Learning how to sew ruffles as a sewing beginner will help you get a better understanding of fabric fullness and drape. While ruffles are a great way to add a decorative aspect to dresses and blouses, they can also be used to control length and shape around the hem and sleeves. Ruffles can be constructed in a variety of different lengths, fullness and drape.
Two Types of Ruffles You Should Know
There are two main styles of ruffles that differ in the way they are cut and constructed: Straight ruffles and circular ruffles.
Straight ruffles are cut in the shape of a strip and need to be gathered to achieve fullness.
Circular ruffles are cut in a circular shape which provides fullness once the inner edge is straightened and sewn into a seam. If it sounds a bit confusing, don't worry! We'll show you how to cut and sew both of these ruffle styles bellow.
Gathered Straight Ruffles
As perhaps the easiest of the two, it requires you to cut the ruffle into a straight strip which is gathered to achieve fullness. If you are sewing beginner this is a great way to practice gathering simultaneously to learning how to sew a ruffle.
A plain ruffle is the most commonly used straight ruffle and features a single finished hem edge and a second gathered edge that gets sewn into a seam (or another raw edge). This ruffle style is mostly used for apparel products and is very easy to cut and sew.
A double ruffle has two finishes hems on opposite ends but the gathering stitch is applied right along the middle of the two edges. The gathering is then either top-stitched to the garment or another reinforcement like twill tape or binding. A double ruffle is great for achieving double the fullness of a regular ruffle in lighter-weight fabrics featuring a fluid drape. It is also a great way to apply an ornamental double row of ruffles to more structured fabrics.
A heading ruffle has two finished hems and is gathered at a shorter distance from one of the hems. As opposed to a plain ruffle, a ruffle with a heading is not sewn into a seam but rather forms two reflecting ruffles of different sizes using gathering alone. To set the gathering in place it is then top stitched to the garment or to a strip of twill tape or binding. Although this type of ruffle is also used in apparel, it is most commonly found on drapery and decorative upholstery items.
Clean Finishing a Ruffle Hem
When clean finishing ruffles you should keep in mind that the backside of the fabric will be visible from certain angles or during movement. This means that both face and back side of fabric should be completely clean finished. A baby hem, which is double folded and top-stitched at 1/8"-1/4" intervals, is the most common way to finish ruffle hems. For a more luxurious feel or when the ruffle's back side requires less visibility, a self-facing can be used. A ruffle that is self-faced is basically folded onto itself to hide the wrong side of the fabric and usually used on fine, lightweight fabrics. Hem tape, twill tape and binding can also be used to finish ruffle hems, but these finishes are usually more appropriate for medium to heavy weight fabrics that are thicker and have more structure.
Sewing A Straight Ruffle
Decide the ruffle strip's length.
In order to determine how long the initial fabric strip should be, ask yourself how much fullness you need/want your gathered ruffle to have? Normally, for a fully gathered ruffle you need about twice the measurement of the finished length- meaning, you need twice more excess than the seam or raw edge you are sewing the ruffle to. However, you could do less or more excess depending on the fabric and the fullness desired. A general rule is that a finer, wider ruffle should be fuller thus requiring more excess fabric.
In this sewing tutorial we are working with a ruffle that is 2.5 times the original length.
In the image above, the ruffle strip is 2.5 inches longer than the seam it gets sewn to above. Once the longer piece (ruffle) is gathered, it is sewn into the edge of the non-gathered piece next to it.
Finish the ruffle's hem first!
Our ruffle hem/seam allowance is 1/2" and we are working with a lighter-weight fabric. In this case, a double folded machine stitch will work best for clean finishing the hem's raw edge.
1. Turn one of the lengthwise raw edges in towards the wrong side of the fabric (inside of garment) at 1/4" and iron as you fold. Fold once more at 1/4", iron as you fold and place a few pins along the edge to keep the fold in place.
Place the pins perpendicular along the fold for easy removal during stitching.
2. Machine stitch along the fold (on the wrong side of the fabric) using the fold line as a guide.
The ruffle's hem is now complete.
The reason the hem is finished first is due to the fact that it's raw edge is more difficult to work with once the ruffle is gathered and sewn into the seam.
Add two gathering stitches.
3. Set your sewing machine to a basting stitch and machine stitch at about 1/2" down from the remaining raw edge. The reason why the first basting stitch is applied at 1/2" down from the edge is because that is our seam allowance. If you are working with a different seam allowance, use that measurement instead.
4. Apply a second basting stitch at half the distance between the raw edge and the first basting stitch- 1/4" in our case.
Allow enough excess thread at the beginning and end of the basting stitches to facilitate gathering.
5. Align the ruffle's edge to the corresponding seam edge making sure the face of the fabric is touching, and insert a pin at one end to keep the two layers together.
6. Wrap the loose stitch threads around the pin as shown above. This will keep the basting stitch from coming out when the thread is pulled from the opposite end during gathering. Just wrap the thread up and down in a crisscrossing motion until the stitch is stabilized.
7. Begin pulling the two threads on the opposite end of the ruffle carefully, spreading the gathering evenly as you pull.
When forming the ruffle, your goal is to achieve evenly distributed gathering that is exactly the length of the edge it is sewn to.
The easiest way to gather a more dense ruffle is to first pull the gathering all the way to the opposite end, then keep pulling the basting threads to add gathering until the desired length is achieved.
8. Once the correct length is achieved, use a pin or your fingers to distribute the gathering evenly throughout and add pin to hold the two layers in place on the other end.
9. Repeat the step described above by wrapping the loose threads of the basting stitch around the pin to lock the basting in place. This will stop the gathering from coming undone and allow you to pin the rest of the seam together evenly.
10. Pin the seam together horizontally making sure the gathering remains evenly distributed and the raw edges are aligned properly.
11. Making sure your sewing machine is set at a regular stitch now (not basting), apply a straight stitch right bellow the bottom gathering stitch. Use the bottom gathering stitch as a guide and sew consistently bellow it and as close to it as possible.
As shown above, the gathering stitch remains consistently above the regular seam stitch.
12. Iron ONLY the seam allowance and never directly on top of the ruffle. Ironing on top of gathering loses fullness and flattens the gathered seam.
13. Clean finish the raw edge of the seam allowance. We've used a serging stitch, but if you don't have a serging machine you can use a regular zig zag stitch on your home sewing machine. However, make sure your zig zag stitch is set at the densest setting.
Other options for clean finishing ruffle seams are by using binding or a french seam (in some cases).
14. Iron the seam with the seam allowance pointing away from the ruffle as shown above. This will ensure that the seam stays flat while the ruffle gathering maintains its fullness.
As opposed to straight ruffles, circular ruffles are cut in the shape of a larger circle which has another smaller circle cut in the center of it. When the edge of the inner circle is straightened the body of the fabric creates a clean, beautifully draping ruffle. Because the fabric is cut in a circular shape, the ruffle is able to encompass all directions of the grain including the bias, which gives each ruffle fold a luxurious look/feel.
Sewing a Circular Ruffle
The inner curve will be sewn to a straight edge. When the inner curve is straightened, it forms a set of softly draping ruffles without the use of gathering.
Because the hem of a circle ruffle is curved, it requires a hem finish that is most appropriate for curved edges. The most commonly used techniques are a baby hem, or a bound finish which uses double folded binding constructed of matching fabric.
We will be using a baby hem for clean finishing our circle ruffle. A baby hem uses the technique of a regular double folded machine stitch hem but the folds are very thin- 1/8" wide or less per fold. It works best on curved edges of lightweight fabrics because smaller folds are easier to manipulate along curved edges thus resulting in a smoother, more even finish.
Our seam allowance for the circle ruffle is 1/4" on both inner and outer curves. A smaller seam allowance is easier to work with around curved edges.
1. Fold the outer curved edge of the ruffle at 1/8" once towards the wrong side of the fabric (inside of garment) and iron to keep the fold in place. Fold once more at 1/8" to enclose the raw edge- iron and pin this final fold to stabilize for stitching.
Because the raw edges are curved, it will take some practice to get the folds smooth and even. Your first baby hem wont be perfect but remember to be patient and keep practicing!
2. Machine stitch right above the fold line using it as a guide. For a smoother stitch, go slower along the most curved areas.
The baby hem should have a consistently smooth stitch line placed at the same distance from the edge throughout.
3. Starting at one end, pin the inner curve of the circle ruffle to the straight edge of the seam making sure the face of the fabric is touching (the wrong side of the ruffle should be facing the outside). This is when you'll first start to notice the ruffle form.
4. Continue pinning perpendicular to the edge until the entire seam is pinned and the two layers of fabric are attached.
5. Stitch the seam at 1/4" seam allowance.
As mentioned above, we are using 1/4" seam allowance on the ruffle's edges. A smaller seam allowance is recommended for circle ruffles because it is easier to work with along curved edges. It will create less tension in the seam and not require manually clipping the seam allowance for tension release.
6. Finish the ruffle seam's raw edge with your chosen finishing technique. The easiest and least expensive is by using a serging or zig zag stitch. This also minimizes bulk and allows for the seam to lay flatter on the outside of the garment. A matching fabric, bound finish may also be used.
As displayed above, we've applied a serging stitch along the edge of the ruffle seam to clean finish it.
7. As a final step, iron the ruffle's seam with the seam allowance pointing up, away from the ruffle. This will ensure that the ruffle drapes well and maintain a smooth seam on the face of the garment.
Clean finishing a round neckline with a facing creates a more elevated, tailored look. Facings are a great addition to styles constructed of medium to heavy weight fabrics that are difficult to finish with top-stitched binding. Facings are usually considered a higher quality addition used for styles that are less casual. If you are in the process of learning how to sew, attaching a facing to a round neckline is one of the first sewing techniques you should learn. Once you understand the process needed to achieve a smooth, clean-finished neckline you can apply the same steps to attach armhole, sleeve cuff and center front facings. Applying a facing will also teach you techniques like clipping the seam allowance for tension release, stay-stitching and under-stitching, which are equally important in the sewing process.
You can learn how to draft a round neckline facing pattern from scratch using your garment's sewing pattern. Learn the step by step process on last week's blog: How To Make A Sewing Pattern For a Round Neckline Facing.
Cutting Out The Neckline Facing Patterns
In this tutorial, our sewing patterns are drafted to be cut on fold.
1. Fold the fabric parallel to the selvage edge so that the face of the fabric is on the inside of the fold. When cutting on fold, you should always pin and cut your patterns on the wrong side of the fabric.
2. Align the cut-on-fold line of your Front sewing pattern (Center Front) to the fabric's fold. Pin the pattern in place at the seam allowance through both layers of the fabric.
Here's a quick reminder on how to correctly pin and cut a sewing pattern.
3. Repeat this step with the back facing, aligning the Center Back fold line to the fabric's fold and pinning through both layers of the fabric.
4. Cut out the facings carefully around all curved edges.
The facing's edge should be a smooth curved line and cut precisely to the sewing pattern.
5. Remove the pins and unfold the facings. You will notice that for a classic round neckline, the front facing is always more curved than the back. Understanding this will help you correctly position the facing to the raw edge of the neckline.
Sewing The Neck Facing
6. Pin shoulder edges of the front and back facings together so that the face of both fabric layers are touching (the wrong side of the fabric should be on the outside).
For more stability and easy removal during sewing, apply the pins perpendicular to the seam.
7. Machine stitch both shoulder seams at the correct seam allowance (our seam allowance is 1/2"). Don't forget to back-stitch on your sewing machine at the beginning and end of the stitch.
8. Iron the seam allowance open on the inside of the facing.
9. Once the facing's shoulder seams are connected and ironed, apply a finishing method to the bottom raw edge of the facing. Depending on the fabric you are working with, the most common techniques for clean finishing a facing's raw edge is by serging, with a baby hem (for lightweight fabrics), binding, or machine stitching.
You may also use a zig-zag stitch on your home sewing machine but make sure your machine is set at the correct tension balance for the fabric being used.
We clean finished our facing's raw edge with a serging stitch along the bottom.
Do not clean finish the inner circle of the pattern- this edge will be sewn to the neckline's raw edge and does not require serging or any other finishing technique.
10. Pin the facing's raw edge to the neckline's edge starting at the shoulder seams. Match the shoulder seams of the garment perfectly to the facing's shoulder seams and place a pin through both seams. Make sure the right sides of the fabric are touching.
The shoulder seams should be matching perfectly.
11. Once you've stabilized the shoulder seams, apply pins perpendicularly along the rest of the neckline's raw edge.
12. Machine stitch along the neckline's edge at the correct seam allowance (1/2" in our tutorial). This will take some practice along the more curved edge of the neckline. How smooth this stitch line is will ultimately determine the final shape of the neckline so take your time when applying this stitch.
The final result should be a smooth, curved stitch maintaining the correct seam allowance throughout.
13. Clip the seam allowance with your scissors at the more curved areas using a wedge clip to release tension along the more curved areas of the neckline. Be careful not to cut through the actual stitch- the snip should be placed at about 1 mm away from the stitch.
For added tension release add a few notch clips along the back neckline and between the already clipped wedges where needed. Be careful not to over clip the fabric- this could weaken the seam and create a less-durable, unstable edge.
14. Iron the facing's seam pointing away from the garment as shown bellow. This step will prepare the facing for stay-stitching, which is a necessary step in ensuring that the facing lays flat on the inside of the garment and the neckline's edges are consistently smooth throughout.
The seam allowance should be pointing towards the facing.
15. Stitch on top of the facing though the seam allowance on the back, at about 1/8" away from the seam. This is called under-stitching which ensure that the facing lays flat pointing towards the inside of the garment. It will take some time to get a perfectly even under-stitch if you are a sewing beginner but remember that practice makes perfect. The more even the under-stitch is the smoother the edge of the neckline will be.
16. Move the facing to the inside of the garment and iron the neckline's edge.
17. As a final step, it is necessary that you tack the facing at the seams on the inside of the garment. This means applying a loop stitch through the facing and garment's seam allowance to stabilize the facing ensuring that it stays on the inside of the garment permanently.
Match the facing's seams to the garment's seams on the inside and place a pin through to stabilize.
Keeping the pin inserted, hand stitch in place a few times attaching the facing to the garment's seam allowance.
Repeat this step on both sides of the seam allowance as shown bellow and don't forget to remove the pin once done.
Use the tacking method described above on all the garment's seams. This will result in a stable, flat facing that wont flip to the outside with wash and wear.
Learning how to sew is a journey filled with ups and downs and learning from mistakes. The challenge that comes along with it makes sewing one of the more difficult crafts to learn but also intriguing and quite satisfying. Sewing clothing properly is not just about what the finished product looks like on the outside- The sewing techniques applied on the inside and during the construction process equally affect what the final garment will look and feel like. That being said, you should devote a lot of attention to practicing the correct methods during the construction stage. One of them is understanding when and where to snip your fabric at the seam allowance for tension release.
What does "clipping (or snipping) the seam allowance" mean?
Clipping the seam allowance during sewing refers to cutting localized notches or wedges on the inside of the seam allowance in order to release tension along curves, V-shapes and other tight areas on the garment without compromising durability and long-term wear. This is normally used on woven fabrics that don't stretch. It is very rare that knits or high percentage spandex fabrics need to be snipped at the seam allowance because they are flexible enough to release tightness and tension on their own. It is important that in the process of learning how to sew, you understand when and where to clip your fabric correctly and vise versa: what are the places on your garment you should never add "snips" to. Technically, you should always try to have as little cuts on your fabric as possible (even if it's on the inside of the seam allowance) as too many necessary notches/wedges can weaken a garment. As you practice, you'll start to understand the limit to notching only the necessary curved edges of a clothing item for a smooth professional finish.
Where on the garment should seam allowance be clipped during the construction process?
The most common areas that require snipping at the seam allowance are round necklines, V-necklines and sleeveless armholes when attaching facings and linings to the raw edges. Snipping the fabric during the facing and lining process works hand-in-hand with under stitching. Used together, they create clean curves with flat, smooth edges. Other uses for snipping the fabric to release tightness are on princess seams (although it should be used carefully), round style lines, and very curved hems in some cases.
You should never snip the seam allowance at the armhole when it is sewn to a sleeve- this can weaken the seam and create future damage with movement and wear.
How to Correctly Clip The Fabric to Release The Right Amount of Tension.
There are two methods you could use to snip your seam allowance for added movement and tension release. We will discuss them bellow, but first, here are a few rules to remember when snipping a garment's seam allowance:
1. Snip carefully only around curved edges. Remember, you want to remove only the necessary amount of excess fabric without weakening the seam.
2. Clip up to about 1 mm or 1/8" away from the stitch line. It is not necessary, nor is it recommended that you snip your fabric right next to the stitch. This could also compromise durability and you may accidentally cut the actual stitch.
3. Use the wedge method (described below) for round necklines and seams. The wedge snip is perfect for inner curves because it creates a smother, more balanced edge. The notch clipping method is best used for quick tension release along less curved seams.
Wedge Method: A triangle shaped snip that allows for release of tension as well as minimizes seam allowance bulk. This is a great method to use around very curved edges like the neckline to achieve an extra smooth finish.
Notch Method: It is a single or group of straight clips done with a pair of scissors to release tension along a variety of different seams, usually less curved.
A combination of both methods can be used along the same seam: Fore example, you could clip a few wedges around the more curved areas and simply add a notch or two around the less curvy parts.
Clipping The Seam Allowance On a Faced, Round Neckline
Pictured bellow is the difference between a clipped and under-stitched round neckline and one that lacks clipping/under-stitching. As shown, clipping the seam allowance allows the facing to lay flat underneath and gives the curved edge a smooth, even definition.
Once the facing is stitched to the neckline at the right seam allowance, apply a few wedge clips with your scissors along the most curved edges of the seam allowance. Be careful not to cut through the actual stitch. Clip at about 1 mm away from the stitch.
Add a few notch clips along the areas that are less curved, such as the back neckline. This will further release tension without removing too much excess fabric.
Clipping a Faced V-neckline
Once the V-neck facing is attached, add a single notch clip vertically along the seam allowance right in the middle of the V at about 1 mm (or less) away from the stitch. You do not need to add any addition snips on the front neckline because the sides are already straight and will naturally lay flat once the facing is flipped over.
Add a few wedge snips along the seam allowance of the back neckline to release additional tension.
The extra wedge clips at the back will ensure the neckline lays flat along the more curved edge.
The single notch snip applied on the inside is enough to create a smooth, sharp V at the front and keep the facing flat on the inside.
Clipping Faced Armholes
After the facing is stitched to the raw edge of the armhole, add a few wedge clips along the under-arm curved edges at the bottom. To release extra tension, add a few notch clips to the less curved areas the top. You do not need to snip the seam allowance along the entire edge, only the curved areas.
After the seam allowance is clipped, the facing will be easily positioned towards the inside of the garment resulting in a smooth, clean edge that lays flat and is easy to iron.
Rumor has it that sleeping on a silk pillowcase is much easier on the skin, possibly reducing wrinkles and skin irritations during the night. The constant tossing and turning on a regular pillowcase doesn't hurt your skin by any means but it certainly adds to those sleep wrinkles we sometimes end up with in the morning. Although they go away in a matter of minutes (and sometimes even hours), it's always a good idea to stay away from things that unnecessarily wrinkle or irritate the skin, even if only temporarily.
If you do a quick Google search for "how to prevent face wrinkles" you'll find that one of the suggestions listed is sleeping on a silk pillowcase. Why? Well, silk fabric has a smooth, soft quality and doesn't form deep fabric wrinkles like cotton does. This allows the face to rest more flat and maintain a smooth surface throughout the night. In addition, silk is made of 100% natural fibers which means it is just as absorbent as cotton, allowing the skin to breath comfortably during the night. Speaking of comfort, silk feels extremely soft and luxurious on the skin which certainly contributes to a better night's sleep.
Now let's talk money: Silk is a more expensive fabric which means if you want to switch to silk pillowcases, it might turn out to be a bit of an investment. If you're not ready to dig into your savings just yet, no problem! Being the resourceful, crafty person that you are, you can actually make your own silk pillowcases. All you have to do is get the fabric and take out your trusty sewing machine. We'll show you the easiest way to do so bellow, but first a few things to remember about silk fabric:
1. Silk fibers can deteriorate with too much friction and heat which means washing it in warm to hot water is a big no-no. If your washer has a hand-wash setting always use it to wash your silks and makes sure the water is cold or cool. To be on the safe side, you can always gently wash silk by hand with soap or very gentle detergent.
2. When shopping for silk fabric, check the label for machine washable silk. Yes, there is such a thing and we have the goods to prove it. An example of machine-washable silk is a sueded silk which has been sand washed in an industrial setting about 5000 times to create a soft, "fuzzy"coating. This treatment allows for the silk to withstand much greater tolerance for friction which makes it perfect for everyday clothing and silk pillowcases. That being said, you should still take some precautions when machine washing it: Cold to cool water in addition to the most gentle setting you have available on your washing machine.
3. When sewing with silk, especially silk charmeuse and chiffon, it is recommended that instead of a zig-zag stitch or serging along the raw edges of the seam you use a french seam finish. This technique will not only ensure that the edges don't fray over time, but also creates an extremely high-quality, durable finish which should last you over a long period of time.
Note: If you have an overlock machine at home, you can certainly use that to finish the inside edges but we recommend using a more dense stitch setting and make sure the needles are sharp enough to avoid pulling on the sensitive silk fibers.
If a zig zag stitch is all that's available to you, we recommend a french seam for your pillowcases instead- It is not difficult and we'll show you how to do it bellow.
In this tutorial, we'll guide through both the french seam method and serging so that you get a better understanding of both.
Sewing The Silk Pillowcase
1. Get precise measurements from a pillowcase you already own:
Using a measuring tape, measure along the width and length of an existing pillowcase. A standard pillowcase is 19" wide by 29" long.
2. Add seam allowance to both measurements.
You will need to add 1/2" in seam allowance to the width measurement which will give you a total of 19 1/2".
Add an extra 5" to the lengthwise measurement totaling 34". The reason why a longer seam allowance is needed for the length is due to the fact that the pillowcase is folded and stitched to create the illusion of a wide band along the opening. The 5" excess also includes the 1/2" allowance necessary to sew the seam on the opposite end of the opening.
3. Fold the silk fabric lengthwise, ensuring that you have enough fabric for a 19.5" x 34" rectangle.
Using a ruler and a fabric water-soluble pencil, draw a straight line perpendicular to the bottom fold, about 1" away from the edge. This will ensure that the pillow has a straight side edge.
4. Starting at the fold, measure 19.5" inches up and mark a dash line with your fabric pencil.
Repeat this step at different areas of the fold to achieve an alignment of dash lines which will eventually be connected into a straight line.
5. Starting at the vertical line you drew initially in Step 3, align the measuring tape parallel to the lengthwise fold and mark a dash line at 34". Repeat the step at different areas of the vertical line thus marking an alignment of vertical dashes which will form a straight line.
6. Using a ruler and your fabric pencil, connect all the dash lines vertically and horizontally on the fabric resulting in a 19.5" x 34" rectangle.
7. Before cutting, place a few pins vertically on the inside of the rectangle. Silk has a fluid drape and is more difficult to cut. Pinning the fabric on the inner edge will hold the two layers of fabric together so that both receive an even cut.
8. Carefully cut the rectangular shape following along the pencil markings.
The result should be an evenly cut, double-layer rectangle with a lengthwise fold as displayed in the image above. You may now remove the stability pins.
9. Working with one of the two side edge (19.5" width), fold the raw edge of the fabric at 1/2" towards the wrong side of the fabric and iron this fold to stabilize.
10. Fold this edge once more towards the wrong side of the fabric at 4" this time. Use a ruler to ensure that the fold measures 4" throughout. Place pins perpendicular to the top fold to hold the layers in place.
11. Iron the bottom fold for more stability.
12. Using the pinned top fold as a guide, machine stitch at about 1/8" away from it.
The opening edge of the pillowcase is now complete!
You should have a horizontal straight stitch visible on the outside of the pillowcase, while the inside is clean finished with a top-stitched fold.
13. Working on the face side of the fabric, pin the two layers of the second side edge (19.5" width, parallel to the pillowcase's opening) horizontally as shown. This edge will be finished with a french seam.
The total seam allowance is 1/2".
14. Straight stitch at 1/4" seam allowance from the raw edge. Make sure the face of the fabric is positioned on the outside.
15. Iron the seam allowance excess towards one side making sure to iron on the wrong side of the fabric (clean side of the seam).
16. Fold the seam to enclose the raw edge and iron this fold for stability. Place pins horizontally along the fold to hold it in place properly.
The face side of the fabric should be on the inside of this fold.
17. Machine stitch at 1/4" seam allowance from the fold's edge. This stitch will enclose the raw edge of the seam allowing for both outside and inside edges to be clean finished.
18. Working on the face side of the fabric, iron the folded seam allowance pointing to whatever direction you choose.
19. On the inside of the pillowcase (wrong side of the fabric), pin the final lengthwise seam horizontally. The face sides of the fabric should be touching.
Make sure opening edge and the fold lines at the pillowcase's opening are matched properly on both layers. The best way to do this is to align the fold lines and place a pin horizontally right at the location where they match.
20. Straight stitch at 1/2" seam allowance.
21. To clean finish the seam, apply a serging/overlock stitch along the raw edge. As mentioned above, silk is made of very fine, dainty fibers which requires thinner, sharper needles and a denser overlock stitch. If you don't have a serging machine, you may use a regular zig-zag stitch but make sure you have it set at the densest setting and your sewing machine needle is sharp and appropriate for silk fabric.
For a highly durable finish however, we recommend that you use a french seam on both seam edges.
22. As a last step, iron the seam's serged edge towards one side for a smooth, professional finish.
Seam: A seam is the stitch line where two or more pieces of fabric are joined together. In dressmaking, there are a variety of different seam finishes that are used for specific fabrics and styles. Seams can be broken down into two main groups: Conspicuous and inconspicuous seams. Inconspicuous seams are those that do not have any visual stitching or reinforcing on the face side of the garment. The seam line is the only thing visible in an inconspicuous seam- Best examples are plain, french seams and bound seams. Conspicuous seams are those that have stitching visible on the right side of the garment. Some examples include top-stitched seams, flat fell, and lapped.
Seam Allowance: Seam allowance represents the excess fabric necessary to sew a seam together. In other words, it is the distance from the actual stitch line to the edge of the fabric. Seam allowance is left on the inside of the garment and is usually clean-finished using a variety of different methods. The width of seam allowance varies depending on the garment's style, finishing method and fabric. On most seams, anywhere from 5/8" to 1/2" is the most appropriate seam allowance to use. 1/4" seam allowance is found on lightweight fabrics along the raw edges that will be finished with double folded binding or serging. 1/4" seam allowance is also common on seams of light to medium weight knits.
Bodice: The bodice is the upper front and back portion of a garment starting at the waist up. Think of the bodice as the upper torso area. This term is used widely in the sewing/clothing manufacturing industry to facilitate communication without having to list all the upper elements of a garment individually. When referring to the bodice of a garment, you are including all its components such as darts, waistline, neckline and armholes.
Center Front/Center Back: The center front and center back are vertical lines that depict the precise middle of a garment's front and respectively, back. These two center lines are imperative to pattern making as they serve as important guides for pattern symmetry, placement, transfer and design. On basic garments, the center front and center back lines can serve as cut-on-fold lines, making a pattern more efficient to cut and manage. The center lines are also used in the design process as a guide for manipulating and altering sewing patterns into various styles and designs. The center front and back lines are also very important in the preliminary fitting process when making muslin prototypes- marking these two center lines precisely on the muslin fabric and then aligning them exactly to the dress form's center front and center back guides will result in the most correct and precise fitting process.
Darts: Darts are triangular shapes that get folded and stitched down in order to remove excess in strategic places on the human body. Darts are used to create the 3-dimensional aspect of a garment. Because fabric is flat and has to fit and drape around an organic shape, darts are added to the bust area, waist, hips and sometimes elbows to contour along the human form. There are mainly two types of darts: single pointed darts and double pointed darts. Single pointed darts are the most common and have a single vanishing point. Double pointed darts are usually used vertically on the waistline of dresses, blazers and jackets in order to either accentuate it or create a form fitting effect. Double pointed darts are like two single pointed darts that are connected and sewn together- They have two vanishing points on opposite ends.
Basting: Basting is a form of stitching that can be done by hand or using a sewing machine and is comprised of a set of stitches that are much longer in length. Basting is usually used to hold or stabilize two or multiple layers of fabric in place, align zippers or during fittings. It is usually removed once its purpose is served. Hand basting is used a lot during construction to hold certain seams and pieces of the garment together. Hand basting can be even or uneven. Even basting has even stitches, meaning they are the same length and spaced out evenly. This type of basting is used on thinner fabrics and more delicate round edges that require a lot more control. Uneven basting is the most common and fast- the stitches are uneven and it serves as a quick way to stabilize and control most seams and layers of fabric before final stitching. Machine basting refers to using the longest stitch available on your sewing machine.
Understitch: The understitch is a straight stitch applied to the inside of a garment on linings, facings, binding and various types of pockets in order to keep the inside layers from losing their alignment and protrude on the outside of a garment. Although not visible on the face side of a garment, understitching is one of the most important components for a well-made professional garment. Understitching flattens and keeps excess seam allowance facing one direction to ensure that all the edges remain flat and smooth. Durability is also highly affected by understitching, especially after a few wash cycles which can distort edges that haven't been understitched properly.
Hem/Hemline: The hem represents the bottom edge of a garment. Hems come in different shapes and lengths. There are straight hems, high-low hems, round hems and asymmetric hems. They are positioned at different lengths according to the design.
Hem Allowance: While the hemline represents the bottom edge of a garment, the hem allowance is the excess fabric necessary to clean-finish the hem. The hem allowance follows the same concept as regular seam allowance: It is the distance from hemline to the raw edge of the fabric. Hem allowance however requires different finishes than regular seam allowance and can be anywhere from 1/4" to 2 1/2" in length. Curved edges and lightweight fabrics are best finished with smaller hem allowance because they are easier to fold and stabilize. On the other hand, longer hem allowance is used on thicker fabrics especially tailored items. The best hem allowance to work with as a sewing beginner is 1".
Stay-stitching: Stay-stitching is a process applied during sewing which is not visible on the outside of the garment, used to stabilize vulnerable edges like the neckline, waistline and certain bias cuts. Stay-stitching is used to ensure that during the construction process, the natural handling and pulling of the fabric pieces do not damage or stretch the curved, most sensitive areas of a garment. Although stay-stitching is seldom seen on the finished garment, even on the inside, it is a necessary step in facilitating the sewing process and improving the quality of the final product.
Top-stitching: Top-stitching is represented by single or multiple straight stitches applied to the face side of a garment for decorative or functional purposes. Top-stitching is very common on more casual sporty items like denim, active wear and sportswear. It can be done in contrast colored or thicker thread and can be applied along seam lines, pleats, tucks, zippers and different pocket types. Although mostly used for ornamental purposes, top-stitching can improve functionality by keeping excess fabric from seam allowance, pleats and tucks flat and pointing in a single direction without shifting around.
Slopers/Blocks: Slopers or Blocks are a set of basic sewing patterns that are used as a starting point for generating patterns for a variety of different designs and styles. Most clothing and manufacturing companies have their individually developed slopers that fit within their customer base. You can turn any design into a sloper as long as it can be used to develop other sewing patterns. However, the most common slopers are simple, form-fitting patterns with basic darts. A list of basic front and back slopers includes: Bodice sloper with bust and waist darts, basic skirt sloper with single pointed waist darts, basic pant sloper with single pointed waist darts, basic sleeve sloper with/without elbow dart, and dress slopers with bust darts and double pointed waist darts. These simple slopers can be manipulated to achieve any style desired.
Swing: The swing of a clothing item refers to the movement of a dress or skirt's bottom. The amount of swing a dress or skirt has can be none to maximum, and depends on a combination of factors like fabric, design, drape and finishes used. Fabrics like rayon, silk and most poly blends have the most swing. Linen, cotton, thick wool and acrylic fabrics have less swing. Swing is a term applied to non-form fitting silhouettes like A-line and gathered waist.
Clean Finishing: Clean finishing refers to using a variety of methods to finish fabric raw edges on a garment during construction so that the fabric doesn't fray with repeated use. The most common areas of a garment that require clean finishing are: the seam allowance's raw edge on the inside of a garment, along armhole edges and neckline, and all hem raw edges. The most common way to clean finish seams is by using a serging/overlock stitch. Depending on the garment type and fabric used, a variety of more labor-intensive, high quality finishes can be used. Examples include: french seam, flat fell, lapped seam finish, and bound.
Serging/Overlock Stitch: A serging (overlock) stitch is usually applied to the raw edges of fabric for clean finishing purposes and is done by an overlock sewing machine/serger. A serged stitch is sometimes a 2-in-1 way to sew a seam together: it applies a straight stitch while also clean finishing the seam's raw edge (usually used on knits). A serged stitch is achieved by using four rows of thread, two of each apply straight stitches and the other two loop around the raw edge.
Cut On Fold: Cutting on fold refers to the act of folding the fabric in half, and cutting a sewing pattern on this fold in order to achieve two symmetric sides of the specified pattern. However, you can't cut just any pattern on fold. Sewing patterns that require to be cut on fold usually have specific symbols listed along the "cut on fold" edge. The most important things you should remember about patterns that need to be cut on fold is that: They are symmetric on both sides of the cut-on-fold edge, the cut-on-fold line is always straight, and this edge never has seam allowance. The cut on fold method is often used in order to save pattern paper and make it more efficient and easy to cut when working on smaller surfaces.
Pattern Grading: Pattern grading means creating patterns in various sizes. A base size is used (usually a medium or small) to increase or decrease the body of each sewing pattern thus creating a variety of different sizes. The term "grading" in dressmaking always refers to changing the measurements of "something". In this case, the grading of pattern size either up or down depending on the sizes needed.
Fabric Grading: While pattern grading refers to changing the entire size of a sewing pattern, fabric grading is used during the construction phase to trim excess seam allowance during specialized finishes in order to minimize bulk and facilitate sewing. Fabric grading is most commonly used when sewing flat fell seams which require the trimming of one of the seam allowance edges.
Selvage: When it comes to understanding fabric weaves and how to cut your sewing patterns correctly, selvage is the most important term to remember. The selvage refers to the edge of the fabric that is aligned parallel to its grain. If you look at a your fabric, you will notice either a white or dense bunching of fibers along the vertical edge of the fabric- this is called the selvage edge. For correct drape an durability, most sewing patterns are aligned and cut parallel to the selvage edge.
Notch: A notch is a small snip on the seam allowance that helps mark and match adjoining edges or differentiate between front and back patterns. Traditionally, front patterns have single notches and back patterns have double notches. Triple notches are also common in zipper and vent markings. Depending on the sewing patterns you are working with, a notch can be marked in the shape of a triangle that requires you to actually cut it out, or little "T" shapes that require you to clip on the horizontal line only up to the vertical dash (about 1/4" in). The latter method is much easier and faster (especially if you are making your own patterns) and most commonly used in the fashion industry.
Gathering: Gathering is an even bunching of fabric which gets sewn to a smaller regular adjoining edge in order to create fullness. Gathering requires that both the regular edge and the edge receiving the gathering are measured to ensure the correct ratio of fullness is achieved. Since gathering is usually about half or one third of the regular edge it gets connected to, the length of the gathered edge is determined by measuring the regular edge then adding the necessary excess to allow for gathering. Gathering is usually achieved using two rows of longer stitches (6-12 stitches per inch) on the sewing machine, then pulling the bobbin threads to draw in the fabric, thus creating a gathered seam. The gathering stitch is similar to a basting stitch, but in many cases, a bit shorter. If the fabric is heavy to medium weight you will need a longer gathering stitch. Vise versa, if you are working with light weight, delicate fabrics, a shorter stitch works better. Keep in mind that your gathering stitch should always be larger then the regular stitch you use to sew the seam regularly.
Pleats: Pleats are folds of fabric that get set into a seam. The folding can be even or uneven and come in different styles and sizes. The basic pleats you should be familiar with are side (knife) pleats, box pleats, inverted pleats, and accordion pleats. Although the styles vary, all pleats require a fold line and a placement line- When you create a pleat fold you need a line to align the fold with. Pleats usually hang best and are easiest to work with if folded on the grain. Pleats can also have specialized finishes like top-stitching, edge stitching and industrial treatment (for accordion pleats). Pleats can also be soft hanging or posses a very sharp, structured characteristic. The best pleats to try at home if you are a sewing beginner are: Box pleats, inverted pleats and side pleats. Accordion pleats are very difficult to achieve at home because home irons don't have the pressing power to set the folds in like the ones in an industrial setting.
Tucks: Tucks are also represented by folds of fabric but as opposed to pleats (described above), they actually get stitched down. A basic tuck has a fold line and two symmetrically positioned stitch lines on either sides. When the tuck gets folded down the fold line, the stitch lines match up and get sewn together right on the top of this line. Tucks come in a few different styles and variety of widths. The width of the tuck is calculated by measuring horizontally from fold line to the stitch line. The tucks can be arranged to start right where another one ends in an even alignment, or have separation in between. Some specialty tucks you should be familiar with are dart tucks, corded tucks and decorative shell tuck.
Armhole: The term armhole is used to describe the opening that allows for the arms to be inserted or a sleeve to be attached. The term can be used to describe a sleeveless garment or an unfinished raw edge along this opening. It is a pretty straight forward term, but used a lot in facilitating communication in the fashion/manufacturing industry.
Grain: The grain refers to the position of the weft and warp threads on a fabric's weave. Understanding grain is essential in being able to position and cut your sewing patterns properly. Before we dive into more detail, here's what you need to know about the basic grain of a fabric: Warp threads are positioned vertically, parallel to the selvage edge. Vise versa, weft threads are positioned horizontally, perpendicular to the selvage edge. Warp threads constitute the lengthwise grain, and weft threads the crosswise grain. Going diagonally against the selvage edge, intersecting the lengthwise and crosswise grain, is the bias. If your sewing pattern is aligned with neither of the three terms mentioned above, it is considered to be off-grain. Keep reading as we describe these terms in detail bellow.
Grain Line: The grain line on a sewing pattern is a double pointed arrow that relates the placement of said sewing pattern on the fabric in relation to the fabric's grain (or the selvage edge). The grain line on a pattern works hand in hand with the grain of the fabric. A grain line placed vertically on the pattern is aligned parallel to selvage edge, a horizontal grain line is aligned perpendicular, and a diagonal line is aligned diagonally in relation to the selvage edge of fabric. Having a grain line as a guide for placement ensures that the pattern is always cut correctly, eliminating fit, drape and various comfort issues.
Crosswise: As briefly described above, the threads that are positioned perpendicular to the selvage edge also called weft, represents the crosswise grain. In other words, if a sewing pattern needs to be cut on the crosswise grain, it will be placed horizontally on the fabric, perpendicular to selvage edge. Weft threads are thinner and not as durable as warp threads (aligned vertically, parallel to the selvage edge) which is why it is uncommon for most patterns to be cut crosswise. The fabric is more difficult to manipulate, fold and work with for patterns cut on the crosswise grain.
Lengthwise: The lengthwise grain consists of the fabric's warp threads, positioned parallel to the selvage edge. This is the most common grain for cutting sewing patterns. Because warp threads are more durable and easy to fold and iron vertically, cutting your patterns on the lengthwise grain will ensure that the garment drapes well and is structured appropriately- It also makes the fabric much easier to work with during the construction process.
Tip: If you want to do a little experiment on your own and test if vertical warp threads are more durable than horizontal weft threads, try pulling a single thread out of the fabric weave vertically and horizontally. You will notice that the horizontal thread will be weaker than the vertical.
You will find that slowly pulling and removing a warp thread is much easier and does not break as much as removing a weft thread.
Bias: The bias grain is positioned diagonally to the selvage edge. Cutting a sewing pattern on the bias is more expensive because it requires a bit more fabric. However, this results in a beautiful drape and exquisite comfort. If you pull on your fabric diagonally, you'll notice that it has quite a stretch, even if the fabric itself is a non-stretch woven. It is this stretchiness that allows for the best fit and comfort. Bias cuts are used a lot in evening wear and bridal, specifically for flowy, A-line gowns.
Off Grain: Just as the name suggests, off grain means that the grain is not corresponding to any of the options described above. Cutting a sewing pattern off-grain can result in a poor fitting garment and incorrect drape. Off-grain in sewing is considered a cutting error and there is no such thing as an "off-grain grainline" on a pattern. Cutting a pattern off grain can ether signify that the pattern wasn't positioned correctly on the fabric in regards to the selvage edge or that the fabric wasn't properly prepared and "blocked" prior to cutting.
Ease: The term used to describe allowing for slight excess at the seams to create more flexibility and comfort in a garment. When working with woven fabrics, ease is something you should consider around certain areas of the garment if you are sewing a form-fitting style. Although sometimes applied along the entire seam, ease is something that can be more localized, such as: around the bust area, armhole, waist, hips and knees (on pants). Any area where the body has a more organic shape and requires more movement should have a bit of excess allowance for comfort. The added ease can be anywhere from 1/8"-1/4" and even 5/8"-1/2" in some cases depending on the style and fabric being used.
One of the greatest challenges when it comes to learning how to sew your own clothing, is understanding fabric drape, weight and which ones to choose for a particular design. This is certainly a skill that is learned through experience and trial and error. In fact, you should expect to make lots of mistakes (and learn form them) in the beginner stages of learning how to sew. The most important thing to remember is not to give up and that it is normal to feel uncomfortable with certain techniques or make errors that force you to start again- it's all part of the process! Luckily, there are some concepts you can learn beforehand that will save you from making some of those frustrating mistakes. When it comes to fabrics, theory and practice work best together. In this fabric tutorial, we'll give you the fundamentals on some basic types of fabrics and their best use. We'll also include physical characteristics like drape, sewing difficulty and ironing practices.
Distinguishing between blouse weight, dress weight, shirting, bottom weight, suiting, and coating.
To master the basics of fabric, it is important to gain a better understanding of the various weights available. Fabric weight refers to how heavy and thick a fabric is. Sheer, thin fabrics are usually very lightweight while bulky, thick coating fabric is one of the most heavyweight. To make it easier, textiles are divided into the following basic categories according to weight, thickness and structure:
Blouse weight: The lightest of all the weights, blouse weight fabrics are usually very thin, drapey and could be sheer or semi-sheer. As the term suggests, this category is used for various styles of tops like blouses and lightweight shirts. As you'll soon learn, blouse weight fabrics are not appropriate for styles like dresses (unless used in combination with a dress weight) because their sheer lightweight nature usually can't withstand the wear and proper drape necessary for a dress' functionality.
Shirting: This is usually a cotton fabric that is thinner and lighter weight but has a higher thread count. A higher thread count creates a more smooth, lustrous cotton fabric with better draping capabilities. Shirting fabric can also be yarn dyed which creates a chambray-like effect. While shirting can sometimes be used for dresses, it is found more often with classic button down tops. While some shirting fabrics can be categorized as dress weights, some thinner, semi-sheer shirting may not always be appropriate for use with dresses.
Dress Weight: This category includes a variety of different fabric types (and contents). Dress weight fabrics fall in the category of light to medium weight fabrics and are usually carrying a little more drape. Depending on sheerness and durability, blouse and dress weights can intermingle, but dress weights are usually not sheer or semi-sheer and can withstand more wear. Some examples of dress weights are charmeuse, crepe de chine, rayon challis, and most cotton and linen medium-weight plain weaves.
Bottom Weight: Bottom weight fabrics are used on a number of bottoms from various pant styles to shorts and skirts. They are called bottom weight because they have a medium-weight thickness and provide more structure and durability. Functionality and durability is an important factor for bottom weights especially when used for constructing pants and shorts which need to withstand lots of pulling at the seam and maintain proper stability around the waist and hips. Some bottom weights can have more drape than others depending on the fabric type and content, but most importantly, they are almost always medium weight and never semi-sheer or sheer.
Suiting: As the name suggests, suiting fabric is used to construct a variety of different tailored items, from business suits and trousers to a number of structured skirts and blazers. Suiting fabric can be anywhere from medium to heavy weight depending on the weave of the fibers. The main characteristic for suiting fabric is that it has to have enough structure to achieve a more tailored cut. It is not drapey or flowey but rather used in straight, more linear silhouettes. The suiting category includes a variety of different fabric types like twill, jacquard, boucle, etc. Fiber contents range from wool to silk, cotton and linen, to name just a few. The content can be a blend of different fibers or consist of a single content fiber throughout.
Coating: Just as it sounds, coating fabric is mostly used for outerwear like jackets and coats. It is usually a heavier weight fabric but can sometimes be more medium weight depending on fabric weave and content. Wool, acrylic and synthetic/natural blends are most commonly used in coating fabric. Some basic examples include tweed, boucle, medium-to-heavy weight wool crepe, and thicker/heavier plain weave fabrics. Coating fabric is usually more structured, less drapey and appropriate for more tailored styles. Coating is usually more suitable for fall/winter clothing and is a warmer insulator and windbreaker than other fabrics (depending on weave and content).
Difference between fabric content and fabric type.
As a beginner, differentiating between fabric content and fabric type can be a bit confusing. Even years after sewing, you may still be misusing the two unwillingly. The good news is, if you get a strong initial understanding of what these two terms mean and how to use them correctly, you'll make it much easier to shop for fabrics and even be able to order basic fabrics online before actually getting your hands on them. So what is the difference between fabric type and fabric content? As the terms suggest, fabric content has to do with fiber composition while fabric type pertains to the weave and construction of the textile. For example, cotton or silk refers to the content while jacquard and lace relate to the type of fabric weave. Often times, these two terms are used together. For instance: "100% Cotton Jacquard" describes the content and the weave of the fabric giving you all the information necessary to understand it thoroughly. In this post, we'll focus on the basic fabric types you should know as a sewing beginner. If you want to learn more about fabric content check out our previous post on fibers and basic fabric content.
Basic Woven Fabric Types You Should Know
1. Plain Weave Fabrics
A plain weave is the most basic and common of all fabric weaves. In a plain weave the weft and warp threads intersect in a criss-crossing pattern, each one going under and over the other. Plain weaves are divided into two major categories: basket weave and balanced plain weave. Balanced plain weaves are woven with threads of the same thickness while a basket weave is constructed using threads that are double the thickness in the warp or weft. Plain weaving is the most versatile way to construct textiles creating a finish that is suitable for both apparel and upholstery. The great aspect of a plain weave is that you can control density, content, and thickness thus achieving a variety of different types of textiles from heavyweight and dense like duck cloth to very lightweight and sheer like chiffon.
Challis is a lightweight fabric that is made of a single fiber type, usually rayon. Originally, it was a silk and wool blend but today it is the most attainable in man-made fibers like rayon. Challis is easy to recognize by it's fluid draping capability (especially when made out of rayon). It is soft and has a great swing but when constructed from rayon it is not the most durable. Rayon challis is more affordable than other challis content which is why it is commercially used in summer dresses, rompers and blouses.
Rayon challis irons beautifully but it wrinkles very easily as well. It can be a little difficult to manage while cutting due to its very fluid, soft drape. You should use a sharp, thin needle at a shorter stitch length when sewing rayon challis.
Duck or duck cloth is a durable canvas fabric made of a plain weave usually with a cotton fiber content. Duck fabric is exceptionally durable and more heavyweight, making it suitable for sneakers, uniforms, work wear, duvet covers and window treatments. It is also commonly used for more industrial purposes like tents, sails and sandbags. Duck is much more tightly woven than regular canvas which makes it more wind repellent and extremely resistant to wear and tear. It's weave is composed of 2 yarns in the warp and 1 yarn horizontally in the weft which gives it a textured quality. Duck fabric has a very structured, stiff drape and is not usually appropriate for dresses and loose blouses..
Depending on its weight and thickness duck cloth requires use of heavier equipment such as a sturdier pair of scissors, thicker needles and a more heavy duty sewing machine. It requires more sturdy finishes like flat fell seams or top stitching in order to keep the seams flat and stable. Ironing should be done at the highest setting (depending on content) but because it is such and industrial textile, ironing alone may not be enough to keep the seams flat.
Chambray is different than other plain weave fabrics because it is a yarn dyed textile. What this means is that the weft and warp threads are dyed or processed individually before being woven together. The warp threads are colored and weft threads are left white which creates a denim-like pattern. In fact, chambray and denim are often confused for one another but the difference is in the type of weave: Chambray is a plain weave fabric while denim uses a twill weave. That being said, chambray has a thinner more light weight draping quality than denim which is usually stiffer, has more structure and is more durable. Chambray is used a lot in both menswear and womens wear for casual button down shirts, dresses, shorts and lightweight trousers for year-round wear. It is usually constructed of cotton, sometimes featuring a cotton/polyester blend.
Chambray is a fairly easy fabric to sew and cut due to its matte surface and more structured drape. As it is true for most cotton fabrics, chambray is easy to iron and handle but it does wrinkly quite easily.
Chiffon is a plain weave fabric featuring a lightweight, sheer quality. It is most commonly found in silk, nylon and polyester, the latter being one of the most inexpensive and commercially available. Chiffon fabrics, especially those made of silk, can sometimes be constructed of a crepe plain weave which gives it more surface texture and a slight stretch. It has a flowing drape that works beautifully on evening wear, bridal, lingerie and elegant loose blouses and dresses as overlays or sheer cut-outs.
Chiffon is one of the most difficult fabrics to work with due to its very lightweight nature and fluid drape. It requires a special method for cutting in order to keep it stable and more manageable. If you are working with chiffon at home, make sure you cut very carefully along your pattern. When it comes to sewing, you will need a very sharp, thin needle and a shorter stitch length, making sure the tension on your machine is properly adjusted. If your needle is not sharp or thin enough, some threads will pull during stitching. Since it is an easily-fraying fabric and a serging or zig zag stitch might be too rough for chiffon's gentle structure, a french seam is suggested for finishing raw edges.
Eyelet is usually made of cotton plain weave fabric featuring cutouts that are reinforced with a dense loop stitch and arranged to create a decorative pattern. Flower and geometric motifs are the most common in eyelet fabrics. The cutouts can either be positioned on the entire surface of the fabric or just along the edges. Eyelet fabrics have a more structured, crisp drape due to the fact that they are usually made of plain weave cotton. It is used a lot in womens wear to create summer dresses, skirts and blouses and can sometimes feature a combination of embroidery detail.
Eyelet is not a difficult fabric to cut and sew and it usually irons beautifully due to its high cotton content. It is a breathable fabric that creates comfortable and feminine spring/summer wear.
Satin is a type of weave that features each warp thread interlacing over 4 weft threads creating a lustrous, shiny finish on the face side. Because it is not a balanced weave, satin fabrics are more prone to raveling when cut. A higher thread count is usually a lot more durable and wind repellent while a lower thread count can be weak and more slippery. Satin fabrics are very common in silk and polyester blends. They come in different weights and are used for making lingerie, linings, drapery, and more formal dresses and blouses in the evening wear and bridal categories.
Because of its very shiny surface, satin weaves can sometimes be difficult to work with under the presser foot due to the fact that the layers of fabric slip away from each other in the stitching process. Pin more densely to ensure that the fabric is kept even throughout. Use a shorter stitch length and check your sewing machine tension balance to make certain that the seams don't bulk or pucker as this can show more easily on the face side of satin fabric. For silk satin, make sure to use an ironing cloth and make sure your iron is at the correct setting or the fabric content.
Charmeuse fabric is constructed of a satin weave which means that the warp threads cross over the weft threads at a larger ratio (4 or more threads). This creates a lustrous finish on the face side of the fabric and a matte finish on the back side. Charmeuse fabrics are usually made of silk or polyester. Just like silk crepe de chine, silk charmeuse is used for higher end dresses and blouses featuring a beautiful, fluid drape and soft hand. Charmeuse fabrics don't have a lot of structure but more of a slinky, clingy fit. It is used for evening gowns, loose dresses, blouses and lingerie. Charmeuse is especially suitable for bias cuts (cutting diagonally on the fabric) which creates a very soft, beautiful drape with a slight stretch.
Charmeuse can sometimes be difficult to work with due to its slippery, difficult-to-handle characteristic during cutting and when pinned. You should be careful when stitching it on your sewing machine by making sure your tension is properly adjusted and your stitch length is a shorter length. Because of its slick, shiny finish, charmeuse fabric (especially if made of polyester) can pucker and bulk at the seam creating an unprofessional, uneven finish- make sure you use proper care when working with it.
9. Crepe De Chine
Crepe de chine is a light-to-medium weight fabric mostly used for blouses and dresses. It has a matte finish and it is most commonly found in silk or polyester fibers. Its weaving creates a crinkled, crimped effect featuring a soft hand and elegant drape. Silk crepe de chine is suitable for more expensive, elevated styles creating more high end garments. Polyester crepe de chine (or Poly CDC) is used quite often in less expensive, easy-to-wash blouses and lining.
Silk crepe de chine can be a little challenging to work with if you are a sewing beginner due to its very fluid draping capability. The fabric shifts around underneath the pattern when being cut and pinned so being careful and gentle when handling it is required. We recommend working with a polyester crepe de chine initially to get a feel for it first. Polyester fibers are not as fine as silk fibers which will make a poly crepe much easier to work with and a lot less expensive. Care must also be taken when stitching this fabric on your sewing machine. Make sure you use a very thin needle for lightweight fabrics, a shorter stitch length and properly adjusted tension on your sewing machine.
Boucle fabric has a unique texture which is achieved by intertwining two threads together one of which is at a looser tension thus allowing the two threads to twist together creating textured loops on the surface of the fabric. This is a very common fabric used with acrylic and wool fibers and especially common in the suiting and coating categories. It can be medium-to-heavy weight depending on the fibers, weave and thickness of the threads. Because it usually creates a thicker more bulky finish, boucles are often used for suits, jackets, blazers, coats and cardigans. The boucle technique can also be woven into a knit fabric which is used on a variety of different thicker knit sweaters and dresses.
Boucle fabric is easy to sew and cut because it is able to maintain its structure and alignment. It is easy to stitch due to the fact that it's texture allows for the layers to connect together and not separate during machine stitching. Because of it's busy weave, boucle fabric is also able to hide certain tension and stitching errors. If working with a wool boucle (or any wool fabric) always use an ironing cloth and set your iron at a lower setting when pressing the seams. Boucle fabrics may also unravel quite easily so taking appropriate precaution to clean finish all the seams durably is a must.
Lace can be made of thread or yarn and features a web-like woven pattern. There are a variety of different techniques for making lace as well as a number of different lace styles. To list just a few, there is: crochet lace, needle lace, machine lace, embroidered lace, and even chemical lace. The types of lace available has to do with the techniques used for making it. The most commonly found lace nowadays is cotton and polyester content which can often be mixed with nylon fibers for a durable weave. Silk and wool lace is also available, although these were more commonly used in the past. The most inexpensive and easy to find lace is machine lace which comes in a variety of different patterns, weaves, textures and weights. Lace is used a lot in bridal wear, as overlays in blouses and dresses, and drapery. Laces can be stretch or non-stretch depending on the weave and added spandex content.
Working with lace ranges from very easy to extremely challenging and it all depends on the type and content of the weave. If it is thin, stretchy or beaded it will be a lot more difficult and time consuming to sew and manage. When lace fabrics are cut, you should be very careful not to stretch the rounder areas of the garment being made (neckline, armholes, etc.). You should always stay-stitch promptly after cutting out your patterns making sure not to pull on the vulnerable curved edges in the process.
Twill is a type of weave that is characterized by diagonally positioned lines which are achieved by overlapping the weft thread over one or several warp threads then skipping a steps down between each row to create a unique diagonal pattern also known as wale. A twill fabric can be even-faced or warp-faced. An even-faced twill fabric means that the threads are woven so that both the face and back sides are reversible and essentially look the same. In an even-faced twill, there is the same amount of warp and filling on both sides of the fabric. Examples of even-faced twills include houndstooth and herringbone. A warp-faced twill has more pronounced warp threads creating more raised diagonal lines (wales) on the face side of the fabric and is most commonly used for denim, gabardine and chino fabrics (to name just a few).
Twill fabric is very durable and used a lot in everyday bottoms like jeans, khaki pants, and a variety of different trousers and functional skirts. It is also common in outerwear, usually creating a more casual look. Twill fabrics are found in a number of different fiber contents but are most common in cotton, wool, and polyester, sometimes featuring a spandex blend.
Depending on the weight and content, twill fabric is usually easy to work with and it irons well.
Houndstooth fabric is characterized by a broken checkered print constructed from an even-faced, 2:2 twill weave. Houndstooth is a classic print used traditionally in tailoring for both mens and womens suiting and coating items. The traditional houndstooth print has also been successfully adopted by the accessory and upholstery/bedding industries. Houndstooth is also known by the name of dog's tooth.
Like houndstooth, herringbone is also characterized by a specific pattern/print which displays a series of V shapes resembling a broken zig-zag arranged symmetrically on the surface of the fabric. A herringbone print resembles the V-shaped print created by a regular knitting stitch (although it is not a knit fabric). It is an even-faced twill woven fabric usually consisting of wool content and used most commonly for suiting and coating styles.
Note: Tweed is a type of wool fabric that is very often woven in a herringbone pattern.
Tweed is a textured, usually woolen fabric that is woven in a more tightly woven plain or twill weave displaying a mix of color tones. You might know tweed fabric from traditional English countryside clothing used for hunting, shooting and riding horses. It is a wearable fabric that doesn't soil easily and is just as warm as it is comfortable. Tweed is often constructed in a herringbone pattern and very commonly found in neutral colors like shades of gray, brown, black and white. Tweed fabric is used most often for coating and suiting items due to its fall/winter weight and thickness. Tweed is very common in the use of outerwear and blazers as well as fall/winter bottoms like tailored trousers and skirts. It is available in medium to heavy weight options depending on it's content and construction.
Due to its more structured, stable drape, tweed fabric is easy to pin and cut. It is fairly easy to work with under the presser foot and its textured woolen characteristic is able to hide minor sewing errors at the seam. Since it is usually made of wool fabric, precaution should be taken when ironing it by making sure your iron is at the appropriate setting and an ironing cloth is layered on top. When working with wool, it is recommended that you also pre-shrink the fabric in the dryer before cutting out your sewing patterns.
Pique fabric features a type of weave which forms cord-like, raised structures on the surface of the fabric. This pattern comes in a variety of different geometric shapes including birdseye, cord, honeycomb, and waffle. It is usually woven out of cotton, linen or a cotton-polyester blend, and most commonly found in men's dress shirts, women's dresses, drapery, upholstery and kitchen wear. Pique fabric is very often used for kitchen towels and kitchen drapery. Because of its textured pattern and absorbent nature, pique absorbs and retains starch much better than other textiles, allowing for a more crisp, firm structure. Pique ranges in weight from very light to much heavier waffle cloth.
It is a fairly easy textile to work with and cut. Like any cotton or linen fabric, pique is easy to iron and stitch on the machine. The end result is usually a structured product that is crisp and lacks a fluid drape like that normally found in silk fabrics.
Gabardine is a warp-faced twill fabric that is woven very tightly creating a durable, tough textile. Gabardine is used for making uniforms, trousers, suits, and windbreakers. Due to its very tightly woven structure, gabardine is moisture wicking and a wind repellent but is not a particularly warm or breathable fabric. It is most commonly found in polyester, worsted wool or cotton blends and comes in mostly medium-weight options. It has a crisp drape that is most suitable for structured items. In addition, gabardine does not wrinkle easily making it perfect for everyday work wear.
Gabardine is easy to work with due to its structured nature. It is stable to pin and sew and irons well. However, you should make sure the tension balance on your sewing machine is adjusted properly and that you are using a medium length stitch so that the fabric doesn't pucker at the seam.
As the most commonly used twill woven fabric, denim is durable, comfortable and withstands daily wear over a long period of time. Denim is a warp-faced fabric that looks different on the face side than it does on the back. It is made of 100% cotton or a cotton/spandex blend for added stretch. As the most versatile fabric, denim is a staple featured in many different weights. It is used for trendy jackets, jeans, dresses and button down shirts both in menswear and women's wear. When denim became available, it was used as a comfortable, durable fabric for miners in the 18th century. Its breathable and durable nature provided (as it does nowadays) for a suitable fabric able to withstand long wear while maintaining maximum amount of comfort and flexibility.
Denim fabric can also withstand a variety of different finishes from bleaching to tumbling and various chemical surface treatments. It is that versatility that adjusts to any style and casual setting.
Denim is a fairly easy fabric to work with and is usually finished with flat fell or top stitched seams. When working with a heavy, industrial-weight denim using more heavy duty supplies and sewing machine works best. A longer stitch length should also used for thicker denims.
Jacquard fabric is woven on a jacquard loom and is unique in the fact that the design, however intricate it may be, is woven directly into the fabric during the manufacturing process instead of being dyed or printed on. Jacquard fabrics can be woven or knit and include a variety of different patterns and designs, from picture-like prints to geometric shapes. A jacquard weave has a textured, raised quality and is available in different weights and drape capabilities depending on the content used. Speaking of content, jacquard fabrics can be found in almost all basic fibers including silk, cotton, wool, polyester and various blends. It is one of the most universally used fabrics, especially for suiting, coating, casual to formal sportswear, upholstery and window treatments. In addition, its tightly woven structure offers a durable weave making it appropriate for everyday apparel and other industrial uses.
For the most part, jacquard is easy to work with contingent on its structure and content. In many cases, jacquard fabrics can fray easily so finishing the raw edges properly is a must for a quality finish. Its textured nature allows it to be a lot more forgiving in the sewing process, hiding small stitch errors. Depending on its content it is usually easy to iron although precaution should be taken when working with delicate fiber jacquard.
Seersucker is a puckered, usually 100% cotton fabric that features uniformly raised square/rectangular and sometimes oval shapes. This is a achieved by strategically loosening the threads during weaving to create a puckered surface. It is most commonly found in a striped or checkered white print and used for spring and summer wear. In addition to its cotton content, seersucker fabric wicks away from the body when worn due to its crinkled texture. It usually doesn't require surface ironing because it's weave already has a naturally wrinkled quality. While seersucker is a light to medium weight fabric it does not have a fluid drape like challis or charmeuse for example. It is a more structured fabric used in the construction of shorts, summer trousers, dresses, and casual suits. It is also commonly found in drapery and some upholstery.
Due to its structure, seersucker is easy to work with and manage during the sewing process. The fabric puckering creates a texture that is forgiving to small sewing errors and it irons beautifully at the seams due to its mostly cotton content. The layers of fabric are able to stay in place easily during stitching because of its textured, matte surface.
A journey into our design process, sewing tutorials, small business tips, exciting events and all the things we love.