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 makingholes 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.