This article will teach you all about what is chiffon. Chiffon originates from the French word meaning rag or cloth. Calling chiffon a rag is far from the truth when referencing this beautiful fabric. Silk chiffon was originally a symbol of wealth and a high ranking in social status. When chiffon was started to be made using synthetic fibers like nylon, it became more accessible to everyone. Polyester chiffon is more popular not only 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 important, they revert to polyester chiffon.
What is Chiffon?
Chiffon is a perfect fabric for evening wear. It is soft and lightweight. Chiffon is made to look like gauze and woven with a slight twist in the yarns. This twist gives chiffon some stretch and when it is looked at closely under microscopic conditions it looks 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 very elegant.
What is Chiffon Facts
Here are 10 interesting things to know about the properties of chiffon:
Chiffon is available in different fibers
Originally chiffon was made from silk and the more expensive chiffon found in fabric catalogs today are still made of silk. In today’s cheaper fabric circles, chiffon can be made from polyester and rayon. Synthetic chiffon looks similar to silk chiffon, but silk chiffon is more luxurious and more costly.
If you have chiffon and are unsure of its composition, you can do a burning test to determine the fiber content.
Chiffon is very lightweight
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 to be 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 weave of the fabric 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.
Chiffon is a stretchy fabric
The twisted yarns used to make chiffon contribute to the slight stretch in the fabric. Cutting chiffon on the bias gives it extra stretch, but it does not have enough stretch to make fitted garments. Chiffon is best suited to soft, flowing garments. If you use chiffon to make a skirt it is advisable to wait a day or two before sewing the hem. This is so the stretch can is able to hang down and the fabric will be easier to 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. The colors do tend to fade in bright sunlight.
Chiffon is see through or transparent
The light transparent effect 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 out chiffon in single layers will prevent slipping. Cutting chiffon is a challenge, but laying it out on a large table is helpful. Taping the sides adds stability to the cutting process. Bunching can occur in the sewing process. It is advisable to alter the tension on your machine and test the stitches on a scrap of fabric before you start. A slight spray of starch helps to prevent slipping of the fabric.
Chiffon frays easily
The edges of chiffon seams need neatening. French seams are recommended. If you are not keen to use French seams then the edges could be overcast or a serger could overlock the seams. If chiffon is not neatened along the edges the fabric will fray.
Chiffon is a delicate fabric
The delicate nature of chiffon makes it snag and pull easily. Use pins sparingly and choose very sharp pins to use 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 you are 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 make it feel rough. Chiffon may not have the smooth feeling of silk. It is, however, still soft to the touch.
What is Chiffon Sewing
Read my full article on sewing chiffon for detailed advice.
Chiffon is difficult to work with because of its soft slippery feel but here are a few times for cutting and sewing.
- It should be cut carefully on a non-slip surface.
- Cutting the pieces individually is advised due the 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 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 bunching and slipping of stitches.
- Transfer marks with tailors tacks.
- Use sharp fine needles. Try a universal 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 set to low particularly for polyester chiffon.
What is Chiffon Uses
Chiffon is very versatile once you have overcome the cutting and sewing challenges. It can be made into any of the following garments:
- 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.
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 the drape of the fabric 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.
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