Sew Easy Costumes (Part 2): Sewing with Stretch Fabrics

In this second installment in our Sew Easy Costumes series, award-winning cosplayer and Epic Cosplay Costumes author Kristie Good shares strategies for sewing with stretch fabrics.

Superhero Sewing

Heroic, daring, exciting, and snappy dressers—who wouldn’t want to be a superhero? Cosplay is one way to get your superhero(ine) on, but it can sometimes feel a little intimidating to start working on your own costume. Superhero(ine) costumes are frequently more form fitting than other costumes, so you may find yourself venturing into the dreaded stretch fabric section. But never fear! Here are some tips to help you get started.


Illustration by Kristie Good

Choosing the Right Fabric 

Most fabric stores sell a few basic types of stretch fabrics: knits and performance/athletic fabrics. Knit fabrics are a softer stretch fabric and sometimes have ribbing. Performance/athletic fabrics are often shiny, super stretchy, and a little more durable overall, making them a good choice for superhero(ine) costumes. It is important to note there has been an uptick in “cosplay” fabrics, so there are some very nice heavy-duty stretch fabrics available in those categories as well.

The main difference between stretch fabrics is the level of stretch they provide. A two-way stretch fabric, for example, stretches in only one direction along the fabric (either across or vertically). So if you’re using a two-way stretch fabric, make sure you are aware of the direction your outfit will need to stretch the most. A four-way stretch, on the other hand, stretches in all directions (both across and vertically).

When making superhero(ine) outfits, I find it easiest to use four-way stretch fabrics. You don’t have to worry as much about aligning your pieces in the right direction and your fabric will always have stretch no matter how you wear it. You may want to test fabric before you buy it to make sure it has the type of stretch you need.

Quick Tips and Must-Have Supplies
  • When sewing with stretch fabric, swap your machine needle for a stretch needle. It has an appropriate tip to sew together stretch fabrics and can help prevent missed stitches.
  • If you have access to a serger machine, sewing stretch fabrics is a great time to use it!
  • When sewing stretch fabrics, stretch the fabric along the direction you are sewing. This will stretch the fabric where the stitches are and allow for extra stretch in your costume when your superhero sewing is complete.
  • Use a zig-zag stitch when hemming stretch fabrics. This provides more stretch along edge lines.
  • If you’re embellishing your costume with designs or patches, use a water-soluble stabilizer and a lightweight adhesive, such as Heat-N-Bond, to help hold the embellishment in place while you’re sewing. (Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions.)

Stretch fabrics aren’t as scary to sew as you may think and the results are super, so get out there and be heroic!

Kristie Good

For complete costumes directions and tips on attending a convention, check out Epic Cosplay Costumes.

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