We've all been there: A pattern tells us to staystitch and we, um, don't. Given that staystitching is done on a single layer of fabric and doesn’t even show in the finished piece, skipping it doesn’t seem like a big deal. How important could it really be?
Very important, actually! Staystitching isn’t a plot hatched by evil pattern makers to give you extra busy work; it's one of the secrets to making a garment look good and drape well. It’s also incredibly quick and easy — once you know exactly how, where and why. Still skeptical? Stay with us on this one.
So What Exactly is Staystitching?
Staystitching is a row of machine stitching done on a single layer of fabric just inside the seam line. This kind of stitching is always done in a specific direction (to avoid distorting the fabric as you stitch) and typically top to bottom (but not always). The purpose of staystitching is to stabilize the pattern piece and keep it from losing its shape due to repeated handling. Any fabric, even knits, can benefit from staystitching.
Ideally you want to staystitch your piece right after cutting, while the fabric is at its freshest. And the process couldn’t be simpler: Using your machine, simply use a straight stitch (2.0 or a little less) to run a row of stitching one-sixteenth inch inside the stitching line of your fabric.
Why Should You Staystitch?
Remember the trouble you went to in order to lay all your pattern pieces according to the grainline in your fabric? The purpose of staystitching is to maintain those grainlines. That's extra important with curved pieces like necklines and armholes that are cut on the bias (off-grain). Because these pieces are stretchier, their fibers are more likely to get distorted during handling and sewing.
If you opt not to staystitch, your pieces can become so misshapen that you end up with a major job on your hands when it’s time to make them fit together. And, in the end, your garment simply won’t drape well. This doesn't sound great, does it?
Where Should You Staystitch?
One of the most common places for staystitching is along the neckline of a garment. A rounded neck is mostly on the bias, so staystitching is super important here. Armholes, the curved waist of a skirt, rounded facing edges and V-necklines also want some staystitching love.
Staystitching is also a good idea whenever you need to clip into a corner or a curved seam (such as a princess seam), since it'll help keep your fabric from ripping or fraying into the stitching line.
You know the expression, a stitch in time saves nine? That pretty much sums up staystitching. Get on it!