Burda · jersey · Sewing · So Zo... pattern · Stretch

Dr. Stretchlove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Jersey

Lets play word association shall we?

Stretch fabrics.

“It’s the 1980s, my wardrobe is that of a radical undertaker:  Black stretchy leggings and over-sized t-shirts that demand you SAVE OUR SEAS or join THE EIGHT LEGGED GROOVE MACHINE.  I have terrible hair.”

Pants and vest.”

“PE.  Track briefs.  Forgetting your stuff.  Track briefs.  Cross-Country in the hail.  Track briefs.    Track briefs for PE?  Diabolical barely bottom covering black nylon nightmares, which, for the teacher’s benefit, we had to embroider with our initials.  Embroider.  And the boys, did the boys have to embroider their initials on their track briefs?  No, they blooming well didn’t.  They were allowed total sports clothing freedom, meaning they were bedecked in the flags of all nations.  Pah!

I have terrible hair.”

So as you can see I required a great deal of therapy in order to even consider mangling something stretchy with my sewing machine.  Here is my list of things that I have learned whilst sewing stretchy:

Experiment with stitch.   Really experiment.  Not just choosing zig-zag, and fiddling with the length and the tension.  For stretchy sewing my machine offers me triple stretch, stretch, zigzag and 3-point zigzag.  I’ve had most seam success with the triple stretch stitch which is a ‘two steps forward, one step back’ dance of a stitch.

Try using stretch and ball point needles.  I have found that these have helped, I currently favour a stretch needle, here’s a lovely explanation of the difference.

Feel your fabrics.  Stretchy fabrics are most definitely not all created equal.  Tricky when buying off the Internet I know.  There’s weight of fabric and degree of stretchyness to consider.  Fabrics vary in their degree of stretch, some stretch in more than one direction “Baby you light up my world like nobody else..”.  Sorry, where was I?  Stretch.  You may find a handy guide on your pattern like this one:

Seventies Simplicity says...
Seventies Simplicity says ‘From here… at least to here’

With weight, like other clothing construction, you’ll have to consider whether the weight of the fabric that you are choosing is appropriate to the garment.  Consider my most recent make:

Dress 114 from Feb 2013 Burda Style
Dress 114 from Feb 2013 Burda Style

This dress illustrates very nicely how I have chosen something too heavy for the pattern.  There is a whacking load of material draping over the front edge of that v-neck and the pattern calls for you to fold it over the top and attach it to the facing.   Well there is no way the weight that I have there is staying put without some extra support.  Hence the over-stitching that you can see and some under-stitching that you can’t.

Support stitching
Support stitching

This is not the first time that I have had facing related troubles with jersey. Anyone have any tips for it staying put without under or over stitching?

Hemming/edging. Lots of options here.  Again, I can only suggest experimentation, have a few finishes in your repertoire.  I like a bit of lace, attached with a straight stitch:

Lace for the daughter
Lace for the daughter

Or a zigzag stitch:

Showing a bit of a lacy leg
Showing a bit of a lacy leg

There are plenty of other finishes available.  I’ve been happy with a turn-up and stitch hem and a hem band.  I’ve only managed a twin-needle finish on some very tame PJ bottoms.

Thread. Don’t scrimp on the quality.  I have very kindly been given a tin of ‘fashionable high-street designer’ threads. The navy spools were slubby/lumpy and with jersey in particular my machine thoroughly protested.

Finally, possibly controversially,  if you have read about overlockers/coverlockers/sergers and think that you might need one, stop by Wendy’s blog.  I decided I can do without for now.

Do you have anything to add?  I’m sure that I still have loads more to learn.

If the above tips for sewing with stretch fabrics have emboldened you then I recommend starting small, with smalls courtesy of Zoe:

If Flat Stanley wore pants and vest
If Flat Stanley wore pants and vest

If you sew for Halflings, then try Simplicity 2983 which offers lots of variations and which I have made twice, here’s the latest iteration:

Simplicity 2983
Simplicity 2983
Simplicity 2983
Simplicity 2983

Wonder if there will be stretchy sewing on the Great British Sewing Bee?  I’m sure that I have spotted overlockers.  ‘Til Tuesday!

11 thoughts on “Dr. Stretchlove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Jersey

  1. Great stuff you made! Glad you got over your fear of stretch knits. I took a Craftsy course and have to say, they are not scary at all! And so easy to fit, doesn’t matter if they are slightly too big or too small, they ‘bend’ nicely to your whim.

  2. Good one! I have been feeling the fear…perhaps it’s time to man up and get on with sewing some stretchy stuff! And thanks too for your lovely link out, seems that my cheapo machine has some stretchy stitches, woo! (So THAT’S what they’re for!)

    1. Finding fabric is the *hardest* thing! I have two bricks and mortar fabric shops within easy driving distance and only one of those reliably stocks stretchy stuff. Need a good online dealer…

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