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Ten Top Tips for sewing Stretch Fabrics by Wendy Gardiner

This week we are sharing top tips for sewing with stretch fabrics, as seen on The Great British Sewing Bee by Wendy Gardiner. In the first challenge contestants made a Rugby shirt from cotton jersey and in the final challenge a tennis outfit with Lycra.

Top tips for sewing with stretch fabrics

  1. If you are tackling a pattern or design that you haven’t made before, then make yourself a coffee, sit and read the instructions all the way through before you begin so you have a mind map on how it will go together.
  2. When sewing with cotton jersey fabrics, use a ball point needle which will help prevent skipped stitches.

3. If you do make mistakes, quickly unpick a seam using a seam ripper – slide the blade under and break a stitch every 2cm and then pull the threads away from the other side. Hey presto – unpicked in seconds!

  1. Don’t make the same mistake as Peter, make sure you put the right sleeve in the right armhole – transfer pattern markings and notches from tissue to fabric. Most sleeves will have a mark at the top of the sleeve head to math to the shoulder seam, as well as double notches at the back of the sleeve and single at the front.
  2. To hem, recreate a ‘cover stitch’ look (as on shop bought garments and made with a specialist cover stitch machine). Use a twin needle on your sewing machine and stitch, two parallel rows on the top and a zigzag underneath. Remember to stitch with the right side upper most though!
  3. Contestants were really brave using a contrast thread for their top stitching on the rugby tops, but if you are not as confident, use a matching thread so any little mistakes are not so visible!
  4. If using Velcro fastening on clothing, make sure you attach the hoop side on the part of the garment facing away from the body and the softer loop side on the garment piece that faces towards the body.


  1. When sewing with Lycra, or other two-four way stretch, use a Stretch needle which has been designed for this mind of fabric. Slightly keep the seam taut as you sew. Sew with straight stitch on vertical seams and a stretch stitch on horizontal seams.
  2. An easier way to make repeated perfect pleats is to create a pleat template from cardboard and then you can measure and mark along the fabric quickly and easily.
  3. To keep pleats nice and crisp, run a bar of soap down the inside of the fold of the pleat before you iron.

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