By Annabelle Short on
11 Tips for Sewing with Minky Fabric
Minky is a soft, plush fabric that's great for making cuddly blankets, soft toys, pillows and more. It comes in a wide range of types, from long, shaggy pile that resembles faux fur, to close cropped, velvety textures, to decorative embossed patterns. This variety can make it rather tricky to work with, however. If you're planning your first project made of minky, check out these tips and tricks to make sure it turns out perfect the first time.
1. Don't pre-wash
Minky is made entirely of polyester, so it there's no need to pre-wash it before cutting out your pattern pieces. However, if you are using any other fabrics, such as linings or backings, be sure to prewash them so that they don't cause your minky to distort once they're washed the first time.
2. Beware excessive heat
Like fleece, minky is prone to heat damage. A too-hot iron not only scorches, it melts, turning your soft minky fibres into knobs of burned plastic. Avoid using an iron on your minky at all; instead, finger-press your seams open, and use a bit of steam or a trip through the clothes dryer with a damp cloth to remove wrinkles prior to laying out your pattern. If your minky seems particularly prone to wrinkling while you're working with it, a spray of starch on the wrong side can help it straighten up.
3. Be prepared for the stretch
Minky has a significant stretch to it, so be cautious when sewing that you're not stretching your fabric while you work. A walking foot can be a big help in preventing wiggly seams; this attachment helps the top and bottom layers of your fabric move under the needle at an even rate. If you don't have a walking foot, try easing up the pressure of your regular presser foot, and if you're stitching minky to a non-stretch backing like woven cotton, always work with the minky side of your project down. Not only does this make it easier to spot your seam lines—no fuzzy pile getting in the way—but it also puts the minky against the feed dogs, which helps keep it moving evenly under the needle.
4. Use 'with nap' layouts
Like any fabric with pile, minky has a 'nap' or a directionality to it. This is easily seen by brushing your hand across the fabric. You can both see and feel that in one direction, you're brushing the pile 'backwards,' or making it stand on end, while brushing in the other direction leaves the fibres lying down. This means that it's especially important to make sure you lay out your pattern correctly, so that the nap is lying the same way across your finished project. Your pattern likely came with a 'with nap' option for layout, so be sure to follow it for best results.
5. Leave yourself some room
One of the easiest ways to avoid distorting minky is to cut your pattern pieces slightly larger than necessary. The overhang keeps you from accidentally stretching your pieces as you stitch, and can easily be cut away once your seams are in place. Avoid laying your pieces too close to the selvedge—these tend to be easily distorted.
6. Avoid bulky seams
Fabrics with pile like minky can easily get bulky when stitched in multiple layers. With such a soft fabric, these stiff, awkward seams are immediately apparent, but there are ways to avoid them. With blankets, use bindings instead of stitching and turning. Where multiple seams come together, grade your seam allowances and shave down the pile to keep the fabric flexible.
7. Use a longer stitch
Tight, tiny stitches can leave minky looking puckered, especially on fabrics with longer pile. Use a longer stitch length to give the fabric space to retain its fluffiness. Longer stitches can also help minky retain some of its stretch even once the seams are in place.
8. Pin liberally
With such a soft, stretchy fabric, pins are your friend! Use extra long straight pins or safety pins, as these tend to stay in place better than regular pins. Another alternative is to baste your layers together by hand, using long running stitches, or a light application of a basting spray.
9. Keep flyaways to a minimum
Any fabric with pile is going to be messy to cut. Each snip of scissors or slice of a rotary blade leaves loose fibres that can clog up your sewing machine or rotary cutter. Cut one layer at a time and use a new blade to avoid loosening extra fibres. After each minky project, be sure to clean your sewing machine according to the manufacturer's instructions to keep flyaways from gumming up the mechanism. Avoid using compressed air, as it tends to drive the fine minky fibres deeper into the machine.
10. Use an underlining to reduce stretch
If you're making a project that requires the softness of minky, but without the stretch, you can use a woven fabric, such as cotton, as an interlining to provide extra support. Prewash your underlining, then cut your pattern pieces in first your underlining fabric, then, slightly larger, in minky. Stitch around the edge of your underlining, within the seam allowance, and then treat the layers as a single piece, shaving and grading your seam allowance to reduce bulk.
11. Start with larger seam allowances
It may seem counterintuitive when you're trying to reduce bulk, but given minky's ability to stretch and pull, it's best to start with larger seam allowances—half an inch is a good place to start. From here, the seam allowances can be trimmed or graded down, or, for long, straight seams with few layers, they can be top-stitched down to keep the bulk under control. Using a larger seam allowance initially gives you room to work and helps you avoid stretching or pulling your pieces as you sew. It also gives you space to reinforce your seams if you decide it's necessary.