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#052 10 Top Tips for Sewing Thicker Fabrics

with your host Jacqui Blakemore

Episode Summary

As the weather turns a bit colder I thought it might be good to talk about sewing with thicker fabrics so today I have 10 tips for you plus a couple of bonus tips on working with these sometimes trickier fabrics.

I have created a printable PDF version of these tips if you want to keep them handy.

Sewing for colder weather

Sewing warm clothes for winter
Making fleece jumpers for the cold weather

We are approaching winter here in the UK and whilst it has been quite a mild autumn the colder nights are just around the corner.

We are also experiencing unprecedented fuel costs and so warm clothes and layers will definitely be a feature of my winter wardrobe.

But making warm clothes can often involve sewing thicker fabrics and I know that many people are put off by the thought of having to wrestle layers of thicker fabrics through their sewing machine. And if you have tried it in the past and had a bad experience it can put you off trying it again.

So today I wanted to talk through 10 top tips that you can use to have confidence making everything from warm jumpers to snuggly coats. I have also included a couple of bonus tips that came to me as I was prepping for this chat.

I don't want you to be left shivering as the cold weather sets in and I also don't want you to to have to say no to a fabric or pattern because you are worried about sewing thicker fabrics.

So these tips are simple ways to have fun making toasty treats to wear in winter and get a finish that you can be proud of.

What do we mean by 'thicker fabrics'?

Sewing with thicker fabrics
Winter fabrics are warm and snuggly

Firstly I have a question for you - when I say thicker fabrics, what fabrics come to mind?

When I asked my mum she had in mind the types of coating fabrics like the boiled wools and wool felts. I tend to think of things like fleecy fabrics or jacquards. Maybe you think of things like heavy denims and canvases or possibly the upholstery fabrics.

I think there are three groups of thick fabrics

  • Loft e.g. fleece, boiled wools, felted wool, brushed, textured such as jacquard, quilted

  • dense/tightly woven e.g. thicker denims, canvases

  • Upholstery fabrics - bags, homewares

Patterns for thicker fabrics

Pick patterns for thicker fabrics
Pick patterns designed for thicker fabrics

Before you start your sewing project there are some things to look out for.

Consider your pattern and the features it includes. If it's your first few times of working with thicker fabrics then I would say avoid sewing patterns that may require you to sew through an excessive number of layers of fabric e.g. gathers and pleats, collars and cuffs, narrow or rolled hems.

Collars and cuffs often require you to sew at least 3 layers of fabric and sometimes more if there are facings or plackets.

Thicker fabrics don't tend to turn up or press quite as well as thinner fabrics. They also have a greater turn of cloth and by that I mean the amount of fabric required when you fold it over. So if you imagine trying to fold the edge of a piece of fleece by just a 1/4", it's really tricky because the fabric itself is about 1/8" thick so it's really hard to get hold of and you end up having to turn up more just to get it to fold over.

I'm not saying don't try these types of features but I would say perhaps don't start with them.

If you haven't tried them, what has put you off? When I asked my mum she said wasn't sure if she'd be able to get a nice finish. She was thinking in terms of making a coat and because it's an outer garment she felt it was more visible and therefore needed to have a better finish as it may be more open to scrutiny which I thought was an interesting perspective.

Have fun making winter clothes
Remember to have fun with thicker fabrics

Just on that I'd like to remind you to give yourself permission to try it and for it to go horribly wrong. I have definitely learnt a lot from trying things out, making mistakes and then having another go, applying what I learned. Like cooking, swmming or riding a bike, sewing is something you can't really learn from a book. You learn best when you give it a go.

Challenges of sewing with thicker fabrics

So if you have tried sewing with thicker fabrics in the past what types of problems have you encountered?

Well I have experienced problems in three main areas

  1. Cutting out/pinning

    1. Hard to get scissors or rotary cutter to cut through the fabric especially more than one layer at a time

    2. Shorter pins can get lost or not be long enough so long pins or clips are required

    3. Heavier to handle - need to get it all on the table at the same time

  2. Stitching

    1. Hard to pin pieces together

    2. Breaks needles when trying to sew especially through a few layers

    3. Hard to get the fabric under the foot of the machine

    4. Hard to start off at the edge of the seam (presser foot falls backwards and your garment gets stuck in one place)

    5. Hard to top stitch/understitch (more layers)

    6. Hard to hem particularly over seams

  3. Pressing

    1. Seam allowances can leave imprints on the right side of the fabric

But all is not lost so in this episode you will hear my top 10 tips that have really helped me to love sewing with thicker fabrics.

If you haven't tried sewing with thicker fabrics I hope this inspires you to give it a go - if you have and have any experiences you want to share then please let me know. I always love to hear your thoughts and what you are working on or planning so do get in touch.

Links and resources mentioned

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Get in touch

I always love to hear about you trying out what you pick up from these episodes so do let me know:

Thank you so much for listening and for all your support. x

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