Rippppp!! That is usually not the sound you hear when you wear stretch fabrics. The reason you don't hear that sound is that the fabric can stretch to meet your body movements. Stretch fabrics do have their place and they can protect you from embarrassing moments.
Spandex is one type of stretch fabric and did you know that name was an anagram for the word expands? This is what stretch fabrics do, they expand with you so you do not have trouble moving. Other types would be lycra and elastane but they are different names for the same material.
To learn more about stretch fabrics and their types just continue to read our article. It has the names of those types and some of their characteristics and uses so you can use them to their fullest potential. Take a few moments to read all about this fabric option.
Basically, stretch fabrics can stretch the fibers to a certain degree and then return those fibers back to their original size without any problem. These fabrics are sort of like rubber bands except they do not secure multiple items.
The fact that these materials can stretch makes using them an ideal solution when you have to bend a lot to pick items up off the floor and other activities. This stretching ability can make wearing certain types of clothing more comfortable.
Then the good aspect about these fabrics is that you can find some to stretch in more than one direction. You can use the specific stretch fabric for specific clothing with specific purposes that require a little or a lot of stretch or a single direction stretch or a multi-direction option.
Then the other good aspect is that you get to choose which one you will use, its color and design.
Generally, there are only 2 types of stretch fabric. The 2 way and the 4 way although the 2 way is often referred to as a one-way stretch material. It gets that latter name because it actually only stretches in one direction and then bounces back to its original size.
The 4-way stretch fabrics may seem like they stretch in all directions but they really only stretch in two. The 2-way stretch fabrics only stretch in either the lengthwise direction or the crosswise direction while the 4-way option stretches in both those directions.
Some people claim there is a third type, the 1-way stretch fabric but they are applying that term to many knit fabrics that provide up to 25% stretch at any given time. Many jersey fabrics have the 4-way stretch as well since they are knitted and not woven.
|Fabric name||Type of stretch||Uses (limited list)|
|Stretch jersey knit||can be either 2 or 4 way||dresses, skirts & tops|
|Cotton jersey knit||usually just 1 way||any clothing item|
|Stretch cotton poplin||2 or 4 way depending on the stretch fibers blended in||summer dresses, blouses, skirts, shirts|
|Stretch cotton||1, 2 & 4 way||blouses, shirts, ,etc., with heavier weights for jackets and pants|
|Stretch cotton shirting||depends on construction||shirts and dresses|
|Stretch cotton sateen||depends on construction||blouses, formal dresses, with heavier weights for suits|
|Stretch cotton jacquard||depends on construction||jackets, skirts & dresses|
|Stretch viscose jacquard||depends on construction||tunics, tops, dresses, skirts, & blouses|
|Stretch silk satin||depends on construction||evening wear, lingerie, & more|
|Stretch silk crepe||depends on construction||dresses, pants, jackets, & skirts|
|Stretch silk lining||depends on the exterior material||all lining options|
|Stretch satin chiffon||depends on construction||blouses, skirts, dresses|
|Stretch wool||depends on construction||jackets, sweaters, pants, sweatshirts and more|
|Stretch wool crepe||depends on construction||jackets, skirts & dresses|
|Stretch velvet||depends on construction||sweatshirts, jackets, pants, skirts & dresses|
|Stretch lace||depends on construction||sleeves, lingerie,overlays, etc.|
|Stretch tulle||4 way stretch||inserts, underlays, necklines, hems and so on|
If we missed any it was not intentional. Those names just did not come up in our research
There are a lot of very durable stretch fabrics that didn't make the above list. The reason for that is that they would be considered subcategories for those stretch fabrics already mentioned.
Knits are very durable because of the way there were made. These knit types are made from different fibers. Then there is spandex itself as it is considered to be a very durable material. It too comes with several subcategories but those additional materials are all blends.
The blends can be with cotton, polyester, satin, velvet, nylon, and rayon. Stretch denim is placed here as well as are poplin, fake leather, vinyl, and other fibers. Then rubber or latex is seen as a durable stretch material but there are several drawbacks to using this option in clothing.
Finally, you can go to neoprene if you want a durable stretch material for certain clothing items but it too is not for everyday use.
When you look at the chart above, you will notice one aspect almost all of them have in common. They are all good for making the same clothing items and dresses usually head the list.
Stretch denim is good if you want a western look but any of the kinds of cotton are great for this project. Then if you need something formal or sophisticated, you can try the stretch silk or chiffon options.
When you want to be warm, you might consider using stretch wool material or stretch velvet. The good thing about having all these options is that you will have plenty of patterns, colors, and designs to work with.
If one option doesn’t have what you want you can consider changing to another fabric that does. The flexibility potential is enormous. Then you can add a little stretch lace to make the dress' look even more fabulous
You have a lot of freedom in this category to make a great-looking dress that will work for any season of the year.
Your selection options may not be as great in this category as thick fabrics are not always easy to make stretchable. The weight and texture of the fibers would make all the difference.
Some of the fabrics we already mentioned would go here as well. One example would be stretch denim. To find heavyweight stretch fabrics you would have to check the label to see what fibers have been blended in.
100% rubber or latex would be a great thick stretch fabric but unfortunately, these materials have limited applications and are more for specific employment duties or dirty chores around the house.
Velvet, faux leather, and other heavy-weight materials blended with spandex, lycra, or elastane would qualify as well. Most heavy-weight fabrics are not stretchable and if they are they will have limits on that stretch. Check your fabric stores to see what is available when you want to work with these materials.
This category will provide you with a lot more choice than the previous one as many medium to lightweight fabrics are very soft to the touch, even when made into stretch materials. Plus, you can include some heavier-weight fabrics, like stretch denim, into the list.
Jersey knits can be very soft as can wool when it is made from the right wool fibers. Then you can’t go wrong with the majority of medium to lightweight cotton options. the texture of cotton can be very soft which makes it a very popular material to work with.
Next up would be silk and with this material, you get the elegance and sophistication that only silk can bring to a wardrobe. On top of those options, you can look to the mixed fabrics, rayon, and viscose to provide the softness you are looking for.
Don’t forget that polyester can be made into a soft material with the right stretch fibers blended in. Polyester may have an artificial feel but that texture can also be very soft. Under the polyester label, you may find other fabrics that can be nice and soft as well.
Again, if you look at the chart above, you will find some great options for stretch fabrics that will work with pants. Not to repeat ourselves but stretch denim is a very good option especially if you want those pants to be extra form-fitting.
But in this case, you may need to look for those materials or already made pants that are blended with stretch fibers. For different sportswear pants, nylon, spandex, and other stretchable material would be best.
Your choice of fabric will depend on the purpose of those pants, (notice we are avoiding mentioning the different holiday seasons with expanded menus), as different activities need different types of stretch as well as different amounts of stretch.
Silk and wool can be good for suit pants as can other top formal-looking stretch fabrics can. Price should also be a consideration as some materials may cost more per yard than others.
This is a category that would have to be restricted to general fabric categories simply because the subcategories may be too numerous to list here. The cotton general category has more than a few good options and it will depend on how you want to look and feel when you are inside those materials which one you will select.
Polyester is the same way as it can be spun into several weight levels and feel good when you put the garments on. Many knits come in both fibers which would provide you with both a lightweight as well as plenty of stretch for most activities.
Rayon and viscose may be your two best lightweight candidates from the in-between fabric category. They are very sheer at times and can be blended with stretch fibers to give them a little better drape as well as movement.
Silks are also good as is chiffon when they are blended with stretch fibers as well.
We will leave commercial and industrial uses out of this discussion as those materials are rarely turned into any household or daily fashion wear. When it comes to clothing items there are a few good candidates for this title.
Nylon is good but it is not the stretchiest fabric you can work with. Rubber is probably the best but it is not good for daily wear clothing. It is a material that has limited applications because it is so thick and when you make it thinner it has a tendency to snap on you.
Just pull a thin rubber band and see how far you get before it weakens and snaps. Thick rubber bands do not have a lot of stretch but they are strong. For practical everyday use and athletic activities, you would be looking at spandex, elastane, and lycra.
Fortunately, those names all refer to the same material. Which one is used the most will depend on the country you live in. But for lots of stretch, this material is probably the one that stretches the most.
The best that can be said of this material is that it has limited applications but it is very soft. The fibers would be similar to the ones you find in microfiber fabrics and be smaller creating that soft texture.
The main application for this material is lingerie. When you want to have extra soft material next to your skin this is the fabric to choose. Plus, it stretches so when you move it moves to keep you comfortable all day long.
The material is made with a 4-way stretch making sure you are never uncomfortable when you wear this line of clothing. The material does come in a variety of colors, is not transparent, and should not unravel on you.
This is a very fluid fabric that should have you wondering if you have any underwear on. It is not hard to put your outer layers over this material as clothing will glide over it and yet the fabric does not feel or act slippery.
If you are curious about this material, it is often sold by the half yard and in 58-inch widths. It may be a great material to consider when you are thinking of making your own intimate clothing items.
The one stitch you should avoid is the straight stitch. While it is a very good, strong stitch for most circumstances, it doesn't stretch very well and doesn't have the strength to work with stretch materials.
The straight stitch option you need to choose is the triple straight stitch. This pattern is made for stretch fabrics and has both the strength and stretch to keep your clothing items together. This stitch pattern is great for more form-hugging fabrics.
Another good stitch to use would be the popular zig-zag pattern. It's the go-to stretch option when your machine doesn't have a triple straight stitch pattern.
Then there is also the 3 step zig zag which helps relieve the tunneling effect the regular zig-zag stitch creates in lightweight fabrics. Its design helps to prevent side-to-side pulling and creates a flatter stitch pattern.
Also, there is the lightning bolt stitch pattern which works well with knit fabrics. This option helps reduce puckering and tunneling as well. Honorable mentions are the honeycomb, the overlock or overedge stitch, the feather, and the top stitch options.
Pick your favorite or find one that is the easiest for you to do while creating a very strong bond between fabric pieces.
While you do not have as many needle options as you do stitch options for stretch fabrics, you do get some choice in which needle is good to use. The right needle makes any sewing project, no matter the fabric, easier to do.
The first choice you have will be universal. This option provides you with the most flexibility and may cut down on the number of times you have to change the needle in your sewing machine.
Your second choice would be the stretch needle and its smaller more rounded point makes it an ideal choice when you are working with very elastic fabrics. Those materials are spandex and scuba fabric.
The third and last choice would be the ballpoint needle. If you are not working with the aforementioned spandex or scuba materials, then this is the preferred or recommended choice.
The good news is that you can find all three of these types of needles just about anywhere you shop for sewing accessories. Amazon is a good place as are all your locally owned fabric stores, mall department outlets, and the big box stores that are in almost every city in the nation.
It may surprise you that some people think that knit fabrics shrink more than woven ones do. It is a great possibility especially if you use the wrong water temperatures and dryer heat.
Those conditions would apply to nylon as well. Since it can stretch it may shrink when laundered under the wrong conditions. It may melt on you as well and deform so you can’t fix it or use this fabric again.
Spandex is not known to shrink unless it is blended in with natural or other fibers that tend to shrink when washed incorrectly. Since lycra and elastane are also spandex that means that those fabrics under those names will react the same way as spandex does.
Synthetic fibers were constructed to resist shrinking. So if your stretch fabric is blended with synthetic fibers, chances are you won’t see much shrinkage if any at all. That is why you do not usually see clothing made with a blend of natural and synthetic fibers shrink.
The synthetic ones hold the natural fibers in place. We wrote a long article on fabrics that shrink which discusses this issue as well. To read it just click fabrics that shrink.
The good news is that all those products you bought to stop the material from fraying won’t be needed when you work with the most stretch and knit fabrics. We say most because there always seems to be an exception to the rule somewhere.
One of those exceptions is when the stretch material or knit fabric is loosely woven or knitted together. Generally, you do not need to finish the edges of stretch fabrics after cutting. Once you are done with your cutter, you move on to the next step in your sewing project.
The lightweight knits you like to work on may curl at the edges on you but some people consider that a cute touch and do not worry about the curls. When you work on the edges of the stretch material, your choice is to stitch and cut the excess or stitch and leave it. There is no stress involved here as neither choices are wrong.
As you can see there are a lot of stretch fabrics in the world. That means that you get to be creative with your sewing projects. Not only do you have a large supply of stretch materials, but they also come in a wide assortment of colors and designs.
You have a lot of flexibility. Depending on your project a lot of stretch fabric options so that you can make two or three of the same garment but with different stretch materials.