How Stretchy is Stretchy?

Stretch Fabric Characteristics Horizontal Stretch

Jersey and Knit fabrics are great to work with and they make up beautifully into a whole host of different styles and shapes, but how do you make sure that you have the correct type of fabric for you pattern? 

One way is to ascertain the amount of stretch in a fabric. A beautiful light weight single jersey may not actually have the correct amount of stretch in it to be made up successfully into a fitted dress pattern despite being nice and lightweight. Equally  a fabric that has too much stretch could drape out of shape if there is too much of it included in the style of the garment.


Often fabrics have the fibre content shown, and naturally the more spandex it contains the stretchier it will be. But stretchiness can also come from the way the fabric is knitted. So despite the fibre content and the weight of the fabric it is also the amount of stretch it contains that can make or break the success of your project.

The easiest way to work out the amount of stretch your fabric has is to measure it – in a controlled experimental kind of way.

Using a ruler or tape measure, measure out 10 cm of your fabric along the cut length not the selvedge.


Then stretch the fabric comfortable along the ruler. Don’t pull it so much it distorts the fabric, but enough to make sure that that’s as far as it will go. Note the distance you have stretched it to.


In this case the fabric has stretched to 12 cm meaning there is an extra 2cm of stretch or 20%.

Stretch Fabric Characteristics Percentage of Stretch A

Stretch Fabric Characteristics Percentage of Stretch B

In this case the fabric has stretched out to 13cm with an extra 3cm so there is 30% stretch. 

Looser fitting styles like our Julia Top require less stretch than more fitted styles like our Cordelia Dress. 

Julia Top for Web-0121
The Julia Top in Loop Back Sweatshirting with 15% stretch
Sew Me Something April 18 2015-198- Web Quality12
Cordelia in cotton and spandex single jersey with 30% stretch

 If you want to learn more about different fabrics and their uses join us for the

Know Your Fabrics Workshop.