This article will teach you all about what is chiffon fabric. Chiffon fabric is a lightweight, sheer fabric that is commonly made from silk or synthetic fibers. Chiffon originates from the French word meaning rag or cloth. When referencing this beautiful textile, calling chiffon a rag is far from the truth. Silk chiffon was originally a symbol of wealth and a high ranking in social status. When chiffon was made using synthetic fibers like nylon, it became more accessible to everyone. Polyester chiffon and nylon chiffon are more popular than silk because it is more hard-wearing, but it is sold at a lower price. Fashion designers like both types of chiffon but tend to prefer silk chiffon because of its luxurious quality. When the price is essential, they revert to polyester chiffon.
What is Chiffon Fabric?
Chiffon is a perfect fabric for evening wear as it is soft and lightweight. It looks like gauze and is woven with a slight twist in the yarns. This twist gives chiffon some stretch, and when it is looked at closely under a magnifying glass, it seems like a fine net. Chiffon makes a beautiful overlay effect on evening wear because it is slightly transparent. Chiffon makes beautiful soft scarves, delicate lingerie, and ribbons. A chiffon blouse is exquisite.
What is Chiffon Fabric's Characteristics
Here are 10 interesting things to know about the properties of chiffon:
Chiffon can be made from different fibers
Originally chiffon was made from silk which is a natural fiber, and the more expensive chiffon found in fabric catalogs today are still made of silk. Chiffon can be made from polyester, cotton, and rayon in today's cheaper fabric circles. The advantage of these types of chiffon is that they are not just cheaper but more durable. Synthetic or cotton chiffon looks similar to silk chiffon, but silk chiffon is more luxurious and costly. If you have chiffon and are unsure of its composition, you can do a burning test to determine the fiber content.
Chiffon is a very lightweight fabric
The beauty of lightweight fabric is you can use it to add volume to a dress without adding extra weight to the garment. Ruffles and pleats made with chiffon appear light and give a flowing elegance to evening wear and wedding dresses.
Chiffon is a loose weave fabric and thin to touch
The weave of chiffon is a simple square type of weave. It does need a lining if used to make dresses. Strong seam stitching is required because the fabric's weave can cause 'seam slipping.' The draped effect of chiffon does not lend itself to tailored clothing. Chiffon can snag easily and needs to be handled carefully. The last thing you want is pulled threads before you even start sewing!
Chiffon is a stretchy fabric
The twisted yarns used to make chiffon contribute to the slight stretch in the fabric. As such, chiffon is best suited to soft, flowing garments. Cutting chiffon on the bias gives it extra stretch, but it does not have enough stretch to make fitted garments. If you use chiffon to make a skirt, it is advisable to wait a day or two before sewing the hem.
Chiffon comes in many bright shades
Chiffon is made in many different vibrant colors and prints. The fabric takes dye very well, especially rayon or silk chiffon. However, be warned as the colors tend to fade in bright sunlight.
Chiffon is a sheer fabric
The light transparent appearance of chiffon makes it most suited as an overlay or for sewing something that may need a lining. If you sew with chiffon without a lining, a French seam is advisable to finish the edges inside the garment.
Chiffon is not the easiest fabric to cut & sew
Chiffon is thin and slippery, and this makes it difficult to sew. Putting tissue paper between the layers helps with the sewing process. Cutting chiffon in single layers will prevent slipping. While cutting chiffon is a challenge, laying it out on a large table is helpful. Taping the sides adds stability to the cutting process. When bunching occurs in the sewing process, it is advisable to alter the tension on your machine and test the stitches on a scrap of fabric before starting. A fine spray of starch helps to prevent slipping of the fabric.
Chiffon frays easily
French seams are recommended for the seam finish. The edges of chiffon seams need neatening as it frays easily. If you are not keen to use French seams, the edges could be overcast or serged. The fabric will fray back to the seams if chiffon is not neatened along the edges.
Chiffon is a delicate fabric
The delicate nature of chiffon makes it snag and pull easily. Use pins sparingly and choose very sharp pins on the seam allowance. A sharp, fine needle is the best way to overcome the difficulty of sewing chiffon. (Read: Types of pins for sewing)
It is advisable to check your machine needle before starting. When sewing chiffon, do not pull the seam because it may tear as it feeds through the machine. Hemming chiffon is best done with a rolled hem, and when pressing chiffon, use a presser cloth and the right iron setting. Chiffon will burn under a hot iron.
Chiffon may feel a little bit rough
The twisted weave of chiffon will give it a rough feel. Chiffon may not have the smooth feeling of satin or silk, but it is still relatively soft to the touch.
FAQS about Chiffon
Is Chiffon the Same as Silk?
While chiffon can be made from silk fibers, not all silks are chiffon. Silk is just one of many fibers that chiffon can be made from.
What is the Best Chiffon?
The highest quality chiffon is considered to be made from silk. As a natural fabric, it is soft and breathable.
What is Chiffon Fabric's Sewing Recommendations
Read my full article on sewing chiffon for detailed advice. Chiffon is challenging to work with because of its soft, slippery feel, but here are a few tips for cutting and sewing.
- It should be cut carefully on a non-slip surface.
- Cutting the pieces individually is advised due to the fabric slipping. Don't forget to turn the paper pattern over if 2 pieces need to be cut as mirror images.
- Instead of using pins, consider pattern weights to hold down the fabric.
- Sharp scissors will prevent the edges from burring. You can also use a rotary cutter.
- Sewing with tissue paper between the fabric helps to stop the fabric from slipping. This is a recommended technique to prevent the bunching and slipping of stitches.
- Transfer marks with tailors tacks.
- Use sharp fine needles. Try a universal sewing machine needle in sizes 60/8 or 65/9.
- Increase seam allowances if necessary to use a French seam.
- Narrow hems are best.
Pressing Chiffon Fabric
Always use a pressing cloth when ironing chiffon and ensure the iron settings are low, particularly for polyester chiffon.
What is Chiffon's Uses
Chiffon is very versatile once you have overcome the cutting and sewing challenges. It can be made into any of the following garments:
- Chiffon dresses, especially evening and wedding dresses. Chiffon makes beautiful soft flowing summer dresses.
- Shirts and skirts look good in chiffon. However, you have to take into account the transparent nature of the fabric.
- Scarves and stoles made of chiffon have a great way of draping around your shoulders or on your neckline to add extra elegance for day or evening accessories.
- A wrap-around skirt similar to a sarong makes up beautifully in chiffon. This versatile garment can tie under the armpits or wrap around the waist. It ties over the shoulder or behind the neck. It is a one size fits all, wrap-around skirt or dress, perfect holiday attire.
- Cardigans made with chiffon look like beautiful overlays and keep out the chill factor without being heavy and cumbersome.
- Trousers especially full harem types will look really beautiful in chiffon.
- Vests in soft chiffon are very summery and add into a mix and match ensemble.
- Chiffon curtains are soft and billowy and add a touch of romance to any room.
Although chiffon is challenging to work with, the rewards are a final garment looking soft and luxurious.
What is Chiffon - In Conclusion
Chiffon really is a beautiful fabric for elegance and charm. The softness and drape of the material make chiffon the number one choice for beautiful wedding gowns. A gorgeous fabric used since the seventeenth century but relevant to today's haute couture, chiffon has grown in popularity in the fashion halls of today. If you look at the French meaning of the word chiffon, you would be correct in saying it has a rag to riches story.