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Tips for working with difficult fabric?

VictoriaNorth | Posted in General Discussion on

Do you have any tips for working with difficult fabric?

Edited 9/9/2008 9:45 am ET by vicky_north


  1. KharminJ | | #1

    G'Morning, Vicky ~

    Can you be more specific, please? -

    What particular kind of "difficult" are you trying to solve?

    Is it slippery?, sheer?, thick?, or ravelly? Some combination? Or something else entirely?

    They each require some different handling.

    One common ingredient for success is Patience; and another is Practice ~

    Looking forward to your answer - your almost-universal question, as currently phrased, is just too big to answer - (grin)

    Bright Blessings!


    1. User avater
      VictoriaNorth | | #2

      Hello Kharmin, Thanks for your speedy response. I was just hoping to open the discussion on good tips for working with difficult fabrics in general. I realize that each tip would be specific to a certain fabric, but after reading the "Seam Finishes for Silk" article from issue #139, I thought I would see if anyone in the community had any ideas. I was thinking of gearing the question toward silk, but thought that maybe there were hints to dealing with other difficult fabrics as well.Thanks, Vicky

  2. damascusannie | | #3

    For fabrics that want to shift, I've got a special sewing machine called a Davis Vertical Feed, made in the late 'teens, early 20s. It's a combination walking foot/needle feed machine and it makes sewing fabrics that want to creep ahead of the needle a breeze.

  3. suesells | | #4

    In the Grace Kelly era I made for myself a sheath dress with long sleeves and jewel neck from pale turquoise wool jersey, a gift from my mom. The dress was a great background for scarves or costume jewelry. The jersey looked good on my shapely young body. Mom flattered me with compliments on the good sewing.

    Mom had a difficult fabric and a difficult teenager needing a dress. Her solution was to turn the project over to the teenager while neglecting to mention she didn't have the nerve to cut into it herself until the project was successfully completed.


    1. woodywoodpecker598 | | #14

      That's funny, it made me laugh.

    2. Teaf5 | | #15

      What a genius!  I've got to remember that tip!

  4. kcastillo0319 | | #5

    I'm working with a difficult abric right now.  A slinky, blouse-weight poly.  Beautiful colors but hard to control.  I'm using spray starch at the ironing board to add some stability before cutting and sewing.  It's working wonderfully well.


  5. lululu | | #6

    I was using Minkee to make a lined baby blanket. Not only does the Minkee stretch in the crosswise direction but it is also has a nap and is very, very slippery. I could not simply pin and stitch. I found the best solution was to use strips of Stretch and Seal to stabilize the seam line on the back of the Minkee. It has enough sticky to hold the fabric stable while stitching and then pulls off easily when finished. I got a perfect seam without making it stiff.

    1. wlric | | #7

      I don't know Stretch and Seal. Is that a sewing notion?

      1. lululu | | #8

        It is actually a kitchen product, a plastic film that comes on a roll and has one side that sticks to your pan or dish to seal tightly. Stretch'n Seal is made by Glad.

        1. wlric | | #9

          Thank you!

        2. User avater
          JunkQueen | | #10

          Wonderfully innovative idea. Thanks for sharing.

  6. User avater
    JunkQueen | | #11

    I love this topic. Thank you for starting it.

  7. KathleenSews | | #12

    Keep scraps of any difficult fabrics to test with when you are shopping for a new sewing machine serger. I have some acetate from hell from the 1970's that has been very useful for this.

    As for the dress I made from this, I starched the seamlines, pinned only in the seam allowance with lots and lots of pins, used a walking foot on my Bernina and used Seams Great to finish the seams. I didn't have a serger with differential feed at that time.

    1. KathleenSews | | #13

      Nobody posted the usual methods:

      Cutting: Pin fabric to paper and cut out fabric and paper together. If needed, sew paper and fabric together, then tear paper away. Tissue paper works fine, as does brown paper, newsprint (newsprint is blank newspaper-type paper - if it is printed it is called newspaper, go figure).

      Sewing: Use paper under the fabric. I keep rolls of adding machine paper for this. You can still get this, as well as printing calculators at office supply stores. Machine embroidery has brought out lots of stabilizers that can be used for garment construction. There is one that is a slightly sticky paper-like water soluable stabilizer. It can be cut in strips and used just in the seam allowances.

      Sheer organdy/organza: What worked best for me was to 3-thread serge the seam, wrong sides together first, then straight stitch the seam, right sides together.

      If there is a small section that is driving you crazy, hand sew it. Sometimes the long way around is the fastest and easiest.

  8. MaryinColorado | | #16

    Slinky fabric hems: baste clear elastic about 1/4 to 1/2 inch from the edge.  Coverstitch with a coverstitch capable serger about 1/2 inch above the elastic.  Trim off the excess fabric.  Professional looking finish results.  BUT: be sure to add this extra amount of fabric for the hem when cutting out the pattern.  (Sorry, forgot to say that first.)  Mary

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