a sewing question for the internets

I keep feeling there’s some obvious way to make this simpler, but I don’t know what. Maybe you, O Ever-Wise Internets, do.

I have a circular piece of fabric that needs be sewn onto the surface of another, larger piece. The circle is small (diameter ~3 inches) and has raw edges. Dealing with those is the issue at hand. Bonus points for a solution that minimizes the hassle if I have to remove the circle at a later date and transfer it to a new piece of fabric.

Option 1: backing fabric. Sew the circle to a backing piece, right sides together; clip the seam allowance, then flip it right-side-out, press it flat, slip-stitch the gap closed, and sew the entire thing on. Advantages: raw edges are tucked away permanently; patch can be easily removed and transferred at will. Disadvantages: the same problem I have any time I do the “flip and press it flat” thing, which is getting that seam to actually press all the way out, rather than leaving some amount of fabric folded inward. (Basically, making it look like V rather than W.) This is especially difficult on small items, like narrow bands or the aforementioned circle. Does anybody have general tips for making that work better? If there’s a trick, I certainly don’t know it.

Option 2: tuck the raw edges under. Much like above, except without a backing piece; I clip the seam allowance, iron it under, probably baste those edges into place, and then sew the thing on. Advantages: no trying to stick my fingers into a tiny interior to make things lie properly. Disadvantages: raw edges less well contained — there may be fraying where I clipped things to make it lie flat — and less robust if I transfer it anywhere.

Option 3: edge it with something. The question is, what? My machine can do overcasting, but that doesn’t create a finished edge, just one that’s less likely to fray. A ribbon or other such edging won’t lie flat on a circle this small, so I’d have to take teensy little pleats or something, which, just, no. Whip-stitching the entire edge by hand seems like a pain in the ass.

I really do feel like there’s a smarter way to do this, but my sewing experience is limited enough that I don’t know what it is. Help me, o internets; you’re my only hope.

0 Responses to “a sewing question for the internets”

  1. Anonymous

    Perhaps try a zigzag (or satin) stitch? That could sew it directly to the larger piece and finish the raw edges at the same time.

    Here’s an article on machine applique that might be of use:


    Hope that helps!

  2. beccastareyes

    I normally do Option 1.

    Do you clip the seams?

    • aswego

      Also Option 1, also clipping seams.

      General tricks:
      Choose a backing material that’s relatively thin, tough, and non-fraying. (Options range from interfacing to silk organza to, in extremis, a used dryer sheet.)
      Use small stitches.
      Instead of leaving a gap in the stitching for turning your item right side out, sew all the way around the circle, then make a slit in the backing for turning purposes. (If your backing material is woven, cut the slit on the bias to reduce fraying. If you are leery of cutting a slit in just the backing while it’s sewn to the main fabric, make the cut ahead of time.) Trim fairly closely, clipping seams.
      Choose a smooth, thin but non-pointy object for poking the seams in place, such as a large paper clip, a small spoon, or an appropriately-sized pen cap.
      If it’s still being recalcitrant and your fabrics allow, steam.

  3. danabren

    You can run a length of bias tape around the raw edge of the circle, then turn it under and stitch it down. This will finish your edges, and also reduce the amount of fraying or stretching to the edge should you decide to remove the fabric from the larger piece later.

  4. stormsdotter

    I’d go for Option 2, using Interfacing as the backing since it does not fray and will make the piece stronger. Right now I’m experimenting with tacking a piece of fabric down with hand stitches and then using a chain stitch of embroidery floss to really secure the edges, but this makes it non-transferrable.

  5. diatryma

    I’ve done pockets that were essentially squares with finished edges that were then sewn to the garmet fabric. But I don’t mind hemming.

  6. Anonymous

    If you want a really fast solution, buy some Dritz Fray Check at a fabric store and apply it to the raw edges. Let it dry and sew it onto the other fabric. (Aunt Carol)

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