On pattern instructions it may look as if staystitching doesn’t actually do anything. But it’s a hidden extra that’s important for quality.

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Stay-stitching is support stitching, you want the fabric to stay the same. It’s done for a couple of reasons :

Prevent distortion : Support a bias edge so it won’t pull out of shape while you’re doing other sewing.

Prevent tearing : When you clip or notch into a seam allowance so the fabric can lay flat, staystitching prevents the end of the cut from tearing further into the fabric.

Some staystitching does both functions, such as staystitching round a neckline.

Here’s a general written tutorial with many photos from Threads magazine.

Two key topics :
– direction of stitching,
– matching curves.

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Where to staystitch

Most patterns tell you to staystitch the neckline.
Here’s a written tutorial on curved necklines from Tilly and the Buttons.

Stitch just inside the stitching line. You want the stitching to be in the seam allowance, but it needs to be quite close to the final stitching line.

Some experts staystitch any edge that is on the bias so might distort when the fabric is handled.
That includes princess seams, armholes, waistlines, hip curves.

If you’re using a floppy or loosely woven fabric, they need more support, so do more staystitching – unless you want the stretchy seam drape for the style.

Many patterns tell you to staystitch round an inwards corner. But you can often strengthen inwards corners enough by changing to a shorter stitch length (1.2 – 1.5 mm) about 1″/ 2.5 cm either side of the corner, as you’re sewing it.

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Method of sewing

If you’re staystitching to prevent tearing – use a shorter stitch.

No need to backstitch at the beginning and end of staystitching.

Sew ‘with the grain’

This reduces the amount you may distort the fabric with the stitching.

There are good diagrams showing directions of sewing in this pdf from the Sewing and Craft Alliance.
Notice scoop and deep V necklines are staystitched in different directions.

These directions are correct.
For some reason many patterns get this wrong.
The rule that works in most situations is ’sew from wide to narrow’.

‘With the grain’ means following the direction of the longer threads at the edge of the fabric.

Here’s a diagram of what ‘with the grain’ means – the lines represent the threads in a weave.

”with

Against the grain

”against

This is like stroking a cat or dog – stroke it the right way and everyone’s happy – but the wrong way can cause ruptions.

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Pivot round the curve

How you do the stitching is also important.
Don’t pull the fabric straight while sewing round the curve, or you sew in a distortion – which is what you’re staystitching to prevent !
Here’s a note on pivoting round a curve

Do make sure the fabric is lying flat as you sew – that makes it unlikely you’ll sew in some distortion. You’re sewing along a bias edge, and it’s easy to pull the fabric out of shape if you don’t take care.

Matching curves in staystitching

If you’re sewing an edge that curves back on itself, sew it in 2 steps.

”staystitch

Turn over the fabric for the second stitching, so you sew both sides of the curve in the same way.

If you don’t do this, you may find the two curves are 2 different shapes.

No need for the two lines of stitching to overlap if they meet on a straight section.

Matching curves that show

It’s a good idea to do this ‘sew from the other side to get both curves the same’ directional stitching whenever you have 2 curves that need to match, such as :
– both ends of a curved collar or collar band,
– both sides of a curved jacket corner, or cuffs.

To get these corners to match, I also find it helpful to draw the stitching lines.
Perhaps make a card template for the stitching line, so it’s easy to draw matching curves.

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Staystitching may look like a trivial sewing step, but for best results it needs to be done in quite a specific way.

Or, if you want to avoid this stitching process you can follow some experts (e.g. Burda patterns) and use fusible bias stay tape.

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Links available November 2014

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