Have you ever passed by a piece of pretty mesh fabric, but decided not to buy it just because you didn’t know how to use it? Well, it’s time to change that.
Mesh fabric has so many potential uses. While it comes with certain challenges, it is not that difficult to sew. So, you shouldn’t waste some good opportunities just because you’re not sure how to deal with this material. After all, we have used various kinds of mesh fabrics for thousands of years. Fishing nets and hammocks are some of the products that can be made of mesh fabric. However, modern mesh fabric for a variety of uses was invented at the end of the 19th century.
British mill owner Lewis Haslam was the first one to come up with an idea to use mesh fabric for garments. The story has it that during a winter walk with his aunt he noticed that her old gloves were riddled with holes. Still, she claimed that her hands were warm. The gloves maintained insulating abilities, while holes provided breathability! So, Lewis Haslam founded a textile company and became the world’s first manufacturer of mesh garments.
I like a good story, but I like sewing more. Let’s see what mesh fabric is, and what you can do with it.
What Is Mesh Fabric?
Mesh is a loosely-woven fabric permeated with thousands of tiny, little holes. It is a lightweight and permeable material. Mesh can be made of almost every material, but typically, it is made of polyester or nylon. These synthetic materials provide wear and tear properties, as well as a useful level of flexibility. However, even metals can be used to create a mesh for industrial use.
Mesh fabric is always very breathable. It is probably the most important property. Furthermore, due to loose weaving or knitting, it is very flexible. Also, it doesn’t trap heat. While wool is the best fabric when it comes to moisture-wicking, polyester is the second-best choice. All these qualities explain why mesh is so popular for sportswear.
Types of Mesh Fabric
While nylon and polyester dominate the industry, producing techniques can be quite different due to different requirements. Obviously, even if you use the same material, you don’t need the same fabric for swimsuits and door screens. So, here’s the list with the basic types of mesh fabric.
Nylon mesh fabric is softer, stronger, and more stretchable than its polyester counterpart. However, it can’t match polyester water-wicking properties. That’s why nylon mesh is not a common choice for apparel. But, tent screens, door screens, mesh bags, and other similar products are usually made of nylon mesh. A beekeeping veil is probably the most notable nylon mesh product.
This is the most frequent kind of mesh fabric. Modern technology allows for constant improvements in polyester fabrics, so they are becoming more and more popular.
While it is not as durable as nylon, it comes with many other advantages. Fantastic breathability and moisture-wicking properties make polyester the most popular material in sportswear. Also, polyester mesh dries really fast. Moreover, it absorbs and retains the color extremely well. It is also water-resistant. So, it’s pretty obvious why polyester mesh is the most common choice.
Tulle is a very fine mesh fabric. It is made of a variety of materials besides polyester and nylon. Silk, rayon, and even cotton are used to make tulle mesh. The most common items made of tulle are veils, gowns, and ballet tutus.
Power mesh is a specific type of mesh fabric, usually made of nylon/polyester and spandex. This combination allows for greater flexibility while retaining high breathability. These qualities make it a perfect fabric for compression garments. It comes in different weights depending on the purpose. You will find this fabric in active wear, dance wear, lingerie, and as a lining fabric.
Finally, mesh is very useful for protection against insects. Specific weaving results in a breathable, transparent, and durable fabric. It is excellent for screen tents, screen doors, and windows. Furthermore, it is often a fabric of choice for several types of camping equipment.
Uses of Mesh Fabric
As you can see, different mesh fabrics offer a variety of properties. So, it is only natural that mesh fabric should find its use in a wide array of fields. It has become a common material even in medical industries. Mesh nets are commonly used in surgical procedures to provide support for organs and tissues. Anyway, it’s not the kind of stitching we’re interested in, but it shows the versatility of this incredible material.
When it comes to apparel, mesh fabric made a breakthrough in sportswear, first. Thanks to quick drying, high breathability, lightweight, and water-wicking ability, it took the sports industry by storm. And as time goes by, it only gets stronger.
A vast majority of sports jerseys are made of some kind of mesh material. But, it’s not restricted to professional sports. You can use mesh fabric to make shirts, shorts, leggings, and tops. Basically, mesh fabric is among the top choices for any kind of activewear.
I’ve already mentioned that technological advancements provide new ways of using mesh. Flexibility and breathability of power mesh have instigated a revolution in shapewear.
Power mesh conforms to body contours very well. The addition of compressing ability allows you to transform the shape of your body. It can help you to conceal a couple of extra pounds, to tighten or lift parts of your body. While we did use some tricks to enhance the appearance of our bodies since forever, those solutions were quite uncomfortable. With mesh fabric, you get the result and it feels good. What else could you ask for?
How about bras and lingerie? It is a demanding industry in so many ways. Underwear needs to be soft and comfy. So, only the best materials can provide comfort, breathability, and a lack of irritation. Once again, high-quality mesh fabrics are up to the task. Power mesh provides support while allowing flexibility and breathability. A 4-way stretch is also helpful.
You’re probably not going to sew your own tent or fishing net. Still, mesh fabric is the top choice for a vast number of net products so it has to be mentioned.
Tips for Sewing With Mesh Fabric
Working with mesh can be easy. However, there are certain steps and precautions to make it a breeze.
How to Prepare Your Fabric
First of all, you need to prewash it. It’s generally a necessary step that many inexperienced and even seasoned sewists often overlook. Make sure to follow the care and wash instructions provided by your retailer. Most mesh fabrics can be machine washed at low temperatures, but some of them need to be hand washed in cold water.
Cutting of mesh fabric can be challenging. It’s slippery and stretchy. So, I recommend using a rotary cutter and a healing mat for more precise cuts. And don’t try to cut two layers at once! No matter how skillful you are, you may ruin your fabric in the process.
As for pressing, I don’t recommend it. Usually, it is not necessary for synthetic fabrics. However, if you really feel like you have to do it to make it flat, use the lowest setting.
How to Sew Mesh Fabric
Mesh fabric, especially power mesh is stretchable and slippery. When it comes to stretchy fabrics, a ball-point needle is the best choice. These needles have a rounded tip so they are not as sharp. This allows them to easily slide between the yarns of the fabric.
Stretchy fabrics also require stronger threads. A polyester thread is stronger than cotton. So, use all-purpose polyester thread.
You should also loosen the presser foot pressure a little bit. It will help you to avoid unwanted stretches when sewing.
Now, you’re ready to start sewing. Sew a little bit slower than you usually do. Do it carefully and try to keep a steady pace. This way, you will be able to avoid bunching and puckering.
As for stitches, a narrow zigzag stitch will provide a better feed and easier sewing. You should also use a shorter stitch length.
Any fabric with open weaves is easier to sew if you use a tear-away or wash-away stabilizer.
It is best to use a serger to finish seams and hems. If you’re using a conventional sewing machine, use a twin needle.
And that’s about it! It’s not rocket science. Just like any other stretchy and slippery fabric, you just need to be a little bit more careful.
Mesh fabric is a durable and versatile material. While athletic jerseys are probably the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of mesh, you can use it for a wide variety of projects. Just make sure you purchase the type that fits your project. Power mesh is probably the most common and most versatile type.
I prefer to use it for activewear and lingerie, but don’t let it stop you from experimenting and trying something else. Tulle is a beautiful type of mesh fabric for veils and gowns.
Now, you know all you need to know to start a new chapter of your sewing adventures. Let your imagination run free and enjoy it!