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Sewing Spandex Tips

Spandex is a great option in you’re in the mood to sew your own swimsuit, or are constructing dance costumes or activewear. But the stretchiness that makes spandex so perfect for these types of garments is also what makes it tricky to work with. Like any other knit fabric, spandex is more manageable if you own a serger.

However, it’s still possible to sew spandex on a regular sewing machine. Scroll down to discover a few helpful sewing spandex tips!

sewing spandex

Note: You might sometimes see spandex and Lycra used interchangeably. Lycra is a brand name for spandex manufactured by DuPont, so not all spandex is Lycra. Like all other fabrics, the quality will vary by manufacturer, so keep that in mind as you shop for fabric.

Helpful tips for sewing spandex

  • No matter where the grainline is, you’ll want to cut the pattern so that the greatest amount of stretch is going around your body.
  • As you pin, keep all pins inside the seam allowance to avoid creating holes in the fabric.
  • Use a new needle, and make sure it’s ballpoint, as they work a lot better for sewing knits. If it’s an option for your machine, consider using a stretch needle, which will help prevent skipped stitches while you are working with the spandex.
  • As always, check your stitch length and tension on a fabric scrap first. You may need to make adjustments to keep the stitches from becoming puckered. Also experiment with a narrow zig-zag stitch versus a straight stitch. Stretch your test scrap to see if the stitches break. If they do, you’ll want to play around with your tension and stitch length to get the right amount of stretchiness in your seams. This is one of the most important sewing spandex tips! It will save you a lot of frustration later when your seams are busting open.
  • Use paper as a stabilizer. Tissue paper (save your scraps when you cut out the pattern!) or even wax paper from the kitchen will help. Sandwich the fabric between the paper. This will keep the presser foot and feed dogs from stretching the fabric too much.
  • Use a twin needle (two needles side by side; check your sewing machine manual for threading instructions), on hems for a professional-looking finish.
  • Keep the fabric slightly stretched as you sew it, holding it behind and in front of the needle, but be careful not to pull the fabric.
  • If you can, use a straight stitch needle plate. This will prevent your fabric from getting sucked down into the feed dogs and creating a mess.
  • Another option to allow your seams to stretch with the fabric is to use wooly nylon in the bobbin, and regular polyester thread (stay away from anything that’s all cotton; it won’t stretch enough with the fabric) on top. Wooly nylon thread will need to be hand wound on the bobbin to keep its stretchiness.
  • Depending on the garment you are making, you may need to stabilize some of the seams (particularly shoulder seams) so they don’t get stretched out when worn.

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I have sewn several bathing suits out of spandex fabrics on a regular machine. It really is fun and this article has great tips.
One thing I thought I’d mention for bathing suits is to buy elastic that is made for swimwear. It is salt and chlorine resistant. If you can’t find it locally, it is available online.

Arlene in RI

Trimming the selvages on spandex/lycra makes the fabric lay flat which in turn makes cutting out pattern pieces very easy.


I’ve been sewing with lycra and spandex for a few years now, ever since I walked out of a specialty bathing suit store over $200. poorer. I remember thinking to myself “How hard can it be? And I have a perfectly good sewing machine and serger at home. Find a class!” I’ve never bought another bathing suit since and very few bras and panties. My DH and BFF always want to know how many suits I take on each holiday. The answer is simple: How many days are we going to be there? That many suits. My first tip: I really prefer the clear, 1/4″ swimsuit elastic but you have to remember to “wake” it up before sewing. Simply stretch it out several times before you start pinning it in place. my second tip: always pin the elastic to the front of leg openings at a 1:1 ratio, then pin it with stretch along the back of the leg openings to make sure it snugs in nicely around the buttocks.


What kind of bra pattern do you use—I would love to try it….


wow, how clever are you to be able to make your own under garments. I too would like to try.

Karen Kelty

You’re in luck, Chantal! We’ll be sharing a bra making tutorial on the Craftsy Blog this Sunday! Be sure to check back then 🙂


Thx for tips


Great tips! Thank you??


I have never used spandex, always thought it would be too hard! Thanks for the tips!


Wow, I sure could have used this yesterday. looked for a site on how to sew with spandex..couldn’t find one. I made a pair of dance pants. They came out ok, but I knew this site would have something, but couldn’t find I look online and there it is. Leave it to
Craftsy to have what I needed. This time 1 day short. But lots of good tips. Will put away for future use. Love this site, thanks so much

Georgia Anderson

If your machine has the option, lessen the presser foot pressure when sewing spandex or any knit. It reduces the machine’s squashing the fabric and making wavy seams.

Terry Sp

I would also recommend using a walking foot to feed fabric evenly. It works much better than a all purpose pressure foot. Also, I took Meg

Sorry pushed enter accidently. I took Meg McElwees class Sewing with Knits and she suggests using it as well. Excellent class.


These are great tips! Has anyone tried using spandex fabric for either a round or rectangular tablecloth–one that covers both the top and the legs down to the floor? I’m trying to figure out where the seams should be.


I found this site last night and am so glad I did. I thought my sewing machine had broken. The stitches were all looped on the underside. I wonder though .What do you mean by regular pressure foot. Do you mean the smaller one not the zigzag pressure foot? I just found out why I have the loops, my pressure tension is too tight. Thanks for all the help.


Thanks for all the tips and generosity of sharing !
Will try them out.


The idea of tissue paper / newspaper is good for a single layer of the lycra material, but for the edges where I have to fold the garment and stitch it (there are three layers of the garment), it is not working.. so please give me some tips anyone??

Kay Webb

I don’t use the tissue paper. Have had no trouble sewing three layers of the garment. Make sure you have a stretch needle on your machine. I pin the lycra across with yellow headed quilters pins about 4 inches apart and then pull out as I sew. I use zigzag or serger and both work. Do a test on your scrap zigzag stitch, pull it and make sure it’s going to hold. Also if your pressure foot is to heavy, you may have to lighten that. Usually it is a positive or negative round dial on top of machine. Do some testing, it isnt that hard to sew.


Has anyone on the forum worked with a coverstitch machine before? I just bought one and I’m finding it incredibly hard to use. I’m trying to sew curves seams on a spandex bathing suit. Techniques etc anyone?


i recommend taking Craftsy class with Angela Wolf on Creative Serging. She goes into detail on the Coverstitch machine.

Sandy J

Facebook has a group coverstitch/ coverlock. You will have to request to be admitted but it is great.


I took up the hem on a famous brand activewear pants and I pulled the fabric to far on both sides when I was running the machine and the hem puckered. This is what problem I tend to experiece with sewing knits and activewear. Is there a science on how much to pull on the fabric when sewing???


If you’re using a serger with differential feed, put it on a setting that stretches the fabric just enough as it sews to keep seams flat. (On my serger babylock is any setting less than 1.)


Great tips and information! Just bought my first serger to start making my own product out of spandex. I just retired and now have the time to pursue my dream. Thanks Kathy


Hi, I see no-one else has replied to your post. I don’t know where you are based (although these days it matters far less as most online companies send worldwide) but in the UK has an amazing selection of Lycra fabrics for swimwear / sportswear. I find swimwear lining and swimwear elastic easily on eBay.

Catherine Stephenson

Thank you for the great tips on this subject. Being a dance instructor, we often run into sticky situations where a quick stitch is needed.

Brian zucker

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Cathy Parker

I’m a fairly experienced seamstress but never tried spandex. Wanting to make swimwear for little ones. Do I need to line, with what? Matching colors was only able to get cotton thread. Will that work? Help! Fabric is expensive so don’t want to fail!! Granny


I did alot with lycra in the late 80’s aerobics craze w/o a serger. Just tried to so some dance clothes yesterday – typical booty short and bra top combo. What a mess! I remember in the late 80’s early 90’s I could find a special thread to use with lycra knits, but cannot locate this thread now anywhere at even a JoAnn’s or Hancock’s. Does anyone know what I’m talking about? WIthout this, it’s impossible. I dug so much fabric out of my bobbin and feeder mechanism yesterday that I gave up. I have holes in the fabric now from having pulled the looped stitches out so many times to re-do. Even with stretching the fabric and using low tension (2), and experienced, it is a mess. It’s not worth any more time invested because I think the finished product will look awful and unprofessional. I’ve decided that without my special thread, a Serger really is necessary. Does anyone know where to get this thread these days or how to find any specialty thread that won’t break mid stitch and jam my regular machine?

Abbie H.

Try Wooly Nylon thread, they have it at Joann Fabric


Is this the same thing as elastic thread?

Kit (Catherine Boydston)

No it’s different also you’ll have to hanwind bobbin with this/or you can use machine to thread extra bobbins for your thread. The tube will be too big (wooly stretch nylon threads thick but fussy can be spread with fingers. So yo can wear leather gloves inside A to roller inside the spool to then hold spool upright) Keep it upright at the normal spool angle and do not add tension. You can create your own thread bobbins this way but wear gloves and watch your machine where the thread meets across when winding the friction can destroy it slowly over time. Will make a video for you if you need help please just text and ask☀️ 918-565-4082 Kit Boydston


I used to make skating dresses for my daughter and sewed for other skaters as well. I invested in a serger and it was the best investment I ever made! Now the daughter is grown and does her own sewing and I started to line dance. I’m now making sliders, a sport shoe cover made of Lycra so dancers who wear their sneakers to class can make pivot turns without sticking and thus injuring a knee. My question is that I want to bond a felt patch to the bottom of these sliders. I’m using a double sided iron on bond material, but I’m wondering if there is a better method. It’s a little outside the box, I know. I’m open to ideas.

Tina a

Have you tried dots of hot glue? When done it looks like those no slip socks. Good luck!


I have a question?
I would like to make a few spandex headbands, but want to leave the edges raw (not sewn). Is there a way to prevent the spandex from rolling? Do I need to buy a certain kind of spandex?


What is the best machine for sewing spandex (not a serger) for hemming and straight stitches?


I’m trying to sew a swimsuit on an Elna su machine. Using a ball point needle and a zigzag stitch. The thread doesn’t catch in a regular stitch when sewing stretch fabric. It does catch when sewing a woven fabric. I can see that the needle is moving easily through the stretch fabric but doesn’t stitch evenly or catch on the zag. Any ideas?

Yael Farber

I have a question for anyone who can help. I do not see myself but am wondering if the following is possible: I am very allergic to the thread used in the seams of swim suits and underwear. I have to buy seamless or articles that the stitching is internal so thatch does not touch my skin. I bought a bathing suit I adore before I realize this problem and would love to ask a professional to find a solution so that the seams so not touch my skin. Is this possible?

Yael Farber

Sorry – that should read “I do not SEW myself”


any thoughts as to why my machine would be skipping stitches when I top stitch using a zig zag on my suits? I’m using new Jersey needles 90/14 and I also have ball point needles. I’m beyond frustrated… PLEASE HELP.


I know it has been several months sense you posted but if you still need help with the skipping stitches you can try tear-away stabilizer (same kind used for machine embroidery)


I’m getting ready to sew several pairs of camo leggings for hunting season. I wanted to get the ones from “UA” but I’m not giving that much for them. So I will make them myself. I can make like six pairs for the price of the “UA” ones. I was wondering if anyone can tell me what kind of foot to use on my sewing machine? I would greatly appreciate some advice on this.


I saw another response to try your walking foot. Im going to try it myself.


For high stress areas, I have had good luck basting the pieces, then opening the seam and zigzagging the seam flat. It’s difficult on tight curves.


Hi I am sewing a shiny fabric ( ) for a swimwear using a zigzag stitch, with a 90/14, 100/16, 80/12 ballpoint needles but all failed. I have already tried it with sandwiching with tissue paper but still not getting the best zigzag stitch. 20% of the stitches were straight. Can I use denim needles?


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