How to Tell If Your Fabric Has Enough Stretch for the Pattern You Picked Out

comments (0) July 19th, 2008     

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JenniferStern Jennifer Stern, contributor
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This is an 8-inch piece of knit folded in half. Relaxed it measures 4 inches.
For a pattern that requires at least 25% stretch, this 4-inch piece of knit must comfortably stretch another inch.
This is an 8-inch piece of knit folded in half. Relaxed it measures 4 inches.

This is an 8-inch piece of knit folded in half. Relaxed it measures 4 inches.

Photo: Jen Stern

When you're sewing with knits, it's important to use fabric that has enough stress. In the excitement of picking out a pattern, take a minute to check if your fabulous new fabric has enough give for the pattern that you intend to use. One time I was in such a hurry to cut up a new piece of fabric that I ended up making a scuba top instead of the T-shirt...it wasn't attractive.

Most pattern companies make it really easy to see if your fabric has enough give. First, make sure you're selecting a pattern that is designed for knit fabrics. (There are too many adjustments that must be made to a pattern designed for woven fabrics for me to mention here.) The pattern will give you information about how much stretch the knit fabric needs to have. For example, it may say "designed for knits with 25% stretch." This means that a pattern piece cut out of your knit that measures 16 inches across must comfortably stretch an additional 4 inches.

Cut a test swatch out of your fabric and use the stretch guide on the envelope to test your fabric. It's easy—most guides will tell you what size to cut your swatch. Fold it in half and position the fabric so that the raw edges are on the left end of the guide and the fold is on the right. Hold the raw edges down with your finger at the far left and stretch the folded end of the fabric to the right. If it comfortably stretches to the end of the guide, use it. If you really have to struggle to get the fold to reach the end of the stretch guide, or if it doesn't make it all the way across, pick a new fabric.

posted in: knit fabric, test stretch

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