Monday, July 26, 2010

frayed edges

When using frayed edges to finish a garment there are several factors to keep in mind. The first is your fabric. Choose something that has a loose weave or is lightweight so it will ravel easily with a stiff brush. Then be certain you love working with it. If you think it takes a long time to finish seam edges, wait until you ravel a few!

Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind:

These techniques are all about the fabric, so find one that’s interesting with unraveled edges. For example, a fabric with different color warp and weft yarns has an entirely different look when unraveled.

Make lots of samples so you can see results before committing your time.
  • Bias, crosswise and lengthwise grain may yield very different final results in color, texture, length and thickness of fringe.
  • Experiment with different width seam allowances to get the look you want.
Make some sketches of your finished piece to determine which edges you want to fray. Frayed seam allowances in the body of a garment can be used to accent inside design lines.
When raveling fabrics, use a stiletto to work from the outer edge in, especially on bias edges.

If raveling on crosswise or lengthwise grain anchor the fabric along the edge you are fraying. You can do this by pressing the work with your anchoring hand against a flat surface. Keep tension on the yarns that are perpendicular to the yarn you are pulling to make the work go faster.


Here is my take on Kenneth King’s technique for making a brush fringe.

(Source: Threads Magazine, Issue #137)

Think of this fringe technique as a fabric sandwich. You have a top and bottom piece of fashion fabric that have fringed edges and a stabilizing layer in-between.

Here are the steps:

Cut your top and bottom pieces out of fashion fabric. From your samples, you’ll know if you want to have both pieces on the same grain or if you want to cut the bottom piece with the grain running in a different direction for a better fringe effect.

Cut your support fabric layer. Experiment to find the right level of support, the fabric could range from organza to hair canvas interfacing.

Sew the support layer to the wrong side of the top layer on the seam allowance.

On the support layer only: trim corners and clip or notch curves, as needed. Press the seam allowance away from the edge you will fringe.

Add the bottom layer to the “sandwich”. Place the wrong side of the bottom layer against the support layer. Sew on the previous stitching line from the top.

Add a decorative chain stitch to cover the stitching line, using yarn harvested from the fabric, if desired.

Ravel edges on top and bottom layers to create fringe.

frayed edge

Here is my interpretation of Louise Cutting’s technique for making a frayed raw edge.

(Source: Threads Magazine, Issue #121)

Think of this edge as a frayed trim. You have a bias strip with frayed raw edges sewn to the back of your fashion fabric and flipped to the front. Experiment with different fabrics to find the most appealing combination - sheers seem to work especially well with this technique.

Don’t give up couture techniques because you’ve chosen a simple embellishment. Use an underlining if your fabric calls for it, it can add to the trim effect. And if you’re using this edge in lieu of a facing you can add a stay tape to stabilize the edge, too.

Here are the steps:

Cut your fashion fabric, leaving seam allowances at the edges. (Underline as usual, if your fabric calls for it.)

Cut a bias strip that is twice as wide as the seam allowance, minus 1/4 inch. (If your seam allowance is 5/8 inch, the bias strip would be 5/8 + 5/8 - 1/4 = 1 inch.

Align the edges of the fashion fabric and bias strip, wrong sides together.

Stitch together on the seam allowance.

Turn the fashion fabric seam allowance and bias strip to the right side and understitch 1/8 inch from previous stitching line, catching only one side of the bias strip. (The bias strip will be flat, with the understitched edge on the garment and the other edge off the garment.)

If you want to add stay tape to the edge, carefully sandwich it under the fashion fabric on the right side before understitching, butting it against the fold. (Or baste it in place on the front side, with one edge on the previous stitching line before turning the seam allowance to the front.)

Press the other edge of the bias strip over the understitching.

Fray the edges of the bias strip and fashion fabric with a stiff brush.


  1. Wow! This is great, Jenny. Thanks so much for this follow-up.

  2. Wow Jenny, you do amazing presentations!