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July 2009
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Sewing Delicate Fabrics

Delicate fabrics, such as chiffon, silk, jersey, metallics and sequined surface fabrics can be a nightmare to sew.  We have received dozens of questions about the various types of delicate fabrics — so many in fact that we’re working on a complete report that will cover all aspects of buying, cutting, marking, sewing AND cleaning and pressing these fabrics.

The solution to working with these types of fabrics lie in understanding the various aspects of each one.  For example, fine knits stretch and therefore need seams made with a zigzag stitch.  Delicate-surfaced fabrics, on the other hand, tend to pucker and they then must be sewn with an even-feed foot attachment.

Regardless of what type of delicate fabric you choose, scissors need to be sharp.  Be careful not to have dull or nicked scissors, or you might  make “runs” in the fabric.  Needles, pins and threads must be selected carefully — the old “one machine needle for all purposes” is definitely not the case here.  There are machine needles as well as marking/basting pins that are specifically made for the delicate fabrics – be sure to use the proper ones.

Always test your needle and thread on a separate swatch of fabric to be sure the stitching they produce looks good and is inconspicuous.  Make your test swatch big enough that you can try a few variations of thread if necessary, or adjust the stitch length if it appears the first stitch length is making the fabric pucker.

Probably the most helpful hint when sewing with delicate fabrics is to buy more yardage than the pattern envelope suggests.  With a little extra fabric you will have enough to make that larger than normal test swatch — allow for mistakes in cutting or just for your own peace of mind.  I’d rather end up with a little extra than to cut myself short and find no more at the fabric store.

We’ll keep you informed on the full blown report and when it will be available to you.

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Pattern Maker, Instructor & Author

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