Tips for Sewing Denim
Posted on 19 June 2016
A GUIDE TO SEWING WITH DENIM & THICK FABRICS
1. Wash Your Fabrics
To minimise shrinkage & the fabric dye running.
2. Use the Right Needle:
You can buy a ‘denim’ needle for sewing denim & thicker fabrics.
If you’re using a standard needle make sure you’re using at least a size 90/14 & for thicker denim use a 100/16.
For a chambray or tencel denim style fabric an 80/12 universal needle will be fine.
3. Use a Quality Thread:
Sewing Thread: Use a good quality thread. My personal preference for my sewing machine is Rasant thread.
Topstitching Thread: I am not a fan of topstitching thread. I find it tends to get caught when you backstitch & often frays just above the needle causing it to snap halfway along a seam.
But there is an effective & easy solution: Add a second spool of normal sewing thread through the same needle eye. Take a look in your manual & use the same threading method they advise for using a twin needle, except thread the second thread through the same needle eye as the first.
4. Use a Longer Stitch:
Straight Stitching: For general sewing, on my machine I use a 2.2 stitch length. On denim I like to use a 2.8-3 stitch length.
Topstitching: Use a longer stitch for topstitching. I like to use a 3.5-4.
5. Use a Small Hammer:
Yes, you heard that right: a hammer. The ladies in my Facebook group have a little chuckle when they see a hammer on my layout desk in photos.
The seams on denim can get quite thick and can be problematic especially when topstitching with skipped stitches & bent or broken needles.
An easy & effective solution is to give it a bit of a tap with the hammer. Put a protective piece of fabric between your garment & the hammer & give seams a few taps. I find this very helpful at the corners of the waistband & where the vertical seams meet the waistband & also at the hem.
Make a little tester & see what i mean. Note: do not hit your fabric too many times or hard or you will risk splitting the fibres & putting a hole in your work.
6. Use the Myterious Black Button or DIY Bumper:
It can be hard for your sewing machine to sew smoothly over bulky seams especially when topstitching hems & waistbands. Here are two easy solultions.
THE BLACK BUTTON: Have you noticed that mysterious black button on the side of your general sewing machine foot & wondered what it was for? Well, it's pretty much magic!! & helps you sew over bulky seams by levelling the foot & eliminating skipped stitches. Let's take a look.
Let's say you're sewing the hem and you need to sew over a thick, topstitched seam.
1) Sew up to the seam...
You will notice that the front of the foot begins to lift.
3) With the needle down, raise the presser foot.
4) Press the little black button... AND while holding it down, lower the presser foot. Once the presser foot is down, let go of the black button. This levels the presser foot.
5) Start sewing over the seam.
You will notice that the little black button is pushed in. After a few stitches, when you're past the bump (& you don't need it's magic any more) it will pop back out again.
6) See! Magic.
If your machine doesn't have one, don't worry. You can easy make your own and it's just as effective & will produce a gorgeous professional looking finish to your stitching.
DIY BUMPER: An easy & effective solution is to make yourself a 'bumper'.
Notice in this first photo, that the machine foot is on an angle as it tries to sew over the bulky seam as I sew the hem. Often what happens next is skipped stitches.
SO HOW DO WE FIX IT? It's not as hard as you think.
Once you've reached the seam, raise the foot with the needle down.
Next grab a scrap of the fabric you're using & fold it over a few times (I have ironed my fabric in half & then folded 3 times).
Slip your new 'bumper 'under the back of the foot.
Notice how the bumper levels the foot again (the front isn't angled up).
Now lower the needle & keep sewing to the next seam.
7. Go Slow!
Take your time when sewing denim especially if you’re new to the experience. In some instances you may even need to take your foot off the pedal & hand turn your machine to get past a tricky spot.