Top Tips for Sewing with Heavyweight Fabrics

FEB 7, 2018 updated Jul 12, 2021

Scrolling through Tasha Moss’s Instagram feed, you might just feel like you’ve taken a step back in time. Tasha’s iconic vintage style — see it all documented on her blog, By Gum, By Golly — mixed with her no-fear approach to sewing makes her the perfect person to test out our newest fabric, Dogwood Denim™. If sewing with heavyweight fabrics like denim, Celosia Velvet or Recycled Canvas have you running out of the sewing room, we think Tasha’s top tips will be just what you need to get started! 

Tasha: Hi everyone! I’m Tasha from By Gum, By Golly, and I’m pleased to be here today to share a few tips with you!

I sew a lot with denim, and I had the opportunity to test out the new Spoonflower Dogwood Denim. I made this pair of slim fitting vintage style pants. You can read all about them here! 

Tiki Beads 1b by muhlenkott

A lot of people are a little hesitant when it comes to sewing heavier weight fabrics, though, but I’ve sewn with enough I have a plan of action that works really well for me. A few simple tips and supplies and you too will be fearlessly sewing beefier fabrics in no time.

Needles count.

Kind of a no brainer, but make sure to use needles for heavier fabrics! I use Schmetz needles for denim and jeans and they work great on a variety of heavy fabrics.


For garments, make facings and pockets in lighter fabric.

I didn’t put pockets in my pants as they were a pretty slim fit, but I did use a mid-weight quilting cotton as the facing for my waistband.

Even a small difference in weight of fabric for the innards can make a big difference in how a garment lays on the body. Keep that in mind when you’re planning out your project in a heavy fabric.


It’s all in the bulky seam intersections.

I think one of the biggest obstacles people have when sewing thick fabric is the intersections. They get to somewhere with 4 or more layers of fabric (a crotch seam, edge of a jeans back pocket, etc.) and their machine balks because the presser foot is no longer level. Then they get wonky stitches or a nest of fabric on the bobbin side or worse, a broken needle.

Fear not, you just need a “hump jumper”. While you can purchase a little plastic doohicky for this purpose, you can also use basically anything that’s small and flat. My BERNINA came with a plastic tool for this purpose (3 different sizes for different thicknesses), but before that I just used a folded up business card. It’s like a shim for uneven furniture!

When you are to the point in a seam where your presser foot is starting to be lower at the back than the front (start of a thick seam, intersecting seams, jeans belt loops), that’s when you need a hump jumper to wedge under the back of the foot.

Stick it under the bottom of the foot at the back, and it will raise the back of the foot to be level with the front. Slowly stitch forward, and if you need to, stop stitching and give the wedge a little shove forward to keep it under there. Once your foot is back on level “ground”, you’re free and clear.

It’s a small step that make a gigantic difference in sewing thick fabrics!


How you press and finish seams is key.

Your fabric will dictate how you can press your seams, but pressing is crucial for heavy fabrics. I’m a big fan of a light touch with the iron but giving a lot of steam, and then finger pressing seams until they’re cool, to get them to lay flat. That way I avoid potentially shining the fabric.

And what if you’re using a poly fabric that can barely take an iron? Steam and pressing is great there, too. But in the case of thick polys like Celosia Velvet™ and (to a lesser extent) Recycled Canvas, your seams are probably not going to lay very flat. One thing you might consider, if the application allows for it, is catch stitching your seam allowances open. It takes a bit of time, but the difference is noticeable.

Below on the left, you can see half a seam allowance in Celosia Velvet where I catch stitched it open, and on the right I didn’t. You can see that side isn’t laying perfectly flat.

And from the right side, you can see on the left the catch stitch side is flatter.

Danish Modern Jade by joanmclemore

And of course, don’t forget when you’re finishing your seams to trim and grade them!


Zippers? Avoid invisible if you can.

Invisible zippers are a bit persnickety to begin with. If you’re using denim or other heavy fabrics like the Celosia Velvet, save yourself a lot of swearing and use a traditional zipper. I inserted a lapped zipper, and it was no problem in the Dogwood Denim. Just make sure to diligently press the seam allowances and you’ll get a nice, smooth result.

Hopefully these tips will help get you on your way to confidently sewing with heavier fabrics! If you’d like to see more of my Dogwood Denim pants, visit me at By Gum, By Golly. Happy sewing!


About the Guest Blogger

Tasha Moss is the blogger behind By Gum By Golly, a vintage emporium full of her adventures in knitting, sewing and living my life with a bit of vintage flair. Find even more of Tasha’s vintage makes on Instagram.

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  • I’m looking for the post that mentions a hump jumper. Another link on your site bright me here but there’s no post on this URL. Could you please point me toward the post that explains this technique? Thanks!

    • Hi Pam, Sorry for the confusion! This post is now live and has the tip you are looking for!

      Best,
      Amy
      Spoonflower

  • Love the hump jumper tip. I use the velvet to make bag and I have 8 layers to sew through. I have a pile of broken needles to prove it. I tried it on the bag I was working on and it’s magic. Thank you so much. You just saved me a fortune in needles.

    • Hi Allan,

      That’s so great to hear! We loved this type from Tasha. It’s been so useful for our recent projects that used our Dogwood Denim. The thought of sewing 8 layers would have had us running in the opposite direction but with Tasha’s tip, it’s so much easier!

  • Hump Jumper: Never knew! Almost 5 decades of sewing! Had no idea that so many problems where caused because the pressure foot was not parallel — I’m a believer and haven’t even tried it yet.

  • Hump jumper idea was great! I liked that ironing was a big part of her sewing! I totally believe that also.

  • Lorrell Holtz-Oxley

    The DYI “hump jumper” is worth the price of admission, folks. Many thanks for the wonderful hack idea!

  • Thanks for the “hump-jumper” tip. I’m going to try it the next time I have an opportunity!

    • Let us know how it goes! We tried it out over the weekend while sewing a denim dress and it worked like a charm.