We get a lot of questions about how to sew with double gauze, so I thought I’d share my top tips with you… and hopefully inspire you to give it a try if you haven’t yet done so!
But first – what exactly is double gauze?
This material is made up of two layers of fine, open weave cotton gauze. The layers are held together at regular intervals with teensy stitches, leaving a suggestion of air trapped between them. The result is lightweight but not thin, airy yet snuggly, and almost squishy to the touch in some cases. As I often say, it’s like wearing a cloud!
It has a naturally crinkly texture to it, which you can press out if you like, or leave in for a more distinctive look.
Back when I first started sewing, I associated double gauze with gorgeous (and expensive to import) Japanese Kokka prints. Since then, more and more fabric companies have added this lovely substrate to their range, so you can find a wider range of designs in a wider range of shops.
Sounds dreamy? Read on for my tips! Or watch the video for a condensed version of the tips…
Choosing a suitable project
When figuring out whether double gauze would work with the sewing pattern you have in mind, it can help to think of it as a supplement for a soft cotton-type fabric. Since it’s lightweight and breathable, double gauze is particularly lovely for summer clothes when you want to catch a little breeze and not end up a hot, sticky mess. I do also like wearing it when it’s slightly cooler too, as the thickness of the two layers feels snuggly, and can trap in a little body heat.
Go for a relaxed style of garment that will suit the soft, crinkly look of the material – think casual tops, dresses and pyjamas. Opt for a garment that has an easy-fitting or looser style, rather than being tightly-fitted. The fabric has some drape but will also hold the shape of the garment a little, so is great for swishy dresses or billowy blouses.
Bear in mind that double gauze can be a little see-through in lighter colours. So, if you’re making a dress, you may want to opt for darker colours or busy prints, or wear a slip underneath.
Washing and pressing
Make sure you pre-wash your fabric the way you plan to launder your finished garment. You probably hear this all the time, but it is particularly important with double gauze.
Once it comes out of the first wash, you’ll probably find it has shrivelled and shrunk to a smaller size. Fear not! If you prefer a more straightened-out look, the creases will press out easily with a steamy iron. Personally though, I often leave double gauze unpressed and embrace the creases as part of its unique charm.
Just bear in mind that whether you press or not before cutting will affect the shape and size of the pieces, so you’ll need to start as you mean to go on to avoid a finished garment that is either too big or small.
Double gauze has a tendency to unravel and fray at the raw edges. Tilly and the Buttons sewing patterns include a 15mm (5/8in) seam allowance, which is wide enough to offer you some room to manoeuvre if the raw edges fray quite badly. If you’re using a pattern with a narrower seam allowance, you may want to cut it wider when you cut out your pattern to give yourself a bit of leeway.
Double gauze is a delicate fabric and can snag easily. To avoid this happening, use fine pins if you have them – and if you don’t, try to keep them within the seam allowance as much as you can to avoid leaving holes in the fabric. Or, if you’re cutting out the pattern with a rotary cutter, you could hold it down with pattern weights (or makeshift pattern weights) rather than using pins.
Needles + pins
Again, use fine pins to hold the seams together, and try to keep them within the seam allowance to avoid creating holes in the fabric.
When sewing, change your sewing machine needle to a new, sharp 70/10 or 80/12 needle.
Stabilising and adding structure
If your pattern has any curved or bias-cut (diagonal) seams, it’s a good idea to staystitch them to help them keep their shape. Because of the open weave structure and crinkled texture, it’s easy to end up with pieces that don’t match up when you try to piece the garments together. Staystitching can help prevent this.
If your pattern calls for interfacing, pick something lightweight. I recently made two Stevie smocks – one in the green double gauze shown in the pics, which isn’t very see-through, so I stitched in the neckline facing as normal and you can’t see it on the outside of the dress. The other version was the multicoloured double gauze print on a white background, which is pretty transparent. I cut the neckline facings down to half their width to make them less obvious, and am pleased with how it turned out. Finishing a neckline with bias tape would be another option.
Because of the uneven, rippled surface of the fabric, one of the potential pitfalls of sewing with double gauze is “fabric creep”, in other words, one layer of fabric feeds through the machine at a different speed to the other, resulting in rippled seams. A way to avoid this is to use a walking foot – or dual feed foot – on your sewing machine, which will grip the upper and lower layers evenly.
I also like to lower the presser foot pressure slightly to accommodate the slightly thicker fabric without squishing the layers.
Try a slightly longer stitch length too – I usually use 2.8 – 3mm for double gauze.
This is one of those materials where it’s a good idea to start sewing a little way in from the raw edge, rather than directly on it. The open weave can be difficult for the needle to catch, so starting on the raw edge can cause the needle to push the fabric under the plate or chew it up into a little ball.
Since double gauze can fray quite significantly, it needs a good, strong seam finish to ensure your lovely handmade garment lasts.
If you have an overlocker or serger, the three- or four-thread finish will be nice and durable.
French seams are another good option – the double stitching creates a particularly robust finish. Since they are so neat-looking, they are a particularly appropriate option if your fabric is lighter coloured and the seam allowances will be slightly visible through the fabric – this is what I used on my white background Stevie smock.
If you don’t have an overlocker and don’t feel up to tackling French seams, go with a zigzag stitch on your regular sewing machine. I like to slightly shorten the stitch length to create a tighter zigzag than usual to help keep the fibres intact.
And those are my tips for sewing with double gauze! I hope this has inspired you to give this gorgeous fabric a whirl.