The Sequinned Sphynx

Sequinned Sphinx‘I have something special for you,’ said The Man Outside Sainsburys.

An engagement ring? my heart sang.

No, readers. Something almost as good – a huge, ruddy great length of sequinned fabric printed with faces of the sphynx!

One of the benefits of spending half your income on a fabric stall in Walthamstow is that the stall holder gets to know your face and your addiction. He knows how to feed that addiction. He brings out the good stuff that he doesn’t share with just anyone. I don’t even know where he magic-ed this from. All he needed to do was mutter the words ‘designer’, ‘£2000 dresses’ and ‘I’ll give you a metre and a half for the price of a metre’ and I was sold.

Sequin DetailThere’s one thing we can all take for guaranteed with this fabric. I SHALL balls up the sewing. Let’s just get that out there, embrace the fact, not let it get us down.

Here’s another fact we can take for granted. This sequinned joy is way outside my comfort zone. I have never sewn with sequins, don’t have a clue how to. This is the equivalent of giving a pufferfish to a child and asking them to make you sashimi. Someone’s going to end up crying.

All of that to one side, I am nothing if not an optimist. I have a firm vision in my head. A simple shift dress to platform one glorious sphynx front panel. The rest of the dress in a nice, stable black ponte. But what pattern to use? Not sure those sequins will stand darts. And how the heck would I hem it? Stabilise it? Wear it? Here’s a photo of the rear.

Rear Sequinned FabricReaders, I’m counting on you. Give me your advice. You might say, ‘Go and have a lie down, then sell the fabric on eBay.’ Or maybe something more constructive. Any patterns you’d recommend? Construction tips? Medication to spare?

I know you’ll be there for me. Laughing.

UPDATE Ooh, look what I just found.

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70 Responses to The Sequinned Sphynx

  1. Of course you couldn’t turn that down. I would bottle it and make a really simple oversized baggy t shirt thereby simplifying the needs of pattern placement and minimizing the amount of seems needed. But then I would never have dared to buy it. Will love to see what you make.

  2. Bia says:

    Hello, I haven’t commented before, but I read your entries all the time. My mom made my sister a prom dress out of red sequin fabric once, it was a sheath/simple shift (and it was fabulous!). Sleeveless, scoop neck. I do not think it had darts, but I don’t remember. I believe you have to remove the sequins from all the seam allowances so you don’t sew through them. That’s it for advice.

  3. Sandra says:

    I bought sequined material once, and proceeded to procrastinate about sewing it by researching how to sew with it.

    Here’s what I found:

    I still haven’t sewn with it. Make sure to sew yours!

  4. Helen says:

    It is possible to sew with sequins. I made a sequin Scout last year, and it worked out fine. I used a really sharp, fine needle, and just sewed slowly. I also removed the ease from the sleeve heads to make it look better. Perhaps if you go for a swingy a line shape, with no darts? But I don’t see why darts wouldn’t work. Some stuff out there says to remove the sequins from your seam allowances, but I didn’t bother and it was fine too. My only disaster was that I’d didn’t pre-wash and it shrunk afterwards…

    My sequin tee (in case you are interested) :
    It’s also worth checking out Closet Case Files, as I found this really helpful:

    Good luck! X

    • Helen says:

      PS, if the sequins are metal, you DO need to remove them from the seam allowance, but mine were plastic so I didn’t. Just to clarify! Don’t want to be responsible for a nasty accident with a broken needle!

      • LinB says:

        Oh, Helen, very yes! You can soldier right through plastic sequins, although they do tend to gum up your needle. I’d avoid darts though, because sequins do not fold nicely, when you get to the point of the dart. Released pleats are easier than gathers. Why not try something vaguely Ancient Egyptian, just joined at the shoulder line and down the sides? Or do an ancient Greek chiton — no sewing involved, and you won’t even have to cut that fabulous yardage.

  5. Ute says:

    Hi, I have never commented but Heather Lou from Closet Case Files wrote a post about her sequin dress, maybe it helps!

  6. kokorimbaud says:

    What a gorgeous piece of fabric! And if you wanted to follow the inspiration fo the Lulu & Co, I think Trifecta might be a good starting point:
    Shouldn’t be too hard to lengthen that into a dress?

  7. sewbusylizzy says:

    Handmade by Carolyn & Poppykettle have both written about their sequin adventures in great details – I’d recommend those posts.
    New look have a very simple shift pattern which is made up in sequins – and I think you will find many very simple shifts. It’s going to look AMAZING!
    That panel would also make a spectacular back panel of a bomber jacket… with the rest of the jacket in a sombre fabric – then when you turn around KAPOW!

  8. Sabs says:

    Wow. You got a deal if that dress is £129 in the ruddy sale!!

    You might want to check out Gail and her sequins (this is the latest of a few sequinned tops, there are lots of tips in all the posts…):

    Happy sparkling!

  9. gingerpetal says:

    What fabulous fabric, can’t wait to see what you make. I haven’t sewn with sequined fabric but I think you remove the sequins from the seams before sewing and make sure you tie off the ends of the threads attaching the sequins so they don’t start falling off.

    • LinB says:

      That’s true for metal sequins and for glass beads. I had to alter a silk chiffon gown for a beauty pageant contestant once, a white silk gown covered with hand-embroidered sequins and pearls and crystal beads. Never again. “Beauty knows no pain” should be read as “Beauty is a major pain in the arse,” in my opinion.

  10. B & the Moon says:

    I’m pretty much a human magpie so loving the sequins! Too distracted looking at sequins to have ever got round to sewing them so no advice I’m afraid…maybe you could just skip the sewing and drape it round your shoulders like a magnificent cape, I mean, who doesn’t love a big sparkly cape?

  11. Fwaire says:

    Wow I don’t blame you! That’s amazing! I too would have no idea what to do with it though… Good luck! I can’t wait to see the results!

  12. Sonia says:

    Oooooh this is going to be fab! I think Sarai did a tutorial for a knit Laurel which showed pinching out the dart (so no line but still space, if you know what I mean?!) which might work with this?
    Can’t wait to see what you do!

  13. Trish says:

    Thanks for all your amazing posts which I always read. The fabric looks fabulous. I have no idea how you would sew it, but I have recently used New Look 6095 with a stable knit to make a simple shift dress, and I left out the front darts, but used the back darts for shaping. I would think this would be the sort of pattern you need. It was very nice to sew and looked great.

  14. Béa says:

    *swoon*. That is fabulous! The only advice I can think of on working with this would be to use Fraycheck on all the cut edges, to help stabilise them.

  15. Janet says:

    Love, love, love this. Was going to suggest some sort of simple A line dress- bit like Coco but with capped sleeves, but now think the KitschyCoo trifecta into a dress would be great.
    And if you only use one panel of that divine fabric, it would be a crime not to auction it off to the highest bidder amongst your readers..! 😉

  16. Pat says:

    Ignorance is bliss I suppose. When I sewed with sequins in the past I didn’t do anything different. I washed the fabric (not sure if it could go in a dryer), then sewed my sparkly happiness into something awesome.

  17. sew2pro says:

    Fabric envy…

  18. Rachel says:

    Not any tips from me I’m afraid – I sewed a sequined skirt and broke all the rules. Didn’t pick the sequins off the seam allowance allowance or anything. I kind of wish I had though, because some of the seams have sequins sticking out. As for hemming, if you fold the sequins under and stitch (like a normal hem) the sequins WILL ruin tights/pantyhose/anything worn underneath. Very annoying. What about white knit rather than black? Might be more pop! Rachel ☺

  19. lauriesannie says:

    Gorgeous. How about a loose top with chiffon sleeves? Then you’d have only a few seams to confront. Lots of tutorial on the net re: sequins. If I’m not mistaken La Sewista (Bunny) worked with sequins a while back.

  20. Andrea Moran says:

    Hi Karen,
    Because I love your blog I will share with you my knowledge of the dreaded sequin!
    Speaking from experience and working for a top designer in the late 80s early 90s and making many sequinned dresses here’s some tips.
    You really have to be confident of your pattern. I would advise that you make a muslin in a fabric of similar weight and then altered the pattern to suit.
    Work out your seam allowance e.g. 5/8″ and literally remove the sequins with pliers that you would have been sewing through. Remove them carefully and whole and keep them safely. This goes for darts as well.
    Then obviously sew as usual, and press carefully. Test the iron on scraps of fabric because if it’s too hot it will take the shean off the sequins.
    You must press seams and not drag the iron along the seams, usually with plenty of steam.
    Then once pressed and you are happy with the fit, look at the seams (or darts) on the right side. You will see ther are gaps where you removed the sequins. You can now hand stitch sequins (that you saved) over the seams from the right side wherever there are obvious gaps. This will give you a very couture
    As with hemming, the best way is a false hem. If you don’t know how to do this and are interested just let me know and I will try to explain it as best as I can.
    You fabric is wonderful! I can’t wait to see the outcome.

  21. SarahStar says:

    Wow, awesome fabric! No sequin tips in my world I’m afraid, just dazzled by the material and can’t WAIT to see what you make with it! Bless the Man Outside Sainsbury’s, I wonder if he knows how happy he makes your readers, too 🙂

  22. redambition says:

    I am in LOVE with that fabric. I think you’d potentially get two garments out of that – to make it more wearable you can use a plain fabric on the back! I’d think loose tunic-style tee shirt or a shift dress would showcase the sequins to the best advantage.

    Cannot wait to see what you make from it!!

  23. I made a sequinned dress once using the Megan Nielsen Eucalypt pattern:

    I just used sequins at the front and black silk crepe de chine for the back. No darts and only 2 pattern pieces plus binding, which I hand stitched. I also hand stitched the hem. Overall it was pretty easy and turned out to be very lovely. Obviously you have to showcase that crazy sphinx.

    Good luck!


  24. cupandpenny says:

    I sewed with sequins once. The internets said to hand-pick the sequins off all the seam allowances in order to cut and sew the fabric, but that sounded ridiculous to me, so I cut it using those heavy-duty kitchen scissors, and stitched right through it using my machine. I broke a few needles but the slower I was willing to go, the longer the needle lasted. I don’t seem to have gummed up the insides of my machine. When I finished the garment, I decided to apply fabric glue to the seams just to keep the sequins from shedding.

    Is your fabric stretch? You might be able to do without darts.

  25. amaryllislog says:

    I love this, and so excited to see what you do with it. I couldn’t pass it up either!

  26. Barbara says:

    Amazing fabric, love it, can’t wait to see what you make. I can see it as a shift dress. I made my wedding dress from sequinned lace. It wasn’t fun to sew, but I used a super sharp needle (broke a couple), and sewed through the sequins if I couldn’t nudge them out of the way. Kept seams to a minimum, so as others have said know your pattern, avoid unpicking.

  27. Megan says:

    I love this fabric and I loved the bird fabric you had a few weeks ago …. I’m in the UK (from Australia) for 5 days in late July- between visiting family in Manchester and Birmingham and overnighting with my SIL in Deptford do you think I can get to Walthamstow (I’ve just googled the route!)- will the MAN be there??? Whats days does he have his stall??

  28. Liza Jane says:

    You can do it!!! It’s awesome.

  29. Jen (NY) says:

    Definitely too fantastic to pass up! I immediately envisioned a strappy, flapper-like shift, accessorized with one of those quail (?) feather headband things. Maybe that’s over the top, but that’s what popped into my head. Then again, oversized t-shirt might be interesting too, and more wearable. Have fun!

  30. I am so in love with this! You don’t even know how much!

  31. Karen….the fabric is beautiful…….I sew sequinned fabric regularly and don’t do anything any differently… will be fine. Jane

  32. Fadanista says:

    It’s got to be said – this fabric is waaay better than an engagement ring! You have been given some wonderful ideas by your fans and followers, so I won’t add to them except to say that I very much look forward to the outcome.

  33. robyn says:

    removing the sequins, if they are plastic is more for comfort than anything. they scratch. i lined a sequined bodice i made. more important, you MUST reinforce the stitching that holds the sequins down. usually its a chain stitch and if you don’t either handsew down a few or use some type of fraycheck, the row can accidentally get pulled out. i have spent lots of time repairing sequined clothes i’ve bought or for my daughter because of this. much easier to do it before it is put together. also cut single layer, maybe make a plastic pattern so the placement of the sphinx is exact.

  34. Looks amazing – I can’t wait to see how you get on journeying into the world of sequins!!

  35. I am sure you will find something you will make look fabulous with this amazing fabric and I have only one comment. DON’T USE YOUR GOOD SCISSORS! (Ask me how I know). Have fun.

  36. You are awesome and an inspiration. Can’t wait to see the sphynx creation!

  37. Roobeedoo says:

    Words… I have none. They don’t sell fabric like that in my LFS…
    Could you use Sew U Home Stretch and copy the Out of Stock masterpiece? But the person who suggested the back of bomber jacket was definitely onto something…

  38. Anne says:

    I just wanted to say, I’m a longtime reader who doesn’t usually comment, and reading your post and all the comments really made me smile! I love seeing the great ideas you come up with, the unique materials that sometimes show up – and well, it makes my day. Thank you!

  39. Dana says:

    Wow, what a score! I bet this would look amazing as a bomber jacket!

    I can’t wait to see what you do with this. i hope you share tips about how to work with sequins. I’m always way to scared to go there.

  40. Aileen Brown says:

    Can’t wait to see finished. I doubt very much that you will balls this up but if you do you have another panel. Get a move on woman! We’re all waiting with bated breath!

  41. A really plain shift pattern but with darts options front and back is the Kiss dress from Brensen studios. Sewing on the Edge blog has featured it and has just posted one. Very simple but classic looking for gorgeous fabric.

  42. Anne-Marie says:

    I’m so looking forward to seeing what you’ve made with it, and how nice that your market man thinks of you when he sees special fabric.

  43. S says:

    Wow! You are way more courageous than I am. For a shift I have had good luck with the vintage mod dress Simplicity 6533 (v. 2) (though in light- to mid-weight linen, mind you!). It’s gathered a bit at the neckline, has no darts in front if I remember correctly and has long back darts. It gives a nice shape without being too tailored and has a nice neckline feature. The length is also modest but can be shortened. It’s neatly underlined. Good luck!! PS A bomber jacket or a squared off fifties style jacket would be very cool. Can’t wait to see what you do.

  44. ipires says:

    It has to be a Coco!

  45. senjiva says:

    Perhaps a simple shape that shows off the print? Be prepared to use ALL your swear words and a lot of needles. You’ll need to remove and then re-sew an obscene amount of sequins. Just be glad your client is yourself here. Also, you’re gonna need some crazy bright shoes!!

  46. oonaballoona says:

    this must be a new designer thing, i snagged my yellow floral crazy sequin-ness a couple weeks ago, and it has the same, i don’t know, i guess they’re screen printed sequins ? and backside is the same. i was going bomber jacket but now all i can see is that raglan sleeve dress…

  47. symondezyn says:

    That fabric is so cool!!!! It’s like lizard scales or something – but with sphinxes – i’m super excited to see what you make out of it!! 🙂

  48. MrsC says:

    Honey it is all just tooo hard and where would you wear it! I’d stick it on the wall! LOL! Or, make a big eveningy knee length summerweight coat with bat wings and make it the whole back. You would have a zip up the front (I have an image in my head of such a coat I owned in the 1980s, it was da bomb!)

  49. Mertxe says:

    Yeas, Karen, that is precisely what I was going to suggest. An oversize t-shirt, to wear with leggins. I’d just use the sequined fabric for the front, though, i’d leave the back plain white, or even better (and more flattering), black cotton. Regarding the sleeves, I’d use a simple short kimono sleeve, that is to say, the same front falling on your upper arm. The modern option for the neck cut would be a ship neck, very wide, enough for leaving at least one shoulder uncovered. Young girls do that, show off their bra straps. It is a wonderful fabric, congrats!

  50. I’m seeing an 80’s slouchy tee. Good luck with conquering those sequins, can’t wait to see what you make with it.

  51. Crystal says:

    I see your sheath dress vision! Why not go with a princess seam front instead of darts? I recently made up (and love) Simplicity 2337, but for this fabric I would think an arm-hole princess seam instead of a shoulder seam would be better. It would give you a more pattern across the front.

  52. meggameuf says:

    Ahh, the Man outside Sainsbury’s. He used to seduce me with those words, then I moved far, far away. Now I see another woman’s benefiting from his silky fabrics. Humph…

  53. meggameuf says:

    Ah, the Man Outside Sainsbury’s. He used to seduce me with such words until I moved far, far away, out of his grasp. Now I see he’s moved on with his silky fabrics.

  54. I love Walthamstow for fabrics and trims. Don’t know what you going to make with this lovely sequin fabric but i look forward to seeing the results. 😉

  55. Ruth says:

    The dress you found is great because the darts are incorporated into the raglan lines, and there re no seams where two sequined pieces join, so less picking off of sequins.

  56. Summerflies says:

    I sewed a sequinned cowl neck dress and just finished a sequinned lace dress using a Style Arc pattern. No darts but lovely shaping across the front from the seam. A very easy sew. Plastic sequins don’t need removal, unless they are not going to either side of the stitching. I also don’t hem… you always leave a few sequins behind though. Good luck.

  57. Hang on…two panels? One for a dress and one for a bomber jacket, no? How about a Renfrew lengthened into a dress? I wish you luck…you’re a braver gal than I.

  58. jobirdie says:

    Can’t wait to see what you make!!!!!

  59. Sheree says:

    What beautiful fabric. I made Vogue 8805 last year and have since wanted to make it up to look totally different. If I had this fabric I would go for a cream / white or grey for the top bodice and back and just have the sequin on the front. This would make it relatively easy, but whatever you decide I am sure you will make a great job of it. Good luck.

  60. That is totally rare. Insane. That you found a dress in the same fabric. My thoughts were a coco maybe with a collar.

  61. Danielle says:

    Hello! I make dance outfits and sew with sequins a lot. A wing needle is what you’ll need for your machine, and use a zigzag stitch. If sewing on a serger you’ll be best off removing them by hand. Go slow and be cautious of flying sequins! I hope this helps!

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