Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Sewing a Sequin Fabric Dress Seams and Hems

My sewing teacher asked me to help her sew some sequined dresses for an upcoming show at our local theater.  She gave me a lime green dress to work on, and here's what I learned.  This dress is "flat lined" meaning each of the major pieces is cut twice... once from the sequined fabric and once from a lining.  Both the fashion fabric and the lining are sewn together with a longish straight stitch around the entire perimeter of each piece.  Thus, the name flat lining, where each piece is lined while still flat.  From then on, both pieces are treated as a single piece of fabric. Since the sequined fabric here is stretchy, she used a stretchy lining fabric.  The lining serves three purposes.  First, it gives the dress some body so that a delicate fabric can gain strength.  Second, the flat lining prevents the seams from showing through the front of the fabric.  Third, it makes a sheer fabric non-see-through.  This technique of flat lining is useful for working with any sheer fabric such as thin silk or lace.  Here is the dress finished, except the back zipper still needs to be set.
I learned that one should be hesitant about making sequined dresses with sleeves since the sequined fabric is fragile and when it rubs against itself (like a sleeve rubbing against the side of the dress) the sequins can catch the fabric and ruin the dress.  Thus, this dress is sleeveless.

The dress came to me with all of the major pieces flat lined, and already sewn together on the major seams.  Plus it had been fitted on the actress, and pinned on the outside with safety pins for alterations.  I marked the inside of the lining with pencil where the safety pins were to mark the sewing line, removed the pins, re-pinned it, and sewed the new seams on my machine, right on the pencil lines.  Then, I removed the stitching on the old seams that had been adjusted.  Then I clipped all of the corner seam allowances at a 45 degree angle.

Because sequins are sharp and scratchy, the sequins in the seam allowances (on the inside of the dress) must either be removed or covered where they will hit any sensitive body parts.  This includes over the bust, under the bust, and under the arm holes. Because this dress is for the theater, and may be altered later, I added lining to these seams rather than removing the sequins.  (In couture sewing, the sequins in all of the seam allowances would all be removed or the sequined fabric would be designed ahead of time to not have sequins in the seams at all.)  Anyways, covering the sequins is faster than removing them all.  To line the seams, use a 2 inch strip of the lining fabric, cut on the straight grain, since it's stretchy.  If using non-stretchy fabric, you should use bias cut strips.  I pinned and sewed one side on my machine, then pinned and sewed the second side, again on my machine.  Then, I used a hemming stitch to sew both sides of the lined seam allowances down by hand.  These edges are sewn only to the lining.  (Alternately, if using a fabric that frays easily like silk, one can remove all of the sequins from the seam allowances, and then fold the allowance over twice, and sew it to the lining by hand with hemming stitch.) For the seams that I didn't cover, I just tacked them open with cross stitch, done by hand.  Here you can see the covered seams.  I cut off the extra lining strips and tacked the seams open after I took this photo.
After all seams were finished, I finished the arm holes and neckline.  When sewing the neckline, start by stabilizing it: sewing a strip of 1/4 inch twill tape centered on the neckline on the inside.  This keeps the neckline from stretching over time. In sewing the twill tape, you need to add ease.  Specifically, add an extra 1/8 inch to the twill tape per 1 inch of the sequin/lining. In other words, the twill tape is slightly longer than the neckline.

The next step to cover the neckline is to cut two 2 inch wide strips of lining fabric (one for the left side and one for the right side). To make a "double bias", I folded the strips in half lengthwise, then pinned them to the right side of the neck line, matching cut edges.  I used my machine to sew a 1/2 inch seam allowance. (Next time, I would move my needle to 3/8 inch SA to make the next step neater and easier.)  When sewing on the lining strips, start at the back (where the top of the zipper will be), and sew to the center front, each side done separately.   I then flipped this strip to the inside, and tacked it down with a hemming stitch. I finished the center point entirely by hand so that it would lay symmetrically because I can sew much more accurately by hand than by machine.  The center front is finished with a mitered corner.  Although the lining is a little puckered on the inside, I think any little imperfections will be completely obscured by the sequins.
I finished the arm holes in the same way as the neckline except I omitted the twill tape.  Also, since the arm hole is a closed loop, I folded one end of the strip inside by about 1/2 inch (before folding it in half), and I tucked the other end inside before sewing the strip to the arm hole.  This gives a neat finish.

To sew the hem, I cut about 1/2 inch of the sequined fabric off the bottom, and double folded the lining up over it.  I sewed the lining here by hand using a hemming stitch.  Then, I folded up the hem inside the dress, (about 6-8 inches, again since this is for the theater and might be altered some day for a different show), and sewed the edge with cross stitch by hand.  You can see the hem in the second photo (above).

All that's left to do is the back zipper.  I gave the dress back to my teacher, so I don't think I'll be doing that part.

I ended up with sequins all over the table, floor, and chairs.  My dining room looked like a glitter bomb went off.  Here you can see the mess I swept up.  Sparkley!


  1. Hello - just came across your blog searching for tips on sewing with sequined fabrics. Thanks so much for this post: it's been really helpful. I've never thought of flat lining before - seems like a really good idea for achieving stability. Thanks again!

  2. I also just came across your post while doing a search for sewing with sequin fabric....thanks for the step by steps. Doesn't seem to be a lot of info out there for this topic and you gave me some ideas. Thanks!

  3. Sewing a sequined dress, and was wondering what to do with the seams..googled what people say and that's how i found your awesome blog, dear.

    Great job and thanks!


  4. Thanks for leaving a comment, Leon. It's nice to know this is useful for anybody more than myself!

    1. Thank you!!!! This is the first thing I find that is helpful and I've. been searching all day. I am hoping you will help me. I am going to make my granddaughter a fitted dress with a stretch sequined fabric. Should I use boning? If so, should I just bone to the waist or hip? Should I make a foundation, and underline? I want the dress to be very special because my little angel keeps the garments I make forever. I would be so gratefuld if you could help me. Thanks.

    2. I don't know much about boning or sewing stretchy dresses for that matter, but I don't think you need boning unless it's strapless. This dress is flat lined because that's how my teacher told me to do it, and she knows a lot about making clothing. I'm sorry I couldn't be more helpful, but I honestly don't know the best answers to your questions.

  5. This info is fantastic. Wish I had it recently when I sewed a skirt cover with sequins for a show I did. I ended sewing it by hand. Thank you for the info. You can't find too much info on sewing fabric with sequins. Your directions are very clear.

  6. Thank you jp for taking time to leave a comment. I'm glad you found this helpful.


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