If you're just getting started on the exciting journey of designing your own clothing, you may have been told to avoid Lycra and other stretchy fabrics until you become more experienced and confident in your sewing skills. However, there's no need to feel intimidated by stretchy fabrics and miss out on the fun of stitching your own bathing suits and active wear. Knowing a few basic tips will eliminate your fears and add new design possibilities to your wardrobe.
You don't need a special machine
Over-lock or serger sewing machines work well for sewing Lycra and other knits, but they carry a hefty price tag and may not be an option for those on a tight budget. Many sewing machines have an over-edge stitch, straight-stretch stitch, twin-needle stitch, or narrow-zigzag stitch that can be used to sew stretchy fabrics. Even if you have a basic machine that performs only straight and zigzag stitches, you can use a basic zigzag stitch setting with good results.
Always handle knit fabrics with care when cutting out your pattern. Keep your fabric laying flat on a table and never allow the fabric to hang over the edges, which can stretch the fabric out of shape. If using pins to secure your pattern in place for cutting, keep all pins within the seam allowance to avoid making pin holes in the fabric.
Another option is to use paper weights instead of pins when cutting out your design. Make sure your scissors are properly sharpened to avoid snagging the fabric. You can also use a rotary cutter if desired.
Start each project with a new needle
With extended use, sewing machine needles can develop tiny burrs and striations. These are not easily visible and can snag any type of fabric but are especially detrimental to Lycra and other knits. Always use a new sewing machine needle for each project when sewing with stretchy fabrics.
There are a variety of specialty threads available for use with stretchy fabrics. The best way to see if a thread works well for your type of fabric is to perform a row of test stitching on a fabric scrap. After stitching, stretch the fabric and see if the thread puckers or breaks. A good thread will expand with the fabric and will not break under pressure.
Whether you want to design your own workout clothing or wear a one-of-a-kind bathing suit to the beach this summer, learning the correct way to stitch Lycra stretch fabric and other knit fabrics will help boost your confidence in your sewing skills. It will also open up a new world of design and fashion possibilities.