When it comes to choosing fabrics – or actually almost anything – I’m quite a magpie. Walking in a fabric store I’m instinctively drawn to the sparkliest, most outrageously shiny sequined evening-wear fabrics. However, sequined fabrics have a reputation for being difficult to work with, so I kept avoiding getting any.
…That is, until recently, when I decided to take the challenge and experiment by sewing sequined panties – for burlesque, of course! Despite my fears I did get my pants sewn and and came up with a nifty trick. I’m not sure whether it’s is silly or even self-evident, but I figured I’d write it down anyway.
The fabric I used is a knit fabric with rows of sequins sewn on. They’re only attached to the fabric from one side, so they can dangle and move around to reflect light in the prettiest way. I have to admit I played around just draping the fabric quite a bit before I got to the actual sewing!
The pattern I simply traced from a pair of well-fitting hipster pants. I tried to use a pair with the same elasticity to the knit fabric I’m using.
The pattern pieces are then pinned on the wrong side of the fabric. Cutting goes pretty much like with any other fabric, except you won’t want to ruin your sharpest pair of tailor’s scissors cutting through all the plastic sequins! I just used regular kitchen scissors.
Here’s an artsy picture to show you the mess cutting sequined fabrics will make. Multiply that by a few hundred and that’s what your working surface will soon look like. Pretty, though!
Now for the tricky – and time-consuming – bit. You’ll have to neaten all your seam allowances from the sequins before you can make your seams. It only takes one sequin left between the seamline to break the needle! and Even if you had the sturdiest industrial machine to run through the sequins they’d make the seam look weird and bulky.
Some tutorials tell you to individually unpick every sequin without cutting through them and leave them aside in case you need them later to patch up and hide the seam later. That sounded like an unnecessary amount of effort, and even after trimming your seam allowances the sequins outside the seam allowance would easily slip between the seamline and break the needle.
So what I did was to “outline” the seam allowances using strips of low adhesive tape (I used a kind of a watercolor painter’s tape) before clearing off the sequins. This way you’ll see the area you’re removing the sequins from better, and the sequins secured down by the tape are less likely to slip between the seam while sewing.
I used 1 cm seam allowances for my pattern and placed the tapes a few millimeters away from the seamlines.
Snippety snip, away with those sequins! It’s easy to accidentally cut the fabric, so be careful. Even if the tape makes the neatening marginally faster be prepared it still takes time. So don’t say “yeah, I’ll get those pants done by weekend!” when weekend is a few days away.
And voilà! After you’ve sewn your seam (or serged, if you’re using a knit-based fabric like I was) simply peel off the tape. The seam above combines the gusset to the pants (the gusset is made from an unsequined fabric for comfort reasons – I don’t want scratchy sequins too near my crotch), so there are no sequins on the other side. If you are combining two sequined fabrics together and there’s a bald-looking sequinless gap on the seam line, you can still patch it up with some sequins. I ended up not needing to, but I certainly had leftover pieces from cutting these pants, so I figured I could unpick a few sequins from those if necessary.
To finish off the pants I’ll serge the leg openings (seriously, what do you call those? leg holes??) and the top with a narrow stitch… and thoroughly vacuum the house, which is now covered in sequins.