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Written by Julia Mulcair on February 22, 2024

Mastering Lycra Sewing - Top Tips for Success

Lycra is an amazing fabric! It possesses elements that no other fabric can replicate, most importantly, 4-way stretch. This makes it perfect for active wear, sportswear, and swimwear. Along with being super stretchy it's also moisture resistant, quick drying and antibacterial, ideal for these applications. It can be intimidating working with such a stretchy fabric, but there are some simple steps you can take to make sure sewing with lycra goes smoothly.

Cutting

It all starts here!  Lay your fabric on a flat, smooth surface. Lycra is a knitted fabric, so the structure of the fibres can be damaged by pins, I recommend using pattern weights instead of pins for this reason. Make sure your scissors are nice and sharp and be sure not so stretch the fabric when cutting. Take note of the greatest degree of stretch, this should go around the body. Some lycra, but not all, will have a greater amount of stretch one way. With that in mind, you can also get creative when you’re cutting lycra as the 4-way stretch allows you to cut your pattern pieces both the traditional way, running parallel with the selvedge, and the other way, running parallel with the cut edge.

Needles

You will need a ball point or stretch needle for sewing lycra. I used PFAFF Stretch Needles as these needles are coated to help them glide through the fabric and slide in between the knitted fibres rather than puncturing and breaking them. The recommended needle size would be 70 or 80, depending on the weight of the fabric. For a lighter weight, use a 70, and a mid weight use an 80.

Using your PFAFF Sewing Machine, turn on your IDT. I use my creative™ 4.5 Sewing and Embroidery machine.

Your IDT will be your best friend when sewing lycra. It will help to guide the fabric effortlessly and smoothly through without stretching or puckering. Learn more about IDT here.

Stitches

To sew any stretch fabric, you’ll need to use a stretch stitch. A zigzag is my go-to and works well for seams and elastic application.  A smaller stitch length than normal is also recommended to prevent stretching the fabric when sewing. If you have an overlocker this also provides a lovely, neat finish for seams of stretch garments. Check out the range of our PFAFF overlockers. Always test your stitch on a scrap piece of lycra before you start and stretch the seam to make sure the stitches don’t break.

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Time to test out those tips!

On my ‘to make’ list has been active wear. Active wear is expensive to buy and can be so hit and miss with the fit. Perfect opportunity to flex those sewing skills.

I’m using the Active wear easy crop top and gym shorts pattern from Swim Style Patterns.

It’s a nice quick sew, perfect for dipping your toe into sewing with lycra. I’ve chosen a lightweight spandex for the outer fabric and lined with a lightweight power mesh for support in the top and the waistband of the shorts.

I sewed my test piece first, using a #70 ball point needle, and the result was great!

This project is a good one for beginner sewers with lycra. You’ll tackle skills such as cutting with lycra, sewing stretch seams and elastic application. Remember to use the tips noted above and you’ll be a pro in no time. Until next time, Happy sewing. Julia xx

Don’t forget to share your projects and follow us on our Facebook page, Pfaff Australia or Instagram, tagging @pfaffsewingaus and using the hashtag #pfaffsewingaustralia, #perfectionstartshere and #pfaffsewing.

Article written by Julia Mulcair
Julia Mulcair is the owner of Pitt Trading, an Australian online fabric store and the lingerie society, a monthly subscription service for lingerie sewers. She grew up around fabric, and has been sewing for 30 years. Julia focuses on garment sewing, with a particular love of lingerie making. She shares her makes on Instagram and YouTube and is always working on the next lingerie design!

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