12 Tips for Sewing Napped Fabrics

McCalls M6209

Many cool weather fabrics have nap—like fleece, melton, furs, corduroy, Minkie-like fabrics and velvets. Napped fabrics usually have a pile surface and rubbing the fabric one way offers a smooth hand and brushing it the opposite way raises the pile—think of it like petting a cat. Napped fabrics tend to be bulky, creating some sewing challenges. Here are 12 tips for success when sewing napped fabrics:

  1. It’s important to follow a “with-nap” cutting layout for your project so that the tops of all pieces are facing the same direction or there will be significant color shading differences.
  2. Thick pile like faux furs, should always be placed with the hairs running downward for a smoother appearance.
  3. On very thick fabrics, choose a lighter weight fabric for facings, undercollars, etc. to reduce bulk.
  4. Use a small sewing machine needle unless the fabric is very dense, then increase the size accordingly.
  5. Polyester thread like Coats Dual Duty All-purpose is ideal for sewing napped fabric.
  6. Because of its napped surface, sewing seams requires extra care. One layer tends to “creep” resulting in unevenness at the edge. On dense pile fabrics like velvet and faux furs, hand basting the seams before sewing is recommended. On other fabrics, spring clamps can help hold edges together without damaging the fabric.
  7. If your machine allows, decrease the presser foot pressure.
  8. As you sew a seam, hold the fabric taut in front of and behind the presser foot, but don’t stretch it. This helps prevent puckered seams. If you have issues with a particular fabric, loosen the top tension slightly.

    McCall M7511
  9. Invest in a walking or even-feed foot to sew seams in napped fabrics. The dual-feeding mechanism helps the layers feed smoothly and evenly and prevent shifting.
  10. A slightly longer than normal stitch length is also helpful.
  11. Most napped fabrics benefit from finger-pressing as opposed to iron pressing, as steam and heat can damage the raised surfaces. If you must press, do so from the wrong side and cover the pressing surface with a thick towel to prevent the nap from crushing.
  12. On fabrics like melton and fleece, use topstitching for details, and to keep facings, edges, and zippers in place. Choose a larger needle and Coats Dual Duty Jeans Topstitching thread for accents. Avoid topstitching on fabrics like velvet and faux fur.