Stretch Your Limits With These Helpful Tips for Sewing Spandex

Swimsuits, dance costumes, and activewear have one thing in common: the stretch factor. If you ever thought about sewing one of these garments, you know you need a material that moves with your body.

Enter spandex. It’s an ideal fabric for the aforementioned projects, but that same stretchiness can make the material tricky to work with. Like any knit fabric, spandex is more manageable if you own a serger, but you can definitely sew spandex on a regular sewing machine — especially if you have these tips on-hand.

Good to Know

It’s possible you’ll see spandex and Lycra used interchangeably at some point. Lycra is a brand name for spandex manufactured by DuPont. But not all spandex is Lycra. The quality of the fabric varies by manufacturer, so keep that in mind as you shop.

1. Cut Correctly

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

2. Pin Inside the Seam Allowance

Because spandex is so stretchy, it’s vital to pin your fabric before stitching. As you pin, make sure to stay inside the seam allowance to avoid making

holes in the fabric.

3. Use the Right Needle

While universal sewing needles can sew stretchy fabrics, their slightly rounded tip is best used on wovens and sturdy knits. Jersey needles are what you want when sewing spandex — their ballpoint tips work best for knits — but if your sewing machine has the option, you can also use a stretch needle to help prevent skipped stitches.

For professional-looking hems, use a twin needle (these have two needles side by side). And if you can, use a straight stitch needle plate to stop your fabric from being sucked into the feed dogs.

4. Know Your Thread

Use woolly nylon thread in your bobbin — it needs to be hand-wound onto the bobbin to keep its stretch — and regular polyester thread on top. Stay away from all-cotton threads, as these simply won’t stretch enough.

5. Test Your Stitching

Before you work on a new fabric, always test your stitching on a scrap piece first. If your stitches break or pucker, you may need to make adjustments in your tension and stitch length to get the right amount of stretch. This step is super important — you don’t want your seams to burst open when you’re wearing your garment.

6. Keep a Little Stretch

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

7. Use Paper as a Stabilizer

Save the scraps when you cut out your pattern and sandwich the fabric between two pieces as you work. The paper will keep the presser foot and feed dogs from stretching the fabric too much.

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4 Responses to “Stretch Your Limits With These Helpful Tips for Sewing Spandex”

  1. Carol Jourdan

    Thanks for the tips. Have not seen with Lycra before, but now I have a clue !!!

  2. kathy

    Can you embroidery on spandex with a regular needle?

  3. Mary Harvey

    Is wooly nylon thread the same as server thread?

  4. Ludwig Laborda

    Thank you so much for this post entry, it was awesome! By the way, I also like Futura :D