When it comes to sewing with sheer or very lightweight fabrics, it’s best to pack your patience. These often unruly fabrics seem to have a mind of their own and can be both difficult to handle and a challenge to sew. Knowing how to gain control over them and employing a few simple sewing techniques can help you keep your sanity intact.
Follow these straightforward techniques to make sewing sheer fabric easy-breezy!
Sewing with sheers: the basics
Sewing difficulties typically arise when sewing the first seam. These delicate and very lightweight fabrics often bunch up or knot up when starting to sew at the fabric edge, making getting started difficult. Another common problem is these types of fabrics often sink into the needle plate as you begin to stitch due to their delicate nature.
Backstitching to lock seams is also often difficult or near impossible. Then, there is the problem of keeping seams straight as you sew as these fabrics are often slippery and tend to shift about. Being mindful of these issues and using a handful of easy techniques to prevent them from happening makes sewing with sheer fabrics an enjoyable and rewarding task.
But, before you begin sewing on your fashion fabric, make sure your sewing machine is set up to handle the job. Take a scrap of fabric and test your stitching. Make sure the needle is sharp enough. Any snagging or skipped stitches indicates you need to replace the needle. A new sharp #70 needle is best. You may also want to try using a Teflon presser foot, which will glide easily and smoothly over the fabric, or try a walking foot, which helps to prevent the fabrics from shifting about.
Here are a few methods that will put you in control of sewing straight and even seams in these fabrics:
#1: The tissue paper method
Pin a small strip of tissue paper under the seam line to stabilize the fabric. This prevents the fabric from sinking into the needle plate and from bunching up as you begin to sew. Make sure the tissue is placed an inch or two above the top edge of the fabric. Begin stitching on the tissue and use it as a running board. Once stitching on the fashion fabric backstitching is possible, the risk of the fabric bunching up is eliminated. When the seam is complete, simply tear the tissue away from the seam.
#2: Securing the seam method
Instead of backstitching to lock seams at both the start and end, stitch the first and last quarter inch of the seam using small stitches. These will adequately secure the seam and prevent it from opening up as you work on the project.
At the start of the seam, reduce the stitch length to a small 1.0-1.5 mm setting. With a gentle pull of the thread tails to keep the fabric from sinking into the needle plate, stitch the first ¼” using the small stitches. Once passed the quarter inch mark, raise the stitch length to the normal setting and stitch the seam. To lock the seam at the end, employ the same technique of reducing the stitch length for the last quarter inch.
#3: The stitch starter method
Another way to both stabilize the fabric and prevent it from sinking into the needle plate is to use what I call a “stitch starter.” This is nothing more than a small scrap of the same fabric that is used as a running board. It helps to make a smooth sewing transition onto the fashion fabric. Start the seam by stitching on the stitch starter. When the stitching reaches the end of the scrap fabric, insert the fashion fabric so it butts up to it. Continue sewing forward one quarter inch, then backstitch to lock the seam, then forward again to complete the seam. Once the seam is complete, separate the fashion fabric from the starter.
Master all the techniques you need to know to sew sheer fabrics like a pro with the online Craftsy class The Essential Guide to Sewing With Sheers! Get instant access to comprehensive online lessons for sewing with delicate sheer fabrics. With Apparel Arts instructor Sara Alm as your guide, you’ll be ready to turn these delicate fabrics into dazzling garments in no time.