Especially with the holidays coming around, there’s nothing quite like showing up to a dinner in a handmade, sparkly, party dress. But learning how to sew sequins can be challenging!
If you have ever sat down to create a sequin pencil skirt or sequin jacket only to have your needles break, your seams bulge, and leave you frustrated, this guide is for you! Sewing with sequins does take several additional steps to make the process easier but are well-worth the effort if you want a finished piece that you’ll be proud of.
Before we really dive in, I think it should be noted that making something with sequins takes about three times longer than standard fabrics. Personally, I think it’s worth it because nothing sparkles and shines quite like sequins! So carve out some extra time and let’s get making!
How To Sew Sequins
Learning how to sew sequins is really a pretty painless process if you aren’t working in a hurry. If you are truly short on time, it may actually be easier to hand sew your piece together since you can skip several of the steps and tips below.
Today we’ll be primarily talking about how to use a standard, at-home sewing machine on sequin fabric. Never use a serger on sequins unless you want to pay to get your serger fixed. The blade will dull quickly and the seams will buckle and bulge in an ugly way when you are finished. A serger will also form the most itchy seams on the inside of your garment when you are done. Just avoid the whole mess and use a standard sewing machine with either a straight stitch or a zig-zag stitch.
Things To Consider Before You Begin
Before you get started working on a new project, be sure to check the fabric care label. Usually, sequin fabric needs to be dry cleaned. After all, a sequin really is nothing more than a plastic disc attached to fabric. It cannot withstand aggressive washing machines, heated dryers, etc. There are a few variations so choose your fabric carefully if you aren’t willing to care for it correctly after you are done. You wouldn’t want to damage or undo all the hard work you’re about to put in!
When choosing a pattern to work with, be sure it has very few (or no) darts, pleats, and design details. The simpler the design, the easier it will be to work with. Sequin fabric is a lot like faux fur in this way. The more design details, the more headache in the process.
If you take a close look at your fabric, you’ll see that the sequin pieces are all connected to either a woven mesh or knit mesh lining. You can flip your fabric over for a better look. During the sewing process, you’ll be catering your needle selection, stitch length, etc. to this mesh fabric entirely. If you choose a stretch mesh fabric, sew it together with a zig-zag stitch and a standard straight stitch for woven non-stretch options.
Now let’s take a look at the design of your sequin placement, since you will have to take this into account as well before you break out the sewing machine. Sequins are often either attached to your mesh lining in a spread out, organized manner and lay flat or are stacked on top of each other in overlapping shingles. The shingled sequin design is easier to work with.
Cutting Pattern Pieces On Sequin Fabric:
Smooth your sequins down in the direction they naturally want to fall so your fabric is lying as flat as possible. Then, flip your fabric over so you can see the mesh side. When we are cutting and laying pattern pieces, this side is much easier to mark and use. Gently lay your pattern pieces in the same direction so all of your sequins fall in the same direction on your garment.
Also, avoid folding your sequin fabric in half to try to get multiple pieces from a single cut. For example, if a pattern piece says, “Cut 2” cut two separate pattern pieces instead of folding your fabric and trying to cut both at the same time. Your sequins won’t lay flat and it will only waste more fabric and time. Just be sure to rotate your paper pattern piece so your fabric is a mirror image of itself and goes together nicely.
If you are making clothing with your sequin fabric, I recommend also adding a lining. The fabric tends to be clear (since it’s mesh underneath) and very scratchy. It also creates a much more beautifully finished hemline with a lining since finishing the sequin fabric can be very difficult.
For interfacing, use a silk organza or polyester organza. It adds a little bit of stability and falls nicely underneath sequins.
To mark sequin fabric, use Tailor’s Chalk and Pattern Weights so you don’t have to pin through the sequins. Pinning through the sequins can be both complicated and inaccurate.
Use the tailors chalk to mark both the outside of your seam allowance (the cutting line) and the stitch line. If both lines aren’t specified on your pattern, use a Grid Ruler or Seam Gauge to measure and mark your stitch line. If your pattern has a narrow seam allowance, you’ll want to extend it to at least 5/8″ from the stitch line. Most commercial sewing patterns automatically come with a 5/8″ seam allowance. Be sure you are making these lines on the backside of your fabric. Marking the shiny, sequin side of your fabric won’t show up as well and will skew your measurements as you start working with it.
If whatever you are making has a facing, use a different fabric for the facing- not the sequin fabric.
It can be extremely handy to keep a vacuum nearby or lay something down on your table and your floor since this will make a massive mess when you begin cutting through sequins. I have this vacuum that comes in extra handy while I’m working with specialty fabrics like faux fur, sequins, and other textured fabrics.
Settings & Tools For Sewing w/ Sequins
All purpose thread is fine for working with sequin fabric but it’s best to use a slightly longer stitch length. If the mesh backing of your fabric has any stretch to it, use a zig zag stitch instead.
If your at home sewing machine has a hard time going through extremely lightweight fabric, cut a piece of tissue paper and place it over the seams before running it through. It rips off easily when you are done sewing, is translucent, and helps your fabric glide through easily.
When it comes to your needle choice, pick a needle that suits your backing fabric. This will be the tulle or mesh fabric you used the mark your pattern pieces. Use a size 70 or 75 needle as a general rule of thumb for mesh, lightweight fabrics.
It can be helpful to use a zipper foot when you are working with sequins. Just take your time and try not to hit too many sequin bits while you are sewing your fabric together.
Prepping Sequin Fabric for Sewing
If you try to sew your sequin fabric before the following steps, the plastic sequins could snap your needle or break your sewing machine. Even before cutting out your marked pattern pieces, carefully remove the sequins from the seam line, seam allowance and everything in between on your fabric. This step really helps your seams lay flat when you are done. Remove the sequins by cutting them in half and then pulling out the remainder of the plastic discs by hand or with tweezers.
The first step to sewing with sequin fabric is to hand baste along the seam line in contrasting thread as well as the seam allowance. It may seem unnecessary, but is useful to know where to stop pulling sequins later and also creates a line to cut that won’t damage your scissors.
Once you have all the sequins removed from your stitch line to your seam allowance, cut out your pattern pieces.
Now you can start sewing slowly but avoid using a back-stitch. We can tie off the threads by hand when you are finished to eliminate bulk.
Ironing Sequin Fabric
When it’s time to press a seam, be sure to iron sequin fabric on a low setting- the setting on your iron that works for rayon. Only iron on the mesh, back side of your fabric and be sure to lay a press-cloth over it to protect it. If your sequins get too hot, they could melt or discolor and nobody wants that.
Finishing Sequin Fabric
Once you are done sewing your pattern pieces together, you can fill in sparse sections along the seam-line with loose sequins. Do this by removing extra sequins from your scrap fabric with a seam ripper so they don’t break and sew them onto sparse sections of your seam-line. Use either silk thread or invisible thread since it will be very visible.
Zippers can be added but you may want to do it by hand. Invisible zippers work best on sequin designs but be extra careful when you are filling in any bare spots after the zipper is installed. You won’t want to block the flow of the zipper when you are hand-sewing your sequins back in place along the seam-line.
When you are finishing off your garment, I like to add little ribbon garment loops to your side seams of your lining. That way, when you put your finished piece on a hanger, it’s being held up with the garment loops and won’t damage your sequins.
If you are using a lining, you can just fold your sequin fabric up once and sew it into place. Your lining fabric can be finished nicely and will cover most of the interior seam for a clean finish. It’s probably best to use a thread that doesn’t exactly match your fabric so you don’t accidentally remove that thread if you need to pick out any sequins to help the seam lay flat. Hand sewing the sequin hemline will save you the most time and give the most polished look.
I hope this tutorial helped give some useful tips and tricks on how to sew sequin fabric! It can be more complicated than standard, woven fabrics but creates the most beautiful look when you are done!
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