Stretch in Fabrics

Sewing Tutorial

Stretch fabrics can come with different amounts of stretch. This can depend on the amount of lycra or Elastane in the fabric. Knitted fabrics get their stretch through the knitting. If you look at the actual percentage of lycra or Elastane in the fabric it just tells you the amount but not how stretchy the fabric actually is. This guide shows how to find the hand stretch amount of fabrics.


The easiest way to find out how much stretch a piece of fabric has, is to use the hand stretch method. There are two advantages, the percentage serves as a good guidance and helps you to choose the right pattern and sizing for your garments. The other advantage is that you get a feeling for the fabric, the amount of stretch it has and how the stretched fabric looks. As you may not like the look of the stretched out fabric.

How to measure the
Hand stretch in fabric?

The fabric piece should have at least a size of  0.5 x 0.5 m. Mark the grainline or selvage clearly, so you can find out the lengthwise and crosswise stretch separately. Do the following steps for both directions.

1. Place a measuring tape on your table in front of you.
2. Fold your fabric lengthwise or crosswise in half, not too close to the edge, somewhere in the middle.
3. Mark with pins or masking tape a distance of 10 cm.

4. Hold the first mark tight and start pulling along the measuring tape. The second mark shows the amount of stretch.
- If you can pull the fabric from the 10 cm to 12 cm = 20% stretch
- If you can pull only from 10 cm to 10.5 cm = 5 % stretch

- Lengthwise: 10 cm to 11.5 cm = 15% stretch
- Crosswise: 10 cm to 12 cm = 20% stretch

Bottom picture:
- Crosswise: 10 cm to 14.5 cm = 45% stretch

Look at the stretched surface of the fabric and decide at what percentage of stretch you still like the look of it. Usually you end up with a minimum and maximum amount. The pattern should be chosen according to the minimum amount. As you can always take the garment a little tighter during the fitting.

PatternAdventure gives the amount of hand stretch needed in a fabric for their patterns.

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