Staystitching: Why It’s So Important

How many times when you’re sewing your own clothes have you read that direction in a pattern that instructs you to “Staystitch neck edge”, and ignored it? C’mon, you know you have! Well, I have too. But it is not a great idea, and today we are going to explore what staystitching is, how to staystitch correctly, why it is important to your sewing, and maybe even when you can blow it off.

Staystitching a garment

What is staystitching?

Staystitching direction on a v-neck bodice

Staystitching directions on a v-neck bodice.

To understand a little more about staystitching we need to talk about directional stitching. Directional stitching is stitching seams or performing staystitching in a specific direction. Usually that means from the top of the garment to the bottom, but not always. Staystitching is a row of directional stitching that is just barely inside your seamline, and helps to prevent your garment piece from stretching all out of shape during the inevitable handling of garment construction. Staystitching should be applied 1/16 inch inside the stitching line, and a short stitch length (2.0 or a little less) should be used. It is applied to a single layer of fabric, and preferably should be done right after cutting to minimize any distortion. Any fabric can be staystitched. Even knits benefit from staystitching.

Why staystitching matters

Staystitching direction on a skirt

Staystitching direction on a skirt.

The point of staystitching is all about grainline. You know how you measure the distance from the grainline on a pattern piece to the selvedge edge of your fabric when cutting out a garment? The purpose of doing that is to maintain the proper grainline of your finished garment. Staystitching, which is a type of directional stitching, also helps maintain the grainline of (usually) curved areas of your garment pieces during the construction process. So if you go to all the trouble of measuring grainlines during the cutting out phase, it only makes sense to preserve that during construction.

Where does staystitching belong?

Stay stitching direction on bodice

Staystitching directions on a round neck bodice.

One of the most common places to staystitch is the neckline of a garment. A rounded neck is mostly on the bias, or “off grain”, so staystitching is particularly important here. Armholes, the curved waist of a skirt, rounded facing edges, V-necklines also benefit from the stabilizing effect of staystitching. Staystitching is also called for whenever you need to clip into a corner  or curved seam (such as a princess) to help prevent ripping or fraying of your fabric into the stitching line.

Well, hopefully this clarifies when and how you should staystitch. It is definitely worth your time and the effort required, and will help maintain the grainline and shape of your garments.

Learn more about how and why to properly staystitch, as well as other important practices for proper garment construction in Sew Ready: Garment Basics, taught by veteran sewing instructor Brett Bara.

If you’re looking for a more advanced look at seams and garment details (including dart manipulation), be sure to check out Patternmaking + Design: Creative Darts & Seam Lines.

Do you commonly staystitch your garments? Have you had any staystitching disasters?

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