How to handle 'difficult' fabrics
Nobody likes to talk about it: but there are really fabrics which are hard to handle. The fabrics are difficult to cut, to fold, to sew. They can't help it either... But be aware: only start working with these fabrics if you have a lot of sewing experience.
Sewing pattern, sewing experience and the fabric!
What determines whether your sewing project succeeds or not? Often the combination of the sewing pattern, your sewing experience but also the fabric. Sewing patterns always mention specific fabrics that are suitable for the pattern. You can deviate from this in terms of color and print, but it is recommended to choose the recommended fabrics. (Logical!) Simply because the sewing pattern has been tested or made specifically for this.
Your sewing experience also determines whether your sewing project will create a successful garment. This is indicated in nine out of ten cases on the sewing pattern. The pattern is considered suitable for a beginner, a seamstress with moderate experience and a seamstress with a lot of experience.
However, just as important is the choice of fabric you make. There are very nice fabrics for sewing and there are fabrics which are more difficult. The difficult fabrics require a bit of extra experience from the seamstress. You don't have to avoid the fabrics, but if you read our tips, it will save you a lot of frustration or even failed sewing projects.
Tips for 'difficult' fabrics
Fabrics are always neatly arranged or type or by color in stores and online stores. Sometimes you can also search for properties. Is the fabric non-stretchable, stretchable or elastic in both length and width? Is the fabric smooth or very firm? This is all very important to know when choosing a fabric for a sewing project.
Rarely, however, is it indicated whether a fabric is 'difficult' to cut or sew. We mean that the fabric slips between your scissors, during cutting, or slips under your presser foot when you are sewing the fabric. Think of silk-look fabrics, velvet or smooth satin.
It is also difficult if the fabric 'fringes' quickly or even enormously. This is especially the case with Bouclé fabrics that are also loose-fitting. In 'how to sew Bouclé fabric' we give tips & tricks to handle it well.
Firm or thick fabrics can also be difficult. They are often difficult to fold and you will need a sewing machine that can handle really thicker fabrics. Think of jeans, canvas, goblin, jacquard or heavy wool.
Finally: elastic fabrics. Is your first sewing project making a bikini? Then ask extra help and be aware that sewing super stretch fabrics is a difficult job. It is also especially recommended to use a coverlock machine which is capable of making coverstitches. Finishing the seams in a different way (for example zig-zag) on a regular sewing machine will give a beautiful finish.
Haute couture fabrics
Haute couture often works with expensive and exclusive fabrics. These are of course very beautiful. But be aware that the expensive fabrics are often not the easiest fabrics for a sewing project.
We already mentioned the 'Very Bouclé' fabrics that often fray when you look at them. But brocade fabrics, jacquard fabrics and sequin fabrics can also be difficult. You have a chance that your needles will break on the embroidered additions / sequins on the fabric or on the golden lurex threads. Or pull the threads with you in your sewing machine, and your entire front piece is suddenly destroyed.
Take extra time for these fabrics and baste everything in advance.
In addition, with jacquard fabrics you often have to deal with patterns that are woven into the fabrics. Pay particular attention to this when cutting. Or that the front pieces fit nicely and the sleeves fit in the patterns of the fabric. This is really a job that requires experience and a lot of patience. Always buy extra fabric, then you can cut any incorrectly cut pattern parts.
Organza, Voile, Chiffon, Pleated and stretch lace are difficult fabrics because they are very thin and do not keep well in shape during cutting and sewing. Provide extra weights on the fabric while cutting and thin pins for the fabric. Buy special silk pins that are thinner and longer than regular glass head pins. In addition, make sure you choose the right thin sewing machine needles. A needle that is too thick can easily destroy the fabric.
Silk and taffeta fabrics are very pleasant to sew with, although here also applies: make sure you use the right pins and sewing machine needles. They fold fine, do not slip and ensure that you can work accurately. Silk-look fabrics, satin silk or mixes are often a lot less pleasant to work with. These are of course cheaper, but in the case of a 'Chanel-Style' jacket for example, the investment in real silk is definitely worth it. Moreover, the pleasure in your sewing project is not spoiled by a fabric that does not want to cooperate.
When making costumes for LARP, you run into problems less often. Most fabrics are based on fabrics such as canvas, jute, cotton, cotton twill, linen and sometimes leather. Leather-sewing of course a profession, but the other fabrics are nice to cut and sew. In LARP costumes less elastic fabrics are used because they were not there before. In addition, most fabrics must be strong and able to take a beating. LARP events are not just about posing for a photo, but there is often action and movement. Tough robust fabrics are key elements!
However, velvet is often used in medieval clothing. This is a difficult fabric because it is difficult to fold, you have to pay attention to the wing in the fabric while cutting and because the fabric slips during sewing. Make sure you use a special presser foot to avoid this problem and especially pin the parts very well. Better yet, baste everything before you start sewing.
The whiff of the fabric means that when you stroke the fabric, one side rubs flat on the hair and the other way the hair will stand on end. This changes the structure / color of the fabric. When you smooth the fabric, you go with the whiff, when the hairs stand up, you go against the whiff.
Take extra time while cutting and pay attention to the whiff. If the fabric is on the table, this seems less important. But once you put the fabric on as a garment, and the whiff isn't right, it can ruin the entire costume. Pay close attention to the WIRE DIRECTION indicated on the cartridge parts. So always buy extra fabric, you will need it to cut all the pattern parts correctly with regard to the fabric whiff. 'Fabric-saving' or cost-saving cutting is not applicable here.
Velvet is so beautiful that it is definitely worth it. However, if you choose stretch velvet or velor de panne, you have a lighter type of velvet and it is also elastic. These are not beginner fabrics. Ask for extra help and practice on test patches first.
Brocade fabrics can be very pleasant to sew, especially if it is not too thick. Goblin also sews nice and stable. These substances are often expensive. And make sure you order some extra fabric. The cutting will require extra fabric because there is often a drawing or pattern / drawing in the fabric.
Brocade fabrics can be thick or thin. Goblin is thicker; jeans sewing machine needles are a must.
Cosplay uses more lace, silk and stretch fabrics. This is easily done with mediocre sewing experience. If the costumes are more Fantasy and Steampunk-esque, make sure not to choose too thick fabrics or leather, if you do not have a special leather sewing machine. A lighter leather look is a better alternative and also less expensive.
Stretch lace is not an easy job, but the same applies here: baste everything in advance and then sew everything together. This extra action ensures that it succeeds in flat that your sewing project ends in the trash. Where possible: work by hand instead of the sewing machine.
Satin is not pleasant to sew with. A finer alternative is taffeta silk or real silk. These last two fold better and sew very pleasantly.
If you need a lot of fabric for a costume, such as with our Star Wars Kylo Ren costume, you can choose Garbadine or a cheaper alternative: Texture or Terlenka. These fabrics work fine, do not shrink and can take a beating.
Texture fabrics are often categorized under 'party fabrics' at online fabric stores. Do not let this be confusing. Texture of Terlenka are fine fabrics and are a great base for costumes.
Sample patches and alternatives
There is often an alternative for every fabric. Of course you cannot replace a recommended stretch fabric with a non-stretch fabric, but solutions can be found. Ask for advice in the store, ask the customer service of the online store or an experienced seamstress. Anything better than getting frustrated and quitting your sewing project. That would be a real pity and is often not necessary.
It is often possible to request a sample of the fabric. It can save you a lot of trouble.
Always buy a little extra fabric. Here you can practice in advance and test sewingmachineneedles or find the right stitch. It can also be reassuring that you have some extra fabric, in case something goes wrong while sewing or cutting the fabric.
Fabrics are often chosen or based on color and print. But the property of a fabric is even more important. Some fabrics are a lot more difficult to cut and sew than others. Be aware of this when choosing a fabric. When in doubt, request a sample or sew a sample first. A good sewing pattern, your experience as a seamstress and the right fabric determines whether a sewing project delivers a good result.
Good luck !
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