Pick a fight with fabric that frays and you can end with a frazzled seamstress. Learning just a few tips on how to keep fabric from fraying will help keep your nerves intact and stop you from unraveling.
Keep that special piece of fabric from disappearing before your very eyes!
Some fabrics tend to fray more than others. Sheer fabrics, beautiful and exotic as they are, can give you the worst uphill battle before you even start to sew. (Read sewing sheer fabrics) Then there are the stronger but loose weave fabrics that also have a tendency to fray due to the texture of the fabric. Burlap, canvas and some linens fall into this category.
The following tips will help keep your focus on the fabric and not the fraying. They can apply to all fabrics but the first few are more suited to sheers and the last tips for burlaps and canvas.
How to Keep Fabric from Fraying
- Cut sheer fabrics with a wider seam allowance. For example: If you add on an extra 3/8” (1cm) and change the seam allowance from 5/8” (1.5cm) to 1” (2.5cm), this allows for some frayed edges.
- Create a French seam with a wider seam allowance. This means you can sew and then trim off any frayed edges without compromising the seam.
- Using an iron-on fusible interfacing on the edges works very well. Pre-cut 1/4 inch (6mm) narrow strips to add to the raw edges of the seam before sewing. This will stop the fabric from fraying. If you still wish to use a French seam, trim off the fusible facing before you turn the fabric and sew the second step.
- Pinking shears work well on cottons.
- A simple machine zig-zag on the edge also works well on cottons.
- For thicker fabrics, use an overcast handstitch.
- Raw edges can be saved from fraying with a serger. (Read how to use a serger)
- Two raw edges sandwiched into a strip of bias tape is also acceptable but inclined to be bulky. It can work well for hems and other tricky edges and is commonly used in jacket construction.
- On bulkier fabrics, fabric glue can come to the rescue or even Mod Podge painted on the edge of the cut fabric. The glue or Modge Podge stops those threads from unraveling.
- Then there are the exceptions to the rule and sometimes the frayed look is intended as part of the garment. Frayed jeans and woven fabrics can look good with frayed edges placed strategically.
The truth of the matter is that getting into a fray with fabric is not the solution to those ragged edges. Use one of the tips provided and keep yourself at peace with the fabric you are working on. Hopefully, with good advice about handling fabric that frays, you will not have to face such a dramatic scenario.