Hello and welcome to my sewing blog
How about a bit of scuba diving?
I get very excited by innovation in fabric technology. It is moving very rapidly, especially in the field of sports wear and practical outerwear clothing manufacture. One of these relatively new fabrics which has made its way through the production process and is now both available to the home sewist and cheap enough to be affordable is Scuba.
A couple of weeks ago I took myself out on the first fabric shopping spree of 2015, and one of the fabrics I was very excited to find and bring back home was a brilliantly vibrant red scuba knit. I’ve seen scuba fabric before, of course, both in fabric shops but also made up in designer’s RTW collections.
So what is scuba fabric?
Scuba is a fine gauge double-knit fabric made from polyester and lycra. It is quite a dense, thick fabric with a definite stretch in the horizontal direction and a slighter stretch in the vertical. It has a very smooth surface and a squishy, bouncy feel when squashed between the fingers. A bit like Neoprene, wet suiting (that’s the connection to the scuba diving!). Unlike some jersey fabrics which can stretch out of shape quickly, scuba has a good “memory”, meaning that it returns well to it’s original shape. As with all stretch fabrics though it is important to determine which direction has the most stretch and ensure that this is the direction which will go around the form of the body. I know this sounds obvious but it is easy to forget to look at this.
Scuba is now readily available in a wide range of bright, bold colours and many prints. It seems to wash well, holding its shape but it doesn’t hang or flow like regular dress fabric. Scuba tends to be used to make figure hugging clothing with only basic construction seems, no fancy darts for shaping, and for making leggings.
It is very easy to sew and also easy to wear.
Making my bodycon dress
Even though I don’t have the hour glass figure of someone like Kim Kardashian, who has made the body con dress so iconically famous, I thought I would have a go at making myself one anyway and as it was Valentines day only yesterday, why not make it in red?
I’ve used the same pattern for this red dress as I did for my Purple BodyCon dress a few months ago. I sketched out a few ideas on paper and played about with fabric before making my final pattern decision of staying with the bodycon style.
The sewing pattern for this stretch fabric had to be very basic with a minimum of construction and detail, therefore the bodycon pattern would be perfect.
Before starting with cutting out the fabric, I remeasured myself, especially my waist measurement and hip measurement. I wanted the bodycon dress to be just that, to follow the contours of my body rather than hang from the body like a shift dress would do. I made a few modifications to the pattern length as well, adding four inches at the hem and made the sleeves a little longer as it is still winter here! I have also tapered the shape of the bottom of the dress in towards the body at the hem to again accentuate the natural curves of my body.
How to sew scuba fabric
This is the very first time I have ever had the opportunity to sew with scuba knit fabric, both me and the machine were up for the challenge! (A new needle and a bit of an oiling). I used a stretch stitch setting on the sewing machine with the tension set to heavy jersey and it stitched together remarkably easily.
I tried the basic body of the dress on to check for size, before the sleeves were set in. When I was satisfied with the finished fit I serged/overlocked the seams together which also cut off the excess fabric from the seam allowance. Then the sleeves were attached and the remaining seams around the armholes serged to cut off the bulk of the seam allowance. I made a neckband by cutting a length of the scuba out on the fabric bias. I was unsure about this because the bias stretch of the fabric was not as great as the horizontal stretch. It seems to work well as a neckband though and I have top stitched around it to make the finish look neat.
The scuba fabric feels nice to wear against the skin and moves with me when I move, its not at all restrictive, even though the dress is quite tight!
How to determine the stretchability of a knit fabric
Knit fabrics vary greatly in their amount of stretchability, so whether you are going to use a thin t-shirt jersey, a Poni Roma or a Scuba fabric, it is good to know if your fabric will have the required amount of stretch for the pattern you are using. If you are using a commercial packet pattern it will probably detail whether the pattern is suitable for slight, moderate or super stretch fabric. Knowing what this means and how to assess it is important.
To test the stretchability of your knit fabric you will need a 4 inch/10cm long section of the fabric and a piece of paper or card at 6 inches long. Mark 4 inches out on the card. Hold one edge of your fabric length at the edge of your 4 inch measurement on the card and pull it to stretch the fabric comfortably. Mark the point on the card where the fabric has stretched to. If it stretched out to about 4 ½-4 ¾ inches then it is a slight stretch knit, 4¾-5½ is moderate stretch and up to 6 inches is super stretch.
Notice as well after stretching, whether the fabric returns to it’s original dimensions or not. A knit which does not recover it’s shape well may have a tendency to sag with washing or wear. No one wants saggy bits!