A Beginning Sewer's Guide To Working With Stretch Velvet And Other Specialty Textiles

By Brenda Powell

If you are just beginning to sew your own clothing or make other fabric items you may not be aware of the wide range of different fabrics that are available. Some, like stretch velvet, fleece or silk need to be handled in specific ways. If you have never worked with specialty fabrics here are some tips and tricks that may make it easier for you to do so.

If you talk to an experienced tailor or seamstress, chances are there is one type of fabric that they hate working with. Often they may be frustrated when working with slippery materials that slide and move no matter how carefully they are pinned together. If you are working with fabric like this go slow when cutting it out and use sharp scissors so your cuts are nice and clean.

Many materials have spandex or Lycra in them. This is great as it can allow them to move with your body. Many active wear designs will be made from this kind of fabric. If you are sewing something that is designed to expand you will need to make sure you are using a zig zag stitch rather than a straight one. This will allow the material to move properly. You may also want to serge the edges so they do not curl and warp.

Thick fabric is also challenging albeit in different ways. Velvet with a thick pile may catch on a normal sewing machine foot. Tough materials such as leather may need special needles so that the machine can actually stitch them together.

Silk fabric can be beautiful to look at and very dressy but it needs to be handled gently. A sharp needle is best for this fabric because it will pierce cleanly and will not cause runs in the material. As this fabric can be quite expensive and runs will show up easily it is important to handle it properly when cutting and sewing it.

You may want to think about how easy a specific fabric will be to care for when choosing whether or not to use it in your design. If you know that you will be wearing a garment on a regular basis you may want to choose fabrics that are washable or are easy to care for in other ways.

Patterns can give you a wealth of helpful information when it comes to working on a project. Pay attention to the material suggestions that are being made as well as any notions or embellishments that they want you to use. There may be suggestions about which machine foot to use, which stitch to utilize and which type of thread to use.

If you have a project you want to complete but are truly at a loss for what you need to do so, it may be a great idea to start your buying at a fabric store or sewing shop. The staff can give you tips and hints that will make the construction process a much less stressful one. It can mean the difference between a beautiful garment you will love to wear and a project that is a source of frustration to you.

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