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Sewing Your First Sequin Item. There is One BIG Secret

Posted by Min Eon on 23rd Aug 2019

Thoughts of sewing with sequin fabric can keep even the most competent seamstress awake at night. But with one BIG secret, our other handy tips, a dose of courage, and one possibly-not-very-pretty first attempt, you'll confidently add sequin dresses to your sewing repertoire. One quick word of advice right off the bat--if you're a novice, sequin fabric is not the place to start on your quest to sewing superstardom. Learn with regular fabrics and build up your skills. When you are adept at sewing a variety of styles in many types of non-sequined fabric, then you are ready to move on to something more sparkly.

How complicated is it to sew a Sequin Dress?

One very big secret means that sewing a dress with sequin fabric is not much more difficult than with regular fabric. Go online and search for instructions for how to sew a sequin dress, or watch videos on YouTube, and you'll find overly complicated procedures that include removing the sequins along the seam allowances and darts, buying and using special needles for your sewing machine, using special scissors, and hand-finishing along the seams of the dress. But if you remember our one simple secret you can dispense with all of that advice. The secret is in the fabric you use, so let's take a look at the different kinds of sequin fabric.

Popular Sequin Fabrics

Many of our dresses at SequinQueen have the sequins hand-stitched onto the finished fabric base dress. But we also make and sell dresses for retail customers using sequin fabric. And, as we've found over the last twenty years, the one big secret for buying and sewing sequin fabric depends on the kind of sequin fabric you use. 

A very popular, machine-made sequin fabric, available in most fabric stores and online, uses 5mm sequins sewn in a shingle arrangement. If you've ever seen the sequin fabric that you can brush with your hand, making the sequins flip over and the fabric change color, then you've seen these 5mm sequins. It's certainly possible to work with this fabric at home, but it's best to start with something easier.

Avoid sequins larger than 5mm. There are some fishscale sequin fabrics made with 15, 20 or 30mm sequins that really catch the light. But because the sequins are so large they won't pass easily through your sewing machine--you'll have to unpick the sequins from the area you want to sew and then re-attach them along the seams. And because the sequins are not individually knotted, you'll also need to tie off each sequin you remove to avoid a run of sequins dropping to the floor like pearls off a broken necklace. 

Sequins smaller than 5mm are easiest to work with. The best fabric has sequins that look tiny--because they are tiny. Only 2mm wide in most cases. And this means that when the fabric is machined and the sequins applied, they are so small they can only be applied randomly, and not in shingle lines. This makes the fabric napless and means that when you are sewing you don't need to worry about the direction the sequins go.

Okay! Here it is: The One Big Secret for Sewing a Sequin Dress

Buy real sequin fabric with 2mm size sequins. If you do that you’ll be able to sew almost anything you can sew now but with sequin fabric. And while this secret makes sewing with sequin fabric a breeze, there are some other handy tips to keep in mind.

2mm sequin fabric

2mm Sequin Fabric. 

Before you Sew your Sequin Dress

Use a drop cloth

Sequins go everywhere when you sew a sequin dress! So unless you want to be picking sequins out of the nooks and crannies of your house for the next 20 years put a drop cloth or blanket underneath your sewing machine and work area.

Find some older scissors

Prepare an old pair of scissors and make sure they are as sharp as possible. A lot of seamstresses will tell you cutting sequin fabric ruins scissors. While that's not strictly true, it does help to use an old pair of scissors unless you are planning on having your usual pair sharpened soon. Cutting sequin fabric dulls, but does not ruin, scissors.

Use the correct needle

Once again a lot of online advice will advocate using a special needle--such as leather-sewing needle. However these needles can stick in the sequin as you sew through it so it's better to just use a long, sharp, hard needle--the best quality you can find.

Choose a simple pattern

The simpler your pattern, the fewer the seams. Try a sequin skirt, a sequin tote bag--or even a cushion to liven up your sofa. Once you gain experience and confidence you can graduate to that haute couture gown you’ve got a hankering to make yourself.

While Sewing your Dress

Don’t unpick

Don't remove or cut off the sequins along the seam allowance or within the darts. If you’ve taken our advice about the big secret to heart and are only using napless 2mm sequin fabric then any kind of sequin unpicking is totally unnecessary--which is a huge relief because, if you've ever tried it, you know what a nightmare cutting off sequins one-by-one is.

Use a comfortable lining

The base fabric that sequins are machined onto is often a polyester net or other strong kind of fabric--and these can be uncomfortable worn against the skin. So, with all wearable sequin items a lining is necessary. If you’re sewing a dress or skirt then it is possible to hand stitch the lining into the lower hemline once you’re done. But it can also look just as good, and be a lot easier, to make the lining about one inch shorter than the sequin hemline and just let it float freely.

Don’t use your serger

Sequins will become stuck inside the surger. They will also dull the serger blades. Using a surger when sewing a sequin dress or any other kind of sequin item is not necessary and should be avoided.

Sew Slowly

Sew a little more slowly than you normally would but otherwise, if you're using the smallest 2 mm size napless sequin fabric, sew as if you're using a regular fabric. There are no special techniques or other skills needed

After-sew care

Keep a piece of sacrifice fabric

You've sewn up a storm and have something glamorous to wear and be proud of. But sequin fabric is a delicate material so it's a good idea to keep a piece of sacrifice fabric, about 3 inches by 3 inches, just in case you need to replace any sequins that come off with use or any sequins that dull in areas that get particular wear. So you don't lose it (and you know you will!) we recommend sewing this sacrifice fabric in an inconspicuous place on the lining, in between the lining and the sequin fabric of the item you have created.

Test before washing

Most sequin fabrics are better off dry-cleaned--although, because they are a specialty fabric, the dry cleaning costs tend to be high. With a piece of sacrifice fabric you can also test for color fastness.  If the sequins hold the color well, simply hand-wash your sequin item. The best method is to use a delicates laundry liquid (such as Woolite) and cold water to gently bathe your item by hand. Then rinse in cold water and dry flat.

You’ll be able to Sew Flip Fabric too

Remembering the fabric secret and using only real sequin fabric with 2mm sequins means you'll be a sequin dress professional in no time--you can even progress to 5mm sequin fabric (like the flip sequin fabric) and use all the same tips above. We sew 5mm sequin fabric in the same way we sew 2mm sequin fabric. There is no need to unpick sequins on the seam allowance or hand-finish the garment along the seams.

Give this Skirt a Whirl...

Almost all the information about sewing with sequin fabric we came across online was overly complicated--except for this excellent YouTube video. Melissa at Melly Sews makes short work of sewing a sequin skirt. And she uses the 2mm fabric we recommend. Her techniques are fast, simple and practical. Give it a try yourself--and happy sewing!