Soft-shell, the universal fabric for sports, leisure and outdoor clothing. Soft-shell jackets are especially popular. If you’re interested in sewing something to see you through any weather, we have a few tips and tricks as well as some important things you should know about soft-shell fabric:
Soft-shell - a must have for outdoor enthusiasts
Soft-shell fabric is especially popular with lovers of the great outdoors. Soft-shell is often made up of two or three different laminated membrane layers. Usually, the outer layer is made of a durable and robust material that insulates the inner lining and transports moisture. These are usually fibres with good moisture transport that don’t absorb a lot of moisture themselves e.g. polyester, polyamide or polypropylene. These fabrics are especially robust and have a range of properties:
- water vapour permeable/moisture wicking
- permanently water-resistant
- permanently stain-resistant
If you plan on going out in very cold weather, it’s worth adding an extra layer of warmth to your sewing project and lining your soft-shell fabric with a warm fabric like fleece. Soft-shell is often used for jackets worn by outdoor sportspeople.
Soft-shell is very lightweight, and combines the functions of an outer and middle layer. A soft-shell jacket can therefore be seen as a compromise between a fleece jacket and a raincoat: nice and warm inside but waterproof on the outside.
Sewing soft-shell fabric
Our tip: Its laminated fibres mean that soft-shell fabric isn’t suitable for standard pins. It’s much easier to use self-adhesive Wonder Tape. Simply tape your pattern pieces together, and sew as instructed. The residual glue will be removed when you wash the garment, meaning your final soft-shell garment will be perfect. Wonder Clips would also be great.
Consider carefully before you sew each seam, as your soft-shell fabric will have permanent holes in it from the stitching if you have to get out your seam ripper. Make sure you use a good-quality thread to avoid skipped stitches. As it’s much smoother, the thread will “glide” through the thick fabric more easily. It’s also a good idea to use a new needle, as it will pierce the fabric much more easily than a dull needle.
If considering fabric that’s more than 4mm thick, you should order a sample beforehand to be on the safe side. Generally, a 90 to 100 size universal needle should suffice. If you’re sewing very thin soft-shell fabric, we suggest microtex needles.
Soft-shell fabric doesn’t fray, so you don’t have to finish your seams. It does look much cleaner if you finish your edges with a standard overlocker. This also makes your seams lie flatter.
You should adjust the height of your sewing machine foot when sewing thick or uneven seams.
You can use a folded piece of paper under the other side of the machine foot to increase the height.
- Avoid skipped stitches: use high-quality thread and a new needle (size 90-100)
- You don’t have to finish the edges on soft-shell
- Use a folded piece of paper to adjust the height of your presser foot
Caring for soft-shell fabric
It’s important to care for soft-shell properly in order to maintain the soft-shell membrane layers. Before you wash your completed soft-shell garment, make sure you check the washing instructions for your fabric. Care instructions may vary for different fabrics depending on the fibres used.
Generally, soft-shell should only be washed when completely necessary. It’s usually enough to just brush the fabric with a soft brush or wipe it with a cloth for light soiling.
If you’d like to wash your soft-shell clothing, make sure you wash it with no other garments in the machine. Don’t use any washing powder or fabric softener, or you could block the membrane’s pores. Laundry liquid designed for delicates is ideal. Only wash at a low temperature, and don’t use a spin cycle.
It’s best to let soft-shell fabric air-dry. A tumble drier could damage the soft-shell membrane layers. You don’t generally have to iron soft-shell - but if you do, use a very low heat.
You can also use a standard waterproofing spray on your soft-shell fabric.
Sewing ideas for soft-shell fabric
There are almost no limits to your creativity. It’s up to you if you want to use your soft-shell fabric to make a sturdy outdoor jacket or water-proof and stain-resistant overalls for your little one. Soft-shell is also great for use in sportswear and leisure wear.
You can even dress your four-legged friend in soft-shell. Some dogs can freeze in the cold weather. A breathable, insulating coat would be a great winter must-have for your pooch. The laminated membrane on one side and the synthetic fibres on the other side of soft-shell fabric attract much fewer pet hairs then a fleecy fabric.
To sum it up...
If you’re looking for a sturdy, robust and comfortable fabric that will fend off any weather, soft-shell is perfect for you. If you’re thinking of buying soft-shell fabric from our online shop, here is an overview of the benefits:
- Sturdy hand, functional, robust material: perfect for outdoor clothing
- Soft-shell fabric is easy to work with and care for: simple seams, no seam finish necessary, seldom needs to be washed, dries quickly and wrinkle-free