A Quilter’s Adventures with Stretch

My dear friend, Gizella, always used to have a “learning thing for the day.” Today, I’d like to share my learning thing with you!

Can you even handle it!?

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 As a quilter, I’m not used to sewing much other than a straight stitch and the occasional zig zag. But, this year I’ve been working with a new friend of mine, Nicola, who happens to be a newborn photographer right here in Lancaster, PA! She was looking to get some newborn outfits made & I gladly obliged. I made an incredibly adorable little outfit for my peanut’s photoshoot (above), but it really didn’t have enough stretch in the seams—it was pretty tight on my 8 pounder, but we made it work! For my next creations, I reached out to my designer friends on Facebook and asked what I was doing wrong; do I need stretchy thread? What’s the problem here?

The answers came pouring in within minutes:

What stitch are you using?

Needle and stitch are VERY important. You can’t just use a regular straight stitch or the stitches will pop the first time it is worn. You need to use a stretch stitch or a zigzag stitch.

I recently learned that presser foot pressure is also very important

Twin needle is great for the hems.

Whoa there ladies! I had no idea that I was so clueless about this part of sewing! Today’s post is going to be short and sweet: I want to give you the tools that I discovered so far about sewing stretch fabric, and maybe help a fellow straight-stitcher learn the world of stretch along with me.

Read Up

The first thing I’d suggest is finding a good blog or tutorial on how to sew with stretchy fabrics. While I’m one who’s typically in too much of a rush to read a whole blog post (ironic-right?!) I found this post by Pretty Prudent incredibly helpful and actually got really curious about what else I don’t know about sewing!

The Right Needle

The beauty of sewing stretch is that you don’t need too many magic tools to make it happen, but what you do want is a ball point or stretch needle!

If you want to make a fancy hem, then go ahead and pick up a double needle as well—you know you’ve always been curious about using it, and as it turns out, most machines can take it! You’ll need to grab an extra spool of thread in your color too.

The Right Stitch

Ever wonder what that lightening bolt stitch was on your machine? Yep—that’s a stretch stitch—it’s amazing and wonderful and so very smart!

The Right Foot

OK quilters, it’s time to whip out your old trusty walking foot! This allows the fabric to feed through without stretching or bunching up.

The Right Pattern

You’ll learn more from an experienced pattern designer than anyone else. You’ll learn great tricks (like using wonder tape instead of pins!) and other handy little things along the way. My friend Lauren, over at Sew By Pattern Pieces includes a great insert for sewing with stretch in each of her patterns!

Hopefully this was a helpful little primer for you quilters that are dabbling in stretch, I hope I’ll be enough of a pro soon to give you all the helpful details in one place! What stretch projects are you working on right now? I’d love to see in the comments below!

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