Sewing sequin fabric does not have to be frustrating or be done by hand. With a few subtle alterations, you can use sequin fabric for your next sewing project. This fabric can be used for dresses, skirts, boleros - just about anything can benefit from a touch of bling. When I first started sewing, I was terrified of sequin fabrics. Although I loved them, I was afraid of ruining my sewing machine by sewing through the sequins. But not any more! With a few simple tricks and tips sewing sequin fabric is easy.
Sewing Sequin Fabric
Normally sequins are sewn onto fine or sheer fabrics such as tulle of mesh to give them some stability. It can be woven or have a small amount of stretch. The best fabrics have the sequins sewn on but they can also be glued. Some sequin fabrics are quite dense with many overlapping sequins so no background is showing, while others may have random or side by side sequins showing the fabric backing.
Before you start, be warned that sewing sequin fabric is messy. Be prepared for a clean up afterward and keep your pets away as there is likely to be stray sequins everywhere.
Step 1 - Pattern Selection
Simple - Choose a pattern suitable for sewing sequin fabric. The best patterns are streamlined with minimal or no gathering, no darts, and only a few seams. If your sequin fabric has stretch then it will need to be a stretch pattern with an appropriate stretch factor. For woven fabric choose a woven pattern.
Lining - Check whether the inside of the sequin fabric is scratchy and think about adding a thin satin lining to make it more comfortable to wear. Sequins sewn on tulle or mesh are often see-through anyway so a lining is recommended. If you don't want to add a lining to your pattern, the alternative is to wear a separate half or full slip under your sequined outfit.
Step 1 - Cutting
Removing sequins before sewing sequin fabric - If you have really hard to cut sequins, you may need to remove some from the edges in order to get the scissors through. For glued sequins, pick them off and for sewn sequins, gently unpick the stitching being careful not to extend over the seam allowance. You will need a seam ripper to do the unpicking of stitched sequins. Cutting out sequin fabric is a messy job. Even the small sample pieces I cut for the photos here resulted in sequins everywhere.
Direction - Make sure all the sequins pattern pieces are facing the same direction. You don't want the sleeves for example to have sequins traveling up your arm. The sequins should all sit down flat when the item is worn.
One at a Time - Cut one piece at a time. It is not likely that your scissors will be able to cut through 2 layers of sequin fabric. Keep in mind that some pieces need to be mirror images of each other so you may need to flip the paper pattern over to cut the second piece. For pieces that need to be cut on the fold, cut one side of the pattern then flip it over to cut the other side.
Safety - When you cut you will find little pieces of sequins scattered over your table and floor so just keep the pets away until you have cleaned up. Protect your eyes in case of any projectiles. Some sequins cut really easily and some may need a bit of pressure.
Marking - If you need to mark the fabric, it will be easiest to do so on the back of the fabric. For thin or transparent backings, use tacking stitches in a contrast thread to mark instead of chalk or pen. That way the stitches can be removed later and your fabric is not damaged.
Step 2 - Sewing Sequin Fabric
Options - Sewing sequin fabric can be done by machine or by hand. Of course using a machine is quicker, but sometimes you will have no choice but to hand sew, especially if you can't remove the excess sequins from the seam allowance.
Safety - If you are going to be sewing sequin fabric using a sewing machine and you haven't removed the sequins from the seam, I suggest wearing some safety glasses in case a needle hits a sequin and breaks. That's one advantage of me getting glasses to sew a few years ago - my eyes are always protected now.
Best Machine Needles - The best needles to use for sewing sequin fabric is either a thicker universal needle or a leather needle. Leather needles are strengthened and designed for piercing through tough fabrics so can be a better choice where your fabric is really dense and you can't remove sequins from the seam allowance.
Woven Sequin Fabric by Machine - Use a straight stitch for the seams. If you have removed the sequins from the seam allowance this should be fairly straight forward. For fabrics you need to sew through the sequins, the straight stitch will look a little crooked but when the seam is opened up, it will look straight.
Stretch Sequin Fabric by Machine - Sewing sequin fabric with stretch needs to be done with a narrow zig-zag stitch to maintain the stretch in the seams. Test a scrap with a width of 0.5 and a length of 2.5 and adjust accordingly. The stitches should not break when you give the seam a gentle tug. Read all about how to sew stretch fabric.
Sewing Sequin Fabric by Hand - The best hand-stitch for sewing sequin fabric is a backstitch. The smaller the stitches, the stronger the seam will be.
Test - Sequined fabrics can vary enormously so do a test first to determine the best methods.
Step 4 - Finishing
Seam Options - If you do need to finish the edges you could try a zig-zag stitch or bias tape covering. Do NOT use your serger to finish seams as it will ruin the blade. The only circumstance under which you could use a serger is if all the sequins are removed from the seam allowance and there is no chance of you sewing over any metal.
Raw Edges - Otherwise, just leave the edges alone. If you have a lining then the raw edges will be hidden anyway. I don't imagine you will be throwing your new sequin dress in the washing machine, so there will not be as much wear and tear on seams as usual anyway. Many sequin fabrics are sewn on mesh or tulle which doesn't fray anyway so take a close look and test a scrap for fraying.
Topstitching when Sewing Sequin Fabric - If your pattern calls for topstitching, you will have to skip that step. Most sequin fabrics will look messy if you try and topstitch and it would look a little strange if you removed sequins from the edge in order to do so.
Sparse Seams - If you have removed sequins at the seam allowances and some have little gaps when finished, hand sew or glue some of the sequins back. You can also replace any broken sequins. If you are going to glue, the best glue is E600. Read about how to attach rhinestones for more information on glues and hand stitching.
Step 5 - Pressing
Most sequin fabrics can't be pressed as the heat will damage the sequins. You may be able to press the back but do a test first and make sure you have a pressing cloth handy to put between the fabric and the iron. If a seam allowance needs to be pressed in a certain direction, you may just be able to put a couple of tiny hand stitches to hold it in place instead.
For sequins caught in the seam, a gentle tap with a flat hammer may flatten and open seams. These fabrics can be expensive so do a test before you start hitting it with a hammer and don't forget to put a pressing cloth in between to prevent marks.
Sewing Sequin Fabric - In Conclusion
So now you know all about sewing sequin fabric you can go and create something wonderful for your wardrobe or an amazing costume that will make you shine.