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.
Zippers can sometimes seem very intimidating to sew and we often choose to avoid them instead of confronting them head on. Sewing a zipper can be a real challenge when you are in the beginning stages of learning how to sew. However, just like all the best things in life, nothing comes without a little bit of patience and lots of practice. We’ll cover how to sew various styles of zippers in future blog posts. For now however, sewing an invisible zipper might be just what you’ll need in order to break that initial fear of setting in a zipper as a beginner.
You’re probably wondering why we think invisible zippers are the best to get started with… Well, they aren’t necessarily “easy” but they follow a minimal amount of steps that also happen to be pretty simple. That is not to say you won’t need some trial an error to adjust and make some mistakes, but an invisible zipper will give you far less headaches than a front-fly zipper or a lapped zipper. Another upside to learning how to sew an invisible zipper first is the fact that it is the most versatile of all zippers- It works just as well on bottoms as it does on fitted dresses and tops. As a matter of fact, it is probably used on dresses and tops about 90% of the time and as a sewing beginner, you’ll most likely begin your journey by learning how to sew dresses and tops first. This means that mastering the invisible zipper first, will save you the headache when you’re looking for an easy, fast way to add a garment closure for many of your future projects.
So now that we've talked you into loving invisible zippers, it is only fair to also teach you how to sew one!
Sewing an invisible zipper requires the use of a specialized presser foot. Your home sewing machine may not be equipped with one which will require you to buy it individually. Luckily, our tutorial will teach you how to sew an invisible zipper using a regular presser foot which is certainly included with your initial sewing machine purchase.
If you're curious, here's what an invisible zipper foot looks like:
A regular zipper foot is simple and easy to use and as long as your zipper tape is aligned properly, the stitch will slide through effortlessly. Pictured below, it is easy to use on other types of zippers as well as sewing piping or narrow trims.
Sewing A Regular Invisible Zipper
An invisible zipper is sewn to a regular seam and requires no top stitches on the face of the garment. Once closed, it appears as a regular seam with only the tab visible at the top.
Depending on the zipper tape width, always work with 5/8"-1/2" seam allowance.
Step 1: Clean finish the seams's raw edges individually. You need to do this first because once the zipper is sewn in, it is a lot more difficult to handle the fabric's raw edges individually. An overlock stitch (or zig-zag on a home sewing machine) should work well as a finish because it will minimize bulk and allow for a smoother seam on the face of the garment.
Step 2: Align the zipper's top stop at 1/2" bellow the fabric's top edge as shown below. Invisible zippers already come with a 1/2" extended tape portion at the top so you can just align the top edges of the tape to the top edge of the garment.
Step 3: Next, align the zipper tape face down along the edge of the fabric, making sure the right side of the fabric is facing you. In this case, our seam allowance is 1/2" and the zipper tape width is 5/8"- this means that our zipper tape needs to be positioned about an 1/8" away from the fabric's edge. If your zipper tape happens to be the same width as the seam allowance, align the tape's edge to the fabric's edge.
Using a hand sewing needle and contrast thread, hand baste the zipper tape to the fabric to stabilize it.
Step 4: On your sewing machine, switch the zipper foot so that the side of the sewing needle corresponds to the zipper teeth as shown below. Begin stitching in the gap right behind the zipper teeth as you hold the gap at the back of the zipper teeth open. You should be sewing right behind the zipper teeth in the gap opening. Back-stitch at the end of your stitch.
Once your machine stitch is complete, you shouldn't be able to see a stitch on top of the zipper tape without opening the gap behind the zipper teeth as this stitch is hidden by them. However, when you look on the back side of the fabric you should see a straight machine stitch as displayed below.
Step 5: Take the other piece of fabric, and align it so that the right sides of both fabric pieces are touching. This will inevitably align your invisible zipper in the correct position to the other edge, making sure the zipper's face side is facing down. Align this second edge as described in the first steps above. You may also pin it in place to make it easier to baste.
Hand baste the zipper tape in place as done previously.
Step 6: Switch your zipper foot so that the sewing needle is aligned on the opposite side, thus matching the new zipper teeth placement. Stitch from top down in the gap behind the zipper teeth while holding it open with your hand as you sew. Back-stitch when reaching the bottom of the zipper.
This will take some practice, so don't be afraid to go very slow, or take out uneven stitches with a seam ripper if you are unhappy with how they turn out! When it comes to zippers, practice makes perfect!
Step 7: Your zipper is now sewn in place! Here's what it should look like on both sides. The face of your garment should look like a regular seam with only the zipper tab showing. The inside of the garment displays the zipper facing down and aligned evenly along the edge of the fabric.
Step 8: It's now time to finish the rest of the seam! Note that when sewing an invisible zipper, as opposed to other zipper styles, you complete the seam after applying the zipper.
On the inside of the garment, match the seam allowance and place a few pins horizontally to hold the two fabric pieces together the way you would normally do when sewing a regular seam. Using your zipper foot again, begin stitching through the two fabric layers, making sure not to catch the zipper but as close to the zipper's end as possible. Begin this machine stitch with a back-stitch for a more durable finish. This does take some practice so don't get disappointed if you don't get it right on the first try!
Note: If you don't feel comfortable back-stitching so close to the zipper (while making sure not to catch it) you can hand back-stitch instead once you finish sewing the seam together.
Stitch with your zipper foot only about 2" down, then switch to a regular presser foot to sew the rest of the seam.
Step 9: You can now remove your basting and clean finish the inside of your seam by cutting loose threads or hand back-stitch if necessary.
Step 10: As a last step, iron the seam open on the inside of the garment.
You invisible zipper is now complete!
Perhaps one of the most difficult and time consuming aspects of learning how to sew is getting accustomed to using your sewing machine. Nonetheless, feeling comfortable sewing on your machine is essential to making good quality, professional looking clothing. You should think of your sewing machine as you do of your car- you have to feel in complete control of it and get attuned to it's rhythm in order to feel fully secure using it. Time and practice is definitely on your side here! Before you get started on sewing actual seams, you should first practice on scrap fabric until you feel comfortable sewing a straight stitch in one swift move, without having to stop constantly. As you learn how to sew, you will also come across round and angular edges, so practicing them on your machine until you feel comfortable sewing them will save you lots of frustration when you're ready to sew the big stuff.
Below we listed 4 practice exercises you can do in order to feel more comfortable using yours sewing machine. They will help you feel more confident with certain stitches and seams that you'll come across quite often as you learn how to sew.
1. Learn to Stitch Along a Fold
Stitching along a fold will be used quite often on hems and binding. It is actually considerably easier to get accustomed to because the fold line serves as an actual guide for the needle. It does however take a few tries to really get the hang of it.
Here's what you can do:
1. Cut a few square or rectangular pieces of plain fabric (preferably muslin if you have it). The best size to practice with will be about 10" x 10" but you can always use a bigger or smaller size, depending on how much fabric you have available.
3. Place a few pins horizontally along the fold to hold in in place for stitching.
Place the fold under the presser foot of your sewing machine, and insert the needle about a mm down from the fold. Begin to straight stitch using the fold as a guide. Your final stitch should be close to the fold (in our case, about 1 mm) and run perfectly parallel to it.
Repeat the process with the rest of your practice fabric until you feel comfortable with sewing along a fold.
4. Practice back-stitching on your machine at the beginning and end of each stitch.
2. Learn to follow the seam allowance guide on your sewing machine
This is perhaps the most important aspect of straight stitching on a sewing machine. Every seam has a seam allowance that needs to be followed accurately. To the right of the presser foot, every sewing machine has a measuring guide marked by vertical dashes. Each dash represents a specific distance from the actual stitch and most commonly divided in 1/4" increments. Most sewing machines have guides that go up to 1" (or even higher in some cases). What you'll need to learn is to follow these guides while you stitch, making sure that the edge of the fabric is always vertically aligned to the proper guide, depending on the seam allowance. As a beginner, this will seem a bit nerve-racking but as you continue to practice, following the seam allowance guides on your sewing machine will become completely habitual- you'll eventually be able do it automatically.
You will need multiple rectangular or square cuts of fabric.
1. Take two pieces of fabric at a time and imitate a seam by matching the edges and pinning them together.
3. Practice round edges and straight edges
Sewing is not just a straight stitch game. Because the human body is an organic shape, most garment pieces will require you to switch from a straight to round stitch mid-sewing, so you should be comfortable and prepared to swiftly take on the change. This happens most often when sewing at the side-seams around the waist and hips. Later down the road, as you become a more advanced seamstress, you will need to master sewing along round edges for pants, sleeves, and attaching facings, linings and binding.
A straight edge stitch will be necessary when you need to sew a 90 degree angle without interrupting the stitch. It is actually quite easy and we'll show you how! You'll come across a 90 degree angle stitch when sewing around patch pockets, button holes, and various top-stitching styles.
To practice stitching along round edges, you will need to cut a few pieces of fabric with an inner and outer curve. You should be able to sew around both. Use the images bellow as an example.
1. Take two pieces of fabric with the identical outer curve and pin the two layers together along the curve as you would on a regular straight seam.
2. Practice stitching this curve smoothly at 1/2" seam allowance. Your final result should be a smooth curve at a consistent seam allowance throughout.
Practice sewing inner curves:
1. Pin two layers of an inside curve together horizontally as you would on any regular straight seam.
2. Stitch on your sewing machine along this inner curve while consistently following the seam allowance guide on your sewing machine. Just like on an outer curve, the final stitch should be smooth and maintain the same seam allowance throughout.
Practice a straight angle stitch:
Use this method for any angular stitching.
4. Stitching along a binding's fold
Binding will probably become your go-to for finishing armholes and necklines, so it is imperative that you truly master how to sew a binding in. Finishing raw edges with a binding requires stitching following both inside and outside fold lines. You've already practiced following the outside line of a fold, so it is only natural that you should get used to sewing along the inside of a fold also. Most of the time, this is quite simple because you can use the fold line as a guide. However, when finishing raw edges of necklines and armholes you'll find yourself needing to stitch a binding along a very round curve- that's when having some practice beforehand will really come in handy.
For this exercise you will need a piece of scrap fabric and some double folded binding. To challenge yourself even further, use the 1/4" double fold binding from your local fabric/crafts store. 1/4" binding is very commonly used for most dresses and sleeveless blouses as well as seam finishes, so getting used to working with it early on will save you lots of frustration later down the road.
1. Open the folded binding so that the inside of the fold is facing you, and pin the binding to the fabric so that the raw edges are aligned as shown bellow. Pin horizontally for more stability and easy removal during sewing.
2. Align the edge under the presser foot so that the needle starts right on top of the inner fold of the binding. Begin stitching on top of this inner fold, removing every pin as you approach it. DO NOT SEW OVER THE PINS!
3. Fold the binding in its place over the raw edge of the fabric to enclose it. Pin for sewing.
4. Stitch the binding in place at about 1 mm up from the binding's fold line. Use this fold line as a guide for straight stitching.
Practice Tips for sewing binding along curved edges (necklines and armholes)
You will need to cut a few pieces of fabric with an inner curve, replicating and armhole or neckline.
For round edges, use 1/4" double folded binding as this is the easiest to sew along curved edges.
Tip 1: As you're sewing along the really curved edge, stop a few times to readjust your presser foot or fabric so that the stitch is following the curve accurately.
Tip 2: Don't forget that even around the curve, the raw edges of the fabric should match the raw edge of the binding perfectly.
Tip 3: Once your binding is sewn to enclose the raw edges, fold the binding once more towards the inside of the garment so that the binding doesn't show on the outside. Stitch one more time along the binding's fold using it as a guide.
Tip 4: Always iron the binding application after sewing for a clean, professional finish!
Google has become our answer to everything. We ask Google our question first before asking the person next to us. The internet has become an incredible tool from entertainment, shopping, learning new skills and even completing a college degree.
While the internet has become our answer to everything, the virtual aspect of it still remains just that: virtual. When it comes to learning how to sew, online sewing tutorials can be a life saver when you're in the middle of a project and you have a pressing issue. Even when you're looking to finally learn how to make your own clothing, the resources that are out on the web are undeniably golden. But how far can the web really go when it comes to teaching a sewing beginner? The process of learning how to sew is already overwhelming when taking a physical sewing class and having all the necessary tools in front of you. Below, we'll take a look at some of the pros and cons of learning how to sew through online courses- Learning is certainly very individual for everyone so let us know which option works best for you in the comments section!
Beginner Online Sewing Courses
1. Learning in the privacy of your own home: Feeling comfortable is a huge plus when it comes to learning. Although some people learn best in a classroom with an instructor, others do much better in the privacy of their own homes where they feel most at ease. When it comes to sewing, taking an online class can prove to be a great option for those that can't realign their schedule with a physical sewing course. Online classes offer the privilege of learning a craft while wearing your pjs and eating a bowl of cereal at your own convenience.
2. Learning at your own pace: When you take a physical sewing course, finishing a beginner sewing project in just a couple of days can prove to be challenging. Online sewing classes give you the flexibility to focus on specific portions until you really understand them before moving on to the next steps. As a beginner, you feel less pressure and and can really go at your own speed. Learning how to sew is something you shouldn't rush into anyways- feeling comfortable with your sewing machine and learning to handle the fabric can require a lot of time and shouldn't be rushed initially. In addition, having the time to break down the mistakes you make in the learning process, can teach you a lot about dressmaking. Patience and time is always key when learning how to sew- Online classes allow you to really break down the material and go at whatever pace you feel most comfortable with.
3. Being able to manage the learning material in real time: Pause, repeat etc. You know that moment when you can rewind a movie if you've missed something or fast forward if things became a little too boring? We all do it. An online sewing course is no different. Learning from something that is pre-recorded that you can rewind and fast forward an infinite amount of times allows you to go back to any section you find more challenging and obsess over it (in a good way) until you really get it. When learning how to sew, obsessing over something you don't initially understand is sort of the best thing you can do, as long as you're not actually driving yourself crazy in the process. Learning to sew online allows you to pause, repeat, rewind, and fast forward the material anytime you feel a little stuck or need to revisit certain techniques. This is an an advantage that you'll never have when taking a physical sewing class- After all, you can't fast forward and rewind your sewing instructor....
1. Difficulty with sewing tools and fabrics: This one can cause some major issues for a sewing beginner... As opposed to other crafts, sewing requires the use of specific tools as well as learning how to use them properly. Taking a list to the fabric store and browsing through uncharted territory can be a little terrifying for a beginner. Although online sewing classes can offer a lot of flexibility, it does not take away the overwhelming aspect of shopping for sewing tools and the feeling of uncertainty when it comes to using them properly. It all goes back to this feeling of "loneliness" and inability to get assistance in real time (which we'll talk more about bellow). When you're unable to find all the tools in your list, you get stuck on having to find substitutes and the whole experience becomes a lot more overwhelming then rewarding. Physical sewing classes that require you to bring your own tools are also guilty of this. If you're a complete beginner, and have never sewn before getting the tools might be a bit stressful. The best option is to either get the Learn To Sew Box which already comes with all the basic tools, fabric, and patterns required, or get some extra assistance at the fabric store.
2. Can't ask questions in real time: Unfortunately, you can't raise your hand in front of your computer every time you have a sewing question during your pre-recorded online tutorial... (wouldn't that be nice?). As a beginner, questions and confusion are inevitable and having someone there to address even the simplest of issues can be key to learning faster. As convenient as they are, online sewing classes unfortunately do not offer answers in real time unless you are taking a live class that features a live chat. As a result, you end up feeling unsure and a bit insecure about whether you're doing everything correctly.
3. Missing the tactile aspect of the learning process: Dressmaking is one of the most tactile crafts out there. For a garment to be sewn properly you have to take everything in account from the drape and hand of the fabric to how easy it is to iron and work with under the presser foot. Have you ever ordered a dress online only to receive something that feels nothing like what the pictures displayed? It happens so often. The truth is understanding the tactile nature of sewing comes with practice over time. However, if you're relying strictly on online classes to learn how to sew, you're limited on actually getting to touch the fabric, sewing machine and tools that are being worked with. As a result, your sewing experience and the final garment's fit might feel a bit disappointing. Because sewing requires work with your hands, seeing a sewing tutorial in real life makes a huge difference in understanding the varying unspoken aspects of dress making: How the fabric will act when being stitched; Is it easy to pin? Is it easy to Iron? How will it drape and withstand cutting? How will the garment drape and fit in the end? A sewing video class offers only a single perspective in which things sometimes appear to be much simpler then in real life.
4. Getting distracted and losing focus: Procrastination is a disorder that can plague even the most focused of minds. It is only human after all to get distracted when in the comfort of your own home. Turning Netflix off is much harder than it appears and the excuses for why your sewing class can wait until the weekend might prove to be a, shall we say, ... problem. Taking that online sewing class at home requires that you push yourself mentally and remain focused by your will power alone. There are no instructors and people around you to inspire you to focus, and the lack of time restrictions will allow you to put it off for as long as possible. The longer you put it off the greater the chances are that you'll eventually lose interest. With a physical sewing class or a physical sewing project that you already have all the tools and fabrics for, you'll be motivated and encouraged to focus with a sense of urgency that can be lacking in the strictly-virtual world of online sewing.
The Learning Solution For Sewing Beginners
So what is the best option for a sewing beginner? As mentioned above, online sewing courses have some tempting pros but depending on the type of learner you are, relying on them alone can end up leaving you disappointed and even wanting to give up. Because of the tactile aspect of sewing, online sewing courses should be used to enhance as opposed to strictly teach from scratch. Their value is unparalleled when looking to add some extra knowledge to the basics you are already familiar with.
Here are 2 suggestions for how to get started as a sewing beginner the right way- using both online and physical resources without limiting yourself:
1. Mix both options while paying attention to how you learn best.
You might already be familiar with your best learning practices in which case whether you prefer strictly online or more physical interaction when learning will be easier for you to decide. However, we recommend mixing both for best results, then choosing an option that you feel works best for you and your lifestyle. Don't discount a sewing class at your local fabric store just because you feel it's a waste of time and money compared to the virtual resources available to you- You'll soon realize that being able to see other people pin their fabric and use theirs sewing machines will push you in the right direction from the get-go. Once you've laid down the base, online classes are an incredible tool for advancing and enhancing those basics. You can also watch some basic sewing tutorials or take a basic sewing course online before your physical sewing class- This will open your eyes to what you can expect and make you extra prepared, absorbing as much as possible from that initial sewing experience.
2. Try the Learn To Sew Box:
If you have a busy schedule that doesn't allow you to take an actual sewing class, or you simply don't have access to a physical sewing class in your area, the Learn To Sew Box allows you to learn how to sew in the comfort of your own home without the hassle of shopping for tools and fabrics on your own. It is a box that comes with the basic tools you need to get started and includes your choice of 3 fabrics, dress patterns in your size, matching thread and detailed guide- all you need is a pair of good scissors and a sewing machine and you can make that perfect A-line dress. The reason why the Learn To Sew Box is so effective is the fact that it's simple: The patterns are marked and already sized to your preference (S-M-L) so you don't have to spend days deciphering complicated multi-size store bought patterns. The crepe fabric choice is guaranteed to have the correct drape and the matching thread and tools minimize confusion and stress when getting started. The tools and sewing patterns are reusable, so if you like the final result you can make the A-line dress in a variety of fabrics. It is a great blend of individual learning while minimizing some of the negative aspects of online learning described above. Tackling the issue of asking questions in real time, the Learn To Sew Box includes an email address that you can use to ask any questions you may have throughout the learning process.
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