Controlling Frayed Fabric That Unravels as You Sew

Close up of frayed fabric.

 Zen Rial / Getty Images

You chose a beautiful fabric but it is turning into a nightmare to work with because the threads are falling out and creating a mess to work with. Some fabrics can almost seem like they are throwing off spider webs of ​thread. The good news is that there are many ways to deal with fabric that seems like it is going to fall apart before you can sew it together.​​​

It is important to control fraying fabric because if you lose even an eighth of an inch on every edge and still use the required seam allowance, you're going to have a problem fitting pieces together. You may even end up with an item that is smaller than intended when you are finished sewing.

  • 01 of 06

    Seam Finishes

    Seam Finish Samples
    Debbie Colgrove

    Did you know you can apply a seam finish before you sew the seam? The trick is to accurately use the same measurements on the entire seam finish or mark the seam line before you sew the seam finish so you still maintain accurate lines. Even a simple clean seam finish can tame what seems like uncontrollable fraying fabric.

  • 02 of 06

    Pinking Shears

    Pinking Shears

    No, they're not just decorative—they have a real purpose too. One of the simplest ways to control fraying is by using pinking shears. These shears are not a sewing tool that everyone has on hand but if you are going to fight fraying, they are a tool that is worth the investment. Use pinking shears to cut your fabric instead of straight shears to keep the edges from fraying as you work.

  • 03 of 06

    French Seam

    French Seam Examples

    Debbie Colgrove

    If you have a sewing machine that only sews a straight stitch or the fabric you are sewing is so​ sheer that you can see through it, you may want to explore the option of sewing French seams. A French seam will give you a very clean finished appearance that looks good even when it is seen through the fabric.

  • 04 of 06

    Flat Felled Seam

    Jeans Seam
    Fred Bahurlet / EyeEm / Getty Images

    A flat felled seam is that strong seam you see on denim jeans. Jeans aren't the only time you might want to sew a flat felled seam, however. Whenever you need an especially strong seam and you're dealing with a fabric that has a tendency to fray, you can use a flat felled seam to do the job. You may want to start with a clean finish on the seam allowance though so the fabric will stay intact through the process of creating the seam.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06


    Person Serging a Seam
    Kevin Schafer/ Getty Images

    A serger is quite possibly the perfect solution for fraying fabric because sergers are capable of both trimming the fabric and enclosing the fabric edge all in one step. A serger is an investment to be sure, but if you sew a great deal and you want high quality, professional results, it is worth the expense.

  • 06 of 06

    Anti-Fraying Products

    There are a few different types of adhesive liquids and sprays on the market that can be applied to the cut edges of fabric to prevent them from fraying. These include Aleene's Stop Fraying, Fray Check, and Sullivan's Fray Stop Spray.