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Sewing With Sheers

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Ah, sheer fabrics. There's nothing like them for that light, airy look when you want simplicity with elegance. But many sewers avoid using them because you can't sew with them quite as easily as you can regular fabric. We have small series of beautiful Hostess Aprons, all of which have sheer fabric accents. Our first apron, Cocktails At Eight features rich taffeta and frothy organza. We also have a Halloween Hostess Apron that is ghoulishly gauzy. And, the third in the trio is a beautiful brunch apron in full organza with waistband and pocket fabric accents. Yes, it takes some care and patience, but there's really no reason to fear the sheer. You just need to follow some simple precautions and basic rules to get sheers to do what you want them to. Then you'll be able open up new creative possibilities with these wonderful fabrics.

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The trouble with sheers

'Sheer' just means these are fabrics you can see through. For example: voile, batiste, georgette, organza, organdy, and chiffon.

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Some of these are slippery while others are more coarse. But they're all rather unforgiving of stitching mistakes.

Because they're sheer, all your interior work will show. And unfortunately, they're too delicate for you to use a seam ripper.

The overall rule for sheers is "Test it first on a scrap!" From ironing to cutting to stitching - make sure it's going to work before you try it on your final project.

Choosing a project

Pick a project with a simple design. First, because you won't be able to hide your stitching. And second, because sheers look best when they're highlighting a basic shape.


You only need to do this if the item you're making is going to be washed at some point. Sheer fabric can shrink or shift when washed, pulling or puckering the seams.

Laying out for measuring

Sheer fabrics are wonderful because of the way they move. But this means they also like to slip around while you're measuring and cutting them. (Like trying to give a squirmy kid a haircut.)

So, once you've laid your fabric out, you need to hold the edges down somehow. You can use pushpins, tape or sewing weights, depending on which kind of cutting surface you're using. (BTW, pushpins, tape and weights do NOT work for kids' haircuts.)

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One method that works well while measureing is to pin your sheer fabric to a sheet. Use fine point pins and be careful not to pull the fabric off grain.


You don't want your marking method to damage your fabric and end up as a permanent part of your project. So test it on a scrap first. A marking pencil, pen, or chalk should work.


It's best to cut sheers as a single layer. After you've laid your fabric on a cutting board, with weights, pushpins or tape around the edges, a sharp rotary cutter works best to get a smooth, straight cut. You can also use serrated scissors. Both of these will keep your fabric from moving while you cut.

The proper sewing machine needle

Use a size 8 to 11 (60-75) universal needle in your machine. Make sure the needle is new. For more information about picking out the right needle for each project, check out our tutorial on the topic.

Machine Settings

Choose a straight stitch and best tension setting. You may need to loosen it slightly.

If you have a straight stitch needle plate, or a machine that can convert to a straight stitch needle hole, you should use it. The smaller hole keeps the fabric flat and stable, and less likely to be sucked down into the bobbin. I took off the foot on my Janome Horizon 7700QCP so you could see how its Automatic Plate Converter closes down to create the straight stitch hole.

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As you do your test stitching, if you notice the feed dogs are damaging your fabric or it's just not feeding properly, you can use a sheet of tear-away stabilizer under the seam (which you'll then easily tear away when done... that's why it has that name!).


Don't ever backstitch on sheers. This can cause your thread to jam. Instead, try a lockstitch if your machine has one or leave your thread tails long and hand knot the ends. Otherwise, sew your seams like you normally would.

A simple trick for pretty sheer seams

As we mentioned above, our current Hostess Apron series is all about sheer, and each features beautiful see through sashes. Here's our trick for a pretty sash seam:

You sash ties are each made up of two pieces cut with one angled end.

Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch the two pieces right sides together along both long sides and across the angled end, pivoting at the corners. Leave the straight cut end open.

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Press the seams open.

Turn each sewn tie right side out and using a long, blunt-end tool, such a chopstick or knitting needle, push out the corners so they are nice and sharp. Press the ties flat.

Topstitch ¼" from the edge along both sides and across the angled end. Organza tends to want to roll, so the topstitching will keep the edge of the ties looking nice.

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Turn each tie wrong side out and trim the seam allowance close to the topstitching seam.

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Run a line of Fray Check or a similar seam sealant along all the cut edges. Because organza is so sheer, trimming back the seam allowance like this gives you a nice clean look from the front.

Turn each tie right side out again and press again. Super sweet sash!

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Comments (30)

Shari H. said:
Shari H.'s picture

I recently saw a filet crocheted curtain on pinterest that had some sheer voile material backing only a portion of the crocheted design.  It was beautiful and I would like to recreate the design.  Could you assist me with ideas as to how to best attach the sheer voile to the crocheted curtain?

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@Shari - That's a tough one to assist with long distance as it will depend on the density of the crochet as well as how much area you want to cover. You might be able to do it by machine with a very small zig zag stitch - possibly using a free motion foot to really give yourself the control to follow the lines of the crocheted design. If you're working with a smaller area, a delicate hand stitch might be your best option. 

Mayanagari said:
Mayanagari's picture

I sewed a dress with net fabric.measurement at the hand went wrong.so i hav to rip the hems apart now.i tried so much with the seam ripper but the net is also getting torn.pls help....how do i remove the stitches from net fabric?

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Mayanagari - It's hard to troubleshoot long distance, but it sounds like you are ripping into the net itself when you are taking the seam apart. You need to be sure you are only cutting the thread. I wish I had a super easy solution, but it will take some time and patience. If you have enough "flexibility" in the size, you could cut along the seamline and try to put it back together with a smaller seam allowance. Here is another of our tutorials on specialty fabrics:http://www.sew4home.com/tips-resources/fabric-color-texture/sewing-speci...

Mayanagari said:
Mayanagari's picture

Actually the present hand is smaller than i need and i hav to attach a 3 inch piece to the present hand to make it right and i am unable to evn take the stitches out in the first place to do the next step 

Coon Mommy said:
Coon Mommy's picture

Hello,  I went to a 2nd hand store & spotted 2 white sheer curtain panels with pink/white embroidered vines with bright pink sequined flowers.  My plan is to make 4 short curtain panels from a lavendar, king size sheet for the 2 windows which are higher, wide but narrow in ht.  I want to use the 2 embroidered sheers as a see-through over-lay, to cover the complete front of each lavendar panel as a separate curtain (long valance).  I need to cut the embroidered/sequined sheers across the middle.  PROBLEM: How do I keep the embroidery from raveling out?  What if I have to cut sequins?  The sides will be finished already, how do I sew the hems & rod pockets of the fancy sheers?

(The reason I wanted separate panels of the 2 different fabrics...so they can be washed separately.)

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Coon Mommy - I can't give you a guaranteed solution since I don't have the fabric in hand, bu here's an idea: Draw in your middle cut line. Then measure 1/2" above and below this line and draw two additional lines parallel to the first. Thread your machine with a thread to match the sheer in the top and bobbin. Stitch (you may want to slightly shorten the stitch) along the two OUTSIDE drawn lines. These stitch lines will secure the embroidery and any other embellishments. Then cut along the center drawn line. The original security stitching lines should disappear in your hems. Regarding sequins, try to avoid cutting them in halfif possible. The hems and well as the seam for the rod pocket can be done as shown in the tutorial above. That's about the best I can do long distance. I'm sure you can take it from here 

Patricia Bacon said:
Patricia Bacon's picture

I have a lace curtain and I want to sew a hem.  Would like tips in sewing lace, 

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Patricia - there are several variables with lace depending on the density of the pattern, but in general you should be able to work with it as you would a simple hem in a regular fabric. If it's a lace set against a netting, which is pretty common, there may be little, if any, raveling, so just turning up once and using a small zig zag stitch in a matching thread may be all you need. Practice on a scrap or if the curtains are made, just practice on a small section and see what you like best.

Bonnie R said:
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I have a beautiful sheer fabric that is somewhat stiff, rather than floppy.  I want to make a lined dres swith unlined sleeves.  What can you tell me about treating the two layers as one where necessary, such as the waist seam?  Thanks!

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Bonnie R -- garment construction is not really our area of expertise here at Sew4Home, but in general, the best way to deal with two layers as one is to machine baste them together around the outer edge. 

Charlotteintrouble said:
Charlotteintrouble's picture

I am trying to make drapes.  I have an embroidered sheer as the actual panel.  I am trying to add a border around all 4 edges.  My border is a low sheen satin cut 5" wide (2" border with a 1/2" seam allowance.  Everything is pressed, correctly and i was able to get nice crisp folds in the satin.  As your pining the satin to the sheer it looks smooth.   But, as you look back the satin is all raised and loose.  I un-pin try again,  it took. Over 3 hours to just pin it properly.  Then sewing it on it starts to twist, and i rip it out and it happend every time.  I adjusted the tention, stitch length,  used tissue paper between the fabric and the pressure foot.  I am at my whits end.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.   All of you ladies are so smart, and I thank you for helping people like me.

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Charlotteintrouble - it sure sounds like you are trying just about every option! My only thought is that it's the difference in the weights of the two fabrics that is causing you some trouble. Perhaps you could add a fusible interfacing to just the edges you are wrapping with the satin.It should be cut so the border would cover it. That might give the sheer a bit more "oomph" and allow the satin to stay flat. You get bonus points for being so persistant. 

Charlotte said:
Charlotte's picture

Thanks so much, I'll give that a try.  That may do the trick.  I'll let you know.  Thanks again!  I'm off to give it a try.

Have a great day!

Livo said:
Livo's picture


I have a question regarding sheer fabrics, maybe not a smart question, butr I have a doubt. What about the grain? do you have to grain sheer fabrics? like I do with cotton fabrics, an others?

Thanks so much

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Livo - most sheers are woven so they do have a grain. You can place them against a dark surface to make it easier to see the warp and weft.

sandra finnegan said:
sandra finnegan's picture

im making french pleat voiles not sure what the best way to join them a single seam or a french seam any tips would b great

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ sandra finnegan - French pleats for curtains are more of an advanced technique. We don't have any tutorials here that address them. The difference between a single seam and a french seam will be the seam allowance finish. If there is a chance that you will see the seam, and the curtains are of any length, a French seam would probably look the best.

Mary Reinmann said:
Mary Reinmann's picture

Need input on sewing double sided satin 1/4" to bridal netting on a veil. I have to cut 2.5" ribbon to 1//4". It matches ribbon used on the gown. Any suggestions?


Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Mary Reinmann - that's a tough one because as soon as you cut the ribbon, it will be prone to raveling, which will make a not-so-pretty edge. If it is impossible to find matching 1/4" ribbon, you could cut it down to 1", then fold the ribbon in half to set a crease. Open it back up and fold in each side to meet in the center at the crease. Then fold along the original crease line. The ribbon should now be 1/4". Stitch down the edge in a matching thread and you've make your own 1/4" ribbon that is finished on both sides. Practice first with a 1" strip of paper to get the idea.

Auntie L said:
Auntie L's picture

Thank you for the wonderful tips.  Plan on sewing on a shiny sheer for Glinda the good witch's costume. 

Constancelmeyer said:
Constancelmeyer's picture

Thank you for posting this tip.  I find your Tips and Resources section very helpful.

Casandra said:
Casandra's picture
Wonderful info! I think I'll give sheers another try now that I know these tips. A friend recommended your site and it's terrific. Thanks!
prairiestorm1908 said:
prairiestorm1908's picture
I've sewed sheers a number of times. I never knew there was a sheer plate. That I "will" have to get. I sew on gift wrap tissue paper but it is so time consuming as little teensy pieces don't tear away and you have to pick pick pick out all the stay behinds. I find that frustrating. I hope "tear away stabilizer" is different and doesn't stick in all those stitches. I'll have to give it a whirl. I have been a sewer for more years than I like to count. I have been off sewing for about 10 years. Your site has woken up my inner sew person and I am just working on the sewing machine cover up now. That is a fun project.
norskie3 said:
norskie3's picture
This tutorial gives me confidence to go ahead with making this apron for my daughter's birthday. Thank you!
jeancreates.blogspot.com said:
jeancreates.blogspot.com's picture
Thanks for these tips!!! I've yet to work with a sheer fabric, but I have this bookmarked for good reference. Have a great day!smilies/smiley.gif
Wag Doll said:
Thanks so much for this info! I've tried working with chiffon before and it was a nightmare. My machine seems to suckthe fabric down to the bobbin, but I was trying to backstitch so I'll give that a miss next time. Love the nails in the top pic by the way smilies/smiley.gif