Tips for sewing Tricky fabrics- a guest post from an expert sportswear designer.

Sewing with lace, leather and even slippery stuff like neoprene or rubber can be a challenge. Last year I met a fabulous designer Susan Goodwin in Sydney who loves this stuff, and has made a career designing sportswear, and home sewing patterns specifically for these fabrics.

Susan GoodwinSusan generously agreed to share some of her top tips, so I shall pass you over to Susan from Measure Twice Cut Once.

Tricky fabrics, or as I like to call them “the fun fabrics” are a fabulous addition to your sewing skills.

Think lace, neoprene (or scuba), leather, anything with a big texture or even a big print. Fabrics like this are all fun and create great statement pieces in your wardrobe. These aren’t difficult to work with as long as you approach the project in a a way that will help give you success.

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1 – Let the fabric determine the style. There is no sense trying to make a thick fabric with very little give to it, become a nice draped garment. Instead choose something architectural and use the natural properties of the fabric to help create the style instead of making it bend to your will.

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2 – Consider seams and top stitching. A beautiful lace can be ruined by seams, consider hand piecing the lace so that it appears seamless and takes your garments to new levels in sophistication (and technique).

Equally so, a nice waterproof fabric can be rendered useless by top stitching. Every single little stitch becomes a point through which water can penetrate.

Think about removing top stitching, eliminating or moving seams to areas that aren’t going to bear the brunt of the rain. For example a shoulder seam can be moved to a yoke seam. Now instead of a seam that points directly towards the sky, and catches oncoming rain you have a seam that points towards the ground and allows rain to run right off.

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3 – Think about your finishes. Perhaps a French seam on the lining under the lace to create a perfectly flat layer on which to place your lace? Leaving a neoprene edge raw instead of trying to sew through the bulk of 2 layers. Not exactly sure what the right way to finish the garment might be? Go shopping, take a look on the high street and see how the big names finish their garments. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how easy it will be the replicate what they do and you might even spot some finishes that you could do better than they do.
4 – Use the right tools. Swap your machine needles out for ones that are going to work with you and not have you tearing your hair out over skipped stitches and puckered tension. Leather, ball point and super fine or “sharps” needles are readily available. Ensure you have the right one to match your project and you will find it a lot easier when it comes to stitching.

Leather and neoprene are no fan of pins. They leave permanent marks and can ruin the look of your finished garment. Try using quilters clips to hold your fabrics instead of pins. Even the household clothes peg can work wonders holding them together.

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Extra sharp scissors or a brand new cutting blade in a rotary cutter will help carve through bulky fabrics or snip the finest of lace.

5 – take your time and don’t rush. These tricky fabrics are to be enjoyed, take it one step at a time, only go forward once you are happy with the result.

Always remember some of these fabrics don’t give you a second chance and can’t be persuaded into position with a good steam like cotton or wool. Tiny accurate steps will see you through to having a stunning garment.

Most of all have fun!

If you want to sew some basics like vests and lingerie, check out Susan’s patterns, review coming soon!

1 Comment

  • Sharon

    17.03.2015 at 23:33

    Great information Susan and good point about the rainproof fabric.