In this blog:
Please note this is a fairly lengthy blog, but worth every minute, if you are sewing your own.
- Considerations with special occasion fabrics
- Cutting out speciality fabrics
- Sewing tips…
- Caring and cleaning for special occasion fabrics
- Pattern Ideas
When choosing speciality fabrics and patterns consider the following:
The See-Through Factor: – Of course, what sheer speciality fabrics have in common is the fact that you can see through them. When construction details, including seam allowances, darts, hems, facings, and interfacings, show through, it can be distracting and create a very messy look.
The Colour Factor: – Colour and pattern will also factor into your sewing decisions. Lighter colours are more transparent than darker colours. Solid colours show every detail while overall prints and patterns may help distract the eye so that show-through construction details are less apparent. For very soft sheers, especially fragile chiffon, avoid complicated seaming or very fitted styles. Instead, take advantage of the fabric’s drape and choose styles with shirring, gathers, soft pleats, or tucks. Crisper sheers lend themselves nicely to simple styles with a minimum number of seams.
Sheers and other speciality fabrics: voile, batiste, georgette, organza, organdie, chiffon, taffeta, rayon, rayon blends, satin, satin crepe.
Silks: Dupion, Charmeuse, Crepe de Chine, China Silk, Shantung
- silk is relatively robust. Its smooth surface resists soil and odours well. Silk is wrinkle and tear resistant, and it dries quickly.
- Silk takes colour well; washes easily; and is easy to work with.
These fabrics all need care when sewing with them. With the lovely fabrics chosen and pattern in hand read on before you start your exciting project.
Top Tips: As a rule of thumb, the finer the fabric, the finer and sharper your tools should be. The overall rule for sheers is “Test it first on a scrap!” From ironing to cutting to stitching – make sure it’s going to work before you try it on your final project.
- These fabrics are prone to snags and pulls, so it is very important your scissors are super sharp and free of any nicks in the blades. If you prefer using a rotary cutter, insert a fresh blade.
Needles & Pins
- A brand new, fine needle with a sharp point is best. Try a 70/10 or 60/8 size. Needles called “sharps”, “quilting” are good ones to look for.
- Use a size 8 to 11 (60-75) universal needle in your machine.
- Make sure the needle is new, a new needle ensures it goes in cleanly and doesn’t make hooks or pulled threads in the fabric.
Cutting & Pinning
- Slippery, slippery fabrics! Because of this, it is often recommended you cover your regular cutting surface an old sheet then lay the silk over the sheet. The grip of the sheet stops the silk from sliding.
- It’s also a good idea to always cut really slippery fabrics as a single layer rather than double layers. Often the bottom layer moves and will not be an accurate cut.
- Pins can leave behind holes in these fabrics, so if you must pin, do it within the seam allowance so any left-behind holes won’t be seen in the finished project. You can also use small weights to hold the pattern piece firmly.
- Satin can fray so a flat edge seam would be a better way to finish it off. Cut wider seam allowances if you intend to use this method.
- Oddly enough, a polyester thread which is fine enough to meld into the seam and not cause puckering is the most suitable thread to use. Polyester is stronger than a cotton thread of the same thinness.
- Fabric markers and chalk can sometimes be hard to remove from these fabrics. Make sure you do a test mark on a scrap and try to remove it before making any marks on your actual cut pieces.
Seam and fabric strength
- In garment sewing with flimsy fabrics, if you have a seam that is likely to have a stress point (sleeves, crotch, pockets, etc) you can add what is called ‘stay tape’ over the seam.
- Avoid fusible interfacings. Organza is a good alternative.
My fabric layers shift while I’m sewing!
It’s important to control fabric layers as you sew. To achieve that control you must sew slowly. Stop and check to make sure the fabric edges are aligned, then sew again. If you’re still having problems, check the pressure on the foot. Too much pressure can result in puckered fabric and too little will cause the fabric to slip. A walking foot can also help keep the fabric from shifting.
My seams or fabric edges are getting pulled into the machine!
This problem is bound to occur once in a while. Stop the machine. Hand-turn the wheel so the needle is in the up position, clip the threads, and pull the fabric out. Try switching to a straight-stitch foot, which will give the fabric more grip and let the needle go in more smoothly without pulling to the bottom. Also, check to make sure that you’re using the right type of needle. I recommend using a new needle for every project, a new needle ensures it goes in cleanly and doesn’t make hooks or pulled threads in the fabric.
I have skipped stitches!
Stitches are skipped when the needle isn’t able to pierce the fabric cleanly and as a result, doesn’t come in contact with the bobbin thread to form a loop. Always make sure that you are using a new needle, because a dull needle will cause problems no matter what type it is. A new needle ensures it goes in cleanly and doesn’t make hooks or pulled threads in the fabric.
I have puckered stitches!
Stitches pucker because your fabric isn’t feeding evenly, meaning one layer is being pulled in faster than the other. To see if your machine is feeding properly, cut two strips of fabric the same length and run them through the machine. Are they aligned when you’re through? If so, your machine is working well; You can use a walking foot to help with this problem.
Sewing your fabrics
Silk fabrics need special consideration when choosing seam construction. In some cases, such as shantung and Dupioni, the fabric is prone to slippage at the seams. Because of this tendency, it is recommended to use at least a 1⁄2″ (1.3 cm) seam allowance to prevent seam failure. In the case of sheer silks, such as chiffon, georgette, and organza, the transparency of the fabric demands a seam that is attractive inside and out.
Hemming silks can be intimidating when sewing lightweight sheers. The secret is to stay stitch along the first fold line. The stitch strengthens and stabilizes the fold line for the hem, making it easier to press and turn.
Sewing Speed, try sewing slowly (but steadily) to sew precisely without odd waves left/right.
Stitch length, use a shorter stitch length – try 2.0 to 2.5.
Finishing Off, always finish your seams to avoid ravelling. A French seam or a zig-zag rolled seam, or a serged finish are your best choices.
Be careful: Don’t ever backstitch on sheers. This can cause your thread to jam. Instead, try a lockstitch if your machine has one or leave your thread tails long and hand knot the ends. Otherwise, sew your seams like you normally would.
Overlocker hates satin, especially curved edges. I had to set the differential feed to 1.5 to get a good stitch, then press the edge with steam to flatten it.
Solve your problem: If your sewing machine hates sewing these fabrics. Tight seams look bad on anything, but on satin they are horrendous. To stop this from happening, loosen the top thread tension as much as possible without compromising the stitch quality, also reduce foot pressure.
Sewing smoothly: Always keep the fabric taut before and after the foot, as you sew. This produces an even smoother seam. When you are sewing an invisible zip, keep the fabric taut and zip tape loose. This way you’ll avoid fabric gathering along the zip.
Caring for these fabrics
If the garment is voluminous or decorated, then it would be best to retain their crispness and shine, by dry-cleaning. That said, many fabrics can be hand washed, using a mild detergent or baby shampoo, in lukewarm water. Rinse the fabric several times to make sure all soap is removed.
Rather than drying in the dryer, roll the fabric in a towel to absorb excess water, then iron the rest of the way dry on a low setting, use a pressing cloth. If wrinkles are not an issue, simply lay flat to air dry.
Think twice before you place your iron on the face of the satin and push “steam”. Satin might not forgive you such a thing. Steam without touching the fabric. Use pressing cloths if necessary, iron with caution at all times.
The ultimate laundry recourse of the lazy homemaker. It is also the lifesaver for many different types of clothes, which otherwise would have been destroyed by the regular washing at home.
Beaded and sequin clothes should be dry cleaned so that the beaded / sequinned garments retain their glorious look.
Garments with different types of fabric for the outer fabric and lining retain their shape better when dry cleaned. Bridal gowns, prom dresses etc are regularly dry cleaned.
How to hand wash silk fabrics.
- Fill a basin with lukewarm water.
- Add a small amount of mild soap (not detergent) or shampoo.
- Add your silk, and very gently agitate to thoroughly wet the fabric.
- Silk is weaker when wet, so handle carefully when washing.
- Let rest for a few minutes, and then allow the water to drain.
- Gently rinse out the soapy water and then carefully squeeze out the excess; do not wring.
- Roll the silk in a towel to soak up any excess water, and then hang or press with a medium iron to dry.
Before you even start
Do not be tempted skipping these simple steps to be sure you have a good result!
- Pre-wash: usually lace comes heavily glued: this is done in factories to make it up and look good. Always better pre-wash it (and, maybe, let it soak in water for a while, before you rinse it) to get rid of all those chemicals…and make it softer! If you feel like it’s hard to keep it in place while sewing, you can spray starch it like you would do if you were sewing rebel knits.
- Pre-Iron: this goes hand-in-hand with the previous one: before you start laying out your sewing pattern above your fabric (lace, sheer or anything else), give it a good ironing to start with a wrinkle-substrate!
- Iron settings: check your fabric fibre content! Your lace or sheer will be almost certainly made of polyester or nylon… be gentle with heat, No steam, and use a silk organza pressing cloth to prevent your precious fabric from becoming shiny.
Sewing with lace is not at all complicated – if you take the necessary precautions.
- Use a more firm weave fabric at the start of sewing it and then continue on to the lace.
- Sew with a nice narrow zig-zag stitch.
- Use a french seam for a nice even looking seam.
- Use a roller sewing foot.
- Don’t use pins us small binder clips to keep lace together.
- Cut around the motifs instead of cutting straight across.
All lacework on sleeves should be done before the sleeve is constructed. You may want to baste the sleeve together and into the bodice so you can mark the sleeve hem. Then, take the sleeve out and do the lacework while the sleeve is flat. Tips for sewing Lace fabrics.
Pattern selections for special occasions, fabrics available from Croft Mill Fabric online shop.
Read our blog on the perfect party dress.
If you enjoyed reading about our fabrics have a look at our previous blogs on European shirting fabrics, Denim fabrics which includes a free download pattern to make a lovely bucket hat. Learn how best to sew Denim for our introducing Denim fabrics blog.
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