What is Lycra?
Lycra is a brand name for elastane, a synthetic fiber known for its exceptional elasticity. Known for its stretchiness and durability, Lycra is a popular fabric for clothing, accessories and homewares where a snug fit is required.
As such a versatile fabric, understanding how to work with Lycra is a great skill to have under your belt. However, with its stretchy, smooth, and often slippery texture, sewing with Lycra can be a challenge. In this guide we’ve provided 10 tips for sewing with Lycra to give you the best possible chance of mastering your Lycra-based sewing projects.
Popular applications for Lycra
Lycra can be used for all sorts of sewing projects including DIY fashion, accessories and homewares. Lycra is known for its stretch, but it is also durable, moisture resistant, quick-drying, and antibacterial, making it a great option for things like athleticwear, swimwear, undergarments, and fitted outfits like bodycon dresses and fitted co-ords. Other ideas include scrunchies, furniture covers, cushions covers, fitted sheets, small bags, and plenty more.
Lycra is also used for more industrial applications such as car seat covers – with hundreds of colours and patterns out there, this is a great way to add some personality to your car while protecting your seats from damage.
Top tips for sewing with Lycra
Choose the appropriate needle
When sewing with Lycra fabrics, it is important to choose the right needle. A sharp stretch needle will help to prevent fabric damage and skipped stitches. Stretch needles are also typically coated in order to help them easily glide through the fabric.
Use a walking foot when sewing
Helping to feed the fabric evenly through the machine, a walking foot is a great way to help you control Lycra fabric as it is being sewn. Lycra fabrics can be prone to stretching and bunching, so giving yourself the best chance of controlling the fabric is key.
Use a serger machine
A serger is a type of sewing machine that helps to finish the edges of fabric while also preventing stretching and fraying. When sewing with Lycra fabrics, a serger can be a helpful tool to create professional-looking, smooth seams.
Try using as few pins as possible
Lycra fabrics can be easily damaged by pins, so it is important to use them sparingly. If possible, try to use pattern weights or wonder clips instead of pins when working with these fabrics. If pins must be used, try to be conscious of where the pin holes may appear on the garment once it is finished and avoid these areas.
Take extra care when pressing the fabric
Lycra fabrics can be easily damaged by heat, so it is important to be careful when pressing them. Always use a press cloth and avoid using steam when pressing Lycra fabrics.
Only wash in cold water and air dry
While high-quality Lycra does not need to be washed before sewing, many people prefer to wash their fabric before use, especially when making clothing. If you are pre-washing, ensure you wash on a delicate cycle in cold water and leave the fabric to air dry.
Use a stretch stitch
When sewing with Lycra fabrics, it is important to use a stretch stitch to allow the fabric to stretch without breaking the thread. A zigzag stitch or a stretch stitch are both good choices for sewing with these fabrics.
Don’t overstretch the fabric when cutting
When cutting Lycra fabrics, it is important not to overstretch them, as this can cause them to tear or fray. Always cut straight lines using sharp fabric scissors and avoid stretching the fabric more than necessary.
Use a smaller stitch length
When sewing with Lycra fabrics, it is best to use a smaller stitch length than you would for other fabrics. A smaller stitch will help to prevent the fabric from stretching or tearing.
Finish your seams
When sewing with Lycra fabrics, you should always finish your seams to prevent them from unravelling or fraying. A serger is a great choice for finishing seams, but you can also use pinking shears or seam binding tape.
Time to get creative with Lycra
All in all, Lycra is a great fabric to have in your sewing stash. It’s super versatile, and with the right tools and care, can be a joy to work with. No matter where your sewing projects take you, be sure to explore all that Lycra has to offer for some fun and inspired creations.