Sewing with sequins. The words used to conjure images of super experienced sewists, painstakingly hand stitching with shimmery fabrics. No way could I sew with sequins, I so don’t have the patience for that. But then, I needed a sequin dress and couldn’t find anything in a store, so I set to research and discovered it’s actually not that hard if you do it right. If you love sparkle, but are terrified, read on! I promise you can do it.
Sam’s tips for working with sequins:
- Choose well. Not all sequins are created equal. If you don’t want to deal with unpicking sequins from your seam allowances, go for a small sequin, multi-directional sequin (ie. not in neat little rows). These are easiest because you can cut or sew right through them, and a missing sequin or two is pretty much invisible. Small sequins are the best because if they get stuck in the seam and stick out at all, they are too small to be really noticeable.
- Some sequins come on a mesh backing. If yours does, match the backing fabric to your sequins in stretch and body. You’ll need to baste together all of your pieces before sewing. Make very sure that everything is on grain and lays flat when you attach the two layers together. Try even draping the fabric from a dress form to make sure it hangs well. You can absolutely play with colour to make your sequins take on different tints, but be warned that a contrasting colour underneath with make bald spots more obvious.
- Prepare to line everything. You don’t want sequins rubbing your poor skin raw on the inside. Serging, pinking or bias bindings are not enough to protect your skin.
- Store your fabric correctly. Sequins can catch on pretty much everything, including other sequins. To avoid bald spots, hang your garment as soon as you’re able. Until then, you may want to fold your fabric pieces in tissue or pattern paper.
- Practice all of the seam types you will need. With a several swatches, test what a straight or curved seam will look like, try out a dart or gathering, and figure out how your fabric presses.
- If you choose to serge, I recommend serging around all of your unassembled pieces before sewing. Feed your fabric through so that your blade does not cut anything. You also don’t want to serge through multiple layers of fabric and break a needle (like I did). Keep tons of extra needles on hand to change out as they gets dull.
- Pressing is essential. This is possibly the most important part of dealing with sequins. Always press open your seams before moving to the next step. If you wait until you’ve got several seams to press, you’re likely going to have trouble getting to at least one. Set your iron to the slowest setting with steam so that you don’t melt your sequins, but still get moisture. You may choose to finger press first to get the sequins to lay the way you want (I found this most important on darts). If you don’t have a pressing cloth, a clean tea towel or piece of cotton will also work to protect the sequins (and your iron!) If you don’t have a clapper yet, go get one (it will change your life, I promise). You can also use a sanded and unfinished chunk of 2×4 in a pinch. The idea of a clapper is to apply pressure after passing the iron over your seam while also drawing out the moisture to get the flattest, smoothest seam possible.
- Note what colour thread is used to sew on the sequins. You will need this colour to fix bald spots as you work.
- Hang on to sequins that pop off as you work. You never know when you will need a handful of sequins.
- Fill in bald spots as soon as you see them. You will inevitably have patches that look sparse (or, like me, didn’t manage to get enough fabric so you had to use a bit of selvedge to fit your pattern pieces on) and will have to hand-stitch some on. The more assembled your garment is, the more difficult it is, especially if you need to baste your fabric onto a backing.
- Don’t even attempt an invisible zip. Choose anything else: exposed metal zip, lapped zip, anything. An invisible zip is not strong enough for the heavy, bulky sequins and will split. If you have already committed to one, forego the invisible zipper foot and sew on your invisible zipper like a normal zipper. A fellow sewist on instagram explained to me that the extra space between the fabric and zipper teeth will avoid the splittage (but isn’t nearly as pretty)
- Expect tons of bulk. By virtue, sequins are tough to sew through, but when you add backing fabric and lining, you end up with A LOT of fabric at your seams.
- Sequins are really heavy. Consider finishing techniques like adding a waist-stay to support a weighty skirt and avoiding thin straps. If your pattern has a full skirt, you may want to explore horsehair braid to give your hem volume.