Mar 22 2022
I often get asked for fabric recommendations when making our Wiggle Dress or Capri Trousers and my number one suggestion is always a stretch cotton.
Stretch Cotton combines the breathability of a cotton fabric with elasticity making it ideal for creating crisp fitted dresses, skirts, trousers, or jackets.
Stretch fabrics can be created through composition or construction, elastic fibres, knit structure, and bias cutting can all make fabric stretchy. These three types of stretch all function in different ways. They each cause varying levels of stretchiness in a garment or piece of cloth. Either way having some stretch can greatly improve the fit and comfort of clothing.
Stretch cotton is a traditional woven fabric with warp and weft threads made predominately from cotton with around 2-3% of elastic fibres twisted into the yarn giving between 10-20% lateral stretch (not to be confused with knitted fabrics where the stretch is created by the knitted structure). This synthetic elastomer can be described as Lycra, elastane or Spandex (Spandex is an anagram of the word "expands") which gives stretch fabrics the ability to expand and then recoil.
You will find many popular types of material described as a “stretch” version of that material. Denim, for example, comes in both a sturdy, non-stretchable version and in a stretch denim version.
Stretch Cotton can be woven with a sateen finish to give cotton sateen which has a slightly smoother finish with a slight sheen. Cotton sateen uses a special treatment called mercerization to create extra-shiny cotton strands.
The stretch in stretch cotton makes it ideal for garments where you need to hold a particular shape and fit, and the stretch gives a bit of ‘wiggle room’ for a figure-flattering shape.
Stretch cotton simplifies sewing, doing what it is told when you are sewing with it (unlike some knits) and presses well. It is comfortable to wear with great recovery and bounce while still preserving all the positive properties of cotton fabric including breathability.
One of the most versatile and popular out of all the stretch fabrics it is available in plain colours but often comes in both subtle and bold patterns and prints.
Stretch fabric containing elastic fibres didn’t trend until the 1980s. It’s easy to take for granted your comfy, stretchy modern swimwear and nicely fitted skinny jeans. But really, these are all innovative designs inspired by advances in textile sciences in recent decades!