Sewing Tips: Seam Marking for Delicate Fabrics

Some people pin their patterns on really well then simply cut around them. Others use carbon paper and tracing wheel to mark each individual stitch allowance. Either technique works well, until you try to work on slippery fabrics like linings.

When working with slick fabrics you can cut the pieces out only to realize that in spots, the fabric is bigger than the pattern because of shifting. Use a tracing wheel and carbon paper and you’re likely to find purple marks are your pure-white blouse from the carbon paper. Slick fabrics shift and slide, making them very difficult to cut and sew with precision.

There are a few tricks that can make cutting and sewing delicate fabrics much easier. Purchase a cork board, or flat cork piece. The piece should be large enough to accommodate an entire seam. Cork sheets, without frames, can be found at most craft stores.

Arrange the pattern pieces and fabric as you normally would. Cut to the best of your ability, but do not use carbon paper to make any marks. After cutting the pieces, roll the cork out onto a table. Place the fabric pieces that need special markings, onto the cork. Make sure the piece is placed where there are no wrinkles and no stretching.

Purchase a needle-pointed tracing wheel and use it to mark the allowances. Do not use carbon or tracing paper with the wheel. Rolling the wheel across the intended seam allowances will leave small punctures in the fabric – an easy guide to follow while sewing. The cork will prevent the garment pieces from sliding while being marked and it’s soft enough to allow the wheel to penetrate the fabric.

Use the small puncture marks as a guide for seam allowances, hemming, buttonhole placement, and more. You’ll find that the technique works for silks, satins, nylon and polyester, but not for heavy fabrics like denim or corduroy.

As you stitch the seam allowance, try to stay on the holey line made by the tracing wheel. If there are small holes visible after completion of the garment, simply launder as you normally would and they’ll disappear.

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