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What Tension Should I Use For Stretchy Fabric

Your sewing machine allows you to use different tension settings for various types of fabric. This setting also helps in stitching materials such as elastane, lycra, etc. We will elaborate on the correct tension setting for stretchy materials.

What Tension Should I Use For Stretchy Fabric

You have to use an appropriate tension setting to stitch your stretchy fabric. For materials such as elastane, lycra, and many others, a higher tension level of 2-3 should do the trick for you. It would be best to be cautious with the settings because a tighter or a looser setting may ruin your stitch quality and affect the seam of stitches.

What Is A Stretchy Fabric?

It is any piece of fabric that can be stretched more than other types of cloth materials. Such a cloth has a fair amount of elasticity due to its partial make of elastic fibers. This type of textile is also known as woven or knitted. Single knits, stretch-woven fabrics, a few of the double knits fall under this category.

A feature that distinguishes these fabrics from other materials is its 4-way stretch. You can stretch it vertically as well as horizontally, thus the 4-way bit. However, there are some types of stretch fabrics that only have a 2-way stretch, and these are comparatively heavier materials.

People prefer wearing garments made with these stretchy materials because they are comfortable, soft and these materials present the perfect fit. It flaunts the body’s shape of the person wearing it. An elastic material garment is the first choice for buyers looking for activewear.

Steps To Adjust Tension For Stretchy Fabric

By now, you might have realized how delicately you have to handle a stretchy material. And setting the right tension level is one of the steps in the process. We have rounded up a step-by-step process to help you understand how you can adjust tension for such a fabric. Let us take a look at them below.

Step 1: The first thing to do is to replace your regular needle because there are chances that it may affect your fabric. It would help if you used ballpoint sewing needles. However, you also have to consider the types of needles you can use for your sewing machine. Going through your machine’s guide will be a wise choice.

Step 2: Test your stitches on another fabric before actually trying out on the final material. It is another practice that will prevent you from ruining the stretchy fabric.

Step 3: In this step, you have to adjust the stitch settings on your sewing machine. Every stitch type does not go well with all the types of fabric. You have to change the settings according to the materials you are using. It would be best for a stretchy fabric if you used a long stretch stitch or a zigzag stitch.

Step 4: In this step, it is time to adjust your thread tension setting. Different materials require different levels of it. For a stretchy fabric, it would be best if you set the upper tension level between 3-4. This adjustment is also a neutral level of tension setting.

Step 5: Now, after you have attached the correct needle, stitch type, and tension setting, it is time to test the final stitch on your fabric. It would help if you first tried it on one edge of the material.

Step 6: What you need to do in this step is to check whether all the stitches are even and look the same on both sides of the material. You have to be cautious while checking them, as there should not be any gathering or puckering of stitches. Also, keep in mind to give a gentle stretch to the material once. It will help you to see if the stitches stretch along with it without any breakage.

Step 7: If you did not find any issue mentioned in the previous step, you could go ahead with your stitching. However, if you come across any disruption in your test seam, you have to adjust your tension settings.

Step 8: To achieve the right seam of stitches, you have to readjust your tension setting. This time try level 4 and test another stitch line. If you achieve your desired results, you can continue with the adjustment. If not, then you should carry on with adjusting your tension settings until you reach your expected product. However, if you do not find the correct setting moving a level higher, it would be best to check one or two levels downward.

Step 9: Finally, you have to adjust the tension setting of the lower bobbin. To do so, you have to turn the screw that you will find below the bobbin case and towards a little right. Follow the same pattern of trying and testing. Keep on turning a little to the right until you get the results. Still, if you do not achieve your expected results, start turning the screw towards the left, a little at a time. Only with the right lower tension adjustment will you get a straight and stretchy line of stitches.

Tips To Sew Stretchy Fabric

  • Handling The Fabric

The first tip for sewing a stretchy fabric is pre-washing the material and shade-drying it, at least for a day, on a flat surface. Before stitching, it would help if you secured the pattern on your fabric with ball pins to keep the material in place. You also have to keep in mind to prevent such material with elasticity from curling in from the edges.

  • Needle And Thread

Another tip to have a right stitch is finding the appropriate needle and thread. These sizes and types have a significant impact on the stitches and the material being used. A stretch or ballpoint needle is apt for such fabrics. The needle’s size also matters a lot and hence go for the one that best suits your requirement. It will also help if you opt for regular polyester threads which have a fair amount of stretch.

  • Adjusting Settings

The last tip for sewing on stretchy material like a pro is adjusting the right setting for your thread tension, stitches, and the presser foot. These adjustments will ensure that your stitches are stretchy enough for the material and that the seam of stitches is on a line.

Do You Need A Special Thread For Stretchy fabric?

There is no specific thread requirement for a piece of stretchy fabric. Threads impact the stitches on the material. Any thread with elasticity can be used to sew such a material. You can use a regular polyester thread, which is stretchable to quite an extent. However, it would be best to keep in mind not to use a cotton thread because it has no stretchability.

What Is A Stretchy Fabric Called?

A piece of garment material that can be stretched more than the regular fabrics is a stretchy fabric. Examples of such materials are spandex, lycra, elastane, etc. These are partly made with elastic fibers. They are popularly known as knit or woven fabrics. It is due to the method of their production, which is the looping.

Why Tension Setting Is Important in Sewing?

Tension setting allows you to loosen or tighten the top thread that makes the stitching easy according to the available fabric. Each fabric has a different tension setting that you need to ascertain before starting to stitch. Make sure you have adjusted the tension rightly before you feed in the fabric. For instance, a stretchy fabric must have 2-3 level tension setting which is just enough to stitch away. It is best to read the sewing machine’s user manual that gives you a clear idea regarding the tension setting. Wrong tension setting can ruin your fabric and result in a bad stitch.


Hello, I am Jessica Flores, and you are welcome to my website. I am a professional fashion designer and a seamstress. I always carried a passion for craftwork. My love for craft grew along with time. I have spent years researching and practicing in this field to gather colossal experience.

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