While working on my current project, McCalls 8406, it occurred to me that the fabric used and the techniques required really deserved its own blogpost. I am making this dress from a sequin fabric. The first thing I have learned is that all sequin fabrics are not equal. I am lucky in that the sequined fabric I fell in love with is definitely, in my opinion, one of the easier types to sew. My fabric is a random trail of VERY tiny sequins, also very thin, that are sewn by machine all over a base of netting. It's a bit stronger than tulle but not that heavy net business. Also, and important for ease here, it DOES NOT stretch. Equally important, the design has a fair amount of negative space that is just netting. This is not the fabric of larger sequins that solidly cover a substrate and you find used for mermaid outfits and lovely formal garments. My fabric has a lighter, more ethereal feel but like all sequin fabrics, also has a weighty drape, but not the heaviness of the big sequins. I highly recommend sewing this sort of sequin fabric as you will see ahead. It is simply less problematic. So rule number one is that if you are searching for a sparkly fabric, consider a sequined fabric utilizing smaller sequins in the design and maybe an amount of half negative space with the base fabric. Also being non stretch helps but not mandatory. That just eliminates another factor to deal with. You will need certain supplies to ease your journey.
* Old junk scissors. Do NOT use your good scissors for cutting this fabric or a rotary cutter. It will be fine. I am using my junk scissors that I bought in a bin for a dollar 30 years ago. They cut the fabric just fine.
* Wood clapper. You CANNOT press your sequined fabric. It will tarnish, lose it's color and/or melt. But, you can "faux" press it and I will show you how with a clapper and a few other tricks.
* Seam roll. I used a length of wooden pole. Worked great to lay the sewn seams on and not crush while "faux" pressing.
* Brayer. Same as the clapper but with the addition that it will crush the little gems together at the seam line effortlessly and they will lie beautifully flat. I did not remove any sequins in the seams for the project other than the zipper area.
* Straight stitch foot, one hole. This was best for making the 1/4 inch width for the Hong Kong seams .
* See thru foot. Used for general stitching- s l o w l y .
* Silk thread for basting. It slides in and out of the the sequins and stitches so easily. Very easily removable. I used it to block baste the sequin fabric to the lining, working flat on a table to prevent bubbles.
* Regular thread for sewing. You can use lighter weight thread if you get the right color. You need a good match here .
* Glasses for eye protection when sewing and cutting. Sequins go everywhere and I have read of them flying into people's eyes when cutting and sewing. Don't risk it.
* Paintbrush, soft and at least two inches wide. Great for brushing up all the sequin drops into a pile and putting in the trash. They will fall off your fabric and reproduce as you sleep. Clean up after every session. The less sequins hanging around the less opportunity for accidents.
* Sticky lint roller. Use for a quick cleanup. You will be finding sequins everywhere but they are not bad like glitter.
* Oak tag or manila folders. You will need two. They will be used to make your pressing jigs.
* Hand needles for basting.
*Microtex needle, 12, for sewing. Halfway thru the garment and no broken needles yet and still sharp.
\Sequin Myths that did not apply here:
* You will break tons of needles. Did not happen to me. I am still on the same happy needle halfway thru my garment.
* You must remove all the sequins from all the seam allowances before sewing. Nope, I haven't removed a one. I only plan to remove where the invisible zipper will be placed. These tiny sequins are so thin and small that they don't get in the way and they don't scratch you either, at least not me. I do have sensitive, thin skin too! I also got validation on this from a couple youtubes.
* You can't iron the fabric. Well, you can't, but you can get around that. Make sure your lining is nicely pressed before starting. Keep your pieces in a flat position to eliminate further wrinkling. Treat them kindly. I keep mine in a half sheet pan. Do hand work flat on a table. I will show you how to get a flat seam with the ironing jigs.
Sequin Must Dos
* You must make samples of pressing before starting, with and without lining.
* You must make samples of stitching. Using a zigzag of .5 wide and 2.5 long gave a much better result than a straight stitch for seams. I actually forgot to take off my 1/4 inch foot from doing my HK seams and found out that this single hole foot will do a .5 zig zag so I left it on to do all of my HK seams. Worked great. I used the wider see thru foot for all of the rest of the stitching.
* You must interface linings as needed, definitely not the netting.
* You must use the right tools and rules to get a decent, flat pressed looking seam.
* You MUST sew s l o w l y, every step of the way.
* You must, unless you remove all those sequins, treat your seam allowances to a finish. I did Hong Kong seams on mine out of the same Ambiance lining. Don't ditch stitch the HK seams. Topstitch instead. HK seams will cover any edges of the sequins that could irritate and they finish any loose threads. This way you won't have sequins falling off on the dance floor.
"Faux Pressing" Sequins
Take your first manila folder, just as it is being held in your hands and putting down and measure down from the fold about 5 inches. Cut on that line. You can see my cut is uneven. That's OK. You want the fold, not the cut line. Here you can see where I have sewn a bias strip to the fabric for a Hong Kong seam. I need to press that strip away from the fashion fabric. BUTT the folded edge of the manila folder right up to the stitched line of the fabric strip. Hover your iron, set up for steam, over the folder area ONLY, for about 3 seconds and move away fast. Quickly slide away your jig and hand press down the fabric strip. Take your clapper and press down and away and hold it for a few seconds. When you remove the clapper you will see the lining pressed away and nice and flat. The double thick folder paper helps prevent the steam/heat from damaging your sequins. Slide the folder up the seam and continue pressing the strip away from your garment until done.
Next for your HK seams you will need to wrap the strip around the the edge and pin in the ditch securely. I used silk pins as they handled the sequins really well. Go to the machine. and EDGE STITCH the strip fold on your seam allowance as opposed to the usual ditch stitching done on HK seams. When done remove the excess seam allowance on the back.
Anytime you need to press an area, butt the manila folder, doubled like here, up to the edge to not let any heat/steam heat anywhere else on the garment. At no time touch the garment. Just hover with 2 or 3 seconds of steam and get away fast.
Here are some seams in the bodice all put together, shoulder and back, below.
Above, on the left you can see the seam before being treated with Jig #2 method and on the right after #2 method. We will use the brayer, the seam roll , the clapper and the jig and iron again.
To make Jig #2, take your second folder and fold it as it's meant to be and get out your rotary cutter and ruler or scissors. Doesn't matter which. Accuracy not too important here. About 4 inches from either edge cut a fat eighth inch away from the fold to make a long slit. Do a little short cut on the ends. Now, if you open your folder up you have a long slit roughly a 1/4 inch plus wide. As you use your folder, use it folding down to make things easier. Place your garment. seams open, wrong side up first on your pressing stick/seam roll. The picture above is for when I turned over and did the same process to the right side of the garment. You will do both sides. Get your brayer or clapper handy. Place your Jig Slot over your seam line, centering it in the slit. Holding the jig securely, once again, HOVER your iron about an inch above for about 3 seconds of steam/heat and get away. Immediately grab the brayer and roll over the slit with pressure or use the clapper. I prefer the brayer here. Take your time. Gently remove the jig. Admire your seam, give it a little contented pat and move your way up the seam with the same process. Again. Press your seam open first on the wrong side, then flip it over and do the right side as you see above. The brayer forces the sequins to mesh together and really hold the seam flat. Don't be afraid to press hard.
Here we go, above, all nice and smooth! Whew!
When I went shopping for my fabric for this dress there was soooo much to choose from that would have fit the description of small sequins with a good amount of negative space, really lovely fabrics. I have even seen some beautiful ones at Joanns that would fit the description nicely as well. So, these fabrics are not hard to find and you cetainly get the wow factor. Many are more subdued than this one, lots of options, colors, etc. If you pick a pattern with few pieces, details, etc, and that is easy these days, you can make a garment that I think will be amazing. I hope my jigs and suggestions will help you along. I welcome comments. May your sewing sparkle!....Bunny