Use Faux Suede for a Sumptuous Feel Without BulkFor care and ease of sewing, it just may be better than the real thing.
With a luxurious hand and easy-care reputation, synthetic suede is a fantastic fabric choice, especially when you seek a sumptuous feel without bulk. Halston made it famous in the 1970s in his iconic shirtdresses and jackets. It is available in a range of weights and colors, prints, and embossed and perforated versions. Choose a lightweight type for drapey styles or a medium-bodied fabric for structured garments. Faux suede’s no-fray nature makes it wonderful for cutwork or appliqué.
Faux suedes are made from microfiber polyester and a polyurethane binder. Some are constructed as a nonwoven fabric with a suedelike nap on one or both sides. Others have a woven or knitted base with a napped surface on one or both sides. Ultrasuede, a trademarked fabric developed by Toray in the 1970s, was the first high-quality version. Other synthetic suedes are available, but you get what you pay for in terms of hand and durability. Look for a brand name and shop from a trusted source for the best quality.
Faux suede doesn’t ease well, can be damaged by heat, and may wear at stress points. It is tough to sew with a regular hand needle, and on a sewing machine, skipped stitches and creeping can be problems. Aside from these easy-to-overcome shortcomings, faux suede offers remarkable qualities: It is durable, breathable, tear resistant, water and stain resistant, and washable.
• Keep construction simple by using designs with dropped shoulders or kimono or raglan sleeves, since faux suede doesn’t ease well.
• Consider gathered, shirred, smocked, pleated, or quilted casual jackets and draped designs in soft and supple faux suedes.
• Avoid darts because they will appear pronounced in the napped faux suede, and pressing them thoroughly risks melting the material.
• Do any basting within the seam allowance, and consider using binder clips instead of pins. With some faux suedes, needle holes and pinholes are difficult or impossible to remove.
• There is no need to preshrink faux suede, but laundering makes it softer and may reduce skipped sewing machine stitches.
• Tumble-dry until barely damp, then hang to dry.
Layout and cutting
• Use a nap layout. Cut with the nap going up for a richer, darker look and the nap going down for a lighter, softer look. Cut on the cross-grain for the shaded look of real suede.
• Mark the wrong side with arrows to indicate the nap direction.
• Hold the pattern in place with weights. Use a rotary cutter and mat to avoid uneven edges.
• Cut patterns from a single fabric layer. Make and use a complete pattern rather than a half or cut-on-fold pattern.
Needles, thread, and stitches
• Choose stretch, sharp, or universal machine needles in sizes 80/12 or 90/14. Do not use a leather machine needle. For hand stitching, sizes 5 to 7 needles, appropriate for light- to medium-weight fabrics, are recommended.
• Use all-purpose polyester thread for regular sewing or topstitching.
• Hold fabric taut when stitching.
• Sew with a walking foot to keep layers in alignment.
• To remedy skipped stitches, experiment with different needle sizes and point types, and switch to a straight-stitch needle plate.
• Stabilize seams that will be stressed.
• If you must sew a dart in faux suede, apply a circle of fusible interfacing at the point on the wrong side, and then stitch the dart. To avoid a puckered point, take the last few stitches along the fold at the point. Topstitch darts to keep them flat.
• Use a press cloth and synthetic iron setting or steamer with a plastic soleplate that only produces steam.
• Topstitch, glue, or fuse seams to help them stay open.
• Dry-clean faux suede garments for the best appearance. They also can be machine-washed and machine-dried. Do not over dry them, though. Remove them from the dryer while they are damp, smooth the seamlines, and hang the garment to finish drying.
• Take care when spot cleaning, as it’s easy to rub a hole in synthetic suede.
“Fabric Lab: Faux Suede” by Deana Tierney May (p.18) appeared in Threads #195.
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I would love to find some of those perforated faux suedes. Any suggestions?