What you need to know about scuba fabric.
When scuba fabric hit project runway in 2012 it was an unknown dress fabric, now many great dress, skirts, trousers and jackets are made from it. McCalls pattern company has released a number of excellent patterns for scuba fabrics as have Simplicity. Croft Mill fabrics do not sell patterns but we do recommend some in our blog suitable for the fabrics and available from online stockists.
What is Scuba?
Scuba is not the same as neoprene although they share some properties. Scuba is a type of double knit made from polyester and spandex, with a very fine gauge thread, and smooth texture. It’s a little spongy but feels very smooth. It comes in various thicknesses with the light weight ones having a nice drape to it. Medium to thicker scuba fabrics are used to make garments that need structure and volume.
How do I know it is scuba fabric?
It is a spun polyester with spandex or lycra double knit. This means that 2 fabrics are knitted together. Some patterns even look like 2 different fabrics stuck together. Because of the double knit being done with such small fibres, it has a smooth feel to it.
Top tips for working with scuba fabric
Benefits of scuba:
- Doesn't crease.
- Edges don't fray so no overlocking required.
- Adds volume to certain designs.
- Can stretch all ways so can fit like a glove.
- Light-weight scuba has a nice drape.
- Don't need to line your garments. (wear the same colour underwear as the back fabric if making really tight fitting clothes. Black underwear may, in a certain light, be seen through a white background fabric if tight.)
Before you start: Remember to treat this fabric as a double knit fabric- Ponte Roma
- Wash the fabric before you start your project.
- Do not tumble dry your fabric as it does not like being hot.
- Iron seams gently with a cool iron.
- Ensure the pattern is suitable for scuba fabric or double knit fabrics.
- Have a ballpoint needle and a stretch needle ready for your project.
- A twin stretch needle is useful for hemming.
- If putting in a zip, you will need some knit interfacing. (Pellon EK130 Easy-Knit, Tricot fusible fabric, available online at Amazon or Ebay) Read this Blog for tips on using this type of fusible fabric. Sewing 101: Using Tricot fusible fabric.
What pattern should I choose as my first project using scuba?
- The pattern should not have too many shaped seams, stay away from empire or princess line designs.
- Gathering (conventional long length stitch and pull thread) this fabric can pose a few problems, folds, tucks or pleats are easier to manage.
- You will need to know how to bind armholes for sleeveless dresses. This is not difficult but a bit of reading up on how best to do it helps.
- Double knit or scuba patterns from McCalls or Simplicity and Burda are good starting places.
Cutting out and sewing scuba:
- Scuba fabric cuts quickly and cleanly, be careful with a rotary cutter, it is quick.
- Blunt pins will pull the threads in the fabric so sharp pins are good.
- If you have to unpick take care, don't pull as it will make holes.
- Stretch stitches should be used as they allow the garment to move with you especially if it is close fitting. If you do not have stretch stitches, set your sewing machine to a narrow zig-zag. I use a width of about 0.5 and a length of 2.5. It almost looks straight with a kink in it.
- Always test your stitch length if using a stretch stitch -usually 2-2.5. Needle - stretch or ballpoint 80/12. Sewing foot - smooth bottom metal foot and thread on a scrap piece of fabric. Make adjustments to stitch length (try 1.5 - 2) if the fabric bunches or puckers.
- Adjust the tension to suit the thickness of the fabric.
- If when sewing two layers together one fabric is longer than the other at the end and they were equal, to begin with, use a walking foot.
- Use knit fusible interfacing when trying to put in a zipper. Fuse using cool iron.
- Bind the armholes of a sleeveless dress. (See step by step below)
- Hem by sewing a folded length of fabric onto the hem edge, press flat and double stitch the join so it lays flat. You could also just turn the edge over and sew using a double needle, or by just sewing two rows of straight stitching.
- Seams do not need to be over-locked as they won't fray. Trimming them if they are bulky is a good option for neater seams.
How to bind the edges of the neckline and armholes
This is my method, you may read of other ways or even better ways. I have used this method on the scuba fabrics sold by Croft Mill Fabrics and it works very well.
- Sew with your smooth bottomed foot. It is usually the metal foot.
- Set your machine to a zigzag stitch
- Stitch length to 2.5
- The stitch width to 0.5
- Top tension should be about 4
This is the stitch I use for sewing scuba and Ponte Roma, it looks like a drunken straight line. Always snip away excess fabric so it doesn't bunch up.
Binding - my method
Step 1: Cut a strip of scuba fabric so it has the most horizontal stretch. It should be longer than the edge you want to bind.
Step 2: Pin the top to the beginning of the edge you want to bind. Right sides to right sides.
Step 3: Using the stitch settings described above, sew some start stitches( roughly 3 stitches) reverse to anchor them. Pulling on the strip with a gentle even tension sew the strip to the edge you are binding.
Now fold to encase the seam
Step 4: Do not cut this edge, use it as your binding guide. Fold the fabric over the edge.
Step 5: Fold to the back and pin on the right side. This fabric should fold over your row of stitching.
Step 6: Sew very close to the 'ditch' on top of the binding fabric.
Step 7: Trim away the back excess fabric. Your edge now has a neat binding on it.
Showcase - Scuba Fabrics from Croft Mill Fabrics
- Sew a scuba top from Sewingbeefabrics.
- Sew a dress using scuba fabric from Sew Different.
- Sewing using fusible tricot fabric when sewing with stretch fabrics. A fantastic tutorial from sewing 101.
- From the papercut collective a tutorial on sewing zippers into stretch fabrics.
- How to Sew Spandex by MikaelaHolmes this is useful as it is also sewing with a stretchy fabric.
- Melly sews has a blog which talks about different stretch stitches.