Sewing with a super slippery or stretchy fabric will test your patience and your skills. Today we’re tackling spandex. Spandex is extremely stretchy, and some blends have moisture-wicking properties. Although it can be fussy to manage–I’m here to bring you the best tips and pointers for sewing spandex so that you can keep creating while avoiding headaches.
Note that spandex and lycra are terms used interchangeably. Lycra is the Dupont brand name of spandex.
Download a free Sewing with Spandex info sheet!
1. Selecting Fabric
- Pay attention to the fabrics suggestions given in your pattern
- Know what kind of spandex you’re looking for since it comes in different weights and blends that affect properties like sweat-wicking
- Cotton or rayon spandex blends are good for t-shirt or tanks but not necessarily performance wear
- Order samples if shopping online to find the spandex best suited for your project
- Metallic stretch fabrics are more finicky to work with, so work up to them slowly
- Pay attention to the transparency of the spandex when held up to a light and add a lining if desired
- Cut spandex where the greatest amount of stretch is positioned around the body
- Lay spandex flat for a few hours before cutting
- Keep fabric flat when cutting and make sure it isn’t stressed
- Use sharp shears for a smooth cut
- Use weights or wonder clips when cutting fabric to avoid damage
- Cut a single layer at a time to avoid slipping
- Use a stretch needle when sewing to avoid skipped stitches
- A polyester thread will stretch with the fabric while staying strong
- For professional-looking hems on a sewing machine, use a stretch twin needle or use a cover stitch machine if one is available
- The best stitch for sewing spandex on a regular sewing machine is a zigzag stitch
- Tug on stitches once sewn to make sure they won’t pop
- Adjust machine setting on scrap layers of your fabric to get stitches set correctly
- Lower the presser foot pressure to help the machine glide smoothly over the fabric
- Lengthen the stitches to make seam ripping easier if it’s necessary
- Keep fabric slightly stretched by holding the threads while sewing without pulling to guide it through the machine or use a walking foot for extra help
- Use paper scraps from the pattern to stabilized the fabric as it goes through the machine to avoid excessive stretching
- If you have a serger or overlocker use it for a polished, sturdy seam that requires minimal effort or fuss
- Don’t wash, dry, or iron spandex using hot temperature to avoid ruining the fabric
Spandex is ideal for swimsuits, dance costumes, and activewear because it moves with the body and has a ton of stretch. Additionally, it is good for face masks since it wicks away sweat which happens during physical activity.
Spandex is a beast that can be tamed with practice and the right prep work and tools. Don’t be afraid to try–You’ll get the hang of it in no time. Spandex is a great fabric for those with an active lifestyle or those that would rather lounge by the pool. I know I like a little of both.
Leave a comment below with your sewing experiences with spandex, and feel free to include any holy grail spandex tips you have.
Probably the BEST way to cut spandex without wanting to snatch yourself baldheaded is with pattern weights and a good rotary cutter. The less you have to move the fabric, the better and a rotary cutter does the trick nicely. You don’t have to move the fabric to pin it and you don’t have to move it to slip your shears/scissors through it..
No, you do not need a ruler for this. Rulers are really only handy with strip cutting as for quilts. For garments, with a very little practice, a cutter with a good sharp blade is easy to control.
My biggest tip (from many MANY bathing suits): forget the scissors and get a sharp rotary cutter and some patterns weights (small cans like tuna will do nicely). The less you move the fabric when you are cutting, the easier it will be. With a rotary cutter, you don’t need to move it to pin and you don’t need to move it to slip in your scissors/shears.
If you are thinking of rotary cutters as quilting tools, know that you do NOT use a ruler when cutting garments. It just takes a very little practice and you’ll find they are easy to control.