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by Irina Novgorodskaya
June 25, 2020
Silk is a very beautiful and expensive fiber and fabrics made from it, such as chiffon, georgette, crepe de chine, fine atlas silk and others, are difficult to cut and sew. I will reveal some dressmaking tips and tricks about sewing silk fabric which can help you to overcome these difficulties.
First of all, the majority of silk fabrics cannot be washed because they will lose their characteristic qualities. That’s why it’s best to iron silk fabric on “silk” iron setting before cutting it. Test the fabric by ironing a small corner first to see if there are any marks left from using the steam. If there are marks left, then iron the silk without steam.
By the way, the famous Belgian designer, Dries Van Noten, was the first to introduce natural silk in everyday wear in his collection in 1994. Before that, silk was used mainly for evening wear. He even washed his silks in the washing machine so they looked slightly crinkled and got that signature “worn” look. You could use the same technique to remove the overly posh look from your clothes.
The next difficult step is cutting the fabric. Fine silk fabrics are slippery and they are moving on the cutting table constantly, sometimes even from breathing and coughing. That’s why it’s difficult to mark on the silk using tailor’s chalk. Couture houses use this method: a thick white cotton cloth is stretched over a cutting table and then silk is placed over it.
If you are planning to wash your silk garment, you can also use spray stabilizers. Silk will become harder and easier to cut. You can even go ahead and sew the full garment with the stabilizer still on and once you are finished, you can just wash off the starch.
Another difficulty you may experience is with seam finishes. Use super thin machine needles and fine thread while stitching. It’s important to use basting with very fine sewing needles before stitching on the machine. There are special seams you can use to finish fine fabrics, such as French seam. For hemming, you can use narrow hems, such as pin hem, felled hem, or overlock.
All these difficulties can be overcome with patience and practice. But the result is a unique silk garment which brings you joy and wows those around you.
About the Author:
Irina Novgorodskaya has 20 years of fashion design experience, including experience as a guest designer for brand name clothing companies. In addition, she has 10 years of experience making garments for individual customers at a fashion atelier.
Irina has been teaching fashion design, construction and technology for the past 8 years.
Why should I make a mockup or toile when I have a pattern? Isn’t it overkill? This concern comes up often so I think it’s important to clarify the importance of making a mockup, or a test run of your garment, also known as the toile or muslin.
Your mockup should be a shell of your garment that you can actually try on complete with zipper, collar, pockets, sleeves and any relevant pieces of detail, such as marked or drawn placements of your buttons and buttonholes, and even a rough drawing of applique, embroidery or beadwork.