How to work with Strechy Fabric?
December 1, 2008 3:04 PM   Subscribe

For a friend: What kind of thread do you use to hem stretchy pants? Any pointers on this would help.

My friend is a glorious 5-foot 1-inch tall, and has to hem her jeans. Are there special sewing skills/materials/tools that go along with hemming/sewing stretchy fabric?
posted by cmchap to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You want to use a longer stitch length than normal. But since the hem of the pants is unlikely to stretch that much, I wouldn't worry too much about it.
posted by sulaine at 3:14 PM on December 1, 2008

It depends- does the hem need to stretch to fit over her foot because they are super skin tight jeans? If not, use a catchstitch (shown at the bottom of the page). It has a bit of give and works well for all types of hems. If they really do need to stretch, I would probably use a machine stretch stitch like zigzag or blind hem. If that's not possible, fold a deep cuff to the inside, iron, and tack at the two seams.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:34 PM on December 1, 2008

She could try using fusible web instead of sewing.
posted by amyms at 3:57 PM on December 1, 2008

You use regular thread, but you use a zig-zag stitch for stretchy fabrics.

That said, I have to hem my jeans all the time, and even though most of them are stretchy denim, they're not really stretchy enough to justify the zig-zag stitch. What I do is cut off the extra fabric, and then use golden-coloured thread to mimic the original hemming of the jeans. In this case, I just use a plain old straight stitch, maybe a bit longer and looser than usual. (Personally, I think jeans look weird when someone hems them up with an invisible hem. It's just not how they'd ever be sold in the store.)

If she's hemming on a sewing machine, she should use a denim needle (I often don't, but do so at your own risk) to prevent it breaking.
posted by peggynature at 3:59 PM on December 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Ideally you'd use a serger and a cover stitch. The problem with doing this on an ordinary sewing machine with a wide zig-zag stitch is that the stitch will be visible on the outside of the leg. You can do this by hand with a stitch that takes a short visible straight stitch in the leg and then a long zig-zag to catch the edge but it'll take a while.

[On preview, peggynature's answer makes good points - jeans should have an obvious hem or they'll look pretty '70s!]
posted by nicwolff at 4:10 PM on December 1, 2008

If I'm sewing something stretchy, I often use wooly nylon or a triple stitch, but those don't really apply to hemming jeans, even stretch denim.

What you do want for denim, though, is YLI topstitching thread (that's just a random link, I don't recommend that particular site). It's bulkier and available in jean-like colours so you can match the original threads on the jeans.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:31 PM on December 1, 2008

Best answer: I've used this awesome tutorial to maintain the original hem on jeans. It really works.
posted by cucumberfresh at 5:34 PM on December 1, 2008

I do it the way cucumberfresh recommends. It works well for stretch denim, too. (Stretchier fabrics, like yoga pants, you'll want to do with a serger or a zigzag stitch on a regular machine.)
posted by AV at 6:06 PM on December 1, 2008

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