We've all been there. The wonderful (and sometimes infuriating) world of stretch fabrics can have us baffled. There are so many different ones to choose from and as with woven fabrics, it is so important to get your choice right to make sure your end garment hangs properly.
So here is our little guide to the stretch fabrics we stock, which hopefully you'll find useful. At the end of this you'll have more knowledge of Jersey than Bergerac! (One for you '80s TV buffs there!! :) )
Organic Cotton Interlock
This luxurious fabric is thick and quite stable and also ridiculously soft to touch. It is ideal for garments not requiring much stretch, such as the TATB Coco dress or top. It is also excellent for those who haven't had much experience working with knits, but as it is quite expensive you might be better off starting with a Ponte Roma or a Scuba and working your way up to it!
Similar to the interlock in terms of stability and thickness, but its composition is Polyester and Spandex, meaning that it is a cheaper alternative. Again, is great for beginners and excellent for the TATB Coco and Zadie sewing patterns, Ponte Roma has a lovely drape to it.
Like a Ponte Roma, it has a similar weight and stability but offers a little bit more structure for dresses and skirts. It is also a bit more forgiving than Ponte when you're sewing it as it has a good recovery. The fabric doesn't fray either, so you might get away with not hemming it!
The stretchiest of fabrics we stock, cotton jersey is a thin fabric best used for t-shirt type tops. It can be difficult to get to grips with as it can curl at the selvedge, meaning that it can be difficult to achieve a neat seam. If you have an overlocker, then this is where it shines! Whether you do or you don't, then always make sure the weight of the fabric is supported by your sewing table - don't let it hang over the edge as this is how it stretches out of shape.
A thicker cousin to the cotton jersey, this is a comfortable fabric which is a bit more forgiving than the thinner version. Can again be used for t-shirt type tops, but can also be used for dresses, skirts and lightweight hoodies.
To help you decifer the thickness of the fabrics, we show the weight of them as "gsm" (grams per squared metre) in each product description (where they have been made available to us). As a rule of thumb, this is what they mean:
Whichever stretch you're using, it's important to use 100% polyester sewing thread, such as Gutermann's Sew All, as this stretches with your fabric. If cotton thread is used, then as this doesn't have any stretch you may find it breaks. You should also use stretch or ballpoint sewing machine needles to avoid missed/broken stitches and for making sure you have strong seams. Rather than piercing the fabric as standard machine needles do, they push through in between the yarns to prevent holes and ladders occurring. As a rule of thumb, use stretch needles on fabrics containing Lycra or Spandex and ballpoint needles with heavier knits . You may find that some needles work better on some fabrics than others, so it can be trial and error.
If you don't want to venture into the world of overlocking just yet, then make sure you use a zig zag stitch on your sewing machine as this stretches with the seams when the garment is being worn to prevent the stitches from breaking.
Working with stretch can be a scary thought if you've never done it before, but it really isn't as bad as you think and once you can work with jersey, there are so many more clothes you can make! My advice would be to take it slowly and gently to avoid stretching your fabric out of shape and DON'T pull your fabric through the sewing machine; just let it go through of its own accord. I am also convinced that sewing machines can smell fear, so be confident and enjoy! :)