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  • Writer's pictureSew Retro

Copy of A guide to matching stripes and sewing stretch fabric.

Hands up if you love a matching stripe ! Me too !! Is so satisfying to check your seam and find perfectly matching stripes and SO ANNOYING if they do not match. Scroll down for the tried and tested tips to get that perfect match. Find out everything you need to know when sewing stretch fabric, and a seven step guide to getting a flat fitting neckband, using stretch fabric or a rib knit.

Preparing the fabric to cut

1. When you fold your fabric in half and lay it out ready to cut, you want to check that the stripes on the top layer are exactly on top of the stripes on the bottom layer.

2. Insert a pin along the top edge of one stripe, then turn the fabric over and check that, on the bottom layer of fabric, the pin is positioned along the top edge of the same stripe. If it is not, reposition it. Repeat on the selvedge edge every 5-7cm.

3. When you pin the front bodice pattern piece to the fabric, line up the bottom corner of the side seam with the top or bottom of a stripe.

When it comes to pinning the back bodice pattern piece to the fabric, line up the bottom corner, with similar points in the stripe sequence.

You can try and match the underarm seam on the sleeve in the same manner.

4. When you have pinned on your pattern pieces, double check that the stripes on the bottom layer of fabric are still sitting exactly underneath the stripes on the top layer. Insert some pins through a few stripes and check they emerge at the same position on the underside of the folded fabric, just like you did when laying out the fabric. Now you are ready to cut out.

Laying the front and back pattern on your fabric.

4. When you join the shoulders and the side seams, repeat the pining of the stripes together as you did with the cutting out. Check the pins are coming out in the same place in the stripe sequence on both the front and back bodice. Make sure the pins are crossing the stitching line, 1.5cm or the seam allowance given on your pattern.


5. Whether you are planning to sew the garment together on a regular sewing machine or an overlocker, it is a good idea to tack first on the areas where you want the stripes to match.

I do not have a tacking stitch on my sewing machine but find it very quick to tack by hand.

If you can tack on your sewing machine, thread your sewing machine in a contrast colour and set the stitch length to 4mm.

Tack stitch just within the seam allowance, i.e., 1.2cm from the raw edges When you are happy with the tacking (hand or machine).

Thread your machine with matching thread, reset the sewing machine to the correct stitch for sewing jersey and sew! Pull out your tacking stitches with a seam ripper.

Tips for cutting stretch fabric.

1. It is important when cutting jersey fabric not to accidently stretch it. Lay it flat on the table, either single or double layered depending on your pattern, and place your pattern pieces on it.

2. Make sure the fabric does not hang over the side of your table as this will stretch it out of shape. If you do not have enough table space to cut in on go. Lay and pin all the pieces that will fit, roll the fabric with the pattern on, then continue to lay on the remaining patterns pieces on the flat fabric on the table. Cut out those pieces, unroll and cut the remaining pattern pieces. I do not advise to pin and cut the pattern pieces “on the go” just in case you run out of fabric, its best to pin every pattern piece on then cut.

3. You can use a ballpoint or stretch needle to sew jersey. Before you start sewing test your fabric with the stitch, needle, and thread you are going to use, I find I do not always need to change the needle and can achieve a good professional finish with my normal needle.

A ballpoint needle has a round tip and pushes the fibres away when sewing rather than piercing through them and tearing them. The size of the needle depends on the type of jersey, a size 75/11 and 80/12 for light to medium weight knits and 90/14 for heavier fabrics.

4. No special thread is needed, normal polyester thread sews perfectly on knit fabrics.

5. If your sewing machine does not have a stretch stitch, you can use the zigzag stitch and adjust the width and length. Test your stitches on a scrap of your fabric first and pull the stitches and fabric if the stitches do not snap, that is the stitch length and width to use.

example of a small stretchy zig zag stitch

example of a stretch stitch on a singer sewing machine

I would not recommend sewing stretch fabrics with a normal straight stitch as it does not have any ‘give’ in it and when you stretch your garment the thread might snap.

6. Gently guide your fabric when stitching through the layers, do not pull from the back or hold on to the fabric as this will result in puckering and the seams will look messy. If you can adjust the presser foot pressure on your sewing machine, I suggest reducing the pressure slightly which also helps reduce puckering.

7. Most patterns suggest stabilising for your shoulder seams, this is an important step. Measure the shoulder seams from the pattern, then cut the tape. Woven or clear plastic tape exactly to that length, follow your patterns instructions for sewing the shoulder seam with the tape.

Do not sew the tape with out measuring and cutting first, the point of using the tape is to stop the shoulders stretching, if you just unroll the tape and sew, you may accidently stretch the shoulder seam.

You can also use iron-on seam tape which prevents seams from stretching out of place during wear. And if you do not have any of those on hand, ordinary strips of thin cotton fabric or iron on interfacing cut to size will do the job.

8.Most jersey fabrics do not fray so you don’t need to finish your seams with a overlocker or zig zag stitch. If you still want to give your garment a more completed look you can use a three-step zigzag. Zigzag stitches are flexible and stretch with the fabric.

Tips of getting a flat and even neckline with jersey or rib fabric

1. Once the band is sewn into a circle, press the seam allowances open, and then fold the neckband in half lengthwise with the right side of the fabric on the outside.

Then you will want to quarter your neckband, in other words, we will divide the neckband into four equal parts and mark those divisions. First lay the neckband flat with the seam on one end. Insert a pin at the other end. The seam marks your centre back. The pin is your centre front.

Then refold your neckband and insert pins marking 4 equal parts of the neck band.

2. Repeat this process on the tee-shirt.

3. With the right side of your tee shirt facing up, lay the right side of the neck band onto the right side of the tee-shirt.

4. Match the 4 pins and use a few more pins in between to hold the neckband to the tee-shirt. The shirt will be larger than the neckband, so it will not lie flat.

5. Check that you are on the correct stitch on your sewing machine and start sewing.

6. I always start near the back. Once you have started sewing and are on track with the seam allowance, take the first pin in front of you out and gently stretch the neckband making it fit until you reach the next pin.

7. Repeat until you are back to your starting point.

Rib knit collar attached to a double gauge top using the 7 step method.

Keep checking that you have all three layers of fabric lined up and then sew until you reach the pin. Take your time and keep checking you have all 3 layers, (it’s very easy for a layer to slip) and you are not over stretching the neckband.

The goal is to only stretch the band, not the shirt.

Give your neckband a good steam with the iron, pressing the seam allowances down toward the shirt, then machine stitch close to the neck band but on the tee- shirt catching down the seam allowance from the neck band.

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