3 tricks for sewing stretch fabrics (& avoiding uneven skirt hem!)

3 Tricks for sewing stretch fabrics and avoiding uneven skirt hem

Want to make this lovely grey skirt? Learn here!


For making dance costumes, stretch fabric is essential – it helps us create fitted costumes and gives the flexibility we need for when we move around and dance in it. 🙂


So I have a lot of tutorials where you use stretch fabrics – like this mermaid skirt, Goddess Skirt, and Aurora Convertible Skirt –  and from time to time I hear people struggle with sewing pieces of stretch fabric together, especially for making skirts.


Don’t worry, I was on the same boat several years ago. I would cut my skirt panels according to the pattern, but when I sew them together, the skirt wasn’t even…! 


Since then, I learned a few tricks, and have made lots of stretch skirts. 


So in this post, I’ll share with you 3 tricks that dramatically improved my sewing experience with stretch fabrics. Let’s get started!



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3 Tricks for Sewing Stretch Fabrics & Avoiding Uneven Skirt Hem


1. Use stretch needles


stretch needles


First and foremost, equip your sewing machine with a fresh, stretch needle. These needles look the same as universal needles, but their tips are made more round to work better with stretch fibers. If your machine skips stitches, change to a fresh stretch needle.


You can purchase above stretch needles here (affiliate).


2. Add notches


Notches are little snips you make within the seam allowance of your panel.


These indicate where to match up adjacent panels. In my skirt courses, I always talk about adding notches, but if your pattern or instructions don’t come with notches, you can add your own. You can add them to an obvious spot like a front centre of a waistband and so on, but for long skirt panels, I usually add about every 8in (20cm) or so, or if you want more, you can add more.


Create notches for sewing stretch fabrics


Key is consistency. Make sure to add notches where the adjacent panels match up, and at your sewing machine, you can see how the panels should align even if your pins slip.


In fact, once you get used to using notches, you don’t have to use as many pins or any pins at all. If you’re curious about sewing without pins, you can see more in my Belly Dance Costume Workshop.


How to make notches for sewing stretch fabrics


These notches show you exactly where the panels align before you get to the end and realize you’ve got uneven panels.


3. Fingertip placement


Another trick that helps at the sewing machine is your fingertip placement. Many people like to put their right hand in front of the needle and left hand holding the fabric behind the needle, but this doesn’t help you feed the fabric through the machine properly. 🙁


Instead, sandwich your panels, preferably at the next notch with the few fingertips of your right hand, so that the layers are together until the next notch. And hold down the layers with the fingertips of your left hand, in front of the needle. No need to hold down hard or stretch the fabric. Just enough to have a better control of the panels going through the machine and prevent the layers from going at different speed.


Finger placement for sewing stretch fabric with sewing machine


Remove your left fingertips as you get close to the needle, and once your right hand gets close to the needle, find the next notch. Sandwich with right finger tips, hold down with left fingertips. And keep going.


These tricks helped me make friends with stretch fabrics. Try these 3 tricks and you will have a much easier time sewing stretch fabrics.


How to sew stretch fabric with a sewing machine


Hope you found these tips useful, and if you did, please share this video with your crafty friends, and if you want to learn more about making belly dance costumes, join my free course Belly Dance Costume Making 101 here! 😀

Thanks for reading, and keep sparkling!


P.S. Pin this image for a reminder for your future projects 😉

3 tricks for sewing stretch fabrics and avoiding uneven skirt hem


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  4 comments for “3 tricks for sewing stretch fabrics (& avoiding uneven skirt hem!)

  1. Mary Hohman
    May 28, 2017 at 6:26 pm

    does a walking foot help with stretch fabric?

    • Mao
      May 29, 2017 at 11:23 am

      I’ve read in many places that a walking foot helps with stretch fabric, because it prevents the fabric from stretching while you sew. I’ve never tried it personally, but if you get wavy seams when you sew stretch fabric, it may be worth a try 🙂

  2. Cori
    June 13, 2017 at 10:20 am

    Do you use a regular zigzag stitch or a special stitch for stretch fabrics?

    • Mao
      June 13, 2017 at 10:00 pm

      Hi Cori! You can use a regular zigzag stitch 🙂 But your sewing machine may have more stretch stitch options – I recommend you check out the instruction manual 😉

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