Getting started with mesh can be a little daunting, especially when you first see the hole-filled texture. However, with a little technical guidance, it can be very easy to sew and can be used for a variety of projects.
Mesh fabric is a lovely way to incorporate a little twist in the design of sportswear, tops, skirts, bags, accessories, and anything you can think of. Similar to other types of fabrics, mesh fabric also comes in different designs and fabric weights, suitable for a variety of designs.
How do you sew mesh to fabric? Mesh is very stretchy and slippery, so you’ll need a ballpoint needle with strong polyester thread and a walking foot in your sewing machine to assist with sewing.
In this tutorial, let’s take a look at the step-by-step guide to sewing mesh to fabric without breaking a sweat!
What Is Mesh Fabric?
Mesh is typically made from synthetic materials like polyester or nylon. It is a loosely woven fabric that has uniform holes across its surface, making it look quite breezy and sexy when incorporated into the right design.
Thanks to the synthetic component, mesh can endure a lot of wear and tear, which is why it’s often used in sportswear and bags. Thanks to the loosely woven construction, it can also remain flexible with a lovely drape, suitable for skirts and dresses.
The open weave also allows the fabric to be quite breathable, something that polyester often lacks. Since polyester is commonly used in sportswear thanks to its superior ability to wick away moisture, adding a bit of mesh also allows the garment to be more breathable and comfortable to wear.
If you are convinced that you want to use mesh in your next design, let’s take a look at the best way to prepare and sew mesh to the fabric.
How To Prepare Mesh For Sewing
Before sewing with mesh fabric, it’s useful to pre-wash your mesh to ensure that it’s clean and that any shrinkage is out of the way. Although polyester is less likely to shrink compared to other fabrics, the open construction of the fabric can also shrink in the wash.
Pre-washing the fabric will ensure that your fabric won’t shrink after you have completed your garment, which can really distort the final shape!
When you wash your mesh, make sure to follow the instructions provided by the manufacturers. Most types of mesh can be machine-washed, but some mesh fabrics require a hand wash. Following the instructions will ensure that your mesh fabric looks its best before sewing.
After washing, you may find that your fabric needs pressing in order to lay flat for cutting. If you need to iron the mesh, make sure to use a low-temperature setting so that the fabric doesn’t scrunch up under the high heat.
In most instances, ironing isn’t required, but many sewers like to include this step to ensure that the fabric is flat for cutting.
When it comes to cutting, you will find that the best way to cut with mesh is with a rotary cutter rather than with scissors. Since the fabric is quite slippery and stretchy, making it difficult to cut, you’ll have a really hard time cutting your pattern with scissors!
Using a rotary cutter on a cutting mat will do the trick. Since mesh fabric can slip away from you quite easily, you should pin your pattern to the fabric or use pattern weights to ensure that you’re getting the right shape.
You should also avoid cutting several layers of mesh at the same time, mainly because you’ll get frustrated when the fabric layers slip away. It’s best to go slow and cut one layer at a time, using controlled movements with your rotary cutter to get the best result.
What You Need To Sew Mesh To Fabric
Before getting started on sewing, you will need to prepare some suitable tools which will make sewing with mesh pain-free. Let’s take a look at what you will need.
Although you can certainly use a regular sewing needle in your sewing machine, a ballpoint needle is definitely more suitable for sewing with mesh, or any stretchy and slippery fabric for that matter.
A ballpoint needle is designed with a rounded tip, which can easily slide between the fabric’s fibers. A sharp needle typically will puncture the fabric, which can really damage a stretchy fabric like mesh. Using a ballpoint needle will help retain the fabric’s appearance as well as stretchiness.
Since the mesh is typically made from polyester, using a strong polyester thread will be the most suitable option to sew mesh. Polyester threads tend to be much stronger than cotton, which will perform better with stretchy stitches as well.
Serger (Optional) / Zig Zag Stitch
The best way to sew mesh with fabric is with a serger rather than a sewing machine. This is because a serger seals off the raw edges and sews at the same time, so it’s much easier to create a clean, neat edge.
In addition, the overlock stitch is also stretchy, which is more suitable for a stretchy fabric like mesh.
If you don’t have a serger, the best substitute would be the zigzag stitch in your sewing machine. You should use a shorter stitch length if it’s possible to adjust the stitch length in your sewing machine to accommodate the stretch.
If you are using your sewing machine, a walking foot is always recommended when working with slippery fabric.
The walking foot will help you guide the fabric along so that it cannot slip away from you as you sew. This way, your stitches will be straight, and you won’t lose your fabric in the process.
When you set up your walking foot, make sure to loosen the walking foot a bit to prevent over-stretching the fabric when you sew. Mesh can stretch when the tiniest of pressure is applied, so you should only apply gentle pressure when sewing.
If you try pinning mesh to fabric, you are not going to succeed with regular sewing pins. Since mesh fabric is very slippery, sewing pins will just slip right out.
When working with a stretchy fabric like this, it’s best to use quilter clips. These clips can really secure the layers of fabrics together to get your fabric ready for sewing.
Tips For Sewing With Mesh Fabric
When sewing mesh to fabric, it’s best to hold the layers so that the mesh is on top of the two layers. Mesh can be slippery, so you’ll want to keep an eye on the mesh as you feed it through the sewing machine.
When you feed your fabric through the machine, make sure to use a slower sewing speed so you can have more control over the fabric. As you feed the fabric, make sure you are not pulling on the mesh, because this can stretch out the fabric and create uneven puckers after sewing.
After sewing the mesh to the fabric using a zigzag stitch, you may find that a topstitch will secure the layers and make the result look neat.
Mesh fabric doesn’t fray, so if you have any raw edges, you can leave them as-is. If you want to sew the seam of the mesh, you can use a bias binding to close the edge and hide the raw edges inside.
For more tips and tricks, check out this video from TheCraftyGemini on YouTube.
How To Sew Mesh Fabric To A Workout Top
If you have a plain workout top that you would like to spice up, adding mesh inserts to the sides of the top can be a fun way to add a twist to the design.
Adding fabric to the sides of a top is quite simple because you don’t have to worry about a complicated design. Here’s how to add mesh to a workout top:
With your workout top turned inside out and laid flat, use a fabric marker to draw two triangles on the two side seams of the top. The triangles should start at the bottom of the armhole and open up at the bottom seam of the top.
Once you are happy with the design, cut out the triangles you just drew, leaving about half an inch for seam allowance.
Use the triangles that you just cut out as a ‘pattern’ piece and cut out the shape from your mesh, leaving half an inch for seam allowance.
Line up your mesh triangles with the triangle-shaped holes that you just cut from the top and right sides together, and use the quilter’s clips to secure them together.
With your serger or sewing machine, using the zigzag stitch, sew the mesh triangles to the top and right sides together. Make sure to use the tips above to get the best result.
Optional: Add a top stitch on the right side of the fabric to make the stitches lay flat.
If you want to seal the raw edge of the mesh, use bias tape to seal the raw edge. You can also leave the raw edge as-is since the mesh will not fray.
And there you have it! You’ll have a cute new workout top with just these simple steps!