How to Sew Thick or Slippery Fabric

Whether you are new to sewing or have been doing it for a while, there's nothing as frustrating as trying to sew fabrics that are thick or slippery. Luckily, we’ve written a quick “how-to” manual to get you through even the most challenging projects. 

How to Sew Thick Fabric

Prewash your fabric.

Prewashing or steaming your material helps to make it more malleable, thus making it easier to sew. 

Use a small hammer.

If you have to sew stubbornly thick areas such as jeans hems, whacking the material with a small hammer can make it flat enough to pass your needle across. You can also use a tailor's clapper to make the surface flat and easier to sew.

Use clips to hold them together.

Thick fabric can cause your pins to bend, or they might not work entirely. If you have a thick material that needs pinning, paper clips and binder clips can help hold the fabric in place. Don't forget to remove them as you go.

Use a heavy-duty needle and thread.

Always ensure you use the appropriate needle size when working with thick fabric. The ideal sizing for thick fabrics is size 90/14, but you can go a size larger if you feel your material is too heavy. For jeans, a heavy-duty size 16 jeans needle is the best.

Similarly, thicker threads such as strong polyester or jeans thread are great to avoid breaking. It's worth noting that the smaller the thread size, the thicker it is. The proper thread size for thick fabrics is 30-50.

Use a longer stitch.

The standard stitch length is 2.5 mm, but a 3.5 mm-length stitch is the best for heavier fabrics. You can go higher if your material is heavy or when using multiple layers of fabric. If using longer stitches doesn't work, you can use a small zig-zag stitch.

How To Sew Slippery Fabric

Prepare the project.

As above, prewash the fabric. Next, set the stitch length to 10-15 stitches per inch. It’s best to create a practice seam with a small piece of the fabric to determine if you have made the correct settings — adjust as necessary.

Start sewing.

Hold the fabric taut while stitching to avoid marring. When working on a slippery fabric, you might have to loosen the thread tension and slightly lighten the presser for the right amount of pressure.

Do what you can to keep everything steady. 

You’ll want to stitch the slippery fabric with a straight stitch presser to keep it from creeping away from you. If the material slips, baste the seam by hand or use basting tape to hold it in place.

Also, use a plain straight stitch seam. If the fabric is sheer, a French seam will also work well.

Use adhesive.

You can use temporary fabric adhesive to hold the fabric in place while stitching. Just ensure you use this in a well-ventilated area. 

You can also use the everyday glue stick for school projects to hold your seam in place. Make sure you test the glue stick for visibility and washability first on a scrap to determine if it will ruin your fabric or not.

Some people swear by tissue paper. Place a ply between the fabric to prevent sliding. You can spray both sides of the tissue paper with spray adhesive. This way, you won't have any glue directly on your fabric and will have enough stickiness to ensure the fabric stays in one place. 

Use pattern weights.

Finally, consider buying affordable pattern weights or creating your own and using them to hold the fabric in place. Good weights will help you sew through even the most slippery of materials. 

Learn More about How to Sew Thick or Slippery Fabrics

Slippery and thick fabrics can test any sewer’s patience. Inspired to Sew is your go-to store for quality sewing and quilting supplies. We have products that can help bring your ideas to life. We also provide classes and sewing machine services and repairs. We welcome any aspiring or seasoned sewing enthusiasts to contact us today with any questions.

Image Credit: NatalyaPh74, Shutterstock