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Forum > Beginner's Forum > How to sew with stretchy fleece? ( Moderated by EleanorSews)

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How to sew with stretchy fleece?
wavy finished edges
snipsnip
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Date: 1/6/13 9:53 PM

Since my disaster with thread tension on the new Janome machine, I decided to do something small and simple by letting out the hems on my son's stretchy fleece pajamas. He needed all the length on these I could give him, so I let him pick the stitch he wanted (he liked the overedge stitch) and set out to try this sewing thing again.

The Janome has only one stretch stitch, and after having trouble with the material feeding through, I hopped over to the old Singer 2662 model (that I'd put away years ago as a disastrous machine - it was likely my lack of skill instead). This machine has settings and a nice selection of stretch stitches.

I put in the ball-point needle, size 14, used Guterman's 100% polyester thread, checked the settings in the manual. It said to decrease the presser foot tension to 4 (use 3 for regular fabrics and lower numbers for sheers). My Janome doesn't allow presser foot pressure adjustments that I'm aware of. For this project, the Singer definitely did a better job.

Here's what happened:

The bottom edge of the pajama legs ended up stretched out of shape and wavy.

It was really difficult keeping this going in a straight line through the machine. Everything kept sliding to the left giving a very narrow edge. I kept having to lift the presser foot up to readjust it.

When I went over the side seam, the fabric got jammed down in the needle hole. This was a fresh needle, so it shouldn't have been dull.

Overall, it turned out okay. It definitely didn't look professional, but it will do the job. Best of all, my son was thrilled with the result because he loves these pajama pants.

He's got another pair in another color. What can I do to improve the outcome of the next pair?

-Should I use stretch thread?
-Use a different stitch?
-Anything else?

BeckyNoSleep
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Date: 1/6/13 10:34 PM

With very stretchy fabrics, sometimes it's worthwhile to try sewing with some sort of stabilizer underneath - either tissue paper, embroidery backing or PatternEase. You'll have to look at what you've got to figure out if a tear-away material will work, or see if you need something that will dissolve in the wash.
Hope this helps!

Scheri
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Date: 1/7/13 1:03 AM

Walking foot

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Scheri Manson
Edmonton, AB CANADA

Pj3g
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In reply to snipsnip <<
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Date: 1/7/13 10:27 AM

I've sewn on allot fleece so here's my 2 cents.....

The thread you're using is fine.

On any project always start with the smallest size needle possible and work your way up if smallest doesn't work. Sometimes a smaller size needle will have better piercing power and produce better stitches than a larger needle. So try a size 10 or 12 ballpoint.

Machine 'stretch' stitches are really meant to be used on areas of clothing that are stressed and you want to prevent breakage--like a crotch seam. For seaming or hemming fleece pants you will just want to use a larger straight stitch like a 3 or 3.5

A walking foot would be great or a teflon foot would help the thick fleece gluide through under the presser foot better. If you have neither of those then try a satin stitch foot or even an open toe foot. The reason is so you can get pressure off the thick fleece as it is passing over the feed dogs and under the presser foot. One of my machines has pressure foot adjustment and one does not. On my machine with pressure adjustment I set the pressure to almost nothing when sewing fleece. On the other machine I do the things I am telling you.

And you will want to loosen the tension. You cannot always do exactly the number the manual says. Those numbers are only general guidelines. Never be afraid to play with the tension dial as tension all depends on so many variables. Just remember all the tension is doing is controlling how tight or loose the needle thread is feeding. A straight stitch's tension will most always be set tighter than every other stitch on your machine. But a straight stitch sewn on fleece needs a looser tension than when it's sewn on thin cotton fabric.

You will also want to have one hand behind the presser foot while stitching fleece and one hand in front. With the hand in back gently pull the fleece while the hand in front is flattening and guiding the fleece. Because you have lessoned the pressure on the fleece by using a longer straight stitch, a more open presser foot, less tension and the very gentle pull, the fleece will sew through fine. Your objective is to keep the fleece taut and flat as it is passing over the feed dogs. You don't want it bunching up at all because that's when you'll get the jams.

Edited to add:
After rereading your post it sounds like you were just edging the bottom of the pant legs. All what I wrote still applies including increasing the size of the edge stitch you pick--increase both its length and width. You do not want to use tiny stitches on fleece. But because you're edging probably all the feed dogs may not be covered by the fleece passing over them. So it will be especially important to keep the fleece taut and flat as you are stitching the edge by spreading out your hands over the fleece in front of and behind the sewing. You don't want any lag in the fleece because that will allow it to be pushed down by the needle causing bunching and jamming.

Fleece doesn't need to be edged at all as it doesn't ravel. So if all this doesn't help you, just let the cut bottom edge of the pj's be good enough.








-- Edited on 1/7/13 12:10 PM --

------
Thank you Lord for my Mother who taught me the joy of sewing, for my Father who encouraged my sewing, for the talent You gave me to sew, and for all the special people in my life to sew for.

path49
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Date: 1/7/13 12:15 PM

If you're talking about the really soft fleece that kind of looks like terrycloth & stretches like crazy, I know exactly what you mean. I made a throw for my grand daughter last year & was just going to serge the edges. It looked great after serging BUT if you stretched the crossgrain, it rippled....& stayed rippled!

I finally put binding around it & that worked great. You might try binding the bottom with bias tape. You won't lose any length that way...& the tape will stabilize the edge while you're sewing it on.

This type of fleece can't be left unfinished...the little "loops" ravel off the edges.

ryan's mom
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ryan's mom
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Date: 1/7/13 12:18 PM

Always use a long stitch length like 3.0 or 3.5. Only use the stretch stitch after you have used the long stitch length. Simply stitch over the longer stitch with the knit stitch in high-stress areas like the crotch or underarms. Or upper back if you have princess lines like I put in some of my fleece tops. When doing the hems, yes, use the walking foot and consider using washable basting spray or wonder tape. Usually I would use the wonder tape just for zippers in fleece and use the basting spray for hems or any place else where I definitely want to keep that 1:1 ratio.

ETA just to clarify I used the walking foot on the entire project, not just the hems.
-- Edited on 1/7/13 12:21 PM --

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Big 4 Pattern size 12, RTW bottom: 6, RTW jacket 8, RTW top (no size fits me well!)
Measurements: 34 HB/36 FB (34C bra)/27.5/36 (and working hard to keep it that way.)
Machines: Sewing: Elna 760, vintage Kenmore Model 33 (1967), Janome Gem Gold 3. Sergers: Babylock Imagine and Babylock Enlighten. Embroidery Only: Janome 300E. Coverstitch: Janome CP1000. Straight Stitch: Janome 1600P.

If you think your sewing is better than everyone else's around here, get out of my way b****. I hate sewing snobs.

My blog: www.phatchickdesigns.blogspot.com

snipsnip
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Date: 1/7/13 1:32 PM

Wow. What great replies. Thank you.

I was just edging the bottoms, and I love the bias tape idea! I could see that adding length, and it would look nicer, too.

It also looks like I'll be picking up a walking foot in the near future. It sounds hard to live without one with the fabrics and styles we like the most.

So, smaller needle, pull gently from behind, flatten in the front, lengthen the stitch length and width (to the largest settings?), keep presser foot tension as light as it will go, and use a satin stitch foot (I've only got the feet that came with the machines for now).

I like stretch fabrics and knits, but wanted to do some mending and sew home dec, too. I'm reluctant to invest in a serger, so trying to make due with what I've got now. Although, a serger might be had for the same prices as a walking foot for both of these machines combined.

Thanks again for the excellent advice.


-- Edited on 1/7/13 1:34 PM --

Pj3g
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Date: 1/7/13 2:20 PM

Quote: snipsnip
lengthen the stitch length and width (to the largest settings?)

For fleece the answer is yes.

When using your hands like I described above, they are pretty much doing what the walking foot does. It keeps the top of the fabric taut and moving along just as the feed dogs do beneath the fabric.

I just looked up the two machines you have. I know your Singer (my DIL has one) has a low shank and uses snap on presser feet, and I feel pretty positive your Janome has the same. Anyway, I have boughten many Distinctive Presser feet from Amazon They are much cheaper than Singer or Janome brand feet and work absolutely fine. Just thought I'd let you know.
-- Edited on 1/7/13 2:39 PM --

------
Thank you Lord for my Mother who taught me the joy of sewing, for my Father who encouraged my sewing, for the talent You gave me to sew, and for all the special people in my life to sew for.

snipsnip
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Date: 1/7/13 4:21 PM

Beautiful! This is the brand of extra feet the dealer sent with the Janome. The Janome has feet that slide on from the front, but they look just like the snap on type. Does this mean the feet of my machines are fully interchangeable? That would be great. The Singer came with many more options than the Janome.

Pj3g
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Date: 1/7/13 5:35 PM

From looking at close-up Internet photos of Janome's DC1050, the feet look exactly the same as the snap on type.

On the Singer machine the feet snap on the metal bar on the feet. But the Janome appears to have the same feet but you slide/snap the foot on.

Many, many brands are interchangeable so try your Singer feet on your Janome and vice-versa. I'm pretty sure you can switch back and forth. And that means you don't have to buy doubles of all your presser feet.

------
Thank you Lord for my Mother who taught me the joy of sewing, for my Father who encouraged my sewing, for the talent You gave me to sew, and for all the special people in my life to sew for.

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