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Learn How To Sew – Different Clothing Materials

Different materials, sewing needles, the right sewing machine, stitches, necessary threads… Lots of things to think about to make every sewing project perfect!

What to do? How to choose the right thing? Some many questions can’t be left without answers so here you go!

Sewing materials

In the sea of available materials, the main differences we can make are those in quality and easiness of sewing. Some mainly used materials are cotton and cotton blends, denim, leather, fleece (wool) and polyester.

The type of the material you’re using will determine almost everything: how long will the project need to be finished, what type of threads, needles and stitches you’re going to use and how hard it will be to sew.

Some types of materials will be suitable for some project and bad for others.

So, let’s learn some basics about these materials and how to use them!

Denim

Usually used to make jeans, jackets, overalls and other similar clothes, denim is a highly durable, strong and cotton twill fabric. In it, the waving passes under two or more warp threads. The ancestors of denim come from India, but under this name and in this form it was first produced in France. In America, it became extremely popular in the 19th century when it started being used for laborers’ clothing which, until denim was used, wasn’t long-lasting.

This is a sturdy fabric, so when you want to work with it you should use stronger and (if possible) new needle. It is expected that you already have a sewing machine for working with heavy fabrics.

Denim

When it comes to stitches, use a stitch length no longer than 5mm. This is to keep your fabric from stretching and fraying. How else to prevent fraying? Instead of straight stitches (which you can apply on legs and they should be around 3mm long), use zigzag stitches.

If you want to work with denim fiber, you’ll need heavy duty scissors. If you don’t have them, it’s friendly advice to practice a bit with regular scissors because denim can be tough to cut, and cutting is an important part of every sewing project! Cut one layer at the time; this way you’ll avoid applying additional pressure – it’ll be easier.

Denim can be bulky. So, before you start, iron all the edges where seams will be. And, of course, trim the edges.

If your machine isn’t intended for heavy duty sewing, you need to take some precautions. Firstly, never push or pull denim while you’re sewing. Next, if your sewing machine has difficulty in sewing this type of fabric, use a hand wheel and keep your machine safe. This may slow you down, but that’s better than breaking your machine.

If you are planning to do the embroidery on denim, heavy duty machine is the best solution. You can do it on the regular one, but this will take lots of patience and time.

Quick tip: Today, you can find sewing machines with special jeans presser foot. If they are too expensive for you, simply use a walking foot instead of a presser foot to keep your denim fiber calm.

The most common and popular color of denim is indigo blue although you may find it in other colors as well.

Leather

There is a large dispute whether genuine leather should or shouldn’t be considered a fabric because it’s natural. As it is a material used in the sewing industry, we feel free to consider it a true fabric.

How does the leather become fabric? Well, firstly, genuine leather is mostly cattle leather that’s made by tanning animal rawhides. The process of preparing the leather for other use, especially in sewing industry costs a lot of money. Therefore, it’s not a surprise it is expensive. But, the quality of this leather is big what makes it worth a price. There are many different types of leather finishes and this is what defines its quality. Every leather is strong (the level depends on the type of the animal) but a finish is the one that determines higher protection and provides durability.

How to Prepare Leather for Sewing

Like a cheaper version of genuine leather, there is faux leather or vegan leather. In other words, faux leather is nothing else but synthetic leather made of artificial materials. There are two basic types of synthetic leather: PU-standing for polyurethane and PVC-standing for polyvinyl chloride.

Leather, faux or real is used in sewing industry starting with clothes, through shoes all the way to upholstery. Each type has its pros and cons but lets see what you need to sew with it and what to pay attention to!

  • Watch with holes! This refers to all holes, those from sewing machine needle and pins. There are no repairs if you make a mistake when sewing leather.
  • You can cut leather but it’s safer to use a rotary cutter. And, cut one layer at a time!
  • The leather won’t fray so you don’t need finish seams on the edges.
  • What about seams? There’s a whole bunch of seams you can apply to leather. You can use plain seams for example. If you want a regular seam to look nicer you can glue it with leather adhesive and seal it by using a wallpaper roller. If, by any chance you want some other seam, we suggest single or double topstitched seams or maybe lapped or faux flat seams. Whichever you choose, your project will be great. Just pick out the one that suits you best!
  • Needles are tremendously important especially because they leave holes so if you want to be sure you won’t ruin your leather project just choose the right needle. Select the needle tended for leather. Use a new needle every time. You can ruin everything with a dull needle. The leather is measured by ounces (oz.). The heavier oz. is the leather is ticker. The best needles are R point needles because they are sharp. If the leather is really thick, you can use a cutting point needle.
  • For sewing with leather use a roller foot because it can get stuck in the throat plate or presser foot. There’s one more trick to avoid this place a small piece of tape over the bottom of the foot. This way the leather will glide easily.
  • As far as the thread is concerned, the best is to use bonded nylon thread. It is very strong and suitable for industrial as well as hand sewing.
  • Always try before you start! This way you’ll check the needle, seams, threads, and everything else!

Cotton and Cotton Blends

Cotton is a soft, fluffy fiber of natural origin and one of the most commonly used materials today. Sewing industry adores it! Cotton material is very lightweight and easy to work with.

What is also very popular in modern sewing industry nowadays are cotton blends. There are hundreds of different types of blends and almost all of them are made of cotton and some synthetic fiber.

What’s very important before you start sewing cotton things is to wash your fabric (at least once and if possible twice). Cotton makes wrinkles and by washing it you’ll avoid shrinkage.

Iron is a somehow inevitable part of sewing. Before you cut, iron all the pieces. Since edges tend to fray, cut them off. To keep the right measurements, iron edges, seams and all the wrinkles.

What stitches to use? Well, different types are useful. For frayed edges, use zigzag stitches. If you do this, you can use any other stitch for the rest of your project such as straight stitches, and other.


The best needles to use on cotton are 70/10. They are small and delicate and won’t make big holes. Thread you’re using should be a hundred percent cotton thread, a lighter one (a 60 weight approximately). Thick threads are bad because they make holes along the seams and this way clothes easily frays.

Fleece/Polyester

Fleece is a synthetic material made 100 percent of polyester (a type of plastic). This is a nice, soft material, similar to wool but it’s not made out of natural materials. It is perfect for making covers, blankets, soft jackets and similar.

Fleece Polyester sewing materials

Made to be cozy and breathable besides being very soft, this material is a real human wonder. Therefore it’s very popular in the sewing industry and has multiple purposes. So, what makes it so great? You mean, besides being warm and extremely cozy? Well, first of all, it doesn’t fray so you don’t have to make edge seams. It has a right and wrong side and it always curls toward the wrong one.

When sewing fleece, use the double topstitched seams set to 3 to 5mm stitch length. Use zigzag stitches for armholes. What you can also apply are overcast and pinking stitches.

Needles, besides being new for each separate sewing project, should be strong. Ballpoint and microtex needles should be your choice. Be careful with cutting and always use well-sharpened scissors.

Polyester fleece is specific. It’s bulky and stretchy, so you need to be careful and patient when working with it. Some of the coziest pieces of clothes are made of it so your time and effort will pay off.

Silk and Satin

Silk and satin are materials made for perfect elegant dresses, skirts, blouses or exclusive bed sheets. They look great but are really hard to work with. In order to create with silk or satin, you’ll need good sewing knowledge and skills.

With these materials pay a lot of attention to holes. They are easy to be made but impossible to be removed. Needles should be very sharp to avoid big holes that can fray. Every project-new needle! Never use heavy duty needles.

If you are sewing, use a cotton thread; on the other hand, if you are embroidering on silk or satin, use a silk thread.  A silk thread is great for embroidery but bad for seams because it’s weak. Also, remember to use lightweight threads.

Quick tip: Since these fabrics are slippery, be careful when cutting them – make sure your scissors are very sharp!

How to preserve your sewing fabrics?

We learned almost everything about sewing materials up to now but what’s possibly one of the most important things in this sea of information is how to actually preserve your fabrics!

The best way would be to have a special place to keep your fabrics. They need to be away from lots of light and moisture.

You shouldn’t just drop them in the corner and forget about them but fold them nicely and put them on the shelf. This is tremendously important for easily wrinkled materials (cotton, silk or satin). If you crumple them, you won’t be able to straighten them.

If you don’t have shelves, keep them folded in clean and clear plastic drawers. You can get them anywhere, place them everywhere and they are not too expensive!

To make things easier, take cardboard to make mini-bolts and use them to fold your fabrics. You can arrange them according to the type and color, whichever way you want and like.

The way you treat your fabrics is the same way you treat your sewing. So, be careful.

 

You can’t sew without fabrics. And, in order to be good at sewing, you need to be familiar with different types of materials, their needs and possibilities. When you learn enough about each fabric, get to know them and what to use and when you can start sewing recreationally or professionally-the choice is all yours. But don’t start without it or you’ll get lost and give up!

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