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Sewing Sequin Fabric

Sequin fabrics are fun and twinkly, they make a statement and come in a wonderful range of colours and styles. And sewing sequins doesn’t need to be challenging if you keep a few tips in mind as you choose your fabric, prep your pattern and begin construction.

The base

First things first, you want to understand the type of sequin you’re handling by identifying the base they sit on and how they’re attached. The most common bases are: knits, woven, lace and net.

  • Knit sequin fabric is the easiest to manage as it behaves just like any other stretch fabric! Use a stretch stitch and a stretch needle. Net fabric may have a small amount of stretch but not enough to warrant using a stretch stitch.
  • Netting and lace based sequin fabric can be a bit see-through so you may need to add a lining to your garment.
  • Woven fabrics like organza, taffeta and rayon with sequins attached can be dramatic, floaty and polished. These fabric types can be sewn with straight stitches and regular needles but may need lining depending on how sheer they are.

Most sequin fabric is stitched to the backing with coordinating colour thread or an “invisible” plastic thread. They are usually attached in long strands so a good test of how robust your fabric is, involves cutting a test square and seeing how many sequins fall off once the threads are cut.

Alternatively the sequins may be glued to the backing. This adds another consideration as you may need to change machine needle regularly as the warmth of your machine will heat up the glue as you sew and make your needle sticky.

Remember, you won’t be able to prewash your fabric. Or wash the final garment. It’ll be dry clean only so keep it far away from the washing machine!

Choosing a garment

Dense sequins fabrics can get a little bulky at seams and darts and the fix is to remove sequins strategically to make the lines lay nicely and make them easier to sew. Now think about doing this down a long paneled skirt with multiple seams, or a princess seamed bodice, even a zip. If you’re not quite ready to face that task, choose something with minimal lines and possibly a pull on style like a loose shift or wrap dress.

If working with a fabric that features sequin and glitter motifs, try to avoid placing these in seamlines or darts as these areas of the fabric may be stiff and hard to press flat. And especially with lace motif styles you’ll want to think about placement on your final garment so you don’t create a distracting or repetitive pattern.

Lastly, if you are going to try and add a zipper choose either an exposed style or a lapped zipper, you will find it difficult to get a neat finish on a centred or concealed zipper installation.

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Choose a simple elegant silhouette for easier construction when using sequins (Simplicity 9238)

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If you’re ready for an exciting project, try a sequin moto jacket (McCall’s 8121)

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McCall’s 8021 wrap dress is perfect for sequin fabric thanks to having no closures and clean seam lines

 

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Lace motifs decorated with sequins look stunning as a sheer capelet (Vogue 9276)

Cutting out

First, keep a dustpan and brush handy as sequins get everywhere! And if you have space, lay a sheet out around your cutting area to catch stray sequins that fly off.

Depending on how thick your sequins are you can try pattern weights and a sharp rotary cutter with large mat. Or if you have them a pair of serrated scissors which will be slip less that regular scissors. The sequins will break and ping off, but with the fabric placed RS down this should be kept to the minimum amount possible. Sequins will blunt your scissors quite a lot so use a pair you’re not precious about!

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Lay your fabric out single fold if you can, WS facing up. This helps both with dense sequin fabrics which can be hard to cut out on the fold, and assists with pattern placement for motif designs. Cut out each pattern piece once, then flip over for the mirrored version. For pieces normally cut on the folded edge, either trace out a full pattern piece to use with scrap paper or cut one side avoiding the fold edge then flip and line up the pattern piece with the first cut half to continue with the remainder of the mirror image.

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Preparing your seams

As mentioned if your fabric has dense or bulky sequins, you can help the seam lines lay nicely by removing excess sequins from the stitching lines and seam allowance. You can actually mark out the stitching lines with an erasable marker on the WS of the fabric or with a basting stitch if you can’t judge it by eye.

Then remove any sequins from the stitching line with a small pair of scissors or seam ripper and remove from either the RS or WS depending on wherever you can see the threads better.

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If your fabric is very prone to losing long strands of sequins when cut, then you’d be best snipping the sequins to break them leaving the threads intact.

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If you’re truly dedicated you can remove the sequins from the entire seam allowance. This will take quite some time but if you can’t stand the idea of sequins tickling your body inside the garment it’s a clever solution. The alternative to potentially scratchy seams is to bind them, line the garment or wear a slip/camisole/etc. Test your fabric against your skin before you decide how to proceed.

I’d definitely recommend removing as many sequins as possible from inside any bust darts. As well as reducing bulk, it’s the best way to avoid breaking any needles that might get caught badly on a sequin.

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Construction

Now you’re ready to sew! Choose the needle and stitch setting that relates to your base fabric. Add a sheet under your machine table to catch strays there too, and keep a pair of scissors on hand in case you spot any sequins you missed from the seamline. Yes you’ll probably break at least one needle the first time you sew sequins but once you get a feel for how it works you’ll get the hang of it.

When it comes to pressing your seams open, use a cool iron and a pressing cloth and go very gently so not to melt your sequins to your iron plate! And happy to report that knit, lace and mesh bases are unlikely to fray so you don’t need to finish your raw hems. If you wish you could create a facing out of bias tape folded to the inside, but remember the same rules apply about creating a clean stitching line.

Finishing touches

From your sweeping up, keep a few of the intact spare sequins and assess your finished garment. If any of the areas near the seams look a little bare after you cleared away the stitching lines you can hand sew or glue on a few sequins to disguise this.

 

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