How to: sewing vs gluing

To sew or glue? That is the the question. Although not quite up there with the meaning of life, it’s a question that continues to plague me. I’m pretty sure you’ll have experienced the same quandary when faced with a DIY project, in which you’re tossing up the merits of sewing or gluing it. Making the right choice is often the difference between an item that’ll become a staple in your wardrobe, and one that’s destined to end up in a bag outside your local thrift store after your next cull or worse, in the bin. Although there isn’t a foolproof no-thinking-required method of deciding, I wanted to share my thoughts on the matter – mainly gleaned from making every mistake possible under the sun in my years of DIYing.  You live and learn right? I made you a little reference chart too – bookmark/save/pin it for future crafternoons!

sew or glue3

When to Sew

  • Basically when making clothing: To be on the safe side, these days when the project I’m working on is a piece of clothing my mind usually goes straight to sewing. There are times when gluing may be a better alternative, but if you start out thinking sewing and decide on gluing through a process of elimination you’re going to  generally get a better end product.
  • Garments from scratch: Sewing is pretty much the only way to make pieces from scratch. Full stop.
  • Altering/Reworking garments: It may be possible to alter garments by gluing them but if you want them to last, don’t even think about it. Remember that recurring nightmare you had where you walked down the street naked? Well it’s kind of like that but this is more of a clothes falling off in a restaurant situation. If the garment you are making requires a strong, washable bond between the two surfaces, and you can sew it, then that’s usually the best choice. Basically sewing is the jam for when you are looking for a high quality finish for your item.
  • Adding trimming or embellishments to garments: Ok so this is one where many of us have gone with the glue in the past, and yes it can work and is often fantastically quick. That said, if you want to create a wardrobe that will look great and last for years and years, take a little more time and get your needle and thread out. You’ll be so glad you did in the end.
  • Adding pieces of fabrics to garments: Embellishing with sequins, silk or other fabrics? The best way to go here is to sewing. I’d love to tell you don’t bother with sewing, but increasing my skills in the sewing department (even though I am still a lay man at best) has led to much better projects than I wouldn’t have managed without. In this case, if possible turn over the edges of the fabric you are adding to stop fraying.
  • Best for: Fabrics, some leather projects, adding trimmings and embellishments to garments.

When to glue Glue

  • When making accessories: Shoes, bags and jewelry items like that are the perfect time to use glue. There are obviously also going to be times where it isn’t possible to sew an item together (the hardness/size of the material you’re working with) and gluing is the best method.
  • Hems of leather: Did you know that even professionals sometimes glue leather hems rather than sewing them? It all depends on the finish they want but that makes it perfect for DIYers. It’s great because leather can be difficult to sew, particularly thick leather. Fabric glue is encouraged but I’ve also used plain PVA glue before with a satisfactory result. It’s best tp glue and then press the hem down with books to set it overnight.
  • When adding embellishments to accessories made out of plastic, glass or metal: These types of projects are the perfect time to use glue, preferably a strong quick drying gel type like E6000.
  • Glitter to leather or plastic: This one’s pretty obvious, PVA glue works well in this situation.
  • Detailed projects: Sometimes the project you are doing is so detailed that sewing it could take you an eternity. Don’t put off a great project just because it’s a big one, personally I think it’s fine to use glue in these situations, as long you are you are happy for it not to last til the end of your days – and are careful when washing.
  • When you don’t know how to sew: Not everyone can sew, and although it’s a skill you’ll have for life once you learn it, start out doing what you can and you’ll quickly pick up everything you need. I made lots of projects the easy way using fabric glue when I was starting out, in my opinion every project is a lesson learnt and you’re only going to get better!.
  • When you’re out of timeOnly got a few minutes to do a quick update to a necklace? This is the perfect time to use glue.
  • Best for: Plastic, wood, glitter, metal, glass, leather, pvc, wood.

Toss a coin (aka you decide):

  • When attaching fabrics to accessories: sometimes glue will work just as well as sewing, and is also time sensitive, but that will come down to how you’re feeling.
  • Rhinestones/beads to leather: Sewing or gluing  both work, but for me it depends on the quality of the rhinestones/beads and the leather you are sewing it to – if the rhinestones are expensive crystal ones or the bag cost a mint (like this project) I often sew them on, as it’s less risky because glue can ruin both easily. But if both are I think cheap glue works fine.
  • Fabric to leather: Embellishing boots other other leather products with can be quick with glue, but longer lasting with sewing. Take your pick.
  • Leather to fabric: Adding leather embellishments to a shirt, dress of other garment? Once again glue and sewing both work but gluing is quick whilst sewing is long lasting. Toss a coin or choose depending on how much time you have.

Ok so that’s my take on the question of whether to sew or glue. Do you ever have projects you can’t decide on or have you ever made a mistake (we all have don’t worry!). I would love to hear your take on the sewing vs gluing debate – cos you know, it’s raging.