Sewing Tips - Frequently Asked Questions


By Pegg Johnson - updated 02-01-18

This document is a collaboration between several members of the Face Book Group - CREATING SHOW CLOTHES ON A BUDGET.

We noticed that there were several questions being asked repeatedly. We cataloged them and hope these quick answers will help you get started. The answers are by no means all inclusive or detailed. More detailed information can be gathered by asking questions or purchasing instructional sewing books and DVDs. If you have any additional FAQs – please PM me and I will update the list.


Applique is the additional swirls, scrolls, overlays, etc that you add to your garment to enhance its appearance.

· Applique fabric(s) – can be made from leather, ultra suede, pleather, beaded lace, lace, deconstructed lace, rhinestones, shimmer sheets, pre-made formal wear pieces, etc. – basically any non-fraying fabric

· Applique designs – Designs are available through SuitAbility (pattern 6360), Hobby Horse’s DVD (, Show Clothes Unlimited’s appliqué pattern book, clip art, etc. Ordinary patterns can be converted to appliqué designs if you use a little imagination.

· Applique cutting – Most people hand cut their appliqués. There are several home based cutting machines available, (currently the Brother Scan N Cut is the most popular) Applique cutting services are listed in the FILES tab within this group

· Applying appliqué – There are several ways to apply your appliqué. The method you use will depend upon your fabric, your garment fabric and your personal preference. Heat n Bond and Wonder Under are two methods of applying your appliqué. Temporary adhesive spray will hold most fabrics while you stitch the appliqué to your garment, although shimmer sheets are iron on.


Boot dyeing is best done by professionals who have experience preparing the boots and mixing dyes that are leather friendly and durable. Some of you will think that getting acrylic or other paint from the local paint store will do the job just fine. It will – for the short haul – and ruin your boots in the process.


· Fabric – (pre-cutting) Lycra, Spandex and their blends do not need to be washed prior to cutting. However twills, gabardines and other fabrics, especially if they have any shrink factor, must be washed and dried prior to cutting.

Ultra suede should be washed and dried prior to use in order to remove excess dyes. Cold water and salt is said to help preserve the color fastness and brilliance.

· Garment – The garment should be taken care of and only worn while in the arena. Once rhinestones and appliqué are applied to the garment, its washability becomes difficult. Hand washing is always recommended for the lycra and spandex shirts with rhinestones. Garments that are more embellished will do better with spot cleaning. Know that once a garment has been embellished, you can generally no longer take it to the dry cleaners for cleaning. The cleaning solvent from a dry cleaner eats the glue and thus dislodges the rhinestones.


Chaps are made from either ultra suede or leather (includes lambskin, cow hide, pig skin, calf skin, etc)

· Chap extenders - when chaps are too tight, there are several ways to fix it. Hobby Horse now sells the sideways stretching chap elastic. Zip in chap extenders are available. You can use neoprene or some people use heavy duty lycra/spandex or other heavy stretch fabric.


· Horsemanship – Horsemanship shirts are generally body hugging embellished shirts. Most youth shirts are back zipped and tucked in. Fabrics generally are any stable stretch fabric such as a heavy weight lycra, ottoman, ponte de roma, etc.

· Pleasure – Pleasure shirts are also referred to as rail shirts. They are generally brightly colored and patterned lycra/spandex , front zipped shirts with the traditional collar. Cuffs were a part of the show scene for many years but are losing favor in the larger circuits. Depending upon which circuit or level of showing, you might not see these shirts at all.

· Showmanship – color coordinated or matching jacket and pants made from twills, stretch twills, gabardines, ponte de roma, ottoman – other bottom weight fabrics. Depending upon the show organization, you may opt for a shirt and pants instead of a jacket.

· Vest – brocades, laces, lace overlays on another fabric, some cottons.

· Fabrics NOT to use – Do not use any fabric that frays for chaps. Do not use stretchy fabrics for patterns that require stable fabrics. Do not use non-stretch fabrics where stretch is clearly indicated as a requirement. Some silks, satins and sateens are too care intensive to use in show clothing.


Most people find their own source for their equestrian wear. A simple Google search for the type of fabric you want is your best course of action. You can purchase your fabric from big box stores, but be aware that not all stores carry all fabrics. Also, you run a greater chance of having the exact same fabric in your shirt as another person in your sewing/showing area.


· Shirts: should be body hugging without being revealing. You do not want excessive fabric bulging through the back. This goes for both men and women.

· Jackets:are designed to fit approximately 1 inch larger around the body than a shirt does.

· Pants/Chaps: when measuring for pants and chaps, measurements MUST be taken over the type of boot that is going to be worn. Wide top boots can cause problems with the lay of the pant leg or chap leg. Boot tops can be folded sideways (taking the excess out of them) and secured with duct tape or vet wrap.

Homemade vs. handmade – As long as the garment looks well done and fits the wearer, homemade/handmade is perfectly alright. The problem is that a bad connotation has been connected to homemade; inferring that it is inferior. Quality work is quality work—period.


Fabric product used to create stiffness in front facings, collars and cuffs. Sew in and iron-in versions are available in different weights.


Leather is sold by the square foot. Depending upon your resource, you may have to purchase at least ½ of a hide, but more likely a full hide for an adult pair of chaps. Leather costs around $7 per square foot. It also comes in different weights. The event you compete in will determine the weight of the leather or Ultrasuede you need for your chaps. (See information on Ultrasuede below.)


You must use a needle that works with your machine and the fabric that you are using. Lycra and spandex are NOT knits. Some machines will sew on lycra/spandex with a knit (ball point) needle while other machines will skip stitches. Try using a universal needle. Knits should be sewn with a ball point needle. Leather (for chaps) should be sewn with either a leather or universal needle. Leather (for appliqué) is lighter weight and can be sewn with a sharp or universal needle.


· Altering patterns – most people cannot use a pattern as it comes from the envelope. You must alter the pattern to fit your measurements. Measure accurately and apply those measurements to the pattern.Trace the pattern to create your personalized pattern.

· Tracing Fabric – Each person will develop their own preference; suggestions below:

o Pattern Ease or Tru Grid– available at JoAnn Fabrics (can be written on and can be sewn or pinned together for sizing/altering pattern)

o Swedish tracing paper

o Medical paper– the kind used to cover the tables at the doctor’s office

o Other papers – wax paper, tissue paper, craft paper, newspaper blanks, gift wrap paper, presentation paper

· Measuring for patterns – measure over the type of clothing that you will wear under your shirts, jackets, pants and chaps. Even small variations could cause your finished garment to not fit as anticipated. When measuring for pants and chaps, measurements MUST be taken over the type of boot that is going to be worn. Wide top boots can cause problems with the lay of the pant leg or chap leg. Boot tops can be folded sideways (taking the excess out of them) and secured with duct tape or vet wrap. (Yes, this was important enough that it is in two places)

If you can’t see through the paper to trace your pattern, tape the original and the tracing paper to a large window or use a light box.


There are several equestrian wear sewing pattern companies:

· Show Clothes Unlimited (,

· SuitAbility (available through Show Clothes Unlimited or PDF versions on Etsy),

· Lola Gentry (

· Buckaroo Bobbins (

· Tandy/Leather Factory

· Also look to the standard sewing companies for patterns that may work for what you desire. The advantage of using patterns designed for equestrian wear is that they take into account the additional muscling athletes have and also geared towards fabric with stretch or give.

· PDF Patterns: Patterns that are sent to you via email. You download the file and print it out from your home computer/printer. The individual pages are then pieced (taped) together to give you a full size pattern. Available from:

· Show Clothes Unlimited

· SuitAbility .pdf patterns are available on Etsy – Suitability Epatterns.


Equestrian wear patterns have no correlation to street wear clothing sizing. You MUST use your body measurements to determine what size pattern to use.


Grades (i.e.: quality) of rhinestones/crystals:

· Swarovski – highest quality made from lead crystal (why they are called “crystals”)

· Preciosa – one step down from Swarovski (also lead crystal)

· Cut Glass – what can I say – it is glass

· DMC – cut glass product with various "grades" (steps of quality)

· Acrylic – molded plastic

· Lead free – certified non-lead or low-lead product. (Designed to comply with CPSIA regulations for use in products for children 12 years or younger.)

1 gross = 144 rhinestones. Most rhinestones are purchased by the gross. 10 gross packages are also available.

AB = aurora borealis crystals – named after the northern lights from the North Pole area because of the way these crystals reflect other colors and sparkle from a distance.

Colored crystals come in both regular and AB. Colored AB crystals tend to look darker than a regular colored crystal, but reflect more than regular colors.

Clear = clear crystals – no reflective properties. Good for fillers or set next to an AB crystal.


Round rhinestones are measured in "ss" also called stone size. The smaller the number, the smaller the size of the stone. Sew on rhinestones are usually purchased by the dozen. Sew on and shaped rhinestones are measured by "mm" (millimeter)


· Dreamtime Creations

· The Rhinestone Guy

· MJ Trim

· Creative Crystals

· Other resources can be found on EBay but it is hard to verify what quality you are purchasing.


· Hot affix – the rhinestones come with heat activated glue already attached to them. You apply them with the use of a hot affix wand. You pick up the stone with the wand, allow the glue to liquefy and then place it on your garment. Although many people place the rhinestone on the garment and then apply the heat, this is not the way it is supposed to be done.

· Glue on – the rhinestones require the use of a glue such as Ailene’s, Gem Tac, Fabri tac, E-6000, etc. The glue must be suitable to be used for both rhinestones and the fabric. Place dots of glue on the garment. Use a pick stick (stick with beeswax on end) to pick up the rhinestone and place on the glue dot. The glue dot is stronger than the beeswax and grabs the stone. Recommended video: You Tube -

· Rim set – Metal prongs that are applied over the stone, go down through the fabric with the prongs crimped underneath. Tiffany sets are similar except the metal part goes from the underside of the fabric, up around the stone and is crimped against the stone. Both versions are applied with a Bedazzler, hand press, or foot press machine.


Every pattern has a designated seam allowance. This is the distance that you are supposed to sew from the raw edge of your garment as you assemble it. If you sew ¾ of an inch when the pattern seam allowance is 1/2 inch – your garment could be too small/tight when completed. Conversely, if your seam allowance is3/4 inch and you sew 1/8 or1/4 inch – your garment will be too large.


Show clothing can be sewn with any standard (but good quality) sewing machine. You may wish to have the convenience of a button hole maker, but other than that, you will really just need a machine that stitches forward, reverses, has a stretch stitch and will do a zig zag. Fancy stitches, embroidery capabilities may be desired, but are rarely used.

Do not use a regular machine to sew leather unless the machine is rated to sew leather. You do not need a commercial machine to sew leather appliques but your regular machine must be rated to do so if you want to sew leather.If you want to create leather chaps, you need to be sure that the machine is guaranteed to sew leather as the hides are very thick when layered.


There are numerous feet that come with, or can be purchased for, your sewing machine. Important feet to have are:

· standard foot

· zipper foot

· button hole maker

· and possibly a rolled hem foot

· many people also recommend a walking foot for slick surfaced fabric, vinyl or leather


There are several members in the group who offer sewing classes. There are also sewing retreats, books, and instructional DVDS available through Show Clothes Unlimited. You can also buy online and DVD courses through, and


A serger machine uses 3, 4, or 5 threads to create your sewn seam with a finished edge. The machine cuts excess fabric from the seam allowance while serging the seam. You may sew the seam allowance and then stitch with a serger or you may use the serger only. Not necessary for home sewing products. Desired for fabrics that fray. Necessity for products that will be sold – (customer perception requires it).

You will always need a standard sewing machine for show clothing to do certain features such as collars, zippers, and topstitching.


· Ultra suede is a trade-marked, brand name, man-made product that does not fray. It is different from suede, leather suede, mirco-suede. It is sold by the yard (like fabric) and costs around $50 per yard for ultra suede soft.

· Ultra suede HP is wider and heavier and retails for around $85 per yard. The only way you will find it cheaper is if someone is liquidating their store or stash.

· Suedecloth has the appearance of suede, but is a woven fabric so it frays. It is NOT recommended for chaps because it frays.


· Shirt zipper – this zipper is a personal choice between molded and coiled teeth. Generally you will use a separating zipper. Basic colors of molded plastic teethzipper are available at local fabric stores, but coiled and any zipper over 18 inches must be ordered online. Depending upon your choice, you may want to use a #3 coil zipper, a #5 zipper, or even a small metal zipper.

· Invisible zipper – these zippers are not seen once the garment is zipped (i.e.: they look like a seam). They are available in separating and non-separating versions. Non-separating are available at most fabric stores, but separating must be special ordered from one of the resourced listed below. (A special zipper foot is required for invisible zippers and is less than $5.00 at most local fabric stores.)

· #5 chap zipper – medium weight metal zipper. (Acceptable for use on ultra suede soft show chaps.)

· #10 chap zipper – heavy duty metal zipper. (Necessity in leather chaps or ultra suede HP chaps.)