How to calculate fabric stretch

fabric stretch how to sewing resources

When starting sew stretch projects, or using stretch fabrics, you may begin to notice patterns calling for fabrics with a certain amount of stretch or a minimum stretch requirement on the envelope. In all cases it is important to assess the stretch of your fabric across the length and width. This guide has been designed to help you do this, so that your garments fit and hang on the body as they are supposed to!

Assessing fabric stretch across the grain - width

Fold your fabric square with the selvage, away from the cut edge (not parallel to the cut edge). Hold the fold of the fabric over the ruler printed on the back of your pattern envelope. Stretch the fold to reach the end of the ruler, where the arrow finishes. If it reaches fairly easily, without becoming see through, then it has enough stretch across the grain.

Assessing fabric stretch across the grain - length

Fold your fabric parallel with the selvage, away from the cut edge. Hold the fold of the fabric over the ruler printed on your pattern packet. Stretch the fold to reach the end of the ruler, where the arrow finishes. If it reaches fairly easily, without becoming see through, then it has enough stretch across the grain.

Measuring fabric stretch using a metric ruler

This method is useful if you don't have the pattern envelope with you, if you are given a % stretch to work with or are drafting your own stretch garments.

Hold the fabric as before, with fingers at 0cm and 10cm on your ruler. Stretch until you feel resistance from the fabric. Record the number this reached on your ruler. You will then use this to work out your stretch - for example;

If your fabric reaches to 16cm, it means you have 60% stretch

If it reaches 12cm, it means you have 20% stretch

These methods are a great way of checking if your fabric is too stretchy or won't stretch enough for your chosen garment.

Remember to always check the stretch of your fabric, as it will drastically alter the way the garment fits if it is not appropriate for your project!

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