Keeping t-shirt fabric from stretching when sewing

donnas_gwMarch 7, 2013

My husband has a long sleeve shirt (T-shirt fabric, 100% cotton). He asked me to make the sleeves 3/4" length. Have already cut off the desired length, serged the edges and tried to hem one sleeve on my sewing machine. The stitches look horrible. I have it set to 8 stitches per inch, but they are different size stitches all the way around the hem of the sleeve. The sleeve edge also looks puffy, making it look like I pulled on the sleeve from behind the needle. I know that doing that will make it stretch, so I just guided it through. I have always had this problem sewing t-shirt fabric. I made my own clothes for years, but rarely sew anymore unless it's to repair or shorten, etc. Thanks.

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I lightly stretch the fabric as I sew, so it relaxes into normal-looking.

And adding a banded hem hides many things.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 4:34PM
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Use a stretch or ballpoint needle and loosen your presser foot pressure if you can.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 9:33AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

You can use a water soluble stabilizer while your sewing, but most likely it's another issue as that's usually not necessary unless it's a very slinky fabric.

You might want to use a double needle and a straight stitch and you'll get a double row of overstitich with some stretch in it.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 7:08PM
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I used a ball point needle and it turned out much better. It was a size 16 and I wondered if that might be too large, but it did just fine.

I have a twin needle (don't think it's ballpoint though). It has never been opened, and I'm not really sure how you thread 2 needles. Do you use just the one spool of thread on your machine or do you need a 2nd spool?

I did give each sleeve 2 rows of stitching, but only using the one needle. I think I spaced them 1/8" apart and went around slowly on the 2nd row so that the rows would be the same distance apart all the way around.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 7:24PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

If you are sewing a stretch fabric with a straight stitch, the stitching will break if the fabric stretches. You should at least be sewing with a wobble stitch (a very narrow zigzag) as it looks straight, but will stretch.

To use a double needle, you do need 2 spools. If your machine has 2 holders, put one spool in each. If not then put both spools on a single spindle, but make sure the thread comes off one spool in one direction and off the other spool in the other so they don't tangle. Then thread the machine as if they were one thread until you get to the needle. Thread each needle with one thread making sure they aren't twisted. Use a straight stitch when using the double will stretch by itself.

The other way we always hemmed our tshirts was with the blind hem stitch which is a straight stitch that zig zags left every few stitches. You fold up your hem like normal but then to sew it, fold the hem back under so that about 1/4" of the hem allowance shows and the outside of the garment is folded back. You sew along the 1/4" of the hem allowance and the needle swings left and catches just a pinch of the outside material in the fold to make the blind hem. The video illustrates the technique.

Here is a link that might be useful: blind hem stitch

    Bookmark   March 9, 2013 at 8:14AM
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Glad it worked for you, but yes, generally, a size 16 would be for denim.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2013 at 8:55AM
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Annie - thank you so much for referring to the video about the blind hem stitching. It was so helpful, and I would have never known where to find such a thing. Thank you again. Barb

    Bookmark   March 9, 2013 at 5:04PM
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I am wondering if there is a difference in the kind of thread that the manufacturer used when hemming the sleeves/bottom of the shirt than what I am using (l am using coats and clarks all purpose thread...mercerized cotton covered polyester).

For the hems, they did 2 rows of straight stitching. The shirt tag says pre-shrunk Ringsprun 100 % cotton (and of course, made in Honduras LOL). I don't know what ringsprun means. It's not a thin flimsy t-shirt fabric but it does have some stretch.

It was given to my husband where he works with the company's logo monogrammed on the front. The sleeves were too long and he wanted me to shorten them. He has a few shirts that have 3/4" length sleeves (past his elbows), and he likes those.

If this hem comes out, I'll try the narrow zigzag. I have the blind hem stitch on my machine. I have played with it a few times, but I've never been satisfied with the outcome....maybe I just need more practice.

Annie, thanks for the directions on how to thread the machine using twin needles. That is how I thought it was supposed to be done.

This post was edited by donnas on Sat, Mar 9, 13 at 22:16

    Bookmark   March 9, 2013 at 9:01PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

With the blind hem stitch, you need to adjust the width of the zig zag so that it just catches the edge...too wide and you'll get a big stitch showing, too narrow and you'll miss the fold entirely. Also be sure to use an edging foot as that will help guide the fabric for you.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2013 at 9:27AM
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Hi guys I want to share with you this great site. Just click to the link right here: In this site you can find everything you need for stretch fabrics. Go in it and get the information you need. Hope I was helpfull :) Thank me later!
Here is a link that might be useful.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   August 5, 2013 at 11:56AM
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