Hand Sew a Stretch Stitch

Hand Sew a Stretch Stitch

Have you ever needed to sew a stretchy stitch in an area you can’t access with your sewing machine? Last year I came across this problem and I wanted to share with you what I did to fix it.

Is your seam allowance in your pants bugging you? I fixed my daughter's jeggings by hand stitching a stretch stitch. Perfect when you can't get your sewing machine into the finished seams.

Last year, for Halloween, Ada came across a firefighter outfit at Costco that eventually lead to Zoey wanting to be a firetruck. With the kids input I ended up making Zoey a custom shirt and a pair of pants that stuck out from under a store-bought red dress. I paired it with some red firefighter accessories I ordered through Amazon and thought it was pretty awesome. Once I finished the costumes I had the girls try them on and Zoey loved her costume… but after I took photos of the girls Ada wanted her costume off and Zoey suddenly decided she was done too. I had just assumed Zoey loved it and only took her costume off because Ada did and thought nothing of it.

Closeup of Zoey's tire tread pants.
Finished tire tread pants to go with her firetruck costume.

Unfortunately, a week or so before Halloween, when we started getting ready for our friend’s Halloween party, Zoey refused to wear the costume. We had gotten as far as putting on her leggings when she started complaining and I noticed her rubbing the horizontal seam going across her legs where the tire thread fabric met the black fabric. While watching the clock and realizing we were going to be late I quickly combed through Zoey’s drawers and ended up selling her on a flower theme. I dressed her in her ‘flower dress’ and use some watercolor pencil crayons, dipped in water, to quickly doodle some flowers running up her arm and onto one side of her face.

Zoey wearing a blue dress with white flowers. There's a green stem with pink flowers going up her arm and surrounding her eye.
Zoey’s last second flower costume.

Later after we got home I took another look at the pants and wondered if the seam allowance might be bugging her. I then looked online for advice and considered just trimming the seam allowance down but wasn’t sure if it would still rub then. Instead I decided to stitch the seam allowance down and started by trimming half of the seam allowance with my pinking shears. When I got to where the tire tread fabric met the black fabric I was careful to only trim the tire tread (cotton lycra) leaving the black soft fabric wider so it could cover up the trimmed fabric and be softer against Zoey’s skin.

Closeup of the outside (left side) and inside (right) of the pants.
Closeup of the outside and inside of the pants showing my seams.
The inside of the pants showing the zig zag trimmed seam allowance.
Using pinking shears I trimmed one side of the seam allowance. Where the cotton lycra is butted against the thinner black knit I cut the cotton Lycra so the seam would be softer.

I knew I wanted to sew down the seam allowance so it wouldn’t pop up and rub Zoey. I also knew that my sewing machine wouldn’t be able to get into such a little space so I went online to look for solutions on how to hand sew a stretch stitch. On WikiHow’s page I found a couple different ways and I went with method 2: a zig zag chain stitch. (I just checked their references and they linked to Sarah’s Hand Embroidery Tutorials that offer great photos instead of diagrams). I started by stitching the seam allowance from the bottom of the pant leg working up. Once I ran out of thread I tied it off and, with a new thread, started going up the other pant leg. After sewing the bottom of the legs I started a new thread and stitched along the horizontal join (where the tire tread met the black fabric) along with the junction on the inseam where it all meets. While I was stitching I was careful to keep the tire tread fabric hidden within the softer black fabric. It took longer than I thought to hand sew the stretch stitch so I decided to leave sections of the seam allowance unstitched but made sure to leave just enough done that the seam allowance wouldn’t pop up easily.

Closeup of the bottom inside of the pants showing the zig zag stitching at the bottom of the legs.
I tested out the zig zag hand stitch starting on the bottom of the pant leg and worked my way up until I ran out of thread. I then duplicated it on the other pant leg to match.
Closeup of the horizontal seam connecting the two fabric. It's hard to see since it's black thread against black fabric but there's zig zag stitching along the seam allowance.
I worked my way around the connecting seam between the two types of fabric and then made sure the side seams wouldn’t bug Zoey either. I left gaps unsewn since there was enough stitched down to keep the seam allowance laying flat. I tried to make both legs match by where I started and ended each set of stitches since the stitching was visible on the outside. It’s a bit hard to see the black thread over the black fabric.
Closeup of the bottom of the pants showing the zig zag stitching.
The zigzag stitching isn’t too bad from the outside and almost matches with the tire treads. Overall, a perfect last minute Halloween solution.
Closeup of the horizontal seams. Survived trick or treating and getting washed... so far.
Closeup of the horizontal seams. Survived trick or treating and getting washed… so far.

Next time I would topstitch any color blocking and the crotch seam with the zig zag stitch on my sewing machine before going on to sew the inseam. This way if there was an issue I’d only have to hand stitch the inner leg seam allowance down.

Anyway after stitching down the seam allowance I got Zoey to try them on and she seemed excited so I figured I had solved the problem. The day before Halloween we had another Halloween party and I had to wake Zoey up from her nap to get her ready. After I got her shirt and pants on she lost it and I had to come up with another costume again; yet magically, on Halloween the next day, she wanted to be a firetruck again. Once we got her dressed in her costume she didn’t complain about the pants at all.

Zoey and Ada dressed up as a firetruck and firefighter.
On Halloween she wore her firetruck costume for about five hours and never once complained about the pants.
Love how the tire tread pants can now be worn on it's own as part of the firetruck costume again.
Love how the tire tread pants can now be worn on it’s own as part of the firetruck costume again.

It’s now been about a year since I made and fixed the pants and they’re currently in rotation and she loves wearing them. Looking back I don’t know why she didn’t like her costume and if it was because of the seam allowance rubbing her but I’m glad I stitched it down.

Closeup of the inside of the pants showing the hand stretch stitches.
After a year of use the stitching is still in place and the pants are loved.

Even though I made these about a year ago with Halloween approaching I figured it was the perfect time to share in case anyone else has a child refusing to wear their costume and needed a fix for it. I hope this helps you whether it’s Halloween or another time of the year. I’d love to hear from you if it did. Feel free to share your creation in the comments below, on my Facebook page, or through Instagram. Happy stitching!

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