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 of the fabric 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 the fraying! 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 with pieces fitting together and with the item being smaller than intended when you are finished.

  • 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 that you still maintain accurate seam lines. Even a simple clean seam finish can tame what seems like uncontrollable fraying fabric.

  • 02 of 06

    Alterations, Design and Accuracy

    Trimming, Clipping and Notching a Curved Seam

    Debbie Colgrove

    No, you can't just keep trimming away the threads from the fabric. The pieces you cut out are designed to fit together and have certain measurements when you are finished. It does make a difference.

  • 03 of 06

    Pinking Shears

    Pinking Shears

    One of the simplest ways to control fraying is with 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 your investment.

  • 04 of 06

    A 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.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    A Flat Felled Seam

    Jeans Seam
    Fred Bahurlet / EyeEm / Getty Images

    A flat felled seam is that strong seam you are familiar with from seeing them on jeans. Jeans aren't the only time you might want to sew a flat felled seam. Since a flat felled seam is a strong seam, it is a solution for a fabric that wants to fray but the seam may be put under duress and you need to depend on the seam being strong. You may want to start with a clean finish on the seam allowance though so the fabric will stay maintained through the process of creating a flat felled seam.

  • 06 of 06


    Person Serging a Seam
    Kevin Schafer/ Getty Images

    A serger may be the perfect solution to fraying fabric because a serger is capable of trimming the fabric and enclosing the fabric edge all in one step. A serger is an investment but when you want certain results, you want this machine. Sergers have a lot of options and you need to understand everything about the capabilities so you can make an educated decision ... no one wants to suffer from buyers remorse