Terry cloth is one of the most widely-used fabrics around — it can be found in everything from bath towels and spa products, to baby burp cloths and baby bibs. And since it’s available in a wide range of colors and weights, sewists and quilters have wholeheartedly adopted this often-underappreciated fabric.
Even the fashion industry has taken note, with some major labels integrating terry cloth into modern, chic designs.
But let’s say you’d like to try sewing with terry cloth yourself. As with any fabric, there are a few things to keep in mind to make the most of this durable-yet-soft fabric. Don’t worry – while we may be known for our minky plush fabrics, here at Shannon Fabrics we specialize in terry cloth, too.
From preshrinking the fabric before sewing to finishing the raw edges, our National Educator Teresa Coates has listed her top seven terry cloth sewing tips you should keep in mind before starting your next terry cloth sewing project below.
Did we miss something? Do you have any terry cloth sewing tips you’d like to share? We always love hearing from our readers — leave us a comment in the comment section below!
Top 7 Terry Cloth Sewing Tips
- Preshrink before sewing
- Get rid of the terry cloth mess before you sew
- Use a thicker needle and walking foot
- Pay attention to the direction of the nap
- Lengthen the stitch
- Finish the raw edges
- Be careful fixing your mistakes
Preshrink terry cloth before cutting or sewing
Since terry cloth is usually made out of 100% cotton, make sure to wash it in warm water and dry on medium heat to shrink it before cutting or sewing.
One cycle is usually enough to do the trick, but if you’re going to use the fabric for a sewing project, washing and drying it a second time isn’t a bad idea. This helps keep measurements consistent and won’t shrink and cause any deformities when washed later.
Get rid of the terry cloth mess before you sew
Terry cloth can shed quite a bit depending on how it’s cut. Just like in our 7 Must-Try Minky Fabric Sewing Tips article, we recommend cleaning up this mess before sewing, and there are a few easy ways to do so.
First, you can throw all your cut pieces into the dryer with a wet washcloth on low or no heat for five-or-so minutes. The fibers will be caught in the lint trap, and remove the pieces of terry cloth once there’s no longer any fibers being accumulated.
Second, you can use a portable handheld vacuum to vacuum the loose fibers off the edges of your cut pieces of terry cloth.
Third, take your cut pieces of terry cloth outside and give them a good shake — it really is that simple.
Use a thicker needle and walking foot when sewing with terry cloth
Due to terry cloth’s robust, heavier build, it requires specific notions to make sewing with it easier. We suggest using a 90/14 or 80/12 machine needle, as well as a walking foot. This helps contain the thick pile while guiding the fabric through the machine.
Pay attention to the direction of the terry cloth nap
It’s essential to pay attention to how the nap is oriented and that each piece of terry cloth fabric you’re working with is consistent. Figuring out which way is up and down is easy — simply rub your hand back and forth on the fabric. If it’s smooth, the nap is positioned correctly. If it’s rough, try the opposite way until you find the smooth direction. It’s always recommended to cut with the nap whenever possible.
Lengthen the stitch when sewing with terry cloth
This one is straightforward, but is especially important — don’t forget to lengthen the stitch on your sewing machine when working with terry cloth. This isn’t an exact science since the fabric weight and pile height will influence the setting, but practice with a 3.5 stitch length on fabric scraps and fine tune until it’s feeding smoothly through the machine.
Finish the raw edges of terry cloth
Terry cloth can fray pretty quickly once cut, so it’s important to use a binding stitch to close off the unfinished seams. A serger is your best bet for this, but a sewing machine can do the trick as well. If you’re going the sewing machine route, use a straight stitch along the raw edge, then double back with a zigzag stitch for extra protection.
Be careful fixing your mistakes
As mentioned above, terry cloth is a looped fabric. While it’s great for absorbing moisture and preserving its shape, it’s not ideal for fixing mistakes while sewing. If there’s a stitch you’d like to remove — be careful. Only use a sharp seam ripper or small scissors to avoid also catching some of the terry cloth loops too.
Note that thread can get camouflaged in the terry cloth pile, so picking a different color of thread is another way to make sure you’re only snipping what you’re intending to snip.
These seven terry cloth sewing tips are a great starting point for sewists new to working with terry cloth, and a good reminder for those of us who have worked with terry cloth before. You can always refer back to this list before starting your next terry cloth sewing project, or print these tips out and keep them handy next to your sewing machine.
By implementing these easy-to-do strategies, not only will it make sewing with terry cloth easier, but you’ll have a more successful experience that will take your sewing experience to the next level.
Mistakes happen though, so don’t be afraid to learn and take chances. Practice on scraps of terry cloth you have laying around before committing to a project, and as mentioned above in Step 7, feel free to backtrack with a sharp seam ripper if you make a mistake.
To learn more about sewing with terry cloth, feel free to browse our extensive collection of free tips and tricks and free patterns, and subscribe to our YouTube channel to check out our library of informational video tutorials.