Sewing with Denim

What to Know Before You Start

by Beth Cooper
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Everyone loves denim.  It’s so versatile these days.  You can dress it up.  You can dress it down.  It is bound to fit into everyone’s wardrobe at some point.  For some, it’s a staple.  Denim is available in so many different weights, washes, and colors. 

Before sewing a project with denim, always prewash.  The only time that prewashing may not be necessary is if you’re making an item that will never be washed – ever, like a wallet or a purse.  Denim shrinks and denim can bleed.  If you want your item to continue to fit you after you’ve worn it, prewash in warm water and dry on a normal setting in your dryer.

You will need sharp scissors or a brand-new rotary blade for cutting.  Denim can dull a blade pretty quickly.  Make sure you have a new needle in your sewing machine.  If your denim is lightweight, you can get by with a 90/14 size needle.  However, if you’re using a more heavyweight denim, you will want to use 100/16 needle.  Some needle manufacturers have these labeled as “denim needles.”  An all-purpose polyester thread works very well with denim.  You will also need a marking pen.  A chalk pencil that contrasts to the color of your denim works great.

When sewing with denim, you’re bound to have bulky seams.  It will happen but you can sidestep this obstacle by using a wooden clapper and a mallet.  The mallet is used to softly hammer overlapping seams.  This will flatten them and make them easier to work with.  The clapper is used to get very flat seams.  You will definitely want to try these two tools when working with denim.

And finally, if you really want your denim project to look professional.  Consider using a serger to finish your seams.  Unlike a sewing machine, a serger will encase your seams in thread, all while trimming the edge of your seam allowance.  If you look closely at the seams in your store-bought clothing, you will notice that they are all done with a serger.  This is achievable with home sewing as well.  In fact, it is tons of fun.  Your friends will not believe that you made your project yourself.  Sergers work great on denim and will prevent fraying. 

Following these tips for denim, you’ll be a pro in no time.  Have fun!

Check out this video from Joi Mahon. She shares her denim tips and tricks to make sewing with denim even easier.

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