewing | Comments


sewing spandex

Spandex is a great option in you’re in the mood to sew your own swimsuit, or are constructing dance costumes or activewear. But the stretchiness that makes spandex so perfect for these types of garments is also what makes it tricky to work with. Like any other knit fabric, spandex is more manageable if you own a serger. However, it’s still possible to sew spandex on a regular sewing machine. Here are a few sewing spandex tips:

You might sometimes see spandex and lycra used interchangeably. Lycra is a brand name for spandex manufactured by DuPont, so not all spandex is lycra. Like all other fabrics, the quality will vary by manufacturer, so keep that in mind as you shop for fabric.

No matter where the grainline is, you’ll want to cut the pattern so that the greatest amount of stretch is going around your body.

As you pin, keep all pins inside the seam allowance to avoid creating holes in the fabric.

Use a new needle, and make sure it’s ballpoint, as they work a lot better for sewing knits. If it’s an option for your machine, consider using a stretch needle, which will help prevent skipped stitches while you are working with the spandex.

As always, check your stitch length and tension on a fabric scrap first. You may need to make adjustments to keep the stitches from becoming puckered. Also experiment with a narrow zig-zag stitch versus a straight stitch. Stretch your test scrap to see if the stitches break. If they do, you’ll want to play around with your tension and stitch length to get the right amount of stretchiness in your seams. This is one of the most important sewing spandex tips! It will save you a lot of frustration later when your seams are busting open.

Use paper as a stabilizer. Tissue paper (save your scraps when you cut out the pattern!) or even wax paper from the kitchen will help. Sandwich the fabric between the paper. This will keep the presser foot and feed dogs from stretching the fabric too much.

Use a twin needle (two needles side by side; check your sewing machine manual for threading instructions), on hems for a professional-looking finish.

Keep the fabric slightly stretched as you sew it, holding it behind and in front of the needle, but be careful not to pull the fabric.

If you can, use a straight stitch needle plate. This will prevent your fabric from getting sucked down into the feed dogs and creating a mess.

Another option to allow your seams to stretch with the fabric is to use wooly nylon in the bobbin, and regular polyester thread (stay away from anything that’s all cotton; it won’t stretch enough with the fabric) on top. Wooly nylon thread will need to be hand wound on the bobbin to keep its stretchiness.

Depending on the garment you are making, you may need to stabilize some of the seams (particularly shoulder seams) so they don’t get stretched out when worn.

For more tips on sewing with tricky fabrics check out Sewing with Silks or explore Sewing with Knits.

Have you worked with spandex before? Do you have any sewing spandex tips? Let me know in the comments!

Come back to the Craftsy blog for a free sewing pattern tomorrow!

Comments

  1. Mary says:

    I have sewn several bathing suits out of spandex fabrics on a regular machine. It really is fun and this article has great tips.
    One thing I thought I’d mention for bathing suits is to buy elastic that is made for swimwear. It is salt and chlorine resistant. If you can’t find it locally, it is available online.

  2. Arlene in RI says:

    Trimming the selvages on spandex/lycra makes the fabric lay flat which in turn makes cutting out pattern pieces very easy.

  3. Starr says:

    I’ve been sewing with lycra and spandex for a few years now, ever since I walked out of a specialty bathing suit store over $200. poorer. I remember thinking to myself “How hard can it be? And I have a perfectly good sewing machine and serger at home. Find a class!” I’ve never bought another bathing suit since and very few bras and panties. My DH and BFF always want to know how many suits I take on each holiday. The answer is simple: How many days are we going to be there? That many suits. My first tip: I really prefer the clear, 1/4″ swimsuit elastic but you have to remember to “wake” it up before sewing. Simply stretch it out several times before you start pinning it in place. my second tip: always pin the elastic to the front of leg openings at a 1:1 ratio, then pin it with stretch along the back of the leg openings to make sure it snugs in nicely around the buttocks.

    1. Linda says:

      What kind of bra pattern do you use—I would love to try it….

    2. chantal says:

      wow, how clever are you to be able to make your own under garments. I too would like to try.

      1. Karen Kelty says:

        You’re in luck, Chantal! We’ll be sharing a bra making tutorial on the Craftsy Blog this Sunday! Be sure to check back then :)

  4. Rosalee says:

    I have never used spandex, always thought it would be too hard! Thanks for the tips!

  5. sweetpzgma says:

    Wow, I sure could have used this yesterday. looked for a site on how to sew with spandex..couldn’t find one. I made a pair of dance pants. They came out ok, but I knew this site would have something, but couldn’t find anything..today I look online and there it is. Leave it to
    Craftsy to have what I needed. This time 1 day short. But lots of good tips. Will put away for future use. Love this site, thanks so much

  6. Georgia Anderson says:

    If your machine has the option, lessen the presser foot pressure when sewing spandex or any knit. It reduces the machine’s squashing the fabric and making wavy seams.

  7. Terry Sp says:

    I would also recommend using a walking foot to feed fabric evenly. It works much better than a all purpose pressure foot. Also, I took Meg

    Sorry pushed enter accidently. I took Meg McElwees class Sewing with Knits and she suggests using it as well. Excellent class.

  8. cheryll says:

    These are great tips! Has anyone tried using spandex fabric for either a round or rectangular tablecloth–one that covers both the top and the legs down to the floor? I’m trying to figure out where the seams should be.

  9. Bonnie says:

    I found this site last night and am so glad I did. I thought my sewing machine had broken. The stitches were all looped on the underside. I wonder though .What do you mean by regular pressure foot. Do you mean the smaller one not the zigzag pressure foot? I just found out why I have the loops, my pressure tension is too tight. Thanks for all the help.

  10. faiza says:

    Thanks for all the tips and generosity of sharing !
    Will try them out.

  11. Sudhi says:

    The idea of tissue paper / newspaper is good for a single layer of the lycra material, but for the edges where I have to fold the garment and stitch it (there are three layers of the garment), it is not working.. so please give me some tips anyone??

  12. Tru says:

    Has anyone on the forum worked with a coverstitch machine before? I just bought one and I’m finding it incredibly hard to use. I’m trying to sew curves seams on a spandex bathing suit. Techniques etc anyone?

  13. Suzanne says:

    I took up the hem on a famous brand activewear pants and I pulled the fabric to far on both sides when I was running the machine and the hem puckered. This is what problem I tend to experiece with sewing knits and activewear. Is there a science on how much to pull on the fabric when sewing???

  14. kathy says:

    Great tips and information! Just bought my first serger to start making my own product out of spandex. I just retired and now have the time to pursue my dream. Thanks Kathy