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 anymore! With a few simple tricks and tips, learning how to sew sequin fabric is easy.
Sewing Sequin Fabric Tutorial
This tutorial will show you how to sew sequin fabric, including cutting, sewing and finishing.
Types of Sequin Fabric
Normally sequins are sewn onto fine or sheer fabrics such as tulle or 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 are likely to be stray sequins everywhere.
How to Sew Sequin Fabric Instructions
Step 1 - Pattern Selection
Choose Simple Patterns
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.
Add a 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 slip skirt or full-slip under your sequined outfit.
Step 2 - Cutting Sequined Fabric
Safety and Cutting Sequin Fabric
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.
Remove Sequins First
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 outside the stitching line, 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.
Take Care with Fabric Direction
Make sure all the sequin 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. If you are following a sewing pattern, choose the layout for nap fabrics.
One at a Time
Cut one fabric 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.
Marking Sequin Fabric
If you need to mark the fabric, it will be easiest to do so on the back. 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 3 - Sewing Sequin Fabric
Options for Sewing Sequin Fabric
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. Always test a scrap of fabric first.
Safety and Sewing Sequin Fabric with a Sewing Machine
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 are either a thicker universal needle or a leather needle. Leather needles are strengthened and designed for piercing through tough fabrics, so they can be a better choice where your fabric is really dense and you can't remove sequins from the seam allowance.
For stretch sequin fabrics, try a ballpoint needle.
How to Sew Sequin Fabric that is Woven by Machine
Use a straight stitch for the seams. If you have removed the sequins from the seam allowance, this should be fairly straightforward. 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.
Sewing 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.
Avoid using an overlocker (serger) as you will ruin your blade.
How to Sew 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 Finishing Options
If you 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.
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 to topstitch, and it would look a little strange if you removed sequins from the edge in order to do so.
Fixing 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 Sequin Fabric
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. Alternatively just use finger pressing to open the seams.
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 how to sew sequin fabric, you can go and create some wonderful garments for your wardrobe or an amazing costume that will make you shine.