Saturday, 4 June 2011

Tips for sewing Lycra

There are more types of Lycra available. Most common are cotton Lycra and nylon Lycra. While cotton Lycra is matte, nylon Lycra is shiny and usually used for bathing suits. Although Lycra is very stretchy, it's easy to sew. I wrote some tips that might help you.

  • 70/10 (lightweight) or 75/11 (mediumweight Lycra) ball point or stretch needles
  • quality polyester thread
  • standard presser foot
  • fine and sharp pins to avoid damaging the fabric; pin carefully

  • preshrinking isn't necessary for nylon Lycra
  • lay out the pattern so that the greatest stretch goes around the body, regardless the straight grain indicated on the pattern
  • you can either pin your pattern to the fabric and cut it with sharp scissors
  • or place the pattern on the fabric and cut it with a rotary cutter

  • first, try some stitches on a test piece of fabric and also try stitching the elastic
  • joining the fabric: use 4 mm wide and 1.5 mm long zig-zag stitich, machine "overlock stitch", or 4-thread overlock on the overlock machine
  • if stitches tear when the seam is stretched, loosen the top thread tension until it's fine
  • don't stretch the fabric while sewing, except when necessary (when you must stretch the elastic; then stretch it equally both in front and in the back of the sewing foot)
  • attaching the raw rubber elastic: use 4 mm wide and 4 mm long zig-zag stitch or 4-thread coverlock - left side of the stitch should pierce the elastic and the right should just encase it
  • if elastic sticks to the presser foot, powder it with a bit of talc or baby powder, or sew it with the elastic against the feed dogs
  • topstitching the elastic: use 3-4 mm wide and 1.5-3 mm long (whatever you like the most), a triple zig-zag stitch, 3 mm long twin needle stitch with woolly nylon hand-wrapped on bobbin, or a coverlock stitch

! Pattern instructions correction

A really kind fellow blogger Zanda pointed out a typing mistake in the pdf file. I'm really sorry!

This is correct:


  1. Thanks so much for the tips! I was trying to sew a hallowe'en costume for my daughter and my machine wasn't even leaving any stitches at all in the fabric. I changed my needle to the closest size I had that matched your suggestion and it worked. The tension still wasn't great but it's good enough for a costume and now I can go to bed!

  2. thanks for the help! Now i can stitch lycra with confidence!