Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Working With Stretch Fabric - Fitting Pieces of Different Sizes Together


This post is in response to a question on Facebook (Claire - I hope this is helpful!?)

How do you get a smooth seam with two different sized pieces of stretch fabric?

This is an approach you would use for something like a crew neck (which is smaller than the hole to make it sit flat) or other banded neckline. It is also useful for fitting other parts of the garment together where there is *a bit* of stretch.

Here I am fitting a waistband to a skirt. They're both quite strange shapes - I am trying a new design here! The waistband is slightly smaller than the skirt, because I would like a snug fit around the waist.

The method you would use on a woven fabric would be to gather the skirt to fit the waistband. And you can do that. But here's what I do.

I've quartered them and pinned vertically. - I find the quarter marks by folding in half, and then in half again.

I then pin together the quarter marks and the edges. You can see here that they are close, but not an exact fit.

Then I sew. As I sew, I put the shorter length on the top, and pull it out just enough to match up with the lower layer. There are three pieces here because my waistband is double thickness.
I would like to remark at this point that a) it is difficult to do this while taking a photo with your left hand, and b) please excuse the mess behind the machine.

When it is all finished, it looks like this: (From above and the side).

Which is perfectly acceptable for what I'm doing.

I think there is a limit to how much extra fabric you can get in here though - And where. On a neckline you can have a lot of pull, but on something like a sleeve cuff, I wouldn't want the tension.
Here's another example.

Here the larger size is twice as long as the shorter size.

Which means a lot of looseness.
And a lot more pulling - in this case causing a bit of a roll.
The tension is obvious in the finished seam.

I wouldn't be happy with that. So in a case like that, I would revert to a traditional gather.

I hope this has been useful!


  1. Zoe I had a student recently do a different interesting technique we saw on a dress. She used some clear elastic and overlocked it on whilst stitching the top to the gathered skirt piece in the dress design. This has given an even gather and has supported the seam so it wont stretch weird or drop. A bit tricky but nice result.

    1. I have used clear elastic on a side seam gather for support and it worked a treat. Haven't tried it on a horizontal seam yet - I think I will have to do that now. Thanks!

  2. Definitely useful. What stitch are you using on your machine? I have some knit tops in the pipline and would use this method for the crew neck.

    1. I swear by the triple stitch (goes forward and back), although others go for zigzag. For the crew neck, you join the band first (I guess that's obvious) and I usually end up with 8 pins.

    2. Thanks. I've used none of these stitches in all my time of sewing, just straight stich, zig zag and buttonhole and very occasionally a blind hem stitch when I'm doing curtain hems!

  3. Hello! Thanks for your kind comments on the Garment District trip! I'll be posting the 'take away" most likely this weekend. It was a full weekend indeed. The very next day, had a class where I installed my very first zipper, put in my first interfacing, and did a reversible bag :-)

    Thank YOU for writing about knits. I purchased some on sale over the summer so I'll need all the help I can get! :-)

    1. My pleasure. If you have anything else you're not sure on, please let me know - I'm still figuring out what to write about!