Sheer or very lightweight fabrics have a place in our wardrobes every season of the year. As the holidays approach, they become a favorite option for making party clothes, holiday decorations and evening attire. But, sewing with them can sometimes be a real challenge. They slide all over the worktable, making them difficult to cut and keep together. And those raw edges fray like crazy! By the time I get to hemming my project, I have lost a good quarter to three-eighths of an inch due to excessive fraying.
Clearly, when attempting to sew with sheer, or for that matter, any fabric that frays excessively, having a strategy to deal with it is a must. Significantly reducing or preventing the raw edges from fraying in the first place helps assembling any project so much easier.
Here's how to stop your fabric from fraying excessively:
One way to contain the fraying, though a bit on the extreme side, is to iron fusible lightweight interfacing onto the edges of cut pattern pieces.
Cut out all the pattern pieces with an 3/8" added to the seam allowances.
This means seam allowances go from the traditional 5/8" to 1".
Cut 1/4" strips of lightweight fusible interfacing -- lots and lots of them.
Tip: Using a good straight edge see-thru ruler and a rotary cutter makes this a very fast and easy task to complete.
After the pattern pieces are cut and marked, iron the fusible interfacing to all the edges. This seals the fabric edges, preventing any fraying from occurring, or at the very least, considerably reducing the amount of fraying.
Because of the slippery nature of most sheers, I prefer to lay a strip of interfacing, glue side up, on the ironing board and then lay the wrong side of the fabric over the interfacing, lining up the raw edges. Press and fuse the two pieces together.
Now, let’s deal with that extra seam allowance we added. In most cases, when sewing with sheers, I prefer to use French seams wherever possible. This totally eliminates the fraying issue and makes the inside of the garment look as finished as the outside.
The standard method for sewing French seams begins by sewing a seam with wrong sides together using a 1/4" seam allowance. Instead, sew the seam with a 5/8" seam allowance. Then, trim the seam down to between 1/8" to 1/4". This effectively trims away the ironed-on interfacing. Then, proceed to complete the French seam in the usual manner.
Frayed edges are now completely contained and totally concealed. And, no sign of the added interfacing remains.
Granted, doing this for every seam may be a bit overboard. As an alternative, pick your targets of where fraying is the most problematic, like hems.
Hems are usually the last step in garment construction, and as a result, are the most vulnerable to excessive fraying. In contrast, shoulder seams tend to be one of the earlier steps, and the shoulder seam cut runs more on a bias, so they're less vulnerable to fraying.
Though extreme, this method really works. Yes, it will add a bit of extra time and labor to completing your project, but the benefits outweigh the added effort. I find this works great with lining material, which is notorious for fraying, and find the interfacing adds no weight or bulk to impede construction.
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