Stitch Length or Stitches Per Inch (SPI) Measurement for Woven and Knit Garments

Last Updated on 01/05/2021

Stitches Per Inch (SPI) Measurement for Woven and Knit Garments

Vishnu Pareek
(Diploma in Fashion and Clothing Technology)
DKTE Society’s Textile & Engineering Institute – Ichalkaranji, India
Email: vishnudkte@gmail.com

 

Introduction
When writing garment specifications, you should not neglect specifying the proper number of stitches per inch that should be used in your sewn products. Why? Because the number of stitches per inch can have a direct influence on the following:

  1. The seam strength;
  2. The stitch appearance; and
  3. The seam elasticity on stretch fabrics.

An estimated seam strength formula was developed years ago for woven seams where one piece of fabric is placed on top of another with a specific seam margin and stitched with either a 301 lock-stitch or 401 chain stitch.

Stitch
Fig: Stitch

Obviously, the seam strength is dependent on a number of factors including:

  1. Type & Weight of the Fabric
  2. Stitch & Seam Construction
  3. Stitches Per Inch
  4. Thread Type and Size
  5. Stitch Balance (Thread Tensioning)

Formula for Estimating Seam Strength on Woven Fabrics

* 301 Lockstitch – Estimated Seam Strength
= SPI X Thread Strength (lbs.) X 1.5*

* 1.5 is a factor based on the average loop strength ratio of most sewing threads.
= 10 SPI X 4.0 lbs. X 1.5 = 60 lb. strength

* 401 Chainstitch – Estimated Seam Strength
= SPI X Thread Strength (lbs.) X 1.7 *

* This factor is higher than a lockstitch because almost twice as much thread is consumed per inch of seam using a chain stitch.
= 10 SPI X 4.0 lbs. X 1.7 = 68 lb. strength

From this formula, you can see the impact that stitches per inch, thread strength and stitch selection have on the strength of the seam. Generally, the more stitches per inch, the greater the seam strength. There are rare cases where adding stitches per inch can actually damage the fabric so that the seam is weakened, however, this only happens on specific fabrics that can be damaged by excessive needle penetrations.

Given:

  • 301 Lockstitch Superimposed Seam
  • Thread Used Top & Bottom = T-24 Perma Core – Strength: 2.6 lbs.
SPI 6 8 10 12
Estimated Seam Strength 23.4 lbs 31.2 lbs 39 lbs 46.8 lbs

As you can see from the chart above, the stitches per inch has a tremendous impact on the strength of the seam, as long as the fabric doesn’t rupture before the thread. If the same seams were sewn with a lower tenacity spun polyester thread, this also will effect the resulting seam strength.

Given:

  • 301 Lockstitch Superimposed Seam
  • Thread Used Top & Bottom = T-27 Spun Poly – Strength: 2.2 lbs.
SPI 6 8 10 12
Estimated Seam Strength 20 lbs 26 lbs 33 lbs 40 lbs

Some manufacturers substitute a smaller bobbin thread when sewing lockstitch seams to minimize the number of times it takes the sewing operator to change the bobbin. Remember, however, that the resulting seam strength will be much less and will be determined by the strength of the bobbin thread and not the needle thread.

How to Measure the Stitch Length or Stitches Per Inch?
The stitch length is measured by measuring the number of lengths of thread found within two inch. Stitch counters are available from A&E that make this measurement easier, however, you can place a ruler next to the seam and perform the same task.

SPI is measured by counting the number of lengths of thread found within Two inch. As you can see here, there are approximately 10 SPI sewn in this seam.

Stitch Length
Fig: Stitch Length

SPI Recommendations for Wovens & Knits
Below is a list of garments and the typical number of Stitches Per Inch recommended for each of them.

SPI for Woven Garments:

Garments SPI Comments Garments SPI Comments
Denim Jeans, Jackets, Skirts 7 – 8 Fewer stitches per inch generally, will give a more contrast stitch appearance. Children’s wear 8 -10 Usually 8 to 10 spi is adequate to provide adequate seam strength and at the same time allow for
quicker cycle times.
Twill Pants or Shorts 8 – 10 More stitches per inch will help minimize seam grinning. Dresses, Skirts 10-12 Due to many of the operations being lockstitch, usually 10 – 12 spi is required to provide adequate seam strength.
Trousers, Dress Pants, Slacks 10-12 On some operations like serge panels, it may be desirable to use a longer stitch length. Blind stitch Operations on Slacks, Dresses Skirts, etc. 3-5 A long stitch length is desirable to minimize the dimple or appearance of the needle penetration on the outside of the garment.
Dress Shirt or Blouse 14-20 Using more SPI allows the use of smaller diameter threads that will minimize seam puckering. Button sew (4-hole button) 16 Button sew machines are cycle machines with a predetermined number of stitches per cycle.
Casual Shirts, Blouses, Tops 10-14 Using more SPI will give more of a tailored stitch appearance and better seam coverage when serging. Buttonhole (1/2” purl or whip stitch) 85-90 Generally sewn vertically – approx. 85- 90 stitches with a lockstitch buttonhole machine.

When setting standards for stitches per inch, you should always keep in mind that more stitches per inch used in a seam requires longer sewing cycles to complete the seam. Longer sewing cycles translates in to higher labor costs and lower production levels. A sewing machine sewing at 5,000 SPM (stitches per minute) at 8 SPI will sew 17.4 yards of seam per minute. A sewing machine sewing at 5,000 SPM at 14 SPI will sew 9.9 yards of seam per minute.

More stitches per inch will also consume for thread per inch of seam. This will contribute to higher seam strength and more elastic seams, but will also increase the consumption of thread required to sew the garment.

Therefore, the recommendations listed above are common stitch levels that provide adequate seam strength but also take into consideration the factors just mentioned.

When sewing knit fabrics, you should always check for excessive “seam grinning” of the seam; and also check for “stitch cracking”. “Seam grinning” occurs when thread stitch balance is too loose allowing the seam to open up too much when stress is applied to it. “Stitch Cracking” is checked by applying pressure on the seam in the stitching direction. If the thread tensions are too tight or if you are not using enough stitches per inch, the threads will rupture as stress is applied on the seam. Therefore, the following recommendations have been made for the number of stitches per inch to be used on the following garments.

SPI for Knit Garments:

Garments SPI Comments Garments SPI Comments
Jersey T-shirts, Tops, Polos 10-12 Using more SPI increases the chance of needle cutting. Swimwear 12 – 16 The more elastic the seam, the more SPI that should be used to minimize stitch cracking.
Underwear 12-14 The more elastic the seam, the more SPI that should be used to minimize stitch cracking. Dresses, Skirts 10 – 12 The more elastic the seam, the more SPI that should be used to minimize stitch cracking.
Infant wear 10-12 The more elastic the seam, the more SPI that should be used to minimize stitch cracking. Intimates 12 -16 The more elastic the seam, the more SPI that should be used to minimize stitch cracking.
Fleece 10-12 More stitches per inch are required to provide the proper seam coverage on fleece. Stretch Knits (Lycra®, Spandex®, etc.) 14-18 More stitches per inch are required to provide the proper seam coverage on fleece.
Sweaters (Med. To Hvy.) 8-10 The more elastic the seam, the more SPI that should be used to minimize stitch cracking. Hosiery, Socks 35-50 Usually sewn with very fine thread. More spi are required to minimize seam grinning and seam elasticity.

Conclusion:
From the comments and information listed above, you can see how important adding specifications for Stitches Per Inch to your garment specification instructions. Using the correct number of stitches per inch can greatly enhance the strength, appearance and performance of the seam for a given fabric type and application.

References:

  1. Overview of fashion brand – By Prasad Kulkarni

You may also like:

  1. Stitch Length Measurement Technique
  2. Different Types of Stitches and Their Uses in Garments
  3. Types of Seam Classes Used in Garment Industries
  4. How to Determine Seam Strength in Garment Industries
  5. Different Types and Classification of Stitches with Pictures

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