If you have a child with sensory processing disorder, you know how difficult it is to find clothing that is comfortable. I have autistic children who have sensory sensitivities, making certain types of clothing very uncomfortable. I have found that sewing clothing in comfortable fabrics can help, however, some children are sensitive to certain types of seams too. As every SPD child is different, you will need to conduct a sensory test to find the seam types that will work best with each child. This article describes various seam options and how to test them in order to sew sensory friendly seams.
Step 1) Create Seam Samples in Your Project Scrap Fabric
Before you start, be sure that the individual finds your selected fabric comfortable against their skin. You may know that certain fabrics will or will not be problematic based on what the individual already wears and finds comfortable. If you are not sure, have the individual pre-approve the feel of the fabric.
For woven fabric that will fray:
Regular stitch with serged edges
Regular stitch with zigzagged edges
I didn’t take a photo of this one, but it is similar to the photo above. A straight stitch is used on the seam line, and then the edge is finished with a zigzag stitch instead of serging.
French seams are usually sewn with a 1/4″ seam allowance wrongs sides together and then a 3/8″ seam allowance on the same seam, but right sides together. If your pattern has less than a 5/8th seam allowance, you may need to increase the seam allowance when you are cutting out your project.
The image above is of the inside of the project. Curves can be a little tricky with french seams, so I used this stitch on the curved part of the pajama pants. To sew a flat-felled seam, stitch along your seam line. The fabric is two layers. Trim one of the layers in the seam allowance to just under a 1/4″. Fold the larger layer over to encase the cut layer and sew down.
I don’t have a sample of bound seams, but you can bind any seam using bias tape or a strip of cotton lycra fabric. The finish is very posh. CLICK HERE for a tutorial and images on the Colette blog.
For non-fraying stretch fabric
For non-fraying woven fabric
You can just sew a straight regular stitch. There is no need to finish the edges.
Step 2: Test the Seam Samples.
Have the sensory sensitive individual you are sewing test the sample seams on their skin. Have them tell you which ones are comfortable for them.
Conclusion on Sensory Friendly Seams
If you are sewing for autistic individuals or individuals who have sensitivities to textures, a sensory seam test will let you know what types of seams are comfortable for them. Sensory friendly seams will make clothing more comfortable for individuals with sensory sensitivities. My three autistic children have sensory sensitivities to textures. Tags and traditional waistbands are problematic for all of them. One of my children is especially sensitive, and the seam test help me know how to sew clothes for her that she would find comfortable and actually wear. For this child, serging is too itchy. For woven I use french seams or flat-felled seams. For knits I just use a stretch stitch on my regular sewing machine.