Sewing Stretchy Fabric

June 13, 2007

Sewing stretchy fabric with a sewing machine.Tips from the ThriftyFun community for sewing stretchy fabric without warping.

Use Tissue Paper

Have you tried sewing with tissue paper? Sandwich the fabric inside the paper, the feed dogs will not stretch the paper. Once the seam is sewed, you just have to rip the paper off. You only need a narrow strip, maybe 2 inches wide.

By Lois

Stretch The Fabric While Sewing

Be careful. If you don't stretch the fabric a bit while sewing, you will find that the stitches break when the fabric stretches while being worn.

By Sue

Adjust Pressure

You should be able to adjust the presser foot pressure. Check your machine manual. For lightweight fabric - more pressure and for heavy fabric - less pressure. Play with different settings to see what works best. A teflon coated presser foot will also help some fabrics glide through easier. Also try lightly steaming and pressing the seam after sewing to shrink the stretching back to normal. Sometimes this helps with certain fabrics.

By Michelle

Use Ball Point Needles

Make sure you are using a ball point needle and loosen the tension of your pressure foot. Tissue paper also helps.

Helpful Tip: Make sure the package says ball point needles. I once asked the sales person to give me needles for stretch fabric. She gave me universal needles. My daughter made it for the last dance to her Jr. prom because I had so many problems trying to sew with the universal needles. After the event, I purchased ball point needles and they glided through the material like silk. That was an experience that both my daughter and I will never forget.


By Joanne

Comment Pin it! Was this helpful? Yes
Read More Comments

8 Questions

Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

March 10, 2012

I am sewing wind pants with zippers down each leg. The material I have is only stretchy in one direction. Which way should I layout the pattern pieces? Should I have the stretch be vertical or horizontal?

By Sally D


March 10, 20120 found this helpful

Horizontal. The fabric will stretch horizontal more to compensate for minor vertical changes. Sew one leg and test it first. Leave enough material available on the inseam so that you can undo and resew without wasting a whole piece.


And if its perfect. Pull inside out and cut the excess. Test a leg after horizontal stretch.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes

Silver Feedback Medal for All Time! 282 Feedbacks
March 12, 20120 found this helpful

If you're using a pattern and this is the fabric the pattern called for, the lay-out diagram on the pattern will show you the way the pattern should be laid out on the fabric.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
March 12, 20122 found this helpful

Always when sewing pants or any clothing from a stretch fabric... the stretch should always: "wrap around you". Otherwise you will end up with legs stretching long, messy and differently, bags and wrinkles of all strange sorts at the crotch and backside.


None of us needs that sort of attention, nor the waste of your fabric and efforts.
Best of sewing.

Reply Was this helpful? 2
August 27, 20161 found this helpful

Fabric is almost always cut "with the grain" meaning with the pattern's grain line arrow lengthwise which I'll call "vertical". [fabric is purchased by LENGTH measurement] If you cut across the grain so that your pattern's vertical runs from selvage edge to selvage edge the garment will not have the strength it would if it was cut with the long grain. The cross fibers are not as strong. Generally, a woven stretch fabric garment stretches across and is cut on the grain along the fabric's length the same as it would be if it was non-stretch fabric. This means the garment will stretch around. On a bottom it will stretch across your rear when you sit and on a top it will stretch across your back when you move your arms forward.


I've only once had a woven stretch item that stretched vertically. It was a pair of men's corduroy slacks. They were nice because they were comfortable for sitting especially over the knees. It was long ago and before the 'spandex era'. I have not seen any stretch fabric woven in that manner since and the only place was in men's slacks. I do not recall ever seeing a garment that only stretched up and down. Women's jeans that say four way stretch feel like 4 way but I think they just added a lot more spandex that makes them stretch more diagonally, but not really vertically.

In knits, a majority of them only truly stretch across grain but as knits they usually have more diagonal stretch. There are also two-way stretch knits. They might also be referred to as four way stretch because when they stretch both lengthwise and crosswise it gives them increased diagonal stretch, hence '4-way'. They are the best type of fabrics for things like leggings and winter underwear - especially for skiing and other physical activities.


Check for vertical stretch by pulling straight along the grain of the fabric. Follow pattern's recommended stretch guide which is usually shown on the envelope. Always pre-wash fabric before cutting. Fabrics that shrink a lot, like denim, should be washed and dried at least 5 times. Happy stitching!

Reply Was this helpful? 1
March 13, 20180 found this helpful

In my 60 years of sewing typically the stretch runs horizontally, in part to allow more sitting room. However, I had a great pair of thick wide wale corduroy pants that were made with vertical stretch. They were one of my most favorite pairs of walking/hiking pants ever. The stretch allowed the bum and knees to stretch as I climbed hills without them pulling down at the back waist or binding in the knees. Bottom line: I say it depends what you intend to wear them for. If you want a sleek, slim look that allows comfy sitting go horizontal. If you plan to do a lot of bending, gardening or hiking I'd cut them vertically. Happy stitching, canary.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
Read More Answers

March 6, 2019

My sewing machine is not catching the bobbin thread when I'm trying to sew stretch fabric. It works fine on regular cotton, but doesn't pick up the stitch when I put in the jersey fabric.

I am using the right needle and the machine and bobbin are threaded and inserted correctly. It seems to be just a problem with the stretchy fabric - any ideas?


Gold Post Medal for All Time! 677 Posts
March 6, 20190 found this helpful

You need a ball-point needle to sew jersey fabrics. A regular needle will cause skipped stitches.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes

Bronze Feedback Medal for All Time! 196 Feedbacks
March 8, 20190 found this helpful

Jersey is a challenge. I used to put a piece of tissue paper or food grade wax paper (waxed--not sure what the official name is) and pin it to the area then stitch. That seemed to help it glide and everything catch. Then you just tear it away. If you use the wax paper, you can often re-use the bigger pieces (but not for food storage--just sewing). I like things to have 3 lives! It always worked for me. Post back if it works for you!

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
Answer this Question

August 26, 2018

I have a Janome 2200xt, and have had it for 2 years now. I am trying to sew stretchy fabric. I have bought the correct needles and am using the correct setting. The needle is moving just fine, but it's not actually sewing. If I do the same thing on broadcloth to test it sews the fabric, but after adjusting and checking things several times I still can't seem to have it work when tested on my stretchy fabric.

I don't know what I'm doing wrong/what's wrong, can anyone help me out?


Gold Post Medal for All Time! 677 Posts
August 26, 20180 found this helpful

Make sure you have fresh thread. Also make sure you have the correct size ball-point needle. Try sewing with tissue paper under the fabric and see if that helps. You tear the fabric away when you are done

Reply Was this helpful? Yes

Bronze Feedback Medal for All Time! 196 Feedbacks
August 27, 20180 found this helpful

When I first sewed with the stretchy fabrics in the 1960s, they made me nuts. First thing I learned was that if I didn't cut the fabric the correct way, it was almost impossible to my first question is is it cut right with the grain? I was always taught your fabric should be cut with the item pattern so the direction of greatest stretch will go across your body and that would make it easier to stitch.

Sounds like you have the right you could always try a fresh needle...just in case...although if it works on another fabric, you should be OK.

Then I was taught, to always buy the right thread...some threads just do not work with stretchy fabrics...I haven't sewn stretchies in a while so I have lost track of brand ask at the fabric store what they recommend.

As Judy says, tissue works or wax paper works (waxy side away from fabric). It helps it move through easier. Always pull the pins out before they get to the presser foot...that seemed to help with the stretchy fabric also...esp. if you were using paper backing--the pin just made it too thick and bulky to go under the foot.

Sometimes the getting started part is it will bunch and if you can try to move the wheel forward (and backward) and take a few stitches manually to get it to catch, then use the petal, once you get it going, if you keep it slow (hand on top and hand on bottom of fabric to guide and keep it flat, it usually will move along. It is painstaking...but worth it. As you go, when it bunches. Leave the needle in, carefully straighten it out, maybe increase or reduce your hand tension on how you are guiding and continue.

Hope this helps! Good luck!!

Reply Was this helpful? Yes

Gold Feedback Medal for All Time! 949 Feedbacks
September 3, 20180 found this helpful

Sewing stretchy is probably the trickiest thing you can do with a sewing machine so I can definitely understand your frustration.
If everything else is correct then it is possible that simply using tissue paper will solve your problem.

  • Sometimes when we think we have done everything right we reread something that says "maybe I need to recheck".
  • This question (on many different machines) is asked quite often so check out some of the answers that have been given in the past.
  • This site also has some excellent information from beginning to end of sewing this type of fabric.
  • I do not know if you still have your manual but it has very specific instructions on how to set your machine. Here is a link to download a copy if you do not have yours.
Reply Was this helpful? Yes
Answer this Question

June 3, 2017

I'm having a problems with my antique Singer sewing machine. It won't stitch two pieces of stretch material together anymore. I've been working with this same material, and it will sew through a single piece, but not stitch them together. I've tried everything, re-threading, checking the bobbin and its casing, and changing the needle. The stitches are very far and few in-between, but it's working fine with everything else! Please help.

-frustrated cosplayer


Gold Post Medal for All Time! 677 Posts
June 3, 20171 found this helpful

Make sure you are using a ball-point needle. These needles are made for stretch. You can also put a length of tissue paper on the bottom to stabilize. Rip the paper off after seeing.

Reply Was this helpful? 1

Bronze Answer Medal for All Time! 242 Answers
June 4, 20170 found this helpful

There are different needless for sewing stretch fabric & knits. If it is a knit then use a ball point needle. If you are sewing a polyester stretch then try a needle that is made for that kind instead of a regular needle. These special needless can be used in most machines. They can be found in most any stores that sells fabric & notions. Sometimes the needle can make all the difference.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
Answer this Question

August 23, 2013

Whilst sewing stretchy tee shirt type material the stitching puckered up and went tight. The cotton I used was polyester. Should I have used Trylco cotton?

By Marian L


Silver Feedback Medal for All Time! 282 Feedbacks
August 25, 20131 found this helpful

The usual reasons for puckers whilst sewing knit fabrics like jersey are: cutting the pattern and fabric against the suggested lay-out, using the wrong type-size needle and/or thread, and the wrong upper tension setting.

First thing when planning to sew a garment from knit fabric is to read and re-read the pattern instructions several times mentally constructing the garment first before ever touching pattern to fabric to cut. If you cut knit fabrics the wrong direction your stitching will cause all sorts of problems, from puckered seams to incorrect 'hang' of the garment on your body.

Check your sewing machine user guide for the table that tells you the correct size needle and recommended thread - be certain you are using a new ball point sewing machine needle too. Using the wrong type and size needle will always cause puckers in any type fabric, btw. Never try to use a needle for woven fabrics to sew jersey or any other knit fabric, either - you are asking for puckers, tears, ladders, and seams that rip whilst being worn.

Check to be sure that you are using a thread recommended for use on the weight, too. Generally you want to use polyester thread on jersey fabrics because it stretches during the seaming process. Even if your knit fabric is 100% cotton, it's still best to use polyester thread for the 'give' factor.

Always - always - always run a test on a fair sized piece of the same fabric you are trying to sew into a garment (use the scraps that are left from cutting out the fabric for your test strips). By stitching test seams you can see where you need to make adjustments to needle, thread, and tension settings.

Reply Was this helpful? 1

Silver Feedback Medal for All Time! 282 Feedbacks
August 26, 20130 found this helpful

There are several causes for what you are describing. One is that you may have the tension setting set too high or too low for the fabric. Or you could be using the wrong stitch setting.

Another might be the type of thread you are using - polyester thread is best when stitching stretch material because it stretches with the machine stitch and tension setting much better than cotton thread does.

You could be using the wrong type and size needle - always use a ball point or 'jersey' needle of the correct size for the thickness of fabric you are sewing.

Check your user guide manual for the correct thread-needle-tension-stitch settings for your machine, and always make up a test strip with a doubled over scrap piece of your fabric to check settings before stitching into the actual garment pieces. In this way you will see beforehand what settings work and which do not. It's worth it to make notes, too.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
Answer this Question

October 8, 2013

I'm wanting to make onesie dresses. How can I attach the cotton material to the onesie and still keep the stretch. Should I use elastic thread in my bobbin and still pull the onesie that stretches while sewing the cotton fabric to it?

By Aleah


November 6, 20130 found this helpful

Try this, its a really good tutorial.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
Answer this Question

December 31, 2013

I have tried to make a cross-over top with a beautiful silky stretch fabric, but I have not been able to sew the neck line without it puckering and the stitches wandering all over the place. It does not look nice enough for me to wear it. Other sources tell me I need an industrial sewing machine. Any hints?

By Maria F.T. from Grand Forks, B.C. Canada

Answer this Question
Crafts SewingFebruary 9, 2012
Back to School Ideas!
Summer Ideas!
Ask a Question
Share a Post
Better LivingBudget & FinanceBusiness and LegalComputersConsumer AdviceCoronavirusCraftsEducationEntertainmentFood and RecipesHealth & BeautyHolidays and PartiesHome and GardenMake Your OwnOrganizingParentingPetsPhotosTravel and RecreationWeddings
Published by ThriftyFun.
Desktop Page | View Mobile
Disclaimer | Privacy Policy | Contact Us
Generated 2022-08-02 20:42:36 in 40 secs. ⛅️️
© 1997-2022 by Cumuli, Inc. All Rights Reserved.