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. 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 short cuts could cost you the outcome you were hoping, for so get ready, set and prepared for to the art of how to sew silk.
How to Sew Silk
Step one: Fabric preparation
The first step on the journey you are about to take is preparing the fabric. Silk is exotic remember and so it needs special care even before you pick up scissors, pins or needles.
- 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.
- Press with a cool, dry iron using a presser cloth. Don’t use steam as silk can get a watermark easily.
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 extra when you purchase your fabric so you have enough to test each process.
Step two: Pattern laying and cutting:
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 material can slide and not be cut accurately.
You can try any of these cutting methods to good results.
- You will get the best results with special silk pins. Don’t skimp and get holes left in your fabric by using thick pins.
- Use a rotary cutter and cutting board.
- Instead of pins, use pattern weights or cans from your pantry to weigh down the fabric.
- Tracing paper put between the layers of fabric can stop slipping.
- Pin into the seam allowance to avoid pin holes.
- Make sure your pattern pieces go the same direction so the shine of the silk goes the same way.
- Wash your hands before you start as silk stains easily.
Step three: Getting ready for sewing the silk:
Now are you ready to sew? No, not quite…Grab a scrap to test
- Check your needles and your stitch length – try a stitch length of 2.0 as smaller stitches look better on fine silk.
- If you use a marking pen, check on a scrap first – Some marking pens do not come off silk. (Read ways to mark fabric)
- Use polyester cotton for strength and durability.
- Check your machine tension and make the necessary adjustments. The stitches should not pull or wrinkle the fabric.
- Remember silk does not unpick well – no margin of error is a good way to think. (how to unpick seams)
- Keep those hands clean and check for possible oil residue on your machine.
All clean and prepped? – Now you are ready to go.
Step four: Sewing the silk – ready steady go!
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.
- 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 tailor’s tack or baste the markings and seams before you sew
- A French seam works well on the softer, finer silks. However, it can be bulky on thicker silk fabrics.
- 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! (Read how to finish seams)
- Consider using strips of fusible interfacing along the side of the seams to keep edges trim as another neatening option to stop fraying.
- You can also stabilize a seam with a thin strip of bias sewn into the seam allowance.
- Avoid bulky seams on fine silks, especially when you press the garment – silk shows marks easily.
- Using a serger with a differential feed is a good option for silk.
- Think about lining the garment if you want a tailored finish – it will be worth the extra work.
- Once again practice on scraps before you rush into running up a garment made of silk.
The preparation was a bit lengthy but when it is done and the garment is cut and the seams are set in place then you are on your way to completing your journey and sewing comfortably with a piece of silk fabric. A gift from nature, it is pure and if treated right will yield something exotic and luxurious. A royal result fit for a queen. The preparation is a worthwhile investment to help you sew a beautiful garment and you will be sure to say that the process, in spite of the preparation went …. as smooth as silk.