5 Ways to Reduce Size When Sewing Bulky Fabric

Bulk is a four letter word when it comes to sewing clothing. Too much bulk at intersecting seams, collar points and around facings can create unsightly lumps which are a sure sign a garment is home made.

Anytime you work with thick fabrics, like fleece, wools, and double knits, bulk is undoubtedly going to be an issue. Knowing the various ways to reduce or eliminate it will produce a cleaner, more professionally sewn garment.

Fleece Zip-Front Jacket

Fleece Zip-Front Jacket from the Craftsy class Sewing With Fleece: Essential Techniques

The problem typically occurs when more than two layers of fabric come together on heavy or thick fabrics. An opened and pressed seam creates four layers of fabric. At intersecting seams it goes up to four layers. Facings can produce up to five or more layers since interfacing is typically added. So it’s easy to see why and where excess bulk can be a problem. But, as is the case with most sewing dilemmas, there are solutions or alternatives that can either reduce or eliminate the bulk entirely.

Here are 5 ways to reduce or eliminate excess bulk when sewing clothing:

Tip #1:

Facings is a prime area where bulk can be a problem. One sure way to significantly reduce the bulk is to use a lighter weight fabric in place of the fashion fabric. Choose a material in the same color and that is compatible to the fashion fabric, though much lighter in weight. The better the match the more no one will know the difference.

Tip #2:

Basic seams in heavy fabrics are bulky to begin with. At intersecting seams they become a real challenge. One way to cut the bulk in half is to use lapped seams in place of conventional ones. For materials that won’t fray, like fleece, Melton cloth, faux or real leathers, and even some heavy knits, this is both an aesthetic and practical solution.

lapped seam

Tip #3:

Serging the raw edges to finish seams with a 4-thread overlock stitch is another good way to reduce some of the bulk. Serging compresses the edges of the seams together making them less bulky. It’s not an overall remedy, but will lessen the bulk on the underside of the garment.

serged edges to compress seams

Tip #4:

Collar points and square corners are other common areas where bulk can be an issue. Like facings consider using a lighter weight material for the underside of collars in place of the fashion fabric. Also, don’t interface acute collar points or square corner points.

Before applying interfacing to these areas simply trim off the points of the interfacing altogether to eliminate a layer of fabric. If using fusible interfacing, don’t press the interfacing until the seams are sewn.

Now, sew the seams and then trim away the interfacing from the seam allowances. Trim down to as close to the stitching line as possible. Once trimmed, you can go ahead and fuse the interfacing to the fabric.

trim interfacing away

Tip #5:

Finally, proper trimming and grading of any intersecting seams is a must on heavy fabrics. Trim or remove the seam allowances by cutting them away close to the seam lines. To grade the seams trim away one layer of the seam allowance at a time starting with the layer that will be the public side of the garment.

Then trim the next layer slightly closer to the seam line, the next even closer, etc. This grading of the seam allowances will prevent a ridge from appearing on the right side of the garment. When more than four layers are involved trim the middle layers completely away.

seam allowances trimmed away inner seams trimmed
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