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.
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.
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 (sewbtn.com/mask). 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.
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.
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.
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.
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