Friday, 22 August 2014

Hemming Very Stretchy Fabric...

Hemming VERY stretchy fabrics - testing various techniques to see which worked best ~ Threading My Way


A couple of weeks ago, I showed you my tunic top. It's not often I sew for myself and I was particularly pleased, as I had sewn this top without a commercial pattern, tracing around an existing garment instead.


However, the fabric is extremely stretchy and the hems have that wavy appearance - not a good look for a garment. I had used a stretch twin needle and my regular presser foot, which had previously worked well on kids' t-shirts that were not as stretchy. 


In the original tunic top post, I said that I was going to experiment with different techniques for sewing hems on very stretchy fabric. In the meantime, Lindsay, from PA Country Crafts, left this comment: Did you try steaming the wonky seams? That seems to help a lot.

It never occurred to me to use an iron on stretch fabric, but I tried Lindsay's suggestion. Just like you do in shirring, I held the iron above the fabric and steamed. The wonkiness started to disappear!!! A few more shots of steam and then a quick press with a coolish iron, so as not to melt or burn the fabric, and the hems became almost respectable, as evidenced in the photo above.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Lindsay!!! I was originally going to redo the hems, but not now. They're not perfect, but they're good enough to leave as is.

I still wanted to experiment to see if there were better ways to hem very stretchy fabrics. Here are my results. I did 12 different tests, but have narrowed it down to show you five.


I added tissue paper to the mix and increased the stitch length to 3. It's less wavy, but the stitching between the two lines has caused a ridge, rather like piping. I'm not sure if this is the increased stitch length or if the tension is out. 


I swapped the regular presser foot to a walking foot and there's an improvement, but still wavy.


Back to the regular presser foot and with an ordinary stretch needle instead of the twin and a zig zag stitch. Getting better!


Even better when tissue paper was added.


And the best result was with a walking foot, using a regular stretch needle and a zig zag stitch with a width of 1 and a length of 3.5. None of these tests have been steamed and they have all been done with the presser foot pressure reduce to 22. (This will be a machine specific setting.)

I SO wanted to keep sewing hems with a twin needle, but it does appear that a zig zag stitch gives a much better finish on very stretchy fabric, with my machine. I'm still going to use a twin needle on knit fabric that is not as stretchy.

However, the tests that have the best stretch, are the ones with the twin needle. Years ago, when I used to do a lot of sewing with stretch fabric, the hems were always the weak point. We'll see how well these hems last. 

Again, I would value your comments re any experiences you have had, sewing hems with stretch fabric.

... Pam

18 comments:

  1. There's certainly quite a difference in the sample results, eh? You have the patience of a saint - I probably would have given up after about the 3rd test :D

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  2. Great experimenting! So glad you shared all this with is. It's great to know. I have some knit fabric with a lot of Lycra content that I need to work with, but have been putting it off. Maybe I'll pull out a piece and do some experimenting too:)

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  3. Thanks for sharing your trial and errors with us, Pam! Those stretchy fabrics can really be a pain to hem and your last suggestion seems to be the trick! Happy sewing, friend!

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  4. Thank You Pam , despite using only natural stretchy materials [man made threads are harder to control] i still have this problem , and this is the first time i read a goof solution .......until now i either used a 3 step Zigzag and or sewed a bias tape at the edges....
    mirjam

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  5. I have never tried sewing with knits, but thanks to you Pam if I ever do I now know what to do.with the hems :)

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  6. Still working up the courage to do a knit project. This gives me encouragement!

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  7. Great experiments will keep this in mind as I have not done stretch in a long time.

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  8. I've pinned this for next time I'm sewing with knits! Thanks for sharing all this with us Pam!
    Thanks for linking to a Round Tuit!
    Hope you have a fabulous week!
    Jill @ Creating my way to Success
    http://www.jembellish.blogspot.com/

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  9. I too have always had trouble sewing hems on stretchy fabrics. So next time I will try your suggestions, thank you!

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  10. Interesting post. I have been avoiding stretchy projects because of the hemming issue. This gives my more confidence and to pull out the materials and give it a go. Thanks for the great post.

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    1. I definitely find hemming the hardest thing about sewing with stretchy fabric. Good on you for giving it a go, Gayle.

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  11. Thank you for this post! I saved it for when I use stretchy fabric!

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  12. tons of great info! appreciate your taking the time to run the tests and share your results. Who knew about the steam?!?!

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  13. Thank you so much. Very helpful information :)
    Roopini
    Let's Make It Lovely

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  14. Thanks for experimenting and sharing this Pam so we all don't have to, lol!

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  15. The twin/double needle and wooly/bulky nylon thread in the bobbin works best for me. That or the flatlock stitch on my machine. But the more I sew knits the more I keep eyeing coverstitch machines. It gives such a nice finish but sadly, it's not in the budget for me right now.

    It's neat seeing how the different techinques worked on the same fabric. Thanks for sharing!

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