11 Industry Sewing Tips for Delicate Fabrics
Wondering how to sew sheer fabric? Whether you’re a budding or pro sewist, sheer fabrics can be tricky to work with. First, let’s describe what sheer fabric is. According to Tissura, “Sheer fabric is any type of fabric that is see-through, or transparent.” It can be purely organic, like cotton or silk, or synthetic, like nylon or rayon. It’s very lightweight and typically paired with opaque fabrics.
Since sheer is a delicate fabric, however, you must have a good idea of how to handle sewing it into a design. They require a little more care and attention than typical material, which is where these 11 industry sewing tips come in handy.
1. Use an Appropriate Needle
Most industry sewing newbies are surprised that needles come in so many different shapes and sizes. And if you’re not careful, choosing the wrong needle can really affect the quality of your stitching.
The first rule of thumb: always choose a new, sharp needle when starting a new project. After just a few hours of use, a machine needle can become bent, blunt, and burred, which then causes a host of other problems like damaged fabrics, skipped stitches, lopsided seams, and fabric wrinkling.
When it comes to sewing sheer fabric, the likelihood of these problems is even more so since it’s an extra delicate fabric with very fine fibers. To avoid this problem, replace your needle every 6-8 hours of continuous sewing.
For sizing, ABCSewingMachine says, “Larger and thicker needles are typically used on heavier fabrics, while smaller and thinner ones are for lighter fabrics.” So, for your delicate fabric, use a very thin needle with a regular point. If you’re having trouble with the needle sizing, remember that the smaller the number the finer the needle. The thinnest needles are usually around 8/60 and 9/65, which is exactly what you need.
2. Choose the Right Thread
The type of needle and thread go hand-in-hand when sewing thin fabric on a sewing machine. Both are just as important! For instance, your thread might break or shred if it’s in too small of a needle, which then causes uneven tension in your delicate seams.
On the other hand, a thick thread and needle can make your seams look bulky, leaving large holes in your fabric. Both are a no-go for sewing chiffon and other sensitive materials. As an easy solution, make sure the thread matches the fiber in the fabric.
3. Use a Walking Foot
Using a walking foot, otherwise known as an even feed foot, is the most recommended method for sewing sheer fabrics. It’s a special sewing machine presser foot that helps keep both layers of your fabric moving under the needle at the same time.
When it comes to hemming lightweight fabrics, it works wonders for preventing the weave from stretching and warping your seams, or if you’re working with a more slippery fabric like satin, it prevents it from sliding off in unwanted directions while you stitch.
4. Cut with a Tissue Paper When Possible
When you’re dealing with delicate fabrics that like to get away from you, it can help to use stabilizers that will keep your materials in one place while you work. For the most convenient and affordable solution, place tissue paper between or under the layers of fabric. This also prevents distorted seams and the fabric stretching too much.
5. Rolled Hems Are the Way to Go
How to hem thin fabric 101: practice tiny, rolled hems. This is the best way to press delicate fabrics; ensuring that the hems don’t weigh down the edges of the fabric and allow the light material to gently drape down the exact way you want it to.
To create rolled hems, you can use a narrow hem or rolled hem foot on your sewing machine, which naturally rolls the edge of the fabric under without you having to do all the work. Then, while you stitch, it works to make even, narrow rolled hems. For a finer look, stitch your rolled hems by hand.
6. Avoid Backstitching and Unpicking
Typically for heavier fabrics, sewists reverse for a few stitches when starting or finishing a seam to lock it in place. It’s known as backstitching. But when sewing sheer fabric, this technique can result in bunching, pulling, or even your fabric getting sucked down into the bobbin mechanism.
Alternatively, you can leave long thread tails and just knot them by hand to set your seams in place without damage. Also, be sure to avoid unpicking the stitches you’ve set, since it can destroy the fabric and leave unsightly holes.
7. Stay Stitch Curves
Sewing satin fabric and other lightweight materials can often stretch under their own weight, especially around angles or curves. So when the pattern calls for collars or armscyes, add a line of stay stitching along the seam for extra support in keeping the fabric true to its original size and shape.
This method can also prevent fraying, giving your finished design a strong, professional look.
8. Use a Loose Tension
Since every machine is a little bit different, make a habit of testing the thread, needle, and tension settings on a scrap piece of fabric before applying them to your actual project. You want to avoid damaging the fabric as much as possible! As for how to sew silk and other fragile fabrics, it’s good to start with a looser tension setting and adjust from there.
9. Be Careful When Pressing
Usually, you press as you sew. Collars, facings, and cuffs may need to be fused for them to look right. According to SewGuide, “But when you press thin delicate fabrics, the fibers may be damaged if wrongly done. Use press cloth and use the correct temperature.”
This heads up really encompasses one of the best sewing tips for sheer fabrics–be gentle! Finer needles, looser tension, correct temperatures, and more precise skills can make or break a beautiful sheer fabric design.
10. Finish Seam Allowances
Since thin fabrics fray very easily, you want to finish your seam allowances to deter further damage, reinforce your seams, and just make the design more comfortable and wearable in general.
Do this by serging on a dedicated machine or using a mock-serge stitch on your standard sewing machine. If you’d rather use self-finishing methods, French or flat-felled seams tend to work best on straight seams (and for some soft curves), or you can utilize bias tape to bind your seam allowance.
11. Choose the Right Clothing Manufacturer
Now that you know the basics of how to sew sheer fabric, the last step is to choose the right clothing manufacturer for your needs. You know by now that sewing can easily turn complex, especially when dealing with sheer fabrics that require special handling, like lace, chiffon, and silk.
If this describes your collection, it’s crucial to find a clothing manufacturer that can handle the delicate aspects of your pieces and has a track record of doing so. Here at The Evans Group, we’ve been working in the District of Los Angeles for over 15 years helping both emerging and established designers bring their collection to life.
Our sewists live and breathe their trade and are adept in dealing with all types of fabrics, no matter their handling requirements. Do you have questions? Our experts at TEG are here to help.