We just got a huge shipment of "famous American designer" silk prints at the Mood Fabrics NYC store. All the more reason to try your hand at sewing with silk.
Do you suffer from silkaphobia? You know, fear of sewing silks. You can admit it, because this phobia is actually quite common. Just look at all the people who entered our recent silk giveaway, only to comment that they hadn't sewn silk before because they were afraid of it.
Readers, I also once suffered from silkaphobia. But I got over it and so can you, because silk is too beautiful and classic a fabric not to have in your repertoire. Today I'm sharing a few simple tips that helped me overcome my fear of silk:
Go pick up the excellent fabric guides
by Claire Shaeffer and Sandra Betzina: Claire Shaeffer's Fabric Sewing Guide
and More Fabric Savvy
by Sandra Betzina. Both are great resources.
Invest in real pattern weights
like the professionals use. The accuracy of my cutting greatly improved once I bought these weights, which you can find online at sewing supply sources. (Do not, I repeat, do not use food cans to hold down your pattern when you are cutting out silk. Ask me about the lovely ring that's subtly imprinted on my gray silk-blend jacket.) Heavy weights keep all fabrics, especially slippery fabrics like silks, securely in place when you are cutting.
I love my iron pattern weights! The handle allows you to hold them securely so you don't drop them on your toes (ouch).
In lieu of professional pattern weights and if your silk is shifty, pin your silk in a single layer to tissue paper
or other lightweight plain paper. Pin silk to paper around the edges and in the center, but only in places that aren't a part of your pattern. Pin holes can show and mar your lovely silk.
Use the right needle for your type of silk.
This is a mandate for all fabrics but especially so for silks. Test results with a 60/8 needle and polyester thread, not silk thread. A Microtex needle may work well but I often have equally good results with a Universal needle.
The hallmark of a well-made garment is in the pressing
, and this holds true for silk. Always use a pressing cloth. I'm partial to my silk organza press cloths, which I made by buying a yard of white silk organza, cutting it into large squares, and then serging the edges. If your iron spits or drips water, empty the water out completely and use a dry iron: Don't risk water spots. Press your seams flat first to meld the stitches into your silk, then press them open. To prevent show-through ridges from appearing on the right side when pressing seams open, use a wooden seam stick pressing tool like the ones made by Golden Hands.
Test everything first on a large scrap of your silk.
Needle, size, stitch length, pressing and marking. Make sure your marking method completely disappears on a scrap before you try it on your garment; plain old chalk may be your best bet.
Plan your seam finish before you sew.
I could fill up pages with all the different types of seam finishes you could use on silks. For the silk maxi skirt I just made I sewed French seams, which work best on straight seams with no curves and on lightweight silks. I've also hand-overcast my silk seams, and on 4-ply silk I've pressed open, stitched close to the edge of the seam, then pinked the edges. Do not serge or zigzag on lighter-weight silks--your machine will be too likely to eat your silks.
Don't you just hate when you practically have to take your machine apart because your fabric was eaten at the start or end of a seam
? Here's a trick: Begin your seam on a small strip of paper that overlaps with your silk and continue sewing onto the fabric. When you're done just tear away the paper and knot the thread ends together. Never backstitch to secure a seam; just clip the threads and tie a knot in them and your machine won't eat your fabric.
Watch how you hold your pieces together when sewing seams.
As I mentioned earlier, pins leave holes in silk. If you pin, do so in the seams where the holes won't show. I keep meaning to try out Clover's WonderClips; let me know if you've used and liked them and I'll see about stocking them here at Mood.
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I hope these tips make you a little less apprehensive about sewing silks. Silk is such a rich and timeless fabric that I bet you'll find your handmade silk garments never end up in a bag for Goodwill. Do you have any tips for sewing silk fabrics?
Please feel free to share your silk sewing tips here. Thanks!