Sewing Difficult Fabrics

Knowing good basic sewing skills always comes in handy.  But sometimes, challenging fabrics can still be too much to handle.  Indeed, what may seem like simple tasks of folding and cutting fabric can become frustrating –not to mention the difficulties that will be encountered when we start running our sewing machines through these uncooperative fabrics.

Generally, when dealing with challenging fabrics, there are some things we can do to immediately improve the situation. Adjusting your machine’s thread tension up and down until you identify the best setting for the particular fabric can do wonders.  Speeding up as well as slowing down the sewing may make your sewing machine run smoothly over the fabric.  You may just have to experiment a little.  Simply making sure that the fabric is free of dust or any adhesive residue may also make it cooperate better with your sewing.

However, if these quick tips don’t work, then you can read on and take note of some of these helpful hacks and tips for sewing difficult fabrics.

Fragile and Thick Fabrics

sewing difficult fabrics

Sometimes we work with fabrics that are so fragile that there is a possibility that they tear up when we try to cut them. Soaking these delicate fabrics in lukewarm water can give us better results.

Long-bladed scissors are also helpful in cutting these fabrics aided by a heavy ruler along the edge so that there is less stress exerted on the fabric.  You might also try a rotary cutter.

Use strips of starched fabric under the seams that will provide extra resilience to your delicate fabric when you start sewing. Simply pick the starched fabric off after you finish.  And make sure that you are using fine sharp needles.

Another great tip is to let the hems take on a rounded shape as opposed to pressing your hem flat. And as much as possible, try using the least number of pins on your fragile fabric.

sewing difficult fabrics

If you cut through thick fabric and it seems like cutting through leather, then it is time to use a craft knife. Place your fabric over a piece of wood or cutting mat wrong side up when you cut. In this way, you will not scratch the fabric surface if you accidentally slip with the knife.

When storing thick fabrics, it is sometimes best to roll them up like you would a poster to prevent permanent creases from forming in your fabric.

In some cases, thick fabrics don’t need edging, while other thick fabrics may need a double row of close stitches without a fold to make a hem.

Leather-grade heavy needles are best suited for thick fabrics to prevent your needle from breaking. It is also important to use strong thread with thick fabrics and finishing is often best done by hand.

Slippery and Furry Fabrics

sewing difficult fabrics

The problem with slippery fabrics is that they usually don’t stay in place while you are sewing on them. Putting your slippery fabric between two layers of tissue paper should prevent them from slipping away from you and your sewing machine. This can also help you avoid snags that could destroy the smooth surface of the fabric.

Always press from the wrong side of shiny fabrics.  You should always use a pressing cloth if you ever need to press the right side.  You may also want to put paper under your seams when you press them open to avoid making creases on the right side of the fabric.

When preparing hems and seams of shiny fabrics, tacking by hand or hand basting is a good idea before you use your sewing machine.  This will help prevent distortion in the final product.

Lastly, try using some regular spray starch –the kind you’d use for ironing a shirt– and applying a light spray across the fabric.  This will stiffen it up the fabric making it much easier to handle while you’re cutting.

sewing difficult fabrics

Furry fabrics, on the other hand, can prove to be the most difficult to sew especially when the long fur fibers get entangled with your stitches.

Before you start sewing, brush your furry fabric using a soft hairbrush and make sure all the fibers are lying in one direction. When sewing and make sure the fibers are flat and in the same direction, arranged parallel to your stitches.

Remember that furry fabrics tend to have fragile bases so use double rows of stitches for your seams. A coarse thread and long stitches will also help in securely gripping your furry fabric.  For more tips on sewing with fur, please review the linked article.

Final Thoughts on Sewing Difficult Fabrics

There is no doubt that working with fragile, thick, slippery, and furry fabrics can sometimes become a troublesome task.  Each of these fabrics has special characteristics that can make cutting and sewing them a challenging job.  Some of these difficult fabrics have the tendency to move during the cutting stage so having neat edges could prove to be elusive. Others can prove to be a handful when you try to feed them through your sewing machine.  Deciding what stitch to use on these fabrics to produce the best result can already be intimidating to many.

However, producing something beautiful out of these challenging fabrics can give you a kind of satisfaction that is certainly worth all your efforts.  So, roll up your sleeves up and start taking the challenge of working with these unpredictable fabrics!  If you have any special tips for sewing difficult fabrics that you can share with the group, please add them in the comments below!

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