Scuba knit fabric is having a moment. It’s showing up at my local Jo-Ann, and Threads magazine ran a big scuba knit article in late 2016. Now is the time for sewists to investigate tips for working with scuba fabric!
I used scuba knit to sew the Victory Patterns Jackie dress (see above). I’d never worked with scuba, and it took some research to figure out best pressing practices. That’s when I decided to write all MY tips for working with scuba fabric.
So, dear sewing friends, keep reading to learn scuba knit basics, how to press scuba knit, and more tips for working with scuba fabric.
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Scuba knit fabric: The facts
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Scuba knit isn’t for scuba diving or swimming. It’s a stable mid-weight double knit that’s easy to cut and sew, and it often comes in vibrant prints (see above). A double knit is two knit fabrics knitted together.
Scuba knit is synthetic. The scuba knit for my dress is 94 percent polyester and 6 percent spandex. It has about 75 percent stretch on the cross grain and about 20 percent stretch on the grain.
The surface of scuba knit is smooth, moderately slippery, and spongey. Scuba has medium drape and a nice spring to it.
Techno knit, which is lighter weight and drapier than scuba, and scuba knit sometimes are called neoprene. But, in the case of day-to-day garment sewing, neoprene fabric for wetsuits IS NOT the same as scuba knit.
My scuba knit Victory Patterns Jackie easily charges with static electricity (a common trait of poly). A mist with water takes care of static. A dryer sheet probably also would do the trick.
What do you use scuba fabric for?
Any pattern that calls for a double knit probably would be a good candidate for scuba knit. Many double knits are good as bottoms and lightweight jackets, because they have more body (vs. more drape) and greater fabric weight than other knits.
I think scuba knit would be great for a pencil skirt, especially a scuba with a loud pattern. It would hug your hips just the right way AND obscure pantyline. Scuba also could modernize a moto jacket or blazer. Stretchy scuba knit sometimes is used for swimwear. As a straight top, though, scuba probably would be too heavy.
Is scuba fabric breathable? Is scuba fabric good for summer?
Scuba fabric is made from polyester (and often blended with spandex). Because of this, it’s not breathable. IMO, scuba fabric is not good for summer… unless you use it in a sleeveless top, dress, or other sewing pattern that lets sweat escape via exposed skin. If you’re not a Sweaty Betty, scuba knit in hot temps might not bother you.
RELATED: How Do I Choose a Knit Fabric?
Notions and more for sewing scuba knits
Here’s what I used to sew my scuba knit dress:
I used brown, all-purpose, 100 percent polyester Gütermann thread. For topstitching, I used hot pink, all-purpose, 100 percent poly Coats & Clark thread. Polyester is strong… and it’s what I had on hand.
I used a Schmetz stretch needle, size 90/14. For the armholes, I used a Schmetz stretch twin needle, size 4,0/75.
I think my twin needle was going bad (I used it on my Named Saunio cardigan), because when I started the hem, my stitches skipped like mad. Even after experimenting with tension and stitch length, the stitches still skipped so badly that I aborted the twin needle and did two parallel lines of regular (non-stretch) straight stitching instead.
I sewed my Victory Patterns Jackie with my machine’s “lightning” stretch stitch (2 millimeters wide, 4 millimeters long). (Naturally, I tested this stitch before committing to it, and you should do the same when you sew with scuba!)
Back to that non-stretch stitching on the hem — I never would recommend a non-stretch straight stitch for a knit. But the Jackie hem doesn’t need to stretch, so I thought I’d go for it. The bobbin thread is a little loopy (see above); we’ll see how it holds up.
Cutting scuba knit
My rotary cutters (60 millimeter and 45 millimeter) sliced through scuba knit like butter. For the small curves and corners, the petite 45 millimeter cutter was a godsend.
How to press scuba knit
Like I mentioned, I researched how to press scuba knit before I got underway on Jackie. Here’s what worked for me:
1.) Use the wool/silk setting and steam to press scuba knit. Scuba took steam well — better than I anticipated for polyester. Maybe because it’s spongy?
2.) Spread the seams with your fingers to ensure the seams are as flat as possible, oh-so-gently tugging them apart.
3.) Press, but don’t get too aggressive. Heat plus pressure plus spreading could damage your scuba fabric. (Bonus points for using a pressing cloth!)
4.) Use a tailor’s clapper to lock in the pressing. If you’re pressing on a curve or sleeve, employ a tailor’s ham or seam roll (respectively). (I use a hardwood child’s building block as my clapper, because that’s what I have on hand! My boys don’t miss it.)
As with most fabrics, press first on the wrong side and then switch to the right side (if necessary).
For the neckline and center back, I rolled the seam slightly to the inside (see above) to ensure the facing didn’t roll out. (I also understitched with a zig-zag, per the instructions.) I took my time in these areas for the best finish possible.
Because scuba is thick, it’s important to take care and patience while pressing for professional results.
Advanced tips for working with scuba fabric
Grading and trimming
Scuba knit is beefy. When you get multiple layers of scuba, your machine could struggle.
Grading and trimming seam allowances keeps your machine happy, stitches unskipped, and seams smooth from the right side of your garment.
I used Pellon EK130 Easy-Knit. It added stability to the stretchy fabric. It ironed on well and hasn’t bubbled in the wash.
Scuba knit doesn’t ravel, so there’s no need to finish seams. You can leave hems and other edges unfinished, too. Depending on your pattern, I think a raw hem in scuba knit could look very modern — I picture a raw hem peplum. Wouldn’t that be cool?
How do you care for scuba fabric?
I washed my Victory Patterns Jackie dress on a cold delicate cycle with delicates detergent. I let it air dry on a rack. (I let most of my sewing makes air dry.)
On Jo-Ann’s website, the care guide for my specific fabric says: “Machine wash gentle cold, non-chlorine bleach, line dry, cool iron.”
And those are all my tips for working with scuba fabric! What would you add? What other sewing patterns are great with scuba knit? Please share in comments for the benefit of other sewists! Thanks!
P.S. ICYMI, here’s the post about my scuba knit dress: Victory Patterns Jackie dress: Diving into scuba knit.
P.P.S. If you like this sewing guide post, you might like these, too:
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