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Need polyester tips-Help!

dregan | Posted in General Discussion on

I recently read a post that was talking about how important it is to use better fabrics.  Someone was mentioning that polyester is bad news and difficult to sew.  Well, I have a large stash of material and some polyester, and will have to say I did go for cheap.  I would love any tips about sewing with polyester. I really like the material and plan to start cutting it out yesterday, but everytime I go to the internet, I start reading about sewing, or looking at material on sale, and haven’t started yet.

It is a thin, silky slippery material.  Would a walking foot help? I have one, but haven’t used it yet.  Do I use temporary spray adhesive to keep material together to sew a seam?  I did end up using that last year on slippery velvet-I do have some Sulky.  I’ve also read to start sewing on a scrap of fabric first, so beginning of stitching doesn’t get stuck in the hole  plate?  Would I need to backstitch then right away after I start sewing on the polyester? Can I use a double needle hem?  Should I staystitch and use either straight or bias, also, or is staystitching enough?  I was wondering if I should use french seams on it,  since it is semi-sheer?   I seem to have a fear of polyester since reading that post, and had almost decided to use this cotton fabric I don’t like as well. Ha!  Please help!!



Edited 11/29/2003 12:12:05 PM ET by Deb


  1. stitchmd | | #1

    There's no one way to treat polyester as it is manufactured to mimic other fabrics. So, if it looks and feels like cotton, treat it like cotton, same if it looks like silk, etc.  The bad news aspect, IMHO, is that it doesn't hold up well and you will have wasted your efforts on something that will pill, distort, discolor, stain, etc. Use it for trial fittings, inner cusions for removeable covers, etc. Anything where it won't show and won't have to stand up to use.

    1. dregan | | #2

      Thanks.  It is to trial fit a pattern that I made out of muslin.  I was scanned Oct. 2002 by the Unique Pattern Company, and I still don't have a perfect fit.  I think there is a mix-up.  Anyway, this pattern has capped sleeves, and looks like has unneeded material in front and back armsyth (sp?), but there are no darts or any seam-it is cut-on to the pattern. Do you think it is just suppose to be that way because it is capped sleeved and a simple, easy pattern?

      As for polyester, I like to have different tops, and don't mind them not lasting real long. I thought there were certain things to do with this type of material, so that the seams don't pucker so much. Would it be a longer stitch?  Are you suppose to pull the fabric taut, or anything?  Any help would be appreciated. This fabric is thin, semi-sheer, and silky.


      1. sewingwahine | | #3

        Hi Deb

        We sometimes use polyester in our costumes, because we have to worry about cost. Have you read Claire Schaeffer's Fabric Information book (at least I think that's the title). I use it for tips whever I'm working with a new or challenging fabric. With regard to puckered seams, have you made sure that you didn't wind your bobbin too tightly? That can be source of some problems. Also, lengthening the stitch slightly should help as well.

        Best of luck!!

        1. GhillieC | | #4

          I have a real dislike of pure polyesters. Compared to silks they are heavy, harsh feeling and do not breathe. However I do use polyester mixes, particularly poly cotton, on occasion.

          I will not waste my time on fabric which may be cheap, but is not easy to handle and not nice to wear.


      2. carolfresia | | #5

        Deb, since you have this fabric and like the way it looks, don't be discouraged by reports that polyester is impossible to handle, etc. It is not as cooperative as some other fibers, to be sure, but not as terrible as others, either!

        If it's a tight weave, you might indeed need to hold it taut as you sew seams. Some people recommend hand-winding your bobbins to reduce the tension there and eliminate some of the puckering. I can't say I've ever done this myself, but perhaps I should have. Another thing to pay attention to is your needle. For a lightweight, sheer fabric, you might prefer a finer needle, say, a size 70 or maybe even a 65 (if you can get one). And sometimes a "sharp" or "microtex" will perform better on tightly woven synthetics.

        French seams are a good idea on a sheer, but if the fabric is really a nuisance, you might drive yourself nuts doing them. In that case, another option is to finish the seam allowance as a serged rolled hem, quite close to the stitching. One author I've worked with suggests using a strip of water-soluble stabilizer (used mostly for machine embroidery) along the seams as you sew--just wash it away when you're done. This works great for French seams.

        I'd recommend making some trial seams and see what happens. Troubleshoot using the suggestions posted, and if nothing satisfies you, then consider the fabric an experiment. You can still use it to test a pattern, because it won't matter that much how the sewing comes out if you're just checking for fit.

        Good luck!


        1. dregan | | #6

          Thanks so much for all the info.  I will use them when I sew it up.  I decided to wait until they send me another pattern with new measurements used.  When I used a muslin to sew up the pattern, the cap sleeves turned out too ridiculous to wear, and I really don't know how to fix it.  There are no seams in the arms/sleeves to adjust and there is a lot of extra material/wrinkles in the front arm crease (armsythe?is that how they spell it?) The chest area above the breast is also too large, and the rest needs about 2 inches of ease.  I belong to a pattern company, and there's been a lot of miscommunication within the company and also many mistakes.  I may try another pattern from another company while I'm waiting. Do you mean to tell me that most people who sew only use man-made materials?  I don't even like to buy fabric that has to be dry cleaned because of the cost!   Have you tried the Eucelan-I'm not sure the name, but it can be used to wash wool fabric by hand? Thanks again.

          What do you think about using temporary spray adhesive to keep seams together to sew?  It isn't suppose to leave any residue, but what about on polyester?  I used it on a 9 patch velvet pillow last Christmas that was driving me crazy, and it really saved my sanity?


          1. carolfresia | | #7

            Hi, Deb,

            I don't mean that most people use man-made materials--I think there's a big mix of choices, depending on your taste, your budget, your ability to tolerate certain fibers, and of course (very important!) your willingness to deal with special care needs, such as dry cleaning or hand washing. I don't dry clean much at all, but that's because I plan my wardrobe to be washable. I machine-launder nearly every fabric before cutting and sewing, to be sure it won't shrink or change hand or texture. Even wools, unless I really do expect to dry clean (such as tailored skirts, jackets or trousers). But I've machine-washed wools and used them for unstructured jackets, soft, drapy pants, etc., and never needed to dry clean (though I don't always put them in the dryer).

            I personally wouldn't bother with the spray adhesive on the seams, simply because I don't have a good place to do the spraying safely in my tiny sewing space. However, I've been told by several people that it works magic on tricky, slippery or squishy seams, so I can believe it made a huge difference when you were sewing velvet. If you liked using it there, try it on the polyester silky fabric and see how it behaves. I'd probably simply use taut sewing and a good, firm grip on the fabric, to keep things lined up. And go at a reasonable pace--no need for lots of speed.

            Good luck working out the pattern fitting problems. If you already have a custom pattern service membership, keep working with them (even if you go ahead with other patterns as well). Once you've invested some money and time into the service, it would be great if you can get a nicely fitting pattern out of it.


          2. dregan | | #8

            Thank you sooo much!  I want my clothes to be mostly washable, also.  I have never bought wool to sew with because I didn't think I could clean by any other method than dry clean-that's great to hear you do!  If you line a garment, it doesnt necessarily have to be dry-cleaned, does it?  If you line wool, what if either the wool or lining fabric continue to shrink a little at different speeds?  Do you machine wash lined clothes?  Or is that what you mean when you said you launder them except for jackets, and tailored skirts?  What about linen-can you launder that in the machine, also-if you don't care it doesn't stay crisp?  I also am curious about acetate-it seems if a garment has acetate in it, which is in a lot of lining materials, in RTW, it'll say dry clean?  Rayon by itself can be washed in cold water in machine, can't it?   I've always just followed the labels on how to launder, and haven't really sewed for about 30 yrs.  I would love to make some things in silk, like a suit jacket in silk dupioni-if I would hand wash that before sewing(do you wash silk in washing machine, too?), it'll be okay to continue washing it the same way?  Or any other silk? But if a jacket is lined, does that mean it should be dry cleaned?

            Anybody, I would love all your information on what you machine wash.  I haven't been able to sew a lot since starting again, due to chronic back pain.  I've worked and raised 3 children, but just threw almost everything in washer on cold water and hoped for the best. Ha! Ha!  I know I sound so ignorant, but want to sew and learn more, and it's easier getting others advice instead of ruining everything on my own or just not trying different kinds of material.


          3. Sewnow | | #9

            Hi Deb,

            I'm chiming in late here, but just saw the chat about poly....

                Poly is NOT a four letter word <g>.  For the reasons you mention, I love it.  No, not the '70s stuff, but the new polys are fabulous for look and ease of care.  I've done lots of dresses and blouses out of the type poly that looks and feels like silk.  It isn't as cool to wear, of course, but it lasts much longer than silk through repeated washings, and there's no shrinkage, little-to-no pressing.  Shiny poly doesn't look very attractive; but there are lots of choices out there where the surface is a little textured or "pebbled" that look so pretty.

                 Taut sewing is required for topstitching (avoid topstitching if you can), and be careful of ply slippage when sewing seams.  It will ease, but not much, so the minimal amount of easing of sleeve caps gives best results.  Use a shorter-than-normal stitch length; that puts more thread in the seams.   Use a fine microtex needle, 70, and a fine thread (test for best results).  Don't backtack; do use condensed stitching where reinforcement or on small details.  As was said, wind the bobbins slowly.  Cotton thread won't stretch as much, but it will disintegrate before the poly does.   Use french seams and enclosed-edge techniques so there are no facings.  Sew slowly and carefully.  I use very fine Clover patchwork pins to hold the edges for sewing, and try to pin in the seam allowances only (but not required).  If you're using a light color, make sure your pins are clean -- it's amazing what grime gets on them from handling.  A quick trip through the dishwasher in a wire bag makes pins like new.

                 The most challenging  fabric I used was one that needed matching vertically AND horizontally.  The blouse had a  covered buttonhole placket, cuff with buttonhole, bound jewel neck, and a hand-rolled asymmetrical scarf to match, and it's gorgeous.   A sleeve opening with continuous lap binding turned out perfectly (no little pucker at the top), and I *think  I fused a very fine poly microweave interfacing (DreamWeave) to the seam allowance to get a little better "grip" on that.

                If you have a fabric you love, go for it!  It will require much more attention when sewing, but you'll have an easy care garment for the next ten years or so.

          4. FitnessNut | | #10

            "...make sure your pins are clean -- it's amazing what grime gets on them from handling.  A quick trip through the dishwasher in a wire bag makes pins like new."

            What a great idea! Now to the particulars.....I've never seen a wire bag. Details, please.


          5. barbara1 | | #11

            Deb, I recently struggled with polyester satin-backed crepe, and I know it isn't slippery or fine but after much testing I found the following worked best for me:

            stitch length 3

            pressure -2

            slowspeed gear

            instead of using thread from original spool, transfered it by machine to a lightweight plastic bobbin and placed it on the spool holder as usual.  I think this helped because there was less tension on the thread.

            made bias binding for necklines and armholes

            used seams great to wrap side seam allowances after stitching

            microtex needle

            and this is the best tip it really worked as even after my careful pressing, and there appeared to be no puckering until daughter tried the pants on , having them pressed at the drycleaners - look fantastic.  Professional pressing really puts a professional finish on jackets and skirts etc.  Only cost $3 australian, a bargain.

            Hope you have lots of luck Deb. with everyones tips, your like me I like to have the facts before I strart.   

          6. dregan | | #12


            Thanks a lot all of you who have given me tips.  I didn't think everybody could be passing by all the neat materials that have polyester in them!  I have been side-tracked trying to make 5 fleece blankets and pillows with Iowa and Go Hawks on them. All my children have gone to the University of Iowa in Iowa City , Iowa.  One graduated and two to go. The school colors are black and gold.  It took me awhile just to cut the fabric-I used a rotary blade, etc., but it would stretch and anyway, it was a tough time.  I recently decided when I couldn't get up off the floor one more time, and which lays me up for days, due to severe chronic sciatica, degenerative disc, etc., etc., and fibromyalgia that I was just going to give my one son and his girlfriend one between them, and my husband  won't get one by Christmas! I've seen it done where you just sew the letters on the fleece and I've seen where they cut with applique scissors so the other color shows through after sewing outline of letters on the fleece.  I'm afraid it will stretch too much!  Any ideas?

          7. Sewnow | | #13


            The Container Store is where I found this small pouch.  It's about 3"x4" and zips closed.  The mesh feels like very soft wire but it's sewn together like a fabric.  The pins' glass heads won't pass through the mesh.  The pin shafts will poke through but the heads stop them from falling out.

            Speaking of odd sewing notions, dental picks have one socially redeming feature -- they make great grabbers to help get that itty-bitty piece of fabric under the presser foot and held down just "so." 

          8. FitnessNut | | #14

            Thanks for the info. I'll have to keep my eyes open for something like this.

            Dental tools could be of great assistance in sewing, I'm sure. I use a fine-tipped awl from Clover to do just what you describe and more. I spent several hours last evening "unsewing" a hand-picked zipper and it was invaluable.


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