In sewing, there’s always the temptation to skip through all of those pesky preliminary techniques so you can jump right into the fun part: constructing your garment. This often means that essential construction basics like understitching and staystitching are blown off, even when the pattern stresses the importance of both, because, really, who has time for that?
The result, of course, is a misshapen garment where one seam stretches more than the other or worse, the seams don’t match at all. Or the neckline gapes and stretches, not even trying to match its facing.
Not a good look.
Staystitching (also seen as stay stitching) can keep this from happening. Properly attending to this tried-and-true sewing technique in the beginning stages can spell the difference between a runway-ready garment and one that you should run away from!
Video Source: YouTube/Cloth Story
What Is Staystiching?
Staystitching is used to prevent your garment’s curves from throwing you a curveball.
Essentially, staystitching is an invisible row of stitches within the seam allowance that keeps curved or bias edges from stretching during the construction process. It’s mostly used around necklines, armholes, curved skirt waists, rounded facing edges, and bias grain lines like v-necks, but you can use it wherever curves or diagonal seams could stretch out. It’s often used on shoulders, too, as they’re cut at a slight bias. Want proper draping? Staystitch it!
Do Not Skip This Step!
A word about skipping this essential step: don’t. Seriously, don’t. While you may be tempted to blow it off as a waste of time, staystitching in the beginning stages will save you a ton of time and headaches down the road, like when you’re sewing the piece together. There’s a reason why pattern instructions emphasize staystitching! Beginners eager to get started on construction should especially take note of this. The structural integrity of your garment is at stake!
Say No To Stretching
While your pattern instructions will tell you when to staystitch, it’s recommended that you use it right after cutting your fabric pieces before stretching can even happen. Just moving your fabric around can cause some fabrics to stretch out curves, so staystitch ASAP.
And remember: the weight of the fabric itself can cause distortion as it pulls on curved and bias grain lines, so try to keep the weight even dispersed as you work.
When staystitching around a curve, avoid straightening out the fabric as it approaches the presser foot. Stitch carefully, turning the fabric as you sew to keep the stitches even from the fabric edge.
Staystitching Tips and Tricks:
- Staystitches are regular-length stitches (2 mm) that are not removed like basting stitches or ease stitches.
- A row of staystitching should be sewn about 1/16” to 1/8” outside the seamline, within the seam allowance.
To staystitch a curve, set your stitch length to 1.5 (using smaller stitches or having the stitches closer together for makes for a stronger hold).
- The standard is to sew 1/8″ away from the sewing line, so if your seam allowance is 5/8″, then stitch 1/2″ away from the raw edge.
Use a slightly shorter stitch length than you use for your seam lines.
Always staystitch facings that match a curved or angled edge so they will match their corresponding pattern pieces.
Staystitching stays in the fabric after the garment is sewn, so there’s no need to unpick. That’s why it’s called STAYstitching
With your staystitching complete, check the dimensions of the fabric against the original pattern piece. You might still encounter some stretching, which can be pulled back into shape by using a pin to gently pull every third stitch until the piece regains its original dimensions. Then, simply press it back into shape.
If you find your staystitching is bit tight, clipping a few stitches and gently pulling it back into shape will do the trick.
No Direction Known
Heated discussions often swirl around the direction of sewing in staystitching. Sewing manuals usually suggest stitching in opposing directions. So, in the case of a curved neckline, this means stitching from the edges toward the center, beginning at one shoulder and stitching to the center front. Cut the thread, and then sew from the second shoulder to the center front.
Need a primer on sewing curves? Who doesn’t? This video takes you through the steps:
Video Source: YouTube/Bag Buff
However, most sewing patterns suggest that a simple line around the neckline from one shoulder to the other will do just fine. And while it increases the chance of wrinkles, there are those who like to sew it all in one pass. There’s no right or wrong option here. What method you use will depend on your experience and getting a feel for works best for you, the type of garments you make, and the types of fabric you use.