Sunday, 24 June 2018

Bijou tutotialette: How to do decorative fraying.

I love the shabby chic and Boho looks on dollies.  These both benefit from a few frayed edges, which is something I really enjoy doing. It's quite rewarding, but I understand people's frustrations on getting an evenly frayed edge.

First, the best fabrics I find for this, are the more loosely woven cottons.  Standard quilters weight cottons, like the kind you get from Andover and Moda, are a dream to fray.  Most not-too-tightly woven cotton lawns are good too. Although I've had lovely results with Liberty Tana Lawn, which has a high thread count.

The one I really dislike is poplin.  It can be frayed, and I have managed it, but I have a grudge against poplin.  I know lots of people love it, and I do have poplins in my stash - if the prints are too beautiful to not buy.  But I loathe working with it and avoid it if I possibly can. It's stiff, and hard to get the damned needle through when hand sewing.  It isn't soft, and doesn't style nearly as well as the lovely soft standard cottons.  I'd truly advise beginners to avoid it if they can.

I'll climb off this soapbox now.

The first important thing when fraying, is to remove the weft threads, which is why cutting your patterns on the grain is important.  What is this warp and weft? I hear you ask, well...

If your piece of fabric doesn't have selvages, then the slightly stretchy direction is the weft.  Warp is always more rigid, I find, when it comes to dolly-weight cottons.

If you've cut across the grain, and are trying to remove warp threads to fray a piece, it's a lot less attractive, and is much harder.

The main problem with fraying skirt hems and the like, is that no matter how carefully you cut your piece out of the fabric, there is often a slant in the weft.  This is particularly true of very long pieces like skirt ruffles.

This is what you end up with.  Click on the image to see it larger and more clearly.

On the right the threads are deep, but on the left, they are too  shallow.

My remedy for this is the following.  First, fray as best you can, until the deeper threads are the the desired length.

Then, just to the narrower end of the good threads, make a tiny snip in the fabric, in between your frayed threads. Only cut about 2 or 3 threads when you do this. Sharp quality scissors are best.

Don't worry.  This won't show on the finished garment, especially if you damp-style your skirts, which thickens the fringing and fluffs out the threads to make them look less deliberate.  (See my tute on damp styling here:)

Pull out 2 or 3 threads and fray the rest of the edge.

You may need to repeat the process, if your strip of fabric is long.

I like to tease out my threads with a sharp pin.

Keep going until your 'shallow' end of threads is the same depth as your 'deep' end.

And you have an evenly frayed edge. (Again click on this picture to see it large and clear)

This is how I fray all my edges.   It's quite fun, and gives lovely shabby chic results.

Sometimes you'll find your deeper or shallower threads are in the centre of your ruffle, don't worry, you can still use this technique. Just make the snips at either side of the deep or shallow threads, and pull out the extra threads in the direction of the shallowest ones.

If anyone wants to ask anything, I'm happy to reply in the comments :)

I hope this is of use to someone.



  1. merci beaucoup pour ce conseil, faites-vous une petite surpiqûre pour que cela ne s'effiloche pas plus bonne journée

  2. Hi Tess, thank you so much for sharing this info with us. For a long time I've wanted to do frayed edges on my Little Darling dresses, but I thought fray-stop or something was supposed to be used to prevent further threads from fraying off. I bought some fabric glue but hated what it did to the fabric (I'm a glue-hater anyway!) - and now I've read your how-to blog, I see that you don't need glue of any kind, hooray! Thank you! Also, I've bought your My Posh Frock pattern - I usually make my own patterns, but seeing your fabulous removable sleeves, I just had to have your pattern! Thank you for such wonderful resources - From Sal xxx

    1. Hi Sal, yes you don't use any kind of fabric glue to fray the edges. Glad you found the information helpful!

  3. Another fantastic tip! So glad I found this website of yours today. I have bought your patterns before, but thru your Etsy page.

    1. Thanks so much. Glad it's useful. :)


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