Static charge!

We’ve just had a query from a customer battling the curse of static with a blouse fabric. As we were advising her about how to overcome that most infuriating of problems, it occurred to us that we might share our response since it’s a common issue, especially with finer fabrics that don’t have the weight to resist static cling.

Any fabric can suffer from static cling – but the finer the fabric, the worse it can be – since a lighter-weight fabric simply won’t have the heft to resist the static charge. Natural fibres (cotton, wool, silk) are less likely to suffer from it but they’re not immune – whereas fabrics made from non-natural fibres can suffer more.  We know from infuriated experience that static can be an issue when you’re working with a fabric as well as when you’re wearing it.

There’s nothing intrinsic to any fabric beyond its composition and weight that will make it more or less susceptible to static. It’s simply the case that if a fabric rubs against certain surfaces, including other fabrics, then static electricity will be generated. The drier the fabric and the environment, the more static there’ll be. It’s all to do with atoms attempting to balance out their electrons as materials become electrically charged through friction – if you want to know more, click here – see you in a while!

The problem gets worse as the weather gets colder at this time of year. Why? Because we all turn on our stoves and central heating – and the air tends to become quite dry inside the house. Your working environment will probably exacerbate the problem. Judging by 90% of all photos of sewing spaces we’ve seen (including ours!), you’re quite likely to be using an electric, plastic-shelled sewing machine perched on a white-laminated Ikea worktop – the perfect dry, electrically-charged, static-generating environment.

But don’t despair! There’s no need to throw your machine at the window, take an axe to your worktop or stick pins in any family member who dares to approach you as you struggle with an annoyingly-clingy piece of fabric. There are a number of things you can do to resolve the situation.

– First – pre-wash your fabric where appropriate (see our Fabric preparation and care pages for details) since detergents and fabric conditioners do help reduce static.

– We don’t use tumble-driers here – but if you do, then don’t over-dry your fabric as that will increase its capacity for static.

– Still suffering?  If you dampen your hands then lightly dry them and stroke the pattern pieces then that will help by intruducing a tiny amount of moisture.

– Alternatively you could spray a fine mist of water into the air then waft your pattern pieces through the mist . (Don’t spray directly onto your pattern pieces as you don’t want to risk water marks, depending on your fabric.)

– When we’re working with finer fabrics, we tend to lay the pieces on tissue paper rather than on the top of a laminated table top (if that’s what you’re working on) since laminates tend to make static worse.

– Use a fabric conditioner sheet to gently stroke each of the cut pieces – that’s a quick and easy solution if you have some to hand. We keep a stock in the workroom for that purpose.

– As a last resort, you can purchase anti-static spray – but only if all else fails. It’s not expensive – but do run a test on a spare piece of fabric first.

– When you’re wearing a garment, the above measures will all work – but also wearing a small amount of well-absorbed moisturiser on the skin will help too, as it works to reduce dryness in the immediate environment of your garment.

We know there are lots of other tips out there – including (apparently) running a garment over the bar of a metal coathanger  – but we’ve not tried it. We’d love to hear your solutions so please let us know!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *