I have never really spent much time sewing stretch fabrics.
It’s not that I haven’t wanted to give them a go, or even that I’ve avoided them intentionally, I just didn’t really ever have a pressing need to sew them. The only time I really have is when I’ve made the occasional garment for myself out of stretch cotton.
Until last week that is….
Hannah needed both a gymnastics uniform (I’ve just started her in gymnastics finally) and a new costume for her upcoming tap competitions. So I had a choice – pay a fortune for ready made ones, or give myself a challenge and learn how to sew with stretch fabrics.
I have to learn how to sew with stretch fabrics as part of my diploma in dressmaking and pattern making anyway (the one that I’m supposed to be doing but can never seem to find the time that is) but I also have not for the life of me been able to find any suitable competition costumes in her size within New Zealand (she’s a small 6 and apparently that’s not a common size), so it was a no brainer decision to bite the bullet and give sewing with Lycra/Spandex a try.
Last week I trotted off to Spotlight with a list of things I needed, came home and took over my living room (because the light is better and it’s warmer upstairs for sewing at night) to give it my best shot…
I bought 3 different patterns off tumbletwirl on etsy, because it was incredibly hard to choose which one to buy so I splurged and got all 3. They are all fantastic and I cannot fault them!
I ended up adapting and combining several of the patterns to get the look in my head and I can see they will all come in handy going forward.
I’d love to say that it was plain sailing from there but unfortunately no, no it wasn’t…
I soon learnt that it is not easy to overlock lycra around curves because unlike my sewing machine, you only have a flat bed to work with. Even with some serious pinning my fabric kept going out of alignment and I’d have to stop, unpick and try again.
Then I’d get to the next bit
have to unpick and start again.
And the next bit
only to unpick and start again.
And the next bit….
Are you sensing a theme?
And have I mentioned that I was overlocking with black thread onto black lycra!
– Not a great combination to be unpicking at night over and over!!!
Yes, I just about threw my overlocker at one point.
Not to mention that my cream carpet and white dining chairs looked like they had been hit with a plague of black worms and dead birds because there were that many black threads and feathers everywhere.
But after trying an abundance of different finishing techniques I finally found one that seemed to work for me the best and got a finished result.
They’re not perfect but I learned so much in the process that it was a very valuable experience.
** Finishing techniques for stretch fabrics are way different to wovens- e.g. instead of making an elastic casing you sew the elastic on then fold it
** That means that it’s super fiddly if you want to have overlocked edges because you have to try and overlock the elastic on, or it’s just doubling up on steps
** And I
don’t like hate sewing with a double needle. Seriously, as if sewing from the front with lycra isn’t hard enough, who’d want to have to sew from the back using a double needle!
** I prefer 4 thread overlocking to 3, even if it is much harder to unpick
** Pin like a trooper
** Use the correct elastic – braided not knitted. It does make a difference.
** Also, make sure your elastic is not too long or your neckline will look stupid and to fix that requires way too much unpicking.
** Not all stretch fabrics are created equal and so the result of a 4 way stretch is quite different to that of a 2 way stretch fabric.
And I’m sure I learnt a ton more.
But the main thing that I learnt was that when you are sewing for a 6 year old, none of the above matters…
It doesn’t matter that (to me) my finish is far from perfect.
It doesn’t matter that the neckline doesn’t sit flat.
It doesn’t matter that my inside edges are not as neat as they normally would be.
Because if I finish the outfit at 11pm after nearly hurling things across the room in the process and leave the outfit on the floor of the intended child’s room so she sees it when she wakes up, said 6 year old will still creep into my room the next morning dressed in the finished article (despite the fact she could probably blow steam it’s so cold) and excitedly whisper to me…
“Mum, you finished it. It’s peeeeerfect! You are SO clever”
in such whispered awe that your heart will sing and you know it was all worth it.
Said 6 year old will also want to parade around in the outfit for the next 2 days, not even wanting to take it off to sleep.
I’m pretty sure that you can see from these photos just how pleased as punch she is…
Her new gymnastics leotard (which now has matching hot pants):
And her new tap competition outfit:
It was impossible to choose just 1 photo from about the 10 poses she made so you get a few 😉
So there you have it. I sewed with lycra. Yay me.
I think you may see a lot of it around here in future too as within 24 hours of finishing these I already had job offers from 2 separate people of things they’d like me to make for their children. I think there is a market here for me to start making costumes to sell.
And I may have *ahem* already put in a big fabric order for some more supplies from the states.