The short answer is yes, in most cases. You can usually sew denim with a regular sewing machine. Most sewing machines can handle light or medium weight denim. However, for sewing extremely heavyweight denim in multiple layers, an industrial-strength sewing machine might be required. In short, if you aren’t trying to do anything extreme, a regular sewing machine will suffice. Below, you will find tips that help you sew with denim like a professional!
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The Specifics of Denim
Denim is one of the all-time favorites for sewing casual wear as well as workwear. Denim is essentially a cotton fabric, and one of the most rugged and durable ones at that. It comes in a variety of washes and weights. For most standard clothing items, you’ll want to use lightweight to medium weight denim. Most standard sewing machines can handle this, but you do need to keep some precautions in mind. Being thick and rigid, denim requires using a strong needle and a thick thread.
When is an Industrial Sewing Machine Necessary?
When your machine is not powerful enough to sew through a fabric, you can run into all sorts of issues. Your needle could get broken all too often, the machine can start getting stuck, and the overall process will just not work. How much your machine will be able to handle really depends on the model and its strength. However, as a rule of thumb, sewing machines made for home use will not be able to handle multiple layers of heavy-weight denim. If you are planning a big project, or want to sew with heavy denim often, it might as well be easier to get a professional-level or an industrial-level sewing machine.
Tips for Sewing With Denim
No matter what type you choose, denim is a fabric that has a tendency to shrink when washed. Dye bleeding is also a very common occurrence with denim. For this reason, pre-washing your denim can save you a lot of trouble. All you need to do is wash your denim (water should suffice, no detergents needed), and dry it flat. This way, you will know the garment you are making won’t change after washing or steam-pressing.
When it comes to cutting, denim is fairly easy to work with. It’s rather rigid and it doesn’t fray too much. You can use shears or a rotary cutter, but whatever you do, make sure your blade is sharp. This way you will get straight lines much more easily. Lightweight denim can be cut in multiple layers, but for heavy denim make sure you cut only one layer at a time. One thing to keep in mind when cutting pattern pieces from denim fabric is the ribbing of the surface. Depending on the type of denim, the direction of the ribbing can be visible, and you’ll want the direction to match on all of your pattern pieces.
Finally, if you haven’t tried sewing denim before on your machine, we highly recommend testing every stitch you want to use on a small piece of fabric before you try. You can’t know what your machine can handle before you try it, and it’s always better to test everything before starting a big project.
Choose the Right Needle and Thread
The easiest way to go about choosing a needle to use with denim is to buy a needle that is made specifically for this. Denim/jeans needles are readily available at any sewing supply store. In essence, needles made for denim are stronger than needles made for thin, lightweight fabrics. They will be sharper, longer, and have a larger eye to accommodate for thicker thread you’ll need to use for denim. When you decide which needles to use, it’s also a good idea to have a couple of spare pieces on hand. When using denim, needles tend to get dull quickly, and you really need a sharp needle for the process to go smoothly.
When it comes to thread, you want to choose something strong and relatively heavy-weight. For lightweight or stretch jeans, you don’t need to go as strong, but the heavier the denim the heavier you want the thread. Top stitch heavy duty thread is usually a good option. When it comes to color, it is common to use a contrast color like yellow or orange with blue denim. However, you can choose any color you like to give a personal touch to your work.
Choose the Right Settings
The seam that is used most often with denim is a flat-felled seam. This classic seam works very well for heavyweight fabric like denim. For finishing the edges, you can also use a serger if available. You might also find it useful to reinforce your seams with topstitching. Denim items tend to be used heavily and you want everything to be as strong as the fabric. Finally, it’s very important to use the right stitch length. When you are sewing with heavier denim, don’t be afraid to make the stitches longer – a stitch length of approximately 3mm tends to work best, but you might want to make it even longer, depending on the project.
Take It Slow
The simplest, but possibly the most important tip for sewing with denim is to take it slow. Trying to go fast will never work with denim. It often happens that beginners believe their machines can’t handle denim, but the problems are actually arising because they are using too much speed. Going too fast can cause the needle to break and the threads to tangle, so just don’t push it. Taking it slow brings you through the finish line faster, at least when sewing with denim!
As you have seen, sewing with denim on a regular sewing machine is definitely possible, at least in the majority of cases. The secret to success is in choosing the right equipment, preparing carefully, and taking it slow.