Sewing silk made easy! As smooth as silk is the way to describe this exotic, luxury fabric that originally came from the East. Its texture is smooth and soft to the touch and it feels like the queen of all fabrics. This tutorial will show you step by step how to sew silk to get great, smooth results.
Sewing Silk Tutorial
A successful journey with sewing silk can only mean one thing…a lot of preparation. This journey can be set in the right direction by following some tried and tested tips that will help you get the best result from your very special fabric.
Taking shortcuts could cost you the outcome you were hoping, for so get ready, set, and be prepared for the art of sewing silk.
What You Will Need to Sew Silk
- FABRIC -Silk Fabric. There are many types of silk fabrics. Most used for home sewing are either lightweight fabrics or medium weight.
- CUTTING TOOLS - Scissors or rotary cutter and cutting mat
- SILK PINS
- FINE MACHINE NEEDLES
- PRESSING CLOTH
Is Silk Hard to Sew?
Silk is not hard to sew however you do need to do more to prepare the silk fabric for sewing. Success in sewing silk is all about having the right needles, thread, and stitch length and taking some extra steps to prepare seams from slipping and fraying.
Sewing Silk, Step by Step Instructions
Step 1 - Prepare the Silk Fabric for Sewing
The first step on the journey you are about to take is preparing the fabric. Silk is a delicate fabric remember and so it needs special care even before you pick up scissors, pins, or needles.
PRE-WASH - It is advisable to pre-wash the fabric exactly the way you will wash the finished garment as silk can shrink. If your silk is marked dry clean only, then you can skip this step as you won't be washing it.
PRESSING - Press with a cool, dry iron using a presser cloth. Don’t use steam as silk can get a watermark easily. Make sure your iron is clean.
TEST A SCRAP - Test drive this process on a scrap. Then when you are sure of how to best prep your fabric, give the whole piece the pre-wash treatment. It is even worth your while to buy a bit of extra fabric so you have enough to test each process.
Step 2 - Layout the Pattern and Cut the Silk
The trouble with silk is it is slippery – smooth and slippery! Laying out the pattern and cutting is tricky. Scissors can slip and go off course and the material can slide around and not be cut accurately.
How to Cut Silk Tips:
USE SILK PINS - You will get the best results with special silk pins. Don’t skimp and get holes left in your fabric by using thick pins. Otherwise, instead of pins, use pattern weights or cans from your pantry to weigh down the fabric. Pin into the seam allowance to avoid pinholes.
CUTTING TOOLS FOR SILK - Use a rotary cutter and cutting mat instead of scissors. Make sure the blade is sharp and new.
STOP SLIPPING - Tissue paper put between the layers of fabric can stop slipping.
DIRECTION - Make sure your pattern pieces go in the same direction so the shine of the silk goes the same way. You may need to flip over your paper pattern piece in order to do this and follow the cutting directions for fabrics with a nap.
HANDLING - Wash your hands before you start as silk stains easily. Be careful of sweat marks as well.
Step 3 - Testing Before Sewing Silk
Now, are you ready to sew? No, not quite…Grab a scrap to test!
Here are all the tips for getting ready for sewing silk:
- NEEDLES - Make sure your needle are suitable for silk and are an appropriate thickness. Many silks are quite thin so you will need a fine needle.
- SETTINGS - Check your stitch length. Try a stitch length of 2.0 as smaller stitches look better on fine silk.
- MARKING - If you use a marking pen, check on a scrap first – Some marking pens do not come off the silk. (Read ways to mark fabric)
- THREAD - Use polyester cotton for strength and durability.
- TENSION - Check your sewing machine tension and make the necessary adjustments. The stitches should not pull or wrinkle the fabric.
- SEAM RIPPING - Remember silk does not unpick well – no margin of error is a good way to think. (how to unpick seams). Purchase some extra fabric in case of mistakes.
- WORK CLEANLY - Keep those hands clean and check for possible oil residue on your machine.
All clean and prepped? – Now you are ready to go.
Step 4 - Sewing Silk
Now the preparation is done you can ease off and start your journey. You are ready to sew and create that fabulous garment made of silk.
What Stitch Should I Use for Silk?
When sewing silk, you should use a straight stitch with a small length. A length of 2.0 usually works well. Test a scrap to see that there is no puckering at this length and adjust your machine tension accordingly.
Tips for Sewing Silk
Here are tips for sewing silk:
- BASTING - Always baste the seam or section you are working on as it will make the rest of the seam so much easier to control. Try using tailors tacks or baste the markings and seams before you sew. Use a silk thread.
- INTERFACING - Consider using strips of fusible interfacing along the side of the seams as another neatening option to stop fraying.
- STABILIZING - You can also stabilize a seam with a thin strip of bias sewn into the seam allowance. Extra stability can also be achieved with a spray fabric stabilizer but just check it doesn't leave marks.
- SEAMS - A French seam works well on the softer, lightweight silks. However, it can be bulky on thicker silk fabrics. Avoid bulky seams on fine silks, especially when you press the garment – silk shows marks easily.
- HEMS - For lightweight silk, you can use a narrow hem or a rolled hem.
- FINISHING - Decide on the method of finishing that best suits the silk you are working with. You can use a serger or try a zigzag finish if you have no serger – silk frays! Using a serger with a differential feed is a good option for silk. (Read how to finish seams)
- LININGS - Think about lining the garment if you want a tailored finish – it will be worth the extra work.
- PRACTICE - Once again practice on scraps before you rush into running up a garment made of silk.
Sewing Silk - In Conclusion
Now you are all set for sewing silk and getting great results.
The preparation for sewing silk is a worthwhile investment to help you sew a beautiful garment. You will be sure to say that the process, in spite of the preparation went …. as smooth as silk.
More about silk:
Learn How to Sew More Fabrics
Now you know all about sewing silk fabric, check out these other fabrics listed alphabetically.
- CHIFFON – Sewing Chiffon
- BATIK – What is Batik
- CANVAS – Sewing Canvas
- COTTON – Sewing Cotton
- DENIM – Sewing Denim
- FELT – Sewing Felt
- FUR – Sewing Fur
- KNITS – How to Sew Stretch Fabric
- INTERFACING – Types of Interfacing
- LACE – How to Sew Lace
- LEATHER – Sewing Leather
- RAYON – Sewing Rayon
- SHEER – Sewing Sheer Fabrics
- SILK – How to Sew Silk
- THICK – Sewing Thick Fabrics
- VELVET Sewing Velvet
- WOOL – Sewing Wool