I’ve had some people ask me about working with stretch bengaline, so here’s a post about it!
Note: this post refers to the viscose/nylon/lycra kind of stretch bengaline you get from the Style Arc shop or Nortex Mill, NOT the polyester type from Joann’s. For more information on sourcing viscose/nylon/lycra type of bengaline see this post: Sewing Style Arc Stretch Woven Pants.
Before cutting into your stretch bengaline make sure you prewash it at least once since the viscose content means there’s going to be shrinkage. After you wash it throw it in the dryer on a lower heat. After this initial prewash, never put it in the dryer again! The heat will damage the lycra content. Just take it out and let it air dry. It is a thinner fabric and the nylon content makes it dry much quicker than cotton does. Some people say that they don’t need to press them after washing but mine are always slightly rumpled if I don’t, so I give them a very quick ironing before wearing. I mostly focus on the lower hip and leg area since the upper part is always covered by a shirt.
When I press it I use a medium low heat with minimal steam. (Too much steam and heat will make it pucker due to the nylon content.) It responds well to pressing.
When you lay out your pattern pieces on the fabric make sure they are in the correct direction, with the stretch going across the body! You want the pattern pieces oriented so they are perpendicular, not parallel, to the selvage. Double check by laying out your pattern pieces, then pulling the fabric by the pants hem to make sure everything is in the right direction. This is where a lot of people get messed up. They freak out since they’ve always been told to lay out their pattern pieces so they are parallel to the selvage of the fabric. Yes, the drape is usually better this way, but the type of garments you make out of stretch bengaline aren’t dependent on fabric drape since they are so fitted. Plus it isn’t the type of fabric that drapes well to begin with. When I make pants I add about 1/2″ extra to the hem just in case if there’s some residual shrinkage.
I sew it I using regular polyester Gutermann thread. Many people recommend a stretch or ballpoint needle, but I use a regular Schmetz universal needle (usually 70/11, sometimes 80/12 if that’s what I have around) and haven’t had any issues with holes or long term durability. For the Wendy, which requires a stretch fusible interfacing for the waistband, I use the Pro-Tricot Deluxe from Fashion Sewing Supply. If I need to apply interfacing for the purpose of stabilization (like for inserting an invisible zipper) I use Pro-Sheer Elegance Light from Fashion Sewing Supply.
I sew all vertical seams (side seams and crotch curve) with a 3mm straight stitch. I topstitch the crotch curve seam allowance in place with a 4mm straight stitch. When I attach the waistband I use a zigzag stitch, usually around 2mm width and 2.5mm length, to preserve elasticity. I used to use my serger but I now I prefer the zigzag stitch because there’s less bulk from the thread. When I topstitch the waistband seam allowance and hem in place I use the coverstitch on my Babylock Evolve. If you don’t have a coverstitch/twin needle you can also use a zigzag stitch.
Stretch bengaline loves to fray, so make sure you serge or otherwise finish the seam allowances.
If you want to know anything else just post in the comments.