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Sewing Tip: Test Drive Your Fabric First

Test seams and other finishes in your fabric before you begin sewing your pattern.

Ok, readers, I've said it here before but this bears repeating: Test-drive your fabric before you sew your garment. You need to know—ideally prior to cutting out your pattern—how the fabric will handle all the details. We're talking about facings, hems, darts, zippers, pockets, plackets... all those things that make a garment special.

I'm in the process of making a jacket out of black leather and black rayon jersey. Sewing the leather is easy, but I swear this rayon jersey will be the death of me yet. Because it's so thick and joining two layers could be too bulky, I test-drove several finishes before I sewed the first seam. You can see my efforts in the photo above. I even tested fusible interfacing and invisible hand stitching.

Trying out neckline and hem options first on scraps showed me that I wouldn't be happy with my original design ideas. I saved fabric and sewing man-hours, and I gave myself a big pat on the back for being so smart for once.

Tell us: Do you test the details first when you sew, or do you just dive right in and hope for the best?

10 thoughts on “Sewing Tip: Test Drive Your Fabric First”

  • Marsha Lufkin

    I recently (within the last 6 months) started doing this, and I thought it was my original idea! I guess great minds think alike, right? Ha ha! In any event, it is extremely good advice, and I've been sewing for 55 years!

    Reply
  • Bunny

    I definitely test out all of the above on a project. Every fabric behaves differently and you don't want to found out and be sorry about your chosen technique. I also keep the samples, labeled, as to what I did, tension, stitch length, needle, etc. Then I can refer back to my sample box to save a lot of time. Great post, Meg.

    Reply
  • The Sewcialite

    I'm new to sewing, but have had to learn the importance of test driving the hard way! I get so excited about new projects that I just want to dive into, but the avoidable problems I face along the way end up keeping me from finishing quickly anyway haha

    Reply
  • Mr MoJ

    I feel your pain!
    I'm wondering if you used a ball point needle, and had the special foot for leather, and also and most importantly, what machine was it,
    overlock/coverstich
    or single needle?

    Reply
    • Meg at Mood

      Yes, I used a ballpoint needle for most sewing and a leather needle for topstitching on the leather. Yes, I used a teflon foot when sewing the leather. Most of the work was done on my sewing machine (single needle), though I serged some of the jersey seams (pressed open, serged the seam edges). Hope this helps.

      Reply
  • Carolyn

    I call it making samples and yes I do! Several so that I know what I'm working with!

    Reply
  • becki chitwood

    I am sewing leather to wool woven and I'm not having that much trouble... yet.

    Its totally worth the results, so stylish and chic. I use a leather needle for anything including leather. I have to admit, I'm more of a sewing by the seat of my pants, but I have occasionally regretted it. I do try some of the trickier things like leather bound button holes, quilting and right now welt pockets.
    I can't wait to see your jacket, the test looks like the actual garment will be really great.

    Reply
  • Andrea

    You only live once. Dive in! I don't usually have fabric to spare so I just go for it. Only once have i had to change a project because the fabric couldn't handle it, but mostly you just know.

    Reply
  • [...] began to sew this jacket, I spend a couple of hours testing seams and finishes. I highly recommend test-driving first any fabrics that are new to you before you cut your first pattern piece. • I wish I could tell you what [...]

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  • [...] left lying around after cutting out the pattern.  Meg extolled the virtues of test runs over at Mood Sewciety last week.  Although she rightly suggests testing before cutting out the whole shebang, there is [...]

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