Sequin Fabric

By | May 7, 2016

Sequin trims are discussed over here.

Indulge me, I’m going to get even more preachy than usual.

It used to be that “sequin fabric” meant this.

Chevron-patterned old-school sequin fabric. Source: alibaba.com

Chevron-patterned old-school sequin fabric. Source: alibaba.com

That fabric features thousands and thousands of round sequins machine or hand-sewn onto a fabric base.

But in the past decade or so, manufacturers have realized that there are cheaper ways to make something almost as glittery.

Sequin dot fabric. Source: Etsy seller DramaticFabric.

Sequin dot fabric. Source: Etsy seller DramaticFabric.

This less-expensive-to-produce stuff is a fabric base with a regular metallic pattern printed – fused – on to it, with the intention of mimicking the look of sequins, but requiring way fewer resources to create it. And printing a pattern onto a fabric means that you can get a greater variety of shapes while you’re at it. It was originally sold with the description sequin dot or sequin mesh but that term is dropping out of use and it’s often just called sequin now.

Me? I’m old enough and cranky enough to insist that it should still be called sequin dot so that costumers don’t confuse it with proper sequin fabric.

But I’m apparently I’m in a minority. Oh well.

Okay, I’m calm now.

Sewn sequin fabric. Source: MorgueFile

Sewn sequin fabric. Source: MorgueFile

Sequins are the absolute queen of dancewear, of flash evening wear, of pay-the-hell-attention-to-ME wear. If you want to cosplay Jessica Rabbit, red sequin fabric is what you want. This is not a fabric to use when you’re striving for subtlety.

It’s also a stone bitch to cut and sew. Thick or thin, those metallicized plastic bits are not a friend to your scissors or your sewing machine.

Whether it’s dots, rectangles or old-school sequins, the base of the fabric is usually a stretch or knit, because it IS so popular for dance wear and dance clothes are usually tightly fitted and need to be able to move with the wearer. So you now have the challenge of sewing a stretch fabric that’s covered in hard, needle-blunting plastic bits. Bits that like to shed off the fabric and take up residence inside your bobbin case and BREAK YOUR MACHINE.

I love the glamor of this fabric, but it’s demanding.

If you’re sewing old-school sequin fabric, bear in mind that it has a nap, just like velvet does. Run your hand down it. Notice how it feels smooth in one direction and like a cheese grater in the other? You do not want to run the cheese-grater through your machine, so be mindful of that when you’re laying out your pattern to cut.

Once your pieces are cut, take the time to unpick and/or cut the sequins from your seam allowance. Yes, this will take you forever. Put a movie on and exercise your patience. A couple of hours of sequin-picking could make the difference between success and failure in your project. And put some of those un-picked sequins to one side – intact ones – because you’re going to need them after you’re done assembling the piece and want to fix the inevitable “bald spots” that you’re going to have.

If you’re using sequin dot fabric, where the “sequins” are fused to the base fabric, you can’t do that. All you can do is put a heavyweight sharp needle – one specifically labeled for metallics – into your machine and say a little prayer to Santa Clara, the patron saint of seamstresses. And have a LOT of needles on hand, as they’ll go dull very quickly and need to be changed often. I’d switch them out after sewing more than six linear feet of seam. Use a zipper foot when sewing – yes, really. It’s easier, trust me.

Craftsy and YouTube feature some great videos on how to sew sequin fabrics. Visit the resource page for links.

Sequins don't have to be round! Source: fabric.com

Sequins don’t have to be round! Source: fabric.com

Sequin-dot can be very affordable, starting at $5 per yard or so. What I call “proper” sequin fabric is about $25 a yard, so you can see why the cheaper alternatives caught on. Fancy sequin trims can be $20 a yard or more, and they’re only an inch or two wide.

Iron it? Wash it? You’re joking, right? Do NOT iron sequin fabric. If you’re lucky, the sequins will only get dull. If you’re unlucky, they’ll melt.

If you have to clean a garment featuring a lot of sequins or sequin trim, I recommend that you spot-clean it on an as-needed basis and depend on Febreze and sunlight to keep it smelling okay because plastic sequins don’t play well with dry-cleaning chemicals. If you must take it to a dry-cleaner, take the time to find a place in your local theater district – somewhere that’s got experience handling garments made from these types of fabrics.  

Sequined dress by Chanel, 1932. Source: V&A

Sequined dress by Chanel, 1932. Source: V&A

 

Leave a Reply