Tips and Hints for Working with Sequins

One of the dresses I just completed is made with our Sequined Designer Mesh – Gunmetal. I don’t work too often with sequined fabrics; my lifestyle doesn’t call for them with any regularity. But I do love them so! The bling appeals to the Jamaica Plain girl in me, and there is nothing like walking across a stage, or across a room, and having the light catch just so on the sequins. Swoon!

Sequined fabrics can be a hard sell. Customers have told me in the past that they find them intimidating. They also can be tricky to work with. In the olden days, sequins were made of hard plastic or glass, and would break most needles if you sewed through them. These days though, the plastic used for sequins (usually mylar) is more pliable and you can sew through it. So here are a few practical tips for working with this type of fabric…

1 – Work in an area without carpeting
The upside of sequins? Glamour!  The downside?  Your work area will look like a unicorn farted all over it. If you can work in an area with tiled or hardwood floors, you will have a much easier time cleaning up afterward. There will be little sequin shards everywhere.

Fortunately, unicorn farts vacuum up readily.

Fortunately, unicorn farts vacuum up readily.

And because of those shards…

2 – Wear safety glasses
It’s true in woodworking; it’s true when working with beaded or sequined fabrics. Pieces of sequins can go flying if you cut them with scissors or stitch through them with your sewing machine or serger. Don’t take a chance. Wear safety glasses. Cheater glasses will do the trick in most cases, too.

Safety Glasses

Always better to be safe than sorry

3 – Secure your seam allowances after cutting
That’s what I’m doing in the picture above. After cutting out each piece, run a line of stitching just inside the seam allowance. I use a stitch length of 2.5mm or 3mm. This will keep your sequins from coming off while you work. If you have an area, like say, a pleated back drape, where you’ll be sewing through several layers, you can pull the sequins out of the seam allowance before you sew, thus avoiding needle breakage.

As an aside – the tips I’m giving you here are not couture. I know that some folks will say, “But, Ann – you’re supposed to remove the sequins beyond the seam allowances into the garment, stitch your seams and then hand sew the sequins back on along the seams!”

I know, so sue me. Let’s face it – we’ll know it’s a bit of a cheat, but 99% of the world won’t. And besides, if anyone gets close enough to you to examine your seams for couture techniques, you have the right to slap them. Now, where were we? Ah yes…

4 – Make a full-size pattern piece and use a single layer layout

Single Layer Layout

Trust me, this will make your life so much easier.

It is so much less work and hassle in the long run to make a full-sized pattern piece. You can get the layout just right, you don’t have to worry about sequins catching on each other or the fabric sliding around. The few extra minutes it takes are well worth it.

5 – Use painters tape or masking tape to mark notches, darts etc.

I like painters tape because it comes off easily.

I like painters tape because it comes off easily.

I’ve done a blog post on this before, and it is really handy for sequined fabrics. For delicate fabric I prefer painters tape to masking tape. It comes off easier.

6 – Use a soft knit to bind exposed seam allowances

I used scraps of Swiss 4-Way Knit

I used scraps of Swiss 4-Way Knit

The dress I made is lined, except for the sleeves. I’ve owned sequined dresses that had the seams bound with organza. I find that very itchy – the sequins poke through the organza. So I prefer to bind the edges with a soft knit. In this case, I used scraps of Swiss 4-Way Knit in Black to bind the edges. It is much softer against the skin.

I hope those tips take some of the fear factor of working with sequins away for you. It really is a fun fabric to sew with, and heaven knows the results are stunning. I’ll post more about the dress itself once the photo shoot is complete. In the meanwhile,

Happy sewing!

10 thoughts on “Tips and Hints for Working with Sequins”

  1. Great tips! I’ve sewn a few sequinned clothes, including a last minute Christmas dress for my daughter a few years ago, and a sequinned sillk and chiffon princess dress (never blogged) for the same requestor, and have never found the need to trim sequins from the seam allowance – and I’ve had no broken needles to date either. If I’d had to trim sequins from the SA there is no way I’d have gone ahead. I figure too that when the sequins are attached in lines of stitching across the fabric, leaving some sequins in the SA gives me more confidence that thoae lines of sequin stitches on the garment outer won’t come loose.

  2. Bunny says:

    Would love to know what needle you used. thanks.

    1. Gorgeous Fabrics says:

      Universal 70/10. I sewed it on my Juki industrial and finished some edges on my Juki industrial serger (needle 75/11). I sewed it in the industrials at the office studio bc that’s where I have the big cutting table.

  3. Flo says:

    Many thanks for sharing these tips. They will be a huge help for my next show. As a dance teacher and sewer, I have to sew lots of costumes that require sparkle- and yes, sequined fabric does scare me! Your unicorn reference made me laugh out loud. Thanks again 🙂

  4. ritas says:

    Hi Ann –
    I had a sequined dress years ago, but found that the sequins under the arms cut my skin. So, I’ve avoided it like the plague ever since. Any thoughts on how to fix this?

    1. Gorgeous Fabrics says:

      I would try a dress shield, Rita. I’d make one of my own, and I would attach it at the underarm in the armscye with the fabric facing out into the sleeve. If you’re dealing with a sleeveless dress, it’s more problematic. You can do an underarm binding, but the sequins will rub against the bare arm below the binding. It’s a case of suffering to look good 😉

      Actually, thinking just a bit more about this, you could probably attach a bias satin binding as a trim on the armholes and the neckline, and turn it into a design feature. I’d try out different widths of binding to see what feels best and how it looks from a design/proportion standpoint.

      Does that make sense?

  5. Janeice says:

    I have a beautiful blue sequin long sleeve dress, the problem is that the sequins stick to each other, or snag against each other. Is there anyway to prevent this from happening. I hate that I can’t wear a dress I love

    1. Gorgeous Fabrics says:

      Alas, some types of sequins will catch on each other – it all depends on the mill and how they are attached to the backing. You can try putting small pieces of organza at rubbing points (under the arms, for example) but other than that you just have to be careful.

  6. Goldie says:

    I have a sequin off the shoulder top that I love but my hair gets stuck in it. Is there anything I can do?

    1. Gorgeous Fabrics says:

      Not really, other than styling your hair up away from it. Sorry!

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