Bodysuit Sewalong: How to Sew Stretch Fabrics

Stretch needles are the best choice for spandex knits. Woolly nylon thread can be used on the serger or sewing machine with a hand-wound bobbin

We’re just about ready to get started with cutting and sewing the bodysuit, so let’s take a look at some of the basic techniques and stitches you’ll need when sewing with stretch fabrics. No, you don’t need a serger! But if you happen to have access to one, this is a great opportunity to fire it up because it’s an amazing tool for spandex sewing.

knit sewing pitfalls include broken threads and wiggly seams

Common spandex sewing pitfalls: popped threads and rippled seams

There are a couple of main challenges you might encounter when sewing with stretch fabrics. If the stitches don’t have enough give, the threads will break when the seam is stretched. If the stitching is too dense or the fabric is overstretched during stitching, the seams will have ripples. With the correct machine settings, though, these problems can be avoided.

It’s a good idea to spend some time experimenting with stitch types and techniques, so you’ll have everything ready when you move on to your actual project. This is especially important if you’re using metallics or faux leather for your final version, since these materials tend to show permanent stitching marks and you’ll want to get it right the first time.

Basic supplies:
Stretch needles are the best choice for spandex knits. Woolly nylon thread can be used on the serger or sewing machine with a hand-wound bobbin

Stretch needles are the best choice for spandex knits. Stretchy woolly nylon thread can help – use it on the serger or wind a bobbin by hand.

For most spandex fabrics you’ll be happiest with a stretch needle. Note that stretch needles and ballpoint/jersey needles are not the same thing – both have a slightly rounded point so that they slide between the fibers of knit fabrics instead of puncturing them, but stretch needles have a deeper scarf (indentation above the eye on the back of the needle) as a precaution against skipped stitches. This makes them a better choice for sewing elastic and fabrics with high spandex content. A universal needle will also work in many cases if that’s all you have, and a sharp or microtex needle may be a useful alternative on coated fabrics like pleather and vinyl. If you’re getting skipped stitches, switch to a different type or go down a size.

A good-quality 100% polyester all-purpose thread is ideal for knits. (Not cotton – it doesn’t have enough give). If you’re on team serger you can also try using texturized (woolly) nylon thread, which has a fluffy texture and outstanding stretch. Use it just in the loopers, or in both loopers and needles for a really stretch-proof seam (you may need to grab a needle threader). It can also be used in the bobbin of a conventional sewing machine, though you’ll need to wind it by hand. Be careful with the iron around woolly nylon seams, because heat is nylon’s great weakness.

Some people recommend a walking or even-feed foot for sewing stretch fabrics, but in most cases special feet aren’t necessary. The one exception is for pleather and vinyl, for which you’ll most likely want a walking, Teflon, or roller foot to prevent sticking.

Stretch Stitches
Sewing Machine
Different machines have different stretch stitch options, but an ordinary zigzag is often the best choice

Different machines have different stretch stitch options, but an ordinary zigzag is often the best choice.

The easiest way to give your seams some built-in give is with a zigzag stitch (which nearly all home machines can do) or a stretch stitch (which may or may not be available on your machine). Check your manual for stretch stitch options, and try them out to see if you like them. My machine’s main stretch stitch is a triple straight stitch, which I don’t recommend for this purpose. It’s slow, it’s very difficult to remove in case of mistakes, and it chews through thread at an amazing rate. If your machine offers the “lightning bolt” stitch this can be a good option – it’s like a zigzag but the stitches are angled backward and forward, so it’s narrower and produces a cleaner-looking seam. (Different manufacturers use different names for this stitch, but the symbol is usually similar).

The lightning stitch produces a stretchy seam that still looks neat from the outside.

The “lightning” stitch produces a very stretchy seam that looks great from the outside. Look for a symbol like the one at lower right.

Believe it or not, you can sometimes get away with a regular straight stitch if you shorten your stitch length (I set mine a little below “2” on the stitch length dial) and stretch the fabric a little bit as you sew. Stretching as you sew takes a little practice, but it can make a big difference in the longevity of your seams. To do it, place your hands in front of and behind the foot and pull evenly from both sides. Make sure you’re letting the feed dogs move the fabric and not yanking it through, as you can break the needle or even screw up your machine’s timing if you’re not careful.

A wider zigzag stitch has more stretch, but a narrower stitch looks neater from the outside

A wider zigzag stitch has more stretch, but a narrower stitch looks neater from the outside. Experiment to find the best balance for your fabric. (Left is a 3mm width zigzag, right 1mm).

Try out a couple different stitch options before committing to your actual bodysuit, because the correct settings will depend on your fabric to some degree. Check what the seams look like from the outside, and make sure they don’t pull open or dimple the fabric too much. A straighter stitch will make it easier to press the seams open, if you want to, but pressing them flat is usually fine for knits. For extra security, do double-stitched seams: sew a narrow zigzag on the stitching line and a wider zigzag just outside it, then trim close to the second line of stitching.

If the seam is a little wavy after sewing, try steaming it back into shape with the iron. If it’s very wavy, you might need to try adjusting the machine settings. Reducing the foot pressure can help if your machine has that option, or try a walking foot. Lengthen the stitch length if possible, but not so much that you compromise the stretch of the seam. If wavy seams continue to be a problem, you may need to stabilize them. For shoulder seams and other areas that don’t need to stretch much when worn, fuse a narrow strip of knit interfacing along the seam line to firm it up. For seams that need to stretch, try a temporary wash-away or tear-away stabilizer.

Serger
3-thread and 4-thread serger seams

3-thread and 4-thread serger seams

On a serger, you’ll do most of your seaming with a 3- or 4-thread overlock. The 3-thread is nice because it gives you the option of a narrow or wide stitch, depending on whether the right or left needle is inserted in the machine, but for a very close fitting bodysuit you’ll probably want the extra security of the 4-thread seam. Stitch a sample or two in your actual fabric before you begin, and take a look at the resulting seam to make sure your settings are appropriate. The needle threads should be tight enough that the seam doesn’t pull open from the right side, but loose enough that they don’t snap when the seam is stretched along its length.

Adjust the differential feed if your seam ripples or puckers

Adjust the differential feed if your serged seam ripples or puckers.

The differential feed is your serger’s secret weapon, so make good friends with this dial.  It’s especially helpful when sewing squirrelly stretch knits, because you can increase the differential feed to get rid of wavy, stretched out seams or decrease it if your seams are puckering.

We’ll talk about topstitching and finishing stitches a bit later, once we’ve started assembling the bodysuit!

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67 comments

  • Sorry to jump ahead but I’m gathering supplies for this body suit and the envelope calls for a separating zipper for C and D but the instructions treat it like a standard zipper. It did not look like the garment needs the zipper to separate but I could always be wrong. Thanks in advance for the guidance.

  • This is perfect timing as I am about to start working on my Black Widow costume. Will you be continuing this series soon? It’s been very helpful!

  • Hi.
    I was looking around for answers and the photo you have witha bracket encomapassing the “other stretch stitches” caught my eye.

    I was wondering if you can tell me what stretch stitch E and F are called and what it is used for?

    You are also right about the needles. Stretch needle worked beautifully with a spandex I was sewing!

    • The manual for my machine just calls them “decorative stretch stitches.” They’re more or less a stretch version of the regular and zigzag blind hem stitches, but the “peaks” are closer together and they’d stretch more evenly along the length of the seam. You could use them for seaming as a sort of mock overlock, but you’d have to sew with the seam allowances on the left.

      I love stretch needles! I had some 4-way stretch pleather that was so nasty a universal needle wouldn’t form a single stitch, but the stretch needle worked like a charm. Glad they did the trick for you!

      • Thanks for your reply!
        Yes! Experienced the same with this particular spandex fabric. I was really frustrated with my universal needle until I went and got a stretch one!

  • If im sewing a non stretchy fabric over a stretch fabric do I use the stretch needle and stretch thread. Or can just use the needle with a ziz zag stitch.

    • Usually if you’re sewing a stretch fabric to a non-stretch fabric you need to assume that the finished seam will not stretch. That means you can use whatever thread and stitch type you want, but you should allow for the possibility that it will change the fit and adjust accordingly.

      A stretch needle is designed to prevent skipped stitches, especially in knit fabrics with a lot of spandex, so you may want to use one even if only one of your layers is the spandex fabric.

      Are you sewing the non-stretch fabric as an appliqué? If so, depending on the fabric, you may want to cut it on the bias so it has a little more give and can move with the stretch fabric base.

  • Hi all!!
    Any tips on sewing a layered organza skirt onto

    • Woops…onto a bodysuit?

      • Does the skirt definitely need to be attached, or could you attach the organza to a separate waistband? It’ll be easier to clean if you can wash the skirt and bodysuit separately, plus you won’t have the weight of the skirt dragging the bodysuit down. You could sew some snaps to the bodysuit and the inside of the waistband to keep it from sliding around when you’re wearing it.

        If it has to be attached, definitely assemble the skirt layers before trying to attach them. Is the skirt gathered? If so you might want to do the gathers by making a casing and threading elastic through so you have some stretch built in. Otherwise you’ll need to leave an opening in the skirt over where the zipper is so you can get the bodysuit on.

        Put the bodysuit on, and pin the skirt layers in place while wearing it so that you have the right amount of stretch built in. Then, stretch the bodysuit waist to the same length as the skirt waistband while you sew. It’ll probably look a little rippled when it’s lying flat, but should smooth out nicely on your body.

        Does that help?

  • I came across this and am planning to use this very pattern shortly, but I am really curious what machine you own??

    • The machine in the photo is a Janome Sewist 500. It’s a great basic machine and I’ve been really happy with it. The only thing it’s missing is the lightning bolt stitch, which would be nice to have though I’ve gotten along well enough without. My serger is a Juki 654DE, also a really solid workhorse machine.

      • Thanks for the info! :) Good to know about that one stitch, I love how many stretch fabric friendly stitches it has.

  • Hello, thanks for good info! I was wondering if you couldhelp me. I am seeing yoga pants, but my serger is not making stretchy enough seam, so it breaks when I pull it a little. What can I do?

    • Assuming you’re working with a standard four-thread overlock, here are a couple things to try:

      – Check your needle thread tensions. If too tight, they won’t stretch enough. Don’t loosen them so far that the seam pulls open, though.

      – Shorten your stitch length slightly. Some of the give in the seam comes from the vertical length of thread passing through fabric thickness. More, shorter stitches = more thread to work with.

      – If all else fails, use a stretch or wooly nylon thread in one or both of the needles. Start with the right needle, as using stretch thread in the leftmost needle can allow the seam to spread open, but you can use stretch thread in both if necessary.

      Hope that helps!

  • Hi, I was wondering if you have any advice for sewing a lame’ decal onto a spandex bodysuit? No seams, just want it to stay firm on the bodysuit.

    • Hi, have you seen my post on stretch appliqué here? It should answer your question. http://cosplayblog.mccall.com/2015/08/10/embellishing-your-bodysuit-with-applique/

      Edit to add: if the appliqué doesn’t stretch like the fabric does, the answer will be slightly different. You’ll need to stretch the bodysuit fabric while you sew the appliqué in place, so it doesn’t pucker when you wear it. Put the bodysuit on and pin or baste the decal in place. It’ll look loose and bubbled when you take the bodysuit off, but that’s what you want. Stretch the fabric taut while you sew, and it should be nice and smooth when worn.

  • Hi! I have a custom dance leotard I bought, but the legline is too low and the crotch is too wide. It’s made out of lycra and has a full front lining, so there’s two layers of lycra. The lycra itself seems to be on the thicker side than some other leotards I have. Because it is an already made leotard, I don’t have sample fabric to test on nor can I find it in stores because the online store I bought it from isn’t in the U.S. What kind of serger settings and tips would you suggest?? I’m new when it comes to serging, which makes this project all the more challenging. Thanks!

    • I don’t actually think you necessarily need to do any serging on this, though of course you can use the serger to attach the elastic if you want to. You’ll need to buy new elastic for the leg openings if you haven’t already; the old elastic won’t be long enough once you’ve raised the leg opening. Either 1/4″ or 3/8″ flat braided elastic is what you need, whatever was used in the original leotard.

      The main challenge is going to be making sure you end up with the finished leg line you want. What I would do is first baste along the line where you want the new leg opening to be. Keep the stitches loose so they don’t break the moment you stretch it. This allows you to try on the leotard and make sure the line is in the right place, and will also keep the layers together when you’re working with it later. Wrap the elastic around your leg opening to find out how long you need it, following the basted line.

      Once you’ve checked to make sure both legs are even you can use the basting as a guide to cut along the new leg line, leaving about 3/8″ extra to turn under for the new elastic. Join the elastic ends into a loop, divide both elastic and opening into quarters so you can match them up evenly, and zigzag stitch or serge the elastic to the inside of the opening. You’ll probably have to stretch the elastic slightly while you sew so it matches up with the fabric. Then roll the elastic once to the inside so it’s hidden and topstitch with a zigzag stitch to hold it in place. Then you can remove the basting threads.

      Hope that helps!

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  • I wanted to add an exposed zipper to the side of tee shirt that my granddaughter bought (made from stretch material.) What needle do I use?

    • A universal needle should be fine for this. I’d only switch to a stretch needle if for some reason you’re having a lot of trouble with skipped stitches. Depending on the weight of the t-shirt, you may want to put a bit of lightweight knit interfacing under where you’re putting the zipper to prevent it from stretching and rippling.

  • I’m sewing a dress using spandex fabric with a serger, the edges are wavy.

    • Most sergers have a differential feed feature that can prevent that waviness. Try turning that up a bit at a time and make sure you’re not stretching the fabric as it feeds through the serger. Or, if there’s just a little bit of a ripple, you can sometimes steam the fabric back into shape with an iron instead of redoing the seam.

  • Hi, I’m using a material that is mostly polyester with about 5% spandex. Testing on scraps it looks like the zig zag on a setting of 2 is the least chaotic. The sewing machine I have is a Singer Tradition. I plan on getting a roller ball presser foot to help and a different needle. Would those stretcher needles be compatible with a tradition or should I buy the ball point/universal?

    • Yes, the stretch needles shown should work for any standard modern sewing machine. If you already have stretch needles of an appropriate size go ahead and use them; if you have trouble finding them then universal needles should be fine as long as you don’t have problems with skipped stitches. I rarely bother with jersey/ballpoint needles as the stretch needles serve the same purpose but seem to be more reliable.

      It really comes down to what makes the stitches look best, so if you’re happy with your results then don’t stress about getting something else!

  • I have read so many articles and no one makes a general recommendation for tension, stitch width, stitch length. I see a lot of things that say “use a setting on the shorter side” “use a lower tension setting” etc. These directions are very generic, and relative.

    I realize all machines are different but there are literally thousands of possible combinations to use for JUST the zig zag stitch and it would be most helpful if you can just suggest a starting point. I have tried about 30 different things and this is a pretty crucial piece of info for sewing on Lycra, which is what this thread is for.

    • As you noted, this varies very much depending on the machine, especially where tension is concerned. In the zigzag sample above, which shows zigzags of 1mm and 3mm width, I used a length of 1.5mm-2mm, and tension maybe one notch below what I’d use for an average woven. From there, it’s a matter of adjustment and testing.

      If I sew a sample seam and it ripples excessively, I lengthen the stitch. If the thread breaks when the seam is stretched, I increase the width, shorten the length, loosen the tension, or some combination of those. Even if your starting numbers are off, knowing what to adjust and in what direction should allow you to narrow in on a suitable setting fairly quickly.

  • Hi, any advice on sewing a gathered skirt to a top without losing the stretch of the fabric? It’s t-shirting material. Thanks!

    • If the skirt is also stretch fabric, just sewing them together with a stretch or zigzag stitch is probably enough. If not, you may want to gather the skirt to a piece of elastic first (either threaded through a casing or sewn directly to the skirt, depending on whether it’s a lot of gathering or just a little.) Then when you sew the skirt to the top, stretch both skirt and top as you sew it on with a stretchy stitch. The elastic should help support the gathers and weight of the skirt, so it won’t make the fabric ripple too much or weigh down the top.

  • Thank you for making this – it’s a great resource!

    I have been working on a bodysuit made out of moleskin, but every time I try to sew it (whether with a regular machine, or a serger), I run into the same problem: the fabric slips and bunches, causing ugly bumps in the seam and making it difficult to get the pieces to align correctly. I tried using tissue paper (in every possible position – between the pieces of fabric, between the fabric and the machine, between the fabric and the foot, and combinations of the above), and it only helped a little. I tried using different stitches, different stitch lengths, different tension… nothing worked. I even tried free-stitching without the foot, but I can’t keep it stable enough to make that work. Any ideas?

    • Ah! You’ve discovered the one really irritating thing about this material. The reason moleskin does this is it actually has a nap – that is, it has a slightly fuzzy surface, and the fuzz has a distinct direction to it, which means that it slides easily in one direction and doesn’t slide back. The best way to handle it is to prevent the fabric from sliding to begin with. My favorite way of doing this is to baste the seams by hand before sewing, which actually doesn’t take as long as you’d think. Pinning the everloving heck out of it is a good second choice, although pins may also cause puckers and bunching because they can catch on the sewing machine bed or foot.

      In addition to basting or over-pinning, you may find it helpful to reduce the presser foot pressure on your machine or serger (moleskin is a thicker fabric, and if the pressure is too high it can kind of squish the fabric forward, stretching it out of shape). If you have a walking foot for your sewing machine, give that a try as well. And finally, if you see that the fabric is bunching as you sew, you can stop stitching (with the needle down to hold it in place) and lift the foot to relax the fabric.

      Hope some of that helps! Best of luck with your project.

      • hi does the above go for stretch tencel?

        • There are a number of different fabrics that could be described as stretch tencel, so it depends. This answer was specifically addressing the question of how to handle heavier-weight, napped 4-way stretch knits. If your tencel matches that description, then yes! However, most of the tencel fabrics I’ve encountered are lighter weight and somewhat easier to handle than that, so the general techniques described in the main post might be sufficient.

  • Hello! Is it possible to sew a straight stretch stitch by hand? My machine doesn’t have the stitch :(

    • A backstitch is a pretty good approximation if your stitches are small enough and you don’t pull too tight! Just make sure your seam is as straight as you can manage, as the spandex will tend to show any puckers or wobbles. Try it out on some scraps first to see if it’ll work for you.

  • Hiya, I’m making some dance wear for my 6yr old daughter and a couple of her friends. I’m struggling to put the binding around the edges of the arm holes and neck line. It’s gone on the shorts fine. It’s just a small strip of contrasting colour which goes around the edges. It’s standing out stiff instead of following the line of the top. Any tips?

    • To get a binding to lie smoothly around a curved armhole or neckline, you usually need to stretch it a bit tighter than you would for a straighter edge. It sticks out because it’s a little too long, causing it to buckle instead of lying flat. So try cutting the binding a little shorter, for a start, and make sure it’s not being stretched out by your sewing technique. (You might want to lengthen your stitch length slightly, and/or reduce the presser foot pressure.)

      If that doesn’t do the trick, you might want to try a less bulky method than binding. A simple folded band would still give you that bit of contrast at the edge – just cut a strip of fabric on the cross grain for maximum stretch, fold in half lengthwise, and sew the raw edges to the opening. You still need to cut it a bit shorter and stretch while you sew it on, but since it’s less layers of fabric it might be easier to get it to lie flat.

      Hope that helps!

  • Great article! I sewed a pair of spandex leggings and they look great when I’m standing straight up. But when i move around or sit there’s a bit of extra fabric around the crotch in the front and I’m not sure why. Do you have any ideas of what I could do differently?

    • This can happen for a couple different reasons, depending on where the extra fabric is, but I’ll toss out some possibilities and you can see what sounds right!

      If the center front seam is buckling and forming folds, it’s probably too long – you’d be able to pinch out a wedge of extra fabric, from the center front across to the side, or get rid of the wrinkles by pulling the waistband up in front. To fix this, cut across the pattern piece from where the wrinkles form on the center front seam to the side seam, then pivot the upper piece down so it overlaps the lower piece by the required amount. (This shortens the center front, while leaving the side seam the same length but more curved than before.) Then you just redraw the center front seam to smoothly merge the upper and lower sections.

      If the extra fabric is further down, in the crotch or inner thigh area, you might need to shorten the front crotch extension instead. This is the lower part of the “J” curve that forms the center front seam, where it joins the inseam. If you shorten the hook part of the “J” (you’ll also need to redraw the inseam from the knee up) you end up with less fabric in the crotch and thigh. Generally you don’t want to reduce more than a half inch or so in this area, as it can do funny things to the center front seam, but that might be enough.

      Best of luck with your next pair!

  • Currently trying my hand at sewing pleather for the first time – I thought for sure my stretch needle would do the trick, but it’s constantly skipping stitches and becoming a mess no matter what I do. I’ve tried zig-zag and standard, adjusted the thread tension, adjusted the foot pressure, used different thread, re-threaded, reinserted my needle, switched to a standard needle…I somehow managed to get my pieces to stay together by shorting my stitch length to 1.5 on a straight stitch, but it’s still skipping stitches – the holes just aren’t as obvious.

    It was surprisingly hard to find even a small amount of this material in my area, so I sadly don’t have a lot of room for practice until I find more. My stitches come out fine on other materials, so I can only think the fabric is the cause…

    • I think you’re probably right. The combination of plastic coating and stretch fabric (especially 4-way stretch) seems to be one of the trickiest as far as skipped stitches go. Some other things to try, if you haven’t already:

      – Sometimes a larger or smaller size of stretch needle will punch through the fabric more effectively. I seem to have better luck with smaller sizes. If the pleather is thick or dense, a denim needle may be worth a try.
      – If you don’t need the zigzag stitch, a straight stitch throat plate for the machine may help to support the fabric better.
      – A temporary stabilizer can help if the fabric is very stretchy. Plastic-coated freezer paper is probably the cheapest option; adhere it to the back side of the fabric with a warm iron and then carefully tear/peel it away once the stitching is complete. Avoid adhering anything to the coated pleather side of the fabric, though, as it can damage the surface.

  • Wondering the best way to sew pantyhose. Wanted to make a bodystockings and other items with pantyhose. Any help or pointers will be greatly appreciated.

    • There are a few things that are going to make pantyhose fabric tricky to sew; the fineness of the material and the amount of stretch. You’ll want to use the smallest size of needle you can find, probably a stretch needle to avoid skipping stitches or damaging the fibers. All-purpose thread will probably be much too thick; I’d look at a very fine polyester thread or even silk, or else try a stretch thread like wooly nylon because building enough give into your seams is going to be paramount. You’re probably going to end up with some ripples in your seams, as it’ll be hard to sew them with enough stretch otherwise. I wouldn’t worry about that as long as they stretch out flat and smooth when the garment is actually on your body.

      If you have trouble controlling the material enough to sew it, you might want to consider pinning the seams to a strip of tissue paper that you can sew through and then tear away when you’re done. Or, you can temporarily stabilize the material with starch or a starch substitute. (I’ve heard good things about this method: http://www.threadsmagazine.com/item/27608/firming-up-fabrics-with-gelatine/page/all )

      Does that help? Best of luck to you!

      • Thanks Jasmine, I greatly appreciate the advice. I’m still experimenting , ended up buying a serger yesterday. I really appreciate your advice, it was a great help. Thank you so very much !

  • So I am working with a stretch metallic fabric, seems like no matter what I do after being worn for a while the fabric starts to rip around my stitches. Can I use a stretch needle on my serger to help this?

    • Yes, a stretch needle should help a little bit as it’s got a slightly rounded point that’s supposed to prevent it from puncturing the fibers. (A jersey/ballpoint needle is even more rounded.) You might also consider lengthening the stitch length so you’re not putting so much thread into the seam. But if you’re getting a lot of tearing, the fabric may be too delicate for the way you’re using it. If that’s the case you may want to try something else or use a more substantial fabric underneath to support the metallic.

  • Thanks for providing your very helpful knowledge.
    I’m a father designing & crafting a spandex costume for my son.
    It’s almost impossible to find experienced costume designers.
    Always appreciate great technical skills in others.

  • Gillian, i just ‘bumped’ into this blog while searching for info on sewing with stretch.
    You are amazing!!!! Your explanations and your answers are very clear and detailed, not to mention “sew” easy to understand…..
    I’ve only just read about half of these comments, but this is bookmarked, and I’m definitely going to be cruising around this blog more thoroughly.
    Thank you sew much for this!!!!!!!
    xo

  • I finally got rid of the dimpling seams!!

    Sewing on a cotton / lycra blend, the stretch stitch AND any zig zag stitch I tried always made dimples and puckering. I tried stretching the fabric I tried not stretching the fabric. Still happened.
    I played around with the settings a long time and finally found that on my machine (Bernina Activa 125 S) the best way is to use the stretch stitch with the preset width BUT use the longest stitch length available! Weird but it worked! All dimpling magically gone! Looks smooth and stretches well.

    Yay!!!

    Keep playing with your settings. You’ll find what works on your machine! :)

    • Using the longest thread makes sense as this would reduce the tension on the thread return loop which was causing your dimpling/pulling on the fabric.
      Experiment & understand the Science.

    • Glad you found something that works! I’ve had similar results with the stretch stitch, and I think part of it is that these stitches have so much back-and-forth movement that the fabric can’t keep up. Especially with stretch fabrics, it seems like setting the stitch length too short makes it harder for the machine to feed correctly.

  • Marry me Gillian !

  • Thank you for a great explanation. I was looking online for a similar idea and really appreciate it
    Machine Embroidery Digitizing

  • So I just google searched what is the best thread to sew with stretch lame and this was the first result, so I clicked on it… I’m not making a bodysuit but I’m making a dress and I was wondering if the type of thread should vary depending on what your making…
    Google search Mario Odyssey Pauline and that’s the dress that I’m trying to recreate for Halloween…

  • I have stretch fabric it has a four way stitch do I need to do anything before I sew with it? Do I need to wash it before I use it.? thank you Mary

    • It mostly depends on the fiber content of the fabric. 4-way stretch means it’s probably partly spandex, but it’ll almost certainly be blended with something else. If the other fiber is something that can shrink like cotton or rayon, you’ll definitely want to wash. If it’s polyester or nylon, you don’t need to worry about shrinkage but you might want to wash anyway just to remove any residual chemicals from the manufacturing process as well as any dust or grime the fabric might have picked up in transit.

      If you decide to wash, it’s a good idea to use cold water and a gentle cycle, and a low dryer setting or hang to dry. The stretch fibers are heat sensitive and will lose their stretch over time if they’re laundered too roughly.

  • Hi Gillian, glad to get this good information. My daughter is just new and learn basic sewing skills these days. I really find stretch fabric is much harder to control for her.

  • Hi I am looking to make a leotard with spaghetti straps with elastic in but the straps start at one end of the bodice of the leotard go around the back of the leotard like a binding then become straps again. I can’t find how this is done. I know how to bind and to make the straps but not how to blend the both

  • I have a couple of questions! 😀

    First of all, thank you so much for this information! It helps me so much!
    I will be sewing an ice skating dress mostly with my serger. I will also be sewing an elaborate ‘flame’-looking appliqué design onto the dress with my normal sewing machine. I will be using Spandex (aka LYCRA).

    1.) I have the Juki Serger MO-644D and I’m not sure where to find a Stretch Needle for it. You mention that Stretch Needles are different from the Jersey stretch needles. So I definitely want to use the best of the best in order to make my sewing experience more delightful.

    2.) Where can I also find a good quality stretch needle for my Sewing Machine (Viking Emerald)?

    Thank you in advance and I hope you can help!

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