What is Staystitching?
Staystitching is invisible in your finished project but is part of the hidden bones that give it shape and strength, and a neat symmetrical finish. It is a row of stitching within the seam allowance on curved or angled cut edges. It can typically be found on necklines, around the armhole and on bias grain lines such as a v-neck.
Why do it?
Staystitching helps to prevent cut edges from stretching during the construction process. Without it, you may find one seam stretches more than another and they no longer match. Or a neckline can stretch and gape, or not match its facing.
As you work on your project, the weight of the fabric itself can pull on those curved and bias grain lines and cause stretching and distortion. This is particularly true of heavy fabrics and projects that require a lot of handling or are complicated and lengthy in construction.
It can also be used on very stretchy fabrics to help stabilize them during the fitting process.
How and where to do it?
- Your pattern instructions will generally tell you at what point to use staystitching. It's always best to use it right after cutting your fabric pieces and before any stretching can occur.
- When staystitching around a curve such as a neckline, don't try to straighten out the fabric as it approaches the presser foot – this defeats the purpose of the staystitch! Stitch slowly and gently turn the fabric as you sew to keep the stitches even from the fabric edge.
- Stitch length -use a slightly shorter stitch length than you will use for your seam lines. Having the stitches closer together makes it a little stronger hold.
- Most sewing guides and tutors will tell you to stitch 1/8th on an inch inside your stitching line. So if you are using a standard 5/8th-inch seam allowance, your staystitching should be at 1/2 inch.
- Facings that match a curved or angled edge should also be staystitched so they will match their corresponding pattern pieces.
Once the staystitching is complete, check the dimensions of the fabric against the original pattern piece. If there is some stretching, you can very gently pull it back into shape by pulling every 3rd stitch with a pin until the piece resumes its original dimensions and then pressing it back into shape. If your staystitching is a little too tight, clip a few stitches here and there, and gently pull it back into shape.
Direction of staystitching
There are two trains of thought on staystitching. The ‘best' sewing manuals will tell you to always stitch in opposing directions. So for a curved neckline, you would sew from the shoulder to the center, then start again at the other shoulder and stitch to the center. In couture sewing, sewing with the most delicate of fabrics or where absolute symmetry is required, then you could take the time to make this extra effort.
While no doubt this is technically correct, for most home sewing applications, and most fabrics, a simple line around the neckline from one shoulder to the other would suffice, and most modern sewing patterns would instruct you this way.
However, it does make sense that if you are sewing one armhole from top to bottom, that you also sew the other armhole from top to bottom. If you sew one shoulder from neck to arm, you also sew the other shoulder from neck to arm.
You get the idea.
Am I going to use this soon?
Now you might be wondering why I'm telling you all this. What's the sudden interest in staystitching? Well, you might just find that this technique will be used in the next free sewing pattern coming to the site in the coming weeks.