Sewing Silks

Maureen Thompson
Maureen Thompson

25 Tips for Sewing Silks and Silkies
 by Maureen Thompson

  1. Tissue fit patterns before cutting into your silk.
  2. Even silks that you plan to dry clean, after construction, can benefit from pre-washing, before construction. Pre-washing eliminates permanent spotting from rain or grape juice.
  3. Silk Dupion can be washed if pre-shrunk before construction (see instructions below).
  4. DO NOT wash Raw Silk or Tussah Silk.
  5. Wash finished garments often, while only slightly soiled, so that you can use very mild detergent and gentle hand washing. Also moths don’t attack clean silk.
  6. Straighten fabric ends by pulling a thread and cutting off uneven end.
  7. ‘Grain up’ silk on a gridded cardboard cutting table or fold out cutting board.
  8. Use fine, glass headed silk pins to anchor silk and pattern pieces to the cardboard.

  9. Silk blunts scissors. Always keep scissors cleaned and sharpened. Use serrated scissors for sheers, crepe de chines and silk satins and sharp shears for suit weights.
  10. Tailor tack, pin mark, mark with tailor’s chalk or use small adhesive dots from the stationary department. Do not use dissolve-away or permanent markers.
  11. Sew silks with silk or cotton, or try the new Mettler Silky Sheen thread. Sew polys with polyester thread.
  12. Silk blunts needles very quickly. Use a new size 70 Universal machine needle for each garment. Toss your needle, no matter how old, the moment you hear it labour through the cloth or if it pulls a thread.
  13. Use the small hole throat plate and a straight stitch foot on your machine for the best control of straight stitching.
  14. Machine stitch with light, two handed, taut sewing.
  15. Finish seams traditionally with a fine French seam or using silk thread and a two thread overlocking stitch.
  16. Use silk organza as interfacing for sheers and crepe de chine and TextureWeft for Raw Silks and Tussahs.
  17. Use Vilene® iron-on edge tape to stabilise curves or bias seams.
  18. Buttonholes – Starting from the bottom, layer – fashion fabric (facing), two layers silk organza, fashion fabric (garment) and one layer of tear-away stabiliser. Baste layers together. Stitch buttonholes. Remove basting and stabiliser and if the garment is sheer, trim organza close to the buttonhole stitching. Always sew a test sample first to finalise perfect stitch length, width and tension.
  19. Hems – Minimise bulk before turning up hem by trimming the seams in the hem allowance. DO NOT use fusible web. Invisibly hand hem, double machine stitched pin-hem or make a feature by topstitching a wide hem with mitred corners.
  20. Use a size 10 hand embroidery needle for hand sewing. It is the finest needle but has a longer eye for easier threading.
  21. What is the difference between Chiffon and Georgette? Chiffon is a smooth, fine weave, semi-sheer fabric and Georgette is exactly the same but has a crepe crinkle in the weave.
  22. When sewing satin backed silk crepe or other slippery fabrics, eliminate drag lines at the side seams of pants by getting rid of side seams altogether. An excellent pattern choice is Vogue pattern 2064.
  23. The perfect ‘no crush’ travel jacket can be achieved by layering silk crepe de chine (fashion fabric), double faced cotton flannel (interlining) and china silk (lining).
  24. Wear dress shields to protect garments from aluminum hydrochloride, the chemical in most deodorants. It does more harm than the perspiration
  25. To prevent static electricity use fabric softener when washing or anti-static spray on the inside of the garment or rub hand cream over your skin or pantyhose before dressing.

Washing Silk
Sckafs Fabrics, Queensland, have long specialized in silks and have over 100 colours of silk dupion alone. Maureen Thompson, manager of the Indooroopilly store has kindly agreed to share with us her secrets for washing 100% silk fabrics.

***Maureen suggests testing a piece first as the following process will change the handle of the fabric and may affect the colour.

ie. Silk dupion will soften and will never get back the original stiffness. However, we think that is actually an advantage.

Being a natural fibre silk will shrink a little. So it is best to wash before making.

1 ADD 2/3 capful (not cupful) of SILK WASH to ½ average size bucket of tepid water.
2 SQUELCH through the sudsy water, but don’t rub or wring, as silk is in its’ most delicate state when wet.
3 RINSE first under running water, (e.g. a shower rose or similar) because it’s the fastest and easiest way to rid the fabric of all the suds without over handling.
4 FINAL RINSE in 2/3 of an average size bucket of water, containing approximately 1/3 cup of white vinegar*.
5 GENTLY SQUEEZE out as much water as possible in a towel, until it’s no longer dripping.
6 IRON with a dry iron on ‘SILK’ setting whilst still very damp. (Be careful if you have a multi coloured ironing board cover, it may tend to bleed colour into your garment).

*The vinegar is the magic secret ingredient that softens the fabric and protects the colour. It actually rids the fabric of the last remaining residue of suds and this is what changes the handle of the fabric from crisp.