Enjoy Fabulous 4 Way Stretch Fabric

By Edward Olson

We have gotten so used to stretchy clothes that it's hard to remember when pants bagged at the knee or shirts didn't fit snug at the waist. Garments made from 2 or 4 way stretch fabric hug your body, without constraining or chafing, and move with you as you sit, stand, bend, or reach for things. It wasn't always like this. The first stretch material was invented by DuPont, the chemical company, in the late 1950s.

A designer by the name of Peter Golding exhibited the first stretch jeans in 1978. He used an innovative fabric from Japan and sent his models down the runway in a variety of colors. It was the form-fitting look that really wowed the onlookers. Golding sold his jeans in his Chelsea shop to the trend-setters and rock stars that were already flouting social conventions.

Stretch fabrics come in a keep-the-shape but not so form-fitting 1% to the slinky 4%. The look is not the only reason people like stretchy fabrics. A pair of riding breeches that stretches both from side to side and up and down does not bind in the seat or the knees. The pants don't bag after a long ride, don't bind when the rider lifts a leg to the stirrup, and gives a professionally trim look when astride.

All sports clothes use Spandex, Lycra, or another form of the original stretchy material today. You see it in the outfits worn by bike riders who pedal along looking a little like colorful insects or helmeted aliens. Yoga would not be so impressive without form-fitting, elegant workout gear. Bathing suits as we know them would not be possible. The clothing trade once used this cloth mainly for bras and swimming suits, but now uses it in every kind of garment for the fit and comfort it enables.

All sorts of stretchy cloth is sold by the yard to crafters, home decorators, and needle workers. The selection is astounding; just go online to browse through the cloth. There are velvets, smooth and brushed cottons, drapery material, printed cloth for sheets or kid's pajamas, and more. Shiny satins in jewel colors or metallic sheens make even those who don't sew think of making their next evening gown.

All the different brandname fabrics use the original elastane, developed in 1959. By 1980, many designers and major jean companies like Levi offered high-end clothing with body-hugging appeal and a new comfort level. Today this type of clothing has trickled down to the mass market. People of all ages walk out in leggings and 'skinny' jeans.

The combination fabrics are machine-washable, but hot water or high drying temperatures will damage them. If you really love a particular garment, or it represents a significant investment, you might want to wash it by hand and hang it on a line to dry. This will definitely make it last longer. You should never use chlorine bleach on stretch cloth.

It's fun to visit an online fabric store and just see what you can find for a project. From faux leather to elegant rose velvet, the selections are astonishing. As for clothes, every catalog, store rack, and mannequin will undoubtedly be showing something with a bit of stretch to it. Once you've worn a well-fitting stretchy top or pant, you may never want to go back to plain old cloth.

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