I recently finished a fun sewing project I made for a friend using recycled jeans (tutorial here). Let me just say, sewing with denim can be super tough! Especially when you are using recycled denim and you may be sewing through lots of layers. During this project I was able to test out denim-sewing tips I learned in my college sewing classes, and they really worked! I was amazed at how using the right techniques can take a lot of the stress out of sewing. 🙂
Here are four tips make sewing with denim a little easier:
One: Use the correct needle and thread.
I’ve known this for a while, but since I don’t like to buy a lot of extra materials and supplies I tend to not follow through. This time, however, I DID and it made ALL the difference. When sewing with denim you should be using the largest needle (the numbers will say 100/16), or use the special jean needle. This made it easier to sew through the thick parts, and they’re less likely to break. I recommend you buy multiple (especially if you’re a beginner), because I still broke quite a few needles. I also used jean thread (found here, but I think it can be found cheaper at local department stores) which made such a difference! The thread didn’t bunch up underneath the fabric at all, and it really solved a lot of the issues I usually have while sewing denim.
Two: Use a hammer.
What?! That’s right, pounding down the layered spots in a denim sewing project is actually a common and accepted technique that makes them easier to sew. You can buy cute, tiny hammers made specifically for sewing. Or, you can use whatever is on hand (just make sure that if you use a big hammer you work on a sturdy surface). For my last project I used a meat tenderizer (because it was really close and handy), but a hammer would probably work better, now that I think about it.
Three: Use a stitch starter.
Sewing machines are made to sew through surprisingly thick layers of fabric. However, they have a really hard time climbing onto a thick part in the fabric. You can even that plain by sticking something underneath the presser foot behind the needle. They sell stitch starters for this purpose. I have used cardboard, foam core, or even a pad of sticky notes. You could also use folded up fabric like in this post.
Four: Sew things the “right way.”
I don’t ALWAYS tell you that you have to sew something using the traditional method. Sometimes recycling fabrics or upcycling old clothes require a little creativity and freedom, which is okay. However, for a more professional look it’s important to follow professional techniques.
For example, if you are taking in jeans, don’t just pinch at the side and sew over both waistbands. This will look bad, but it will also be sooo frustrating to get your machine to sew through all those layers (after all, it’s not designed to sew that way). Instead, unpick the waistband from the top of the pants. Take in the side seam first, then take in the waistband, then sew them together again copying the way it was done before. Cotton and curls has a great tutorial showing how to do this.
If it’s hard to tell what the professional way to sew something is, I like to look at how it was put together in the first place. Then I try to copy that as well as I can.
Sewing with denim will be easier with these tips. It is still a challenge, but the results are worth it.