Sewing with slippery fabrics.

Here are just a few tips for working with and sewing slippery fabrics. We’re sure this isn’t a comprehensive list – please do let us know if you have any other tips!

Preparing yourself

  • Take your time! In our experience, there’s no great mystery to successful sewing with slippery fabrics – but you do need to give yourself plenty of time to use the skills you have. This isn’t the moment for a short cut! You’ll be amazed at how much difference a little extra time can make to the finish of your garment.
  • If you have dry hands then it’s worth treating them to a little TLC before you start. There’s nothing worse than dry skin catching on a delicate fabric – and we should know! You might like to try our favourite ‘Seams’ handcream. It absorbs incredibly quickly, doesn’t mark fabric and has transformed our draper’s dry skin here at ClothSpot.

Preparing your fabric

  • If your fabric requires pre-washing then we suggest you do so by hand, or at the very least on a ‘delicates’ cycle depending on the advice given for your fabric.
  • Once pre-washed, use a delicate spray starch when pressing, just to add some stability to your fabric. Don’t forget to test your spray starch first!
  • Is your fabric suffering from static cling? This isn’t limited to polyester – it happens with any lighter-weight fabric in dry conditions, especially in the months when your central heating is switched on. We’ve a blog post here on how to deal with static cling. The quick and easy solution is to simply wipe down your fabric with a tumble dryer sheet. You can get unperfumed ones – and although we don’t have a tumble dryer here at ClothSpot we always have a pack of dryer sheets to hand!

Cutting out your pattern pieces

  • When you’re laying out your fabric ready to place your pattern pieces, pin the selvedges together once it’s smoothed out. That’ll keep your fabric in position while you cut.
  • Depending on the size of your cutting surface, don’t try to cut all your pattern pieces out at once. It’s better to work in small sections and make sure that each piece is properly smoothed out.
  • We’d suggest pinning your pattern pieces in place rather than using pattern weights in order to avoid any movement while you cut.
  • Use the longest, finest pins you can. You can purchase specialised ‘silk pins’ or ‘bridal pins’ – but we’re fans of entymology pins for fine fabrics.
  • If you have a rotary cutter and mat – then this is the time to use them! However here at ClothSpot we’re old-school scissors users – and that’s fine too. Just make sure that your scissors are good and sharp and if you have a choice, use longer, thinner blades.
  • Depending on your scissors and whether you’re left- or right-handed, you’ll find that you cut better with the pattern on the left or right side of your scissors when you cut. Find out which suits you best – and stick to it!
  • As your pattern pieces are cut out, place them to one side on a flat surface – don’t hang or drape them as you’ll risk them pulling out of shape.
  • For smaller, fiddlier pattern pieces (e.g. facings and collars) you may find it easier to cut out a section of your fabric and interface the whole section before using it to cut out your pattern piece. That way the fabric will be much more stable when you come to cut it.

Sewing your garment

  • French seams are often used for sheer and semi-sheer fabrics. They finish a garment neatly and look tidy oif seen from the outside of the garment.
  • If you use normal seams then it’s easier to finish your seam edges on each pattern piece before sewing (e.g. with an overlocker or zig-zag stitch)
  • Use lots of pins to secure your fabric before sewing! Some seams might require basting before stitching – especially if there are gathers.
  • The right choice of needle will help prevent your fabric from disagreeing with your sewing machine. Use a ‘Sharp’ (as opposed to a ‘Universal’) sewing machine needle in a fine gauge (e.g. 70). It’s best to use a new or nearly-new needle for each project.
  • Test a scrap of your fabric before embarking on your garment! You may find you need to adjust your machine settings.Try the following…
    • If you have problems then you might want to try loosening your thread tension slightly.
    • If your machine has an adjustable presser foot then easing off the pressure slightly might prevent your fabric layers slipping against each other.
  • Don’t start your row of stitching too close to the end of the seam. It’s easier to start sewing with some fabric behind your presser foot, then run to the end. You can then turn your seam round and finish off the end from the other direction.
  • Likewise, don’t try and reverse your machine at the beginning or end of a row to secure your stitching. Tie your ends off or simply run a few stitches carefully over the end of your seam from the other direction.
  • Finally – don’t sew too quickly! It’s worth taking time to make sure your fabric is lined up straight and not pulled out of shape.

Any other suggestions? Please do drop us a line – we’d love to hear your ideas!