Sew In Brighton Blog

 RSS Feed

Category: Sewing Hints

  1. 5 Tips for sewing denim

    Posted on

    5 tips for sewing denim

    On the face of it you might think that sewing denim is going to be really tricky. And that’s largely because some of the properties of denim make people think it’s a really stiff material that doesn’t like to be altered or repurposed. But the good news is that doesn’t have to be the case. In fact, once you know to approach it, denim is fairly easy to work with. Here are our five top tips that will make your next denim project a whole lot easier.

     Tips for sewing with denim brighton 1

    1.Prep and planning
    The first step when sewing denim is to do your preparation and planning. For starters, make sure the material is the right size, weight, colour, etc. for what you want to do. Then, pre-wash to check the degree of shrinkage and colour run. Familiarise yourself with the grain direction to avoid twisting when you work with it. Finally, get your workstation set up with the equipment you’ll need.

    Tips for sewing with denim brighton 2

    2. Get the right needle
    While denim is fairly easy to work with, it does require the right needle. A standard sewing needle is probably not going to cut it, as it won’t be strong enough for the job.  Ordinary universal domestic machine needles in a size 14/90 may be fine for light and medium weight denims such as the 10oz denim we suggest for lining our Face Mask in our free tutorial (  Properties of denim, such as its toughness and durability, mean that a specialist denim needle is the more often the right choice for heavier denim. These needles are a lot sharper and stronger, and will help puncture the material more easily. Once you’ve used a denim needle for the first time it’ll quickly go on your list of favourite sewing tools.

     Tips for sewing with denim brighton 3

    3. Use a strong thread
    Just like you need a strong needle, the same goes for the thread, particularly when it comes to thicker seams. For sewing denim use a good quality branded polyester sewing thread such as Gutermann, Coats or Moon.  We find thin and strong is the ideal combination, as it’s usually easier to keep the stitch neat versus a thicker thread. Topstitching is great for reinforcing seams, and using a longer stitch of around 3mm is ideal when you’re sewing through multiple layers.  Use an ordinary weight thread on the bobbin when topstitching with a topstitch weight thread, otherwise it can be tricky to get a good tension between top and bottom thread. Also check your needle eye is big enough for the topstitch thread to fit through.

     Tips for sewing with denim brighton 4

    4. Always use sharp scissors
    You don’t just need sharp scissors to cut through strong denim because it’s tough; you also need them because denim frays and snags easily. So a sharp edge will give you a much cleaner cut. It seems like an obvious thing to say, but don’t be tempted to keep on cutting if you feel a snag. Switch to better cutters or sharpen the blades – you’ll be glad you did in the long run.

     Tips for sewing with denim brighton 5

     Go with heavy duty closures
    Finally, the buttons, poppers and zippers. The key here is to use strong closures, as denim is a strong material. If the closure is too weak for the fabric it’ll lightly pop off or open up at some point – which could be embarrassing! This is certainly the case with heavy denim, whereas a regular button might work ok on lighter denim.

    And that completes our top five tips for sewing denim. Put them into practice the next time you take on a project and let us know how you get on.

    View our Stitch Classes for help making or customising denim garments


  2. Student Jacqui Replicates Her Favourite Tunic Top

    Posted on

    I’m now onto my third project with Sew-in-Brighton (in Hove Actually) ….
    Having already accomplished a 1940s style tailor-made dress from just a picture, and a converted kimono jacket, it was time to press on with my next (ad)venture - making a facsimile of my favourite Monsoon velvet devore tunic top.  I learned so many tips along the way, I've shared them below with you.
    In the first lesson, in order to create an accurate pattern,  I was instructed to fold my tunic in half lengthways and pin it out onto cross and spot paper.  

    This proved to be tricky with the slippery fabric but lots of pins close to the edge helped to secure it in place ready for drawing round the shape.
    This procedure was then repeated with the other side of the garment and the sleeves.
    Cutting out my new slippery crepe fabric was really difficult so I was advised by Kat, the teacher, to use lots of pins close together to help hold the shape - a very helpful hint!
    Prior to sewing the garment together, the neckline was machine stitched to prevent the fabric from stretching.
    On the original tunic the seams were first sewn together and then overlocked,  so this procedure was adopted for the new garment, thereby providing a neat, fray-free finish.
    I then secured the neckline with matching bias binding to create a neat finish.
    20180829_192157          20180829_192215
    The hemline of the garment was marked out by Kat with the use of a practical device which delineated the bottom line of the hem measured from the floor in chalk.
    I decided to hem the bottom of the tunic and sleeves by hand.
    The finished article looked wonderful.  But the crepe fabric I had chosen, had more give in it the dezore fabric of the original garment, so it felt slightly roomier.  The neckline had stretched slightly when I put the binding on and we remedied this by making a coupld of tucks at the front which actually looked great and even improved the design.
    Kat recommended if I were to make it again to use fusable or sew-in stay tape before applying the binding to stop the neckline stretching at all.  Not all fabrics need this apparently, stay-stitching is often enough but I had picked a fabric with a lot of give in it.
    All of these things have added a new learning curve to my skills and i'm pleased with my new top.  I'm delighted to have the pattern so I can make some more at home.
    Jacqui made her top in a few of our weekly Stitch Classes.  Find out more about them here.   
    You can also learn these skills in our 1 day workshop - Replicate Your Clothes. 
    View more info/book here
    Contact us here with any questions!
  3. Notch-tastic!! Adding your own notches to bought dressmaking patterns for easy matching of pieces

    Posted on

    Ever had trouble matching pieces when making up a garment from a bought pattern (Simplicity, Burda etc)? On my Making Clothes from Patterns course last night we were having a right old time working out which was the side seam, which was the back etc once the pieces were cut out - which made matching the right pieces together slow & frustrating. Once you've cut out the pieces there's often no indication on the cut fabric pieces as to the right way up or round to put things together. Taking a tip from the way we make patterns on the Pattern Cutting course I suggest adding extra notches to your patterns before you pin them to your fabric.

    But what are notches? Have you noticed little black triangles on the edges of pattern pieces? They're notches & they help you match pieces together, like a jigsaw puzzle e.g. a back sleeve head has 2 notches on the edge that correspond with 2 notches in the same place on the armhole. You cut them as tiny half-cm-deep snips at a right angle to the cloth (don't cut out the whole triangle, it'll fray!). I often find there aren't enough notches to help you match up effortlessly when sewing though, so I suggest, when making clothes from patterns that you add more of your own:

    1. Cut out the paper pattern pieces to your size as usual.

    2. Before you pin them to the cloth, look at the illustration below to see where I've drawn extra notches on the paper pattern pieces (the triangle shapes on the edges). Lay the pattern pieces together as you would when you sew and draw little notches on both pieces: for example half way down the side seam on the front and back piece, and 2 notches two thirds of the way down on the centre back, so there's no way you can sew a side to a back, as the notches won't match up. Put even more notches if your garment is cut on the bias as it will help you match up when the fabric stretches.

    Adding notches is even more important if like my student Heather's skirt below you have 3 panels in the front and 4 in the back. We added extra notches so it was a bit like a jigsaw puzzle, with each seam having a different notch position from the next seam - then we  just couldn't fit the wrong pieces together!

    resized notch tastic