Where Do You Stand On Stretch?

Thread Tracing

I’m making a (pink!) toile of my next make, using careful thread tracing and everything. The above is a photo of the midriff sections pinned together at the thread traced seam lines, waiting to be sewn together. It’s a long time since I sewed with this level of care (not since my Gertie Bombshell Dress) but it’s important not to sink back into comfort zones, I feel.

I’m following Craftsy’s Susan Khalje Couture Dress course. It’s absolutely brilliant. Even if you have no intention of making a dress to this level right now, I recommend having it on hand to watch on the sofa.

Susan makes an interesting comment as she’s teaching – that we’re all so used to wearing stretch fabrics that we sometimes find dresses in woven fabrics a bit constrictive. I agree! I have to be in the right mood to wear one of my wool or cotton dresses. Sometimes, I just want to slouch in stretchy leggings. Have you found the same?

I’m a huge fan of Craftsy. They bring expert teaching to every household at a really affordable price point. Hmmmm. Pay hundreds of pounds to schelp across town after work for an evening class, or have expert classes on hand at home? The only down side, for my money, is the lack of real life engagement with other learners.

Have you seen that Sunni of A Fashionable Stitch now has her own FREE zip class on Craftsy? This is the perfect opportunity to try Craftsy for yourself, for naught.

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31 Responses to Where Do You Stand On Stretch?

  1. Jacq C says:

    I love the Craftsy courses, it’s wonderful to be able to access them any time and just keep going over things you’re unsure of. I tried a few of the free ones, to see if the format worked for me, and have signed up for the fitting class to help with my Sewlution – this is the extent of my progress btw! 🙂

  2. Sam says:

    I have the Couture Dress class all waiting for me to start it. I’m not a huge fan of the pattern used, which is why I’ve stalled on it, but I suppose I should watch anyway and put the lessons to use on other garments. I’ve just “bought” Sunni’s zip class, I do definitely need help with my invisible zip insertion.

  3. sewbusylizzy says:

    I love stretch at home but when out and about I will almost always choose wovens. I actually like the feel of a firm garment (not digging into my waist though). I feel well dressed & neat. I’m a bit of a ‘deportment’ fiend, product of rigid boarding school rules when I could not eat breakfast without a white ribbon over my hair elastic!

    • Ooh, love the story of the hair elastic needing to be covered! We had ribbons on our plaits, end of story (my Mum had this fabulous way of weaving the ribbon into the plaits so she could turn up the ends). But when I was doing a lot more singing, I agree that a bit of firmness gave good feedback as to diaphragmatic tension. There’s a good argument for everything.

  4. I love stretch. I really like the stretch wovens, because it gives you much of the firmness and the ability to look tailored with a bit of give to allow the Friday night curry to settle peacefully.

  5. makesphere says:

    Karen you could not have posted this at a better time! I’ve been thinking over the last few days I want to practice my zip insertion and then you post this! Thanks!
    As for stretch- most of the stuff I make is with woven fabric so I’m kind of used to it but there are definitely days when I just want to kick back in some jersey.

  6. I’m firmly on the side of stretch, though that might be a stretch woven (like a bengaline for trousers or something of that nature) but it’s mostly because I like the comfort AND, in my younger days, I got truly fed up with constantly having to mend sleeves that tore every time I did anything energetic (you might say, and you’d probably be right, that the blouse was too small but I’m narrow through the shoulders so, like much of life, compromise saw me with something that fitted one dimension nicely but not another). Nowadays, I’m still a lover of stretch fabrics because of work (I’m often crawling about under desks and the like to chase leads and plug things in and I’d fear splitting a firm woven fabric). Do I sound lazy? Yeah, I probably am!

  7. shivani says:

    I love Craftsy! I’ve watched most of Susan K’s couture class (though I haven’t been sewning along – but so many useful tips!), and most recently tried out Peter Reinhart’s Pizza making class (fab and free!). Completely agree about being so used to stretch. I wear stretch fabric all through the colder months, wovens in warmer, and always find the transition gets some getting used to!

  8. Ashley0107 says:

    I prefer to sew with woven, but I prefer to wear stretch when at home. I prefer jeans to have some stretch to them, much comfier! Stretch is definitely a comfort thing for me.

  9. Marie says:

    I hear ya on the stretchy/comfy clothing Karen! It’s so hard to wear anything vaguely restrictive when you know you can put some jersey on instead! But saying that, woven clothes do tend to suit me better and give me a better shape…so I do try! I love Craftsy too…I bought a couple a ‘classes’ a while back that I’m itching to get stuck into and there’s tons more I want to invest in too. It’s fab learning at your own pace and in the comfort of your own home, but yes, it’s sad that you miss out on the human interaction! But that’s what meet-ups are for right!?! Haha!

  10. joellestlaurent says:

    I am totally addicted to craftsy classes! Susan’s is also one of the best I’ve taken an there is so much information in there, even without sewing along. Some craftsy classes I liked less, mostly because of the instructor… They are all lovely but some are more cheerful than others 🙂 they are always highly qualified though. And I cannot wait to come home and start watching Sunni!

  11. caffybundana says:

    I love the Crafty classes! I have made the Gerties Bombshell, such pleasure and a steep yet gratifying learning curve.

    I must admit though… all couture is off at the moment whilst I am pregnant and making stretch and comfort clothing like there is no tomorrow!

    Lots of love

    Caffy Bundana
    @ http://www.bundana.blogspot.ie

  12. Sheree says:

    I just wanted to add my say about the couture dress course. I really liked the way Susan presents the course. I picked up loads of tips and could listen to her all day. Confession – I never made the dress though – just watched the videos. One day I will get round to it (???)

  13. seaswift says:

    The Couture Dress course completely revolutionised the way I approach sewing. It’s fantastic.

  14. I’ve gotta check out the Susan Khalje course. The Linda Maynard fitting class is wonderful and I am in love with the whole Craftsy platform and idea. Also looking forward to watching Sunni’s new free zipper series.

    I am totally schizophrenic when it comes to stretch–some days I love it and want to make everything out of knits, other days I think that wovens suit me so much better that I should only ever sew with them. But experience would indicate that both have their place!

    • Helen says:

      I’m having a complete nightmare with fitting at the moment. Thinking of taking a class, but the Linda Maynard crafty course might be a good starting point – glad you think it’s worth it!

  15. Rachel says:

    I’ve enjoyed some Craftsy classes lately, too. In fact, one I just took was “Sewing with Knits!” I loved it! I’ve found that sewing knits is actually very quick and easy! Plus no fitting! Plus so comfortable to wear! I’ve made a lot of fairly fast, very wearable garments… BUT it’s making me more hesitant to start a more complex woven garment, like a dress. Why should I spend more time sewing and fitting a woven garment that may not come out well or may not fit into my wardrobe and end up sitting in my closet, when I could whip up and easy knit piece I know will come out well, fit, and be something I’ll wear all the time? I need to get over that fear and take the risk to making something potentially amazing!

  16. PoldaPop says:

    Hey, I’m working through the Couture Dress class right now, too! I’m using it to make my Elisalex dress extra special. And I’m currently trying to figure out how to underline it. My fashion fabric is a stretch cotton sateen (I didn’t really want the stretch, but I fell in love with the print) and I’m worried that underlining it in a cotton batiste won’t work (stretch + non-stretch = hot mess?). If any of your readers have advice on this, I’d love to hear it. I’ll also post a question on the course. I generally love both kinds (stretch fabric and woven) when it comes to fabric. Probably help me spend less if I only loved one . . .

    • I am very excited on your behalf! An underlined Elisalex dress in cotton sateen is going to look SUPERB. I wouldn’t get too hung up on the stretch – you’re not using it in the fitting, are you? You’re not using any negative ease ie getting the fabric to stretch across your body. It’s just a by-product of the fabric you happen to have chosen to work with. (Most cotton sateens seem to have stretch.) I haven’t got to that stage yet, but why are you underlining in cotton batiste as opposed to silk organza? That’s not a loaded question, just curious!

      • Sheree says:

        I know the question is not directed to me, but I think the reason is that you can’t wash silk organza, so if you want a dress that is washable it is best to use an alternative.

    • I had a similar issue, so for the bodice of the dress I am currently doing, I cut the lining on the bias to give it that little bit of ‘possible’ stretch to go with the stretch of the main fabric. In hindsight though the dress is not skin tight, it has maybe an inch of ease, so I am not sure it was actually necessary. I am still new at this whole sewing thing 🙂

  17. Morgan says:

    I guess I’m the odd one out. I detest stretch in most of my clothing, and find it exceptionally frustrating how hard it is to find a pair of jeans that don’t have spandex in them.

    • Jen (NY) says:

      I agree on the jeans. Spandex tends to do bad things to the rear view and non-stretch denim ages better.

  18. gingermakes says:

    Interesting post! I’m not really a huge fan of stretch fabric for dresses or pants– I feel like they don’t wear very well, and I feel sloppy in knit dresses, so rarely/never wear them. But I can see how many people might not be used to the feeling of wearing clothes without give.

  19. EmSewCrazy says:

    I like both! I’ve realized I like no stretch in my trousers so they will stay up but that does mean I need to make some movements more carefully or I will be sewing buttons back on.
    Susan was correct in her assessment that we are not used to the firmness of wovens anymore.

  20. silvia says:

    I must say I love a knit dress and am slowly taping together the new Maria Denmark C-cup dress pattern. I like the dress but HATE taping (why I don’t know it’s not hard). I wear alot of knits, but with the advent of stretch wovens I must admit a preference for stretch woven pants. Knit pants to me are just sweats by another name – comfy though.

    Am eagerly waiting to see how your couture dress is coming, that’s one class I’ve been eying and not yet purchased.

  21. Michelle says:

    I completely find myself drawn towards garments with a bit of stretch, yet I’m terrified to sew with stretch, specifically knit, fabrics. 🙁 I’ve made using them seem like an impossible conquest…

    Looking forward to more progress on your couture dress and thoughts on your Craftsy course.

  22. SKP says:

    I prefer woven fabrics and no stretch. It started when I was getting most of my clothes secondhand – woven fabrics hold up better over time, so the knit tops and bottoms in the thrift stores tended to be worn-out and funny-smelling. Now I’m used to it, and when I don’t want to be constricted I usually just wear something that fits looser through the abdomen.

  23. Ahh my dresses made so far are cotton/linen.. none in stretch as yet:)
    Maybe when I try, I will discover they are much easier to fit and never go back to cotton? haha

  24. Paola says:

    I have a theory about stretch fabrics. Over the last 20 years, the western world has seen a rise in overweightness, at the same time as stretch knits and wovens have been increasingly used in ready to wear. My theory is that as more of us wear stretch fabrics we aren’t getting clues from our clothes that our girth is expanding. It’s far easier to ignore what our clothes used to tell us. Just a theory!

  25. Karen says:

    I much prefer wovens over stretch fabrics, especially for non-casual apparel. I love the variations in weaves and prints are much more “precise” in woven fabric. About Susan Khalje’s course – you are so right. It is brilliant and has me hooked on couture sewing techniques.

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