How To Handle Fray-Happy Fabric

By | May 7, 2016
Brocade frays like a mofo. Source: sewchet.wordpress.com

Brocade frays like a mofo. Source: sewchet.wordpress.com

Organza, brocades, cheap taffetas. What do they have in common? They fray as soon as they’re cut. Either because of the twist of the fiber yarn, or because the fabric is woven whereby the weft fibers are “floating” above the warp to one degree or another, or simply because it’s a loose and lightweight weave, it seems like the moment you cut a piece of the stuff, it’s frayed to the point where your seamlines are seriously threatened. What can you do?

Fortunately, there are several solutions.

Fray check. I buy this stuff in six-packs. Source: wawak.com

Fray check. I buy this stuff in six-packs. Source: wawak.com

The easiest way to tackle this is to treat your cut edges with Fray-Check as soon as you’ve cut them. But it leaves a hard-scratchy edge to the fabric once it’s set, which can be very unpleasant if those raw edges are going to be next to your skin. Also, it can make a awful lot of dyes bleed as it seeps through the fabric. You have to be careful to use a light hand with it – a little can go a long way in a lightweight fabric – so that you don’t end up with the bleeding area exceeding your seam allowance. Finally, the stuff is pretty smelly, which can be a problem for some folks. So always test it on a scrap of your fabric, first.

If Fray-Check isn’t desirable, lay-down a zig-zag sitch inside the seam allowance of your cut fabric, as close to the edge as you can. If your machine has an overlock option, use that instead of a zig-zag stitch. (Admission time: I was terrified of my home machine’s overlock function until I had absolutely no alternative and had to make use of it. Of course, I was freaked out for no very good reason.)

Better yet, if you have a serger, serge the edges of each fabric piece as soon as it’s cut. Just be careful to not trim too much off your seam allowance when running the fabric through. Practice with some scraps until you get the hang of letting the blades “skim” the edge of the fabric.

Fabric with serged edge. Source: sew4home.com

Fabric with serged edge. Source: sew4home.com

You could cut your pieces with pinking shears which will minimize fraying, but I find those shears really heavy and hard on my hands. Take your Advil before cutting!

For what it’s worth, if the seams of the garment aren’t going to be next to my skin, I just use fray-check. It’s quick. Failing that, I overlock the edges with a serger or the overlock stitch on my sewing machine.

Whatever approach you use, don’t delay in implementing it. Don’t put the cut piece aside and wait to do it, as that stuff is devious. It’ll unravel while you sleep. I learned that the hard way!

 

A pair of pinking shears.

 

 

 

 

 

Fabric cut with pinking shears. Source: whafi.com

Fabric cut with pinking shears. Source: whafi.com

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