Working with Spandex and other stretch fabrics.


Ther are certain stitches used for sewing stretch fabric. Test them out and give them a little practice.

Use pins to line up seams before swing. Put a pin at each end and, holding each end, stretch the pieces of fabric. This'll help you find the center of both of pieces and where to put the next pin.

Sewing spandex requires a special touch. You have to be gentle. Stretch stitches tend to have a lot of back and forth action and you're going to want control but what ever you do, don't pull the fabric taut when your sewing it on the machine. If you do the seam will look all wrinkled and puckered. Try to pull it with just the slightest tension and let the machine work it through for you. Make sure the stitch length is adjusted correctly and don't run the sewing machine too fast.

Spandex also has a bad habit of getting stuck in the machine and pulled inside. If you're getting unusual resistance or an odd grinding sound stop and make sure nothing's caught up.

Creating pattrens

Spandex stretches and therefore the pattern has to be a little smaller than your body measurements. Measurements should be reduced by a percentage before being commited to a pattern. The exact percentage depends on how tight you want the suit and the type of fabric. Since spandex can have a different amount of stretch one way and the other you may need two different percentages, one "vertical", one "horizontal". If you reduced by a set measure, say 1 inch off every measurement the pattern would make the suit too tight near narrow areas (wrists, ankles, knees) and too loose at wider areas (chest, pelvis, ect .)

Good news is since these fabrics stretch everything dosn't need to fit together perfectly. Tiny discrepancies in measurement can be ignored. Example: in trying to sew a 4 inch seam to a 4 and 1/4 inch seam just stretch the 4 inch one a little before sewing.

Transfering patterns

The cloth should be secured to a wide, flat surface with pins or tape. It should be pulled flat but try to stretch it as little as possible. Chalks and pattern pencils, though good for many types of fabric, will pull at spandex and distort the pattern as you draw. I suggest small tipped markers. Use a light touch or lots of dots to mark the fabric with a marker. It's a good idea to use a little tape to attach the pattern to the cloth so your transfer stays aligned and the pattern dosn't shift around.

If the fabric is black or any extremely dark color lay down masking tape in roughly the shape of part of the pattern, go over it with marker then move on with the masking tape to another part of the pattern.

Cutting should be done with a very sharp pair of shears, preferrably with a blunted point to avoid accidental snagging.


Zippers can be tough. It might be best to attach them by hand, even if it's a time consuming process.

If you do it by machine you need a zipper foot to do it right. It still requires a bit of skill and good machine control. Consult the sewing machine manual and a sewing supply store for more details.

If you've never put in a zipper before here's a quick lesson.
Do your sewing with the zipper open and flipped over on the outside of the suit. By hand use a straight stitch close to the teeth and sew the length of one side of the zipper. Repeat with the other side. When the zipper is closed it folds the edge under as shown in the diagram. If used with a thin zipper it makes it fairly unnoticeable. You could fold the edges first and place the zipper inside and sew through 3 layers (The top of the fabric, the folded bit and the zipper's cloth tab edges) but this will make the zipper slightly more conspicuous. If you don't know how to make a sturdy straight hand stitch I'd seriously suggest finding some directions on basic sewing but here's a little diagram anyhow.

You have to decide carefully where placing the entry zipper(s) in a full suit. The length of the zipper(s) is also very important. The zipper will make an entry hole equal to twice its size around. This means the measure around both your shoulders must be several inches less than this to be able to don the suit.

If you're on the thin and flexible side a single 24 inch zipper from the top of the collar and down the back could be sufficient. If not a larger zipper or two zippers meeting somewhere in the middle are needed.

Up the back isn't the only place to put the entry. Zippers can also go up the front, shoulder-to-shoulder or knee-to-knee. I may go deeper into this at the next update.

"Invisible zippers" are very cool. They have the teeth on the inside so when they're closed they're almost indistinguishable from a regular seam. Difficult to sew though.

Dye and Color

Some spandex fabrics take dye better than others. It also seems to lose a little dye when washed so you should oversaturate it slightly and be carful not to mix lights with colors. Even the original color off the roll seems to darken the water a bit.

It also seems to take fabric paint pretty well as long as the paints not too thick or solid. Thin the paint down a bit with water.


Like I said, don't mix darks lights and colors when you wash.

Be careful about putting a suit in a washing machine, it could get caught around the spindle and ruin suits made of thin or running fabric. Use a delicate garment mesh bag ot better still,a quick handwash in a sink.

Certain stretch fabrics attach to the rough side of velcro and become fuzzy and linty when they pull away. Keep spandex away from velcro to keep it looking it's best.


Tim Baverstock has a webpage with patterns similar to mine with alternate plans for things like surplice entry. Some stuff I didn't explain too well might be clearer on his site. Many pics of his velour catsuit collection. His older site is here

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