Sewing with Denim [guest post]

Join us in welcoming Jane Marland from Handmade Jane to Swatch & Stitch. The talented and prolific sewist has some great advice to share about sewing with denims and we're thrilled to have her as a guest blogger. And check out her blog for the beautiful denim shirt dress she just finished! Jane, take it away! 

Today I've put together a few simple tips and hints on sewing with denim. Denim really isn't difficult to work with, all you have to do is to use a bit of common sense. These tips have all worked for me with good results, so hopefully they'll work for you too. Enjoy! 

Preparation
- My number one tip is to always, always, always pre-wash denim fabric before you start sewing. Pre-washing denim will allow for any shrinkage of the fabric, and will also remove a lot of the dye that comes out on its first wash. It may sound obvious, but initially it's probably safer to wash it separately from other fabrics, unless you want everything blue tinged. Ask me how I know!

Denim can sometimes hold quite noticeable creases from being washed. Pressing the fabric whilst it's still damp will really help remove them.

- Denim is notoriously prone to fraying, so there's no scrimping on seam finishes I'm afraid. Overlock or zigzag all those pesky seams as you go along, it will be worth it after the first wash, trust me!

Tools for the job
- I always use Denim or Jeans needles, they're stronger, with a sharp point and will make the job much easier. Up until now, I've always used regular thread for sewing denim and it's performed fine. For my current project however, I used Gutermann's Jeans Thread and am now a total convert. It's slightly stronger than standard thread and has a two colour effect which blends right in with blue denim. Magic!  

Ways to minimise bulk
- One of the problems you may encounter when sewing with denim are areas of bulk because of the thickness of the fabric. You need to minimise this as much as you can:

- Use a lighter weight fabric such as cotton lawn, for areas of your garment that aren't visible e.g. pockets, internal waistbands, yokes etc. If you choose a contrasting fabric these areas can become design features in their own right.

You don't need to interface areas that need support such as waistbands and buttonholes. Some of you may disagree, but I've never interfaced when sewing with denim as I find the thicker fabric already provides in-built structure.

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Press all darts flat and all seams open unless absolutely necessary. If seams really do have to be pressed in the same direction then grade them. This is done by trimming them into layers so they're not lying right on top of each other.

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Tip for sewing bulky seams
- Take your time and slow down when sewing through thick layers. If you're worried about your needle not being able to cope, then use your hand wheel for difficult/bulky areas.

- One reason needles break is because the foot tilts at an angle when encountering thick layers or seams. An easy way to counteract this is to keep the foot level. To do this, just fold a piece of denim to the same thickness as the seam or hem you need to sew through and position it behind the foot. This will keep the foot level and not put any stress on the needle.

- When you get to the end of the seam, remember to position the folded denim in front of the foot to prevent the needle angling down again. Easy peasy!

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I hope these tips prove useful and if you have any additional gems of your own for sewing with denim, please let me know in the comments section.