The Most Difficult Fabrics to Sew for Beginners

Sewing can be a rewarding, creative and relaxing activity. It can also be frustrating, especially when you’re a beginner. One way to avoid any unwanted frustration is to focus on straightforward, easy to complete projects. Just as important as picking simple projects is avoiding difficult fabrics to sew.

Classes of Difficult Fabrics to Sew

There are four categories of materials that are difficult to sew:

  1. Delicate Fabric
  2. Heavy Fabric
  3. Sheer Fabric
  4. Stretchy Fabric

Delicate Fabric

Fabrics considered delicate include lace, silk, and sateen. What makes sewing delicate fabrics so tricky is that they are slippery. Running delicate, silky fabric through a sewing machine can be extremely difficult. As a beginner, you’ll want to hone your skills on materials that are easier to work with.

And, there’s more to it than not letting the delicate fabric slide or move around. Sewing delicate fabric is a skill unto itself. You need the right needle, often a large sewing table, and the right technique. Even something as straightforward as backstitching should be avoided, for example.

One last word of caution. Not only are delicate fabrics tough for beginners, they’re also among the most expensive.  Some delicates cost as hundreds of dollars per yard making mistakes not only frustrating but costly, too!

Heavy Fabric

On the other end of the spectrum are heavy fabrics. Examples of heavy fabrics include denim, canvas, leather and upholstery. The first thing of note to the new sewist is that sewing machines for beginners aren’t generally capable of sewing heavy fabrics.

There are sewing machines designed specifically for heavy fabrics. They have stronger motors designed specifically to take on the additional stress of working with thicker, denser material.

Beyond the sewing machine itself, sewing heavy fabric also requires heavy-duty needles, too.

Sheer Fabric

Sheer fabric is similar to delicate fabric in that it can slippery. Sheer fabric include batiste, chiffon, gauze, muslin, organza, organdy, , sheer nylon, sheer polyester, sheer silk, silk and voile. A difference between sheer and delicate fabric is that sheer fabric tends to be transparent.

That transparency is part of the challenge – mistakes made cutting or sewing are often visible.

Just cutting sheer fabric to get to the point of sewing is challenging. For the sewing sheer fabric itself, you should reduce your stitch length, and select a lower tension and foot pressure.

Probably the best piece of advice for sewing sheer fabric is to practice sewing with scraps before attempting the real thing.

Stretchy Fabric

Fabric that is stretch has a challenge different from delicate, heavy or sheer fabric. But first, what fabric are stretchy?

Stretchy fabrics include cotton shirting, jersey knits, lycra, nylon and stretch chiffon. The trick with stretch fabric is preventing it from puckering.

Again, there’s tips out there, but for the beginner, we’d say leave stretchy fabric until after you’ve mastered the basics with woven fabrics.

What Fabrics are Easy for Beginners?

Enough with all the tough talk. We’ve named so many types of fabric, you might be wondering what material a beginner should sew with! The good news, difficult fabrics to sew don’t encompass all the choices out there.

A good rule of thumb for beginner sewers is to stick with woven fabrics and avoid knitted fabrics.

Cotton and cotton-linen blends are good choices for beginners. Polyester can be a bit trickier as it can be slippery. Still, beginners tend to gravitate toward it, too.