Sewing Tricky Fabrics

Hilary Pullen Great British Sewing Bee, Tips & Tricks, Tricky Fabrics 1 Comment

Do you steer clear of tricky fabrics in your sewing?

We really enjoy watching the ‘transformation’ challenge on the Great British Sewing Bee, we’re always so surprised by what the sewists manage to create! The sewing bees are often faced with tricky fabrics and we thought it would be good to go through a few fabrics that you may never have dared to work with and give you some top tips on how to sew them smoothly!

Slippy Fabrics

They look stunning, but slippery fabrics can be a pain to work with, the trick is using the right tools! Use a new, universal, Sharps or Microtex needle, size 9/60-10/70. Larger size needles can leave holes or cause the seams to gather slightly as you sew. Blunt needles can snag the fabric and cause runs. For cutting out use dressmaking shears that have a fine serrated edge on the blades – the serrated edge holds slippery fabric in place as you cut, making them ideal for fine fabrics, silks, satins etc. Prevent the fabric shifting and sliding around by laying the fabric on an old sheet or cardboard cutting board. Read a full guide to sewing slippery fabrics on our sister site Love Sewing.

sewing beaded fabric

Beaded Fabrics

Beaded fabric looks simply fantastic on evening and bridal wear but is excruciatingly delicate. It is sewn on in very long threads which if cut, will mean huge parts of your detailing will unravel.

To preserve the design but avoid beads being caught in the seam line, gently smash the unwanted beads with a small hammer. Work on a large surface and sweep away the shards carefully.

leathery fabric

Leathery Fabrics

Leather and pleather might not be everyone’s cup of tea but they definitely are hardwearing and great for bagmaking or accent features on stylish clothing.

In addition to not making any pin or needle holes outside the seam allowance, the best advice we can offer is to invest in a Teflon or rolling foot. If you can’t get hold of one, try a piece of sticky tape attached to the underside of your machine foot with a hole cut for your needle. The glossy side of the tape will glide over the fabric as you sew.

sewing velvet fabric

Velvet and Corduroy Fabrics

Velvet and corduroy are entertainingly deceptive. They’re so stable to the touch you might think they’d be a dream to sew, but the very short pile of the fabric can rub you the wrong way.

Make sure your pieces are cut with the pile going in the same direction – imagine your fabric has a one-way print design. Invest in a walking foot to feed the layers evenly and stop the fabric shifting as you sew which would lead to rippled or misaligned seams.

sewing fake fur

Fake Fur Fabrics

Fake fur may end up on your sewing table one of these days and you’ll need to know what to do with it! It comes in many styles but the more fluffy it is, the more you’ll need to focus.

A long pile can get caught in your seam allowance so trim back the fur close to the seamline to reduce bulk and avoid bald spots. When cutting out, use a scalpel on a cutting mat so you can part the pile and cut only the backing fabric rather than accidentally giving your fabric a haircut!

sewing tartan fabric

Tartan / Check Fabrics

Plaid, check and tartan are three different beasts but they have something in common – you’ll need to assess the vertical and horizontal repeats to work out if you’ll need extra fabric for pattern matching.

Cut pattern pieces out single layer and layer the cut out fabric on top of your remaining material until it disappears into the print. Then you can align your mirror image pattern piece, taking into account seam allowances to get the truest match possible.

sewing buckram fabric

Buckram Fabric

Buckram gives fabric items structure. It is made by coating fabric in starches and/or resins and is used in historic costumes, accessories like hats and bags, and in curtain pleats.

It’s best to use a robust sewing machine that can handle the thick layers and avoid using an overlocker. If you steam the fabric the starches soften and you have a window of time in which to manipulate and sew the fabric before they re-solidify.


We hope you enjoyed those top tips! let us know in the comments which fabrics you have been defeated by in the past… there’s always help on hand here for tackling the trickiest fabrics!


Comments 1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.