How to Stabilize Stretchy Fabric

Stretch fabrics are a staple in most wardrobes. They can be woven, textile, or knitted, such as jerseys. Talking about comfort and minimal care, they make a decent alternative to other forms of fabric materials.

But as much as we love wearing our favorite stretchy garments, they can be a real pain when sewing.

That’s why stabilizers exist. Which stabilizer to go for and how to use it will be discussed herein in great detail.

How to Stabilize Stretchy Fabric?

Depending on what you need here, you can use clear elastic, starch spray, or stabilizing products like knit stay tape. Primarily useful if you want to give your hem some rebound and support.

stabilize stretchy fabric

Ballpoint pins are a unique technique you can also use to secure the cloth before sewing. In case the machine doesn’t move through, place a piece of tissue paper under the garment.

Why Bother Stabilizing Stretchy Fabrics?

For sure, you’re already aware of what a stretchy fabric is. Those who need a refresher refer to any outfits or garments made from woven, textile, and knit.

Jersey falls in the knit stretch fabric category, which comprises a hefty portion of the group. It is lightweight and thin.

Textiles could be single/double knits and stretch-woven. The double knit has a medium weight also used for leggings.

Unlike other flexible fabrics, this one is easier to work with and does not roll. If you’re about to undertake your first venture with stretchy material, consider using it.

People generally love stretchy garments due to their distinctive ability to grow and move with human bodies. When it comes to sewing raw elastic materials, that’s where it will test your patience.

why bother stabilizing stretchy fabrics

Hence, the use of stabilizers is preferable.

Fabric stabilizers are among those things you often heard in the embroidery market, yet unsure when to use. They come in different varieties intended for diverse applications.

The choice of which stabilizer to use and when you need one primarily depends on your fabric material.

Besides making your stitching project a total breeze, it also enhances the appearance of your clothes. It can add dimension, zest, and structure. One prevalent use includes preventing wavy lines on knit hems.

How to Stabilize Stretchy Cloths With Clear Elastic?

Clear elastic is already giving you a hint of what it looks like – a clear elastic. It’s a popular option for stabilizing necklines and shoulders. Though, you can use it as well in dresses with tapering waistlines.

It serves various applications – ideal for children and babies. It is a must-have for three good reasons: exceptionally thin, discrete, and maintains its original shape even when overextended.

One important thing to know when stabilizing with clear elastic is to achieve a 1:1 ratio. That means the length of elastic and seam or edge you will be stitching are equal. No more, no less. Follow these steps to get you started.

Step 1: Measure the length of your piece. Have enough extras for the tails.

Step 2: Insert the elastic either flanked by two layers or on top of the cloth. The point here is to evade contact between the feed dogs and clear elastic. Stitching on top of the fabric gives you further control over where it rests.

how to stabilize stretchy cloths with clear elastic

Step 3: Place the elastic and fabric on your sewing machine, and start running stitches. Work slow while ensuring the elastic secures its position in the seam.

Step 4: You can now continue sewing as you customarily do, up until the excess tail.

Step 5: Trim leftover fabrics, and you’re entirely done!

Tips to prevent it from slipping:

  • Try the presser foot if you own a serger. Specifically great if you are working on narrow elastic.
  • Use zigzag stitches. Begin with the seam before going to the shoulder seam.
  • Leave an extra amount of clear elastic so you can hold it while doing the needlework.
  • If any of these stabilizing methods did not work, your last resort is the Teflon coated presser foot. It will keep your wear from gumming.

Some points to remember:

  • You don’t need to baste the elastic before sewing. It will only add additional bulk or thread to your near-perfect creation.
  • Stretch and relax the clear elastic a few times before application. Doing so will prevent the piece from getting stiffed. However, the situation is reversed when gathering with the elastic.
  • Stretchy fabrics are slippery, and cases of elastic getting slipped out are so common. You’ll need to always start slow for this reason.
  • Clear elastic is quite tricky to insert but is easy to become damaged once used. Therefore, you need to buy extra elastic. So, in case the seam is not as perfect as you’d wish, you have additions stored in your kits. Less hassle!

Stabilizing Products for Stretchy Material

Having no clear elastic in your home or local store is no big deal. You have a variety of alternatives, including stay tape, fusible interfacing, and iron-on bias tape. For a cheap natural solution, we’d recommend starch spray.

1. Knit Stay Tape

knit stay tape

Considered as knit’s best friend, stay tape is mainly used for shoulder seams, pocket openings, necklines, and armholes. Either purchase a pre-made one or create your own. Just modify the thread weight, width, and tape as per your preference, et voila!

To apply, cut a length similar to your seam. Though sometimes, there’s a pattern piece you can use as a guide. Apply the tape within the seam allowance or above the seam line. The former is suitable if the stay tape is not elastic enough.

2. Fusible Interfacing

This stabilizer is by far the simplest to use. One side of it has adhesive tape, which combines steam and heat. Fusible interfacing can support pockets, cuffs, hems, facings, collars, waistbands, and relevant areas. It comes in different forms:

One-way stretch fusible interfacing

Extends crosswise with a denser hand. Avoid using it on very lightweight knits and even on hems.

One-way lightweight interfacing

With a resemblance to the regular fusible interfacing, but a slim version. Best to use if you need to interface the garment’s fundamental layer.

Two-way stretch fusible interfacing

Bounces diagonally, lengthways, and crossways. It saves you from the distress caused by puckering and wrinkled fabrics.

3. Iron-On Bias Tape

iron-on bias tape

What makes bias tape worth the shot? On top of attaining smoother, less stretchy sewing, it also secures and covers raw edges. Plus, it can improve the inside of your fabric.

Use it for your armholes, pockets, necklines, and other hems. Bias tape is fun and clean, which adds to its beauty.

Iron-on bias tape is a fusible-type of stabilizer that allows you to preserve some stretch. It can also work on sleeveless openings and shoulder seams.

4. Spray Starch

Spray starch alone can prevent curling edges. When combined with adhesive tape, it can surely keep you on top of your sewing league. Mix water with starch, and spray a good amount on your garment while ironing.

It becomes rigid and tough to fold or bend, so you can lay it wherever you want to. Don’t worry about the starch staying on your precious cloth as it quickly washes away.

Which Layers Should I Stabilize?

Especially when dealing with knits, there are so many seams or layers you need to stabilize. These include shoulders, armholes, waistlines, curved necklines, and pocket openings.

Off-grain seams are stretchier, too, along with bias seams. Gathered seams carry extra bulk, so they will need an added strength when under the machine.

What Is the Best Stitch for Stretchy Fabric?

Due to the material’s elastic texture, you should pay attention to the type of stitches you’re going to use. What you need is a flexible stitch you can easily distend with the fabric.

We are talking about zigzag stitches. Straight stitch and lighting stitch follows. You can consult your sewing machine manual to help you find the right stretch stitch option.



I'm Jessica Flores, a professional fashion designer and an expert seamstress. Crafting has always been a deep-seated passion of mine, one that has flourished and evolved over the years. I've dedicated considerable time to both studying and practicing in the realm of fashion and sewing, amassing a wealth of experience and skills. It brings me great joy to share these insights and experiences with you all, hoping to inspire and foster a similar passion for the art of sewing.

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