Sewing with Silky Fabrics
I wrote these tips for Simplicity after seeing the challenge on the second episode of the Great British Sewing Bee. Silky garments are fabulous to wear and look luxurious so if you sew, you must have a go at sewing with them.
However, sewing with silky fabrics can be tricky as they are slippery to handle and do require some specialist care, but armed with these simple tips on sewing silks you are ready to go…
1. Use a nice new, fine universal sewing machine needle, size 9 (70). Also make sure your pins are sharp (blunt needle and pins will snag the fabric). Only pin within the seam allowances to prevent possible pin holes spoiling the fabric
2. Follow the ‘with nap’ layout on the pattern so that all pieces are laid in the same direction from top to bottom as although silk doesn’t always have a nap or surface texture, it will often have a sheen that looks different when held up or down.
3. Stay stitch any curved pieces or those cut on the bias by stitching just within the seam allowance with a regular 2.2-2.5 stitch length (this will prevent the fabric stretching out of shape during handling).
4. Prevent seams rippling in bias seams (on A-line dresses/skirts) by holding the fabric behind and in front of the machine needle to very slightly stretch it as you sew the seam. Press the seam to embed the stitches. Press every seam before stitching over it again and do make sure you use a press cloth to protect the fabric.
5. Neaten all raw edges and seam allowances as silky fabrics often fray easily. To neaten, use a zigzag stitch, overcast stitch or even French seams (stitch with WRONG sides together taking a 6mm seam allowance, trim seams to 3mm, turn so RIGHT sides are together and seam is on the edge, stitch again with a 1cm seam allowance).
6. Hem with a narrow double hem (turn under 2cm, turning under raw edge again to meet fold and then top stitch in place) or a rolled hem.
Machine Stitched Rolled hem
Start with a 13mm (1/2”) hem allowance. Turn under 6mm and stitch close to fold. Trim hem allowance close to stitching and then turn under again to encase the raw edge and stitch in place.
Rolled Hem foot
Alternatively – use a rolled hem foot which has a coil on the front through which the fabric is fed and automatically curled and folded ready to be stitched in place as you sew. It can be difficult to feed the fabric into the foot at the start, so the easiest way is to fold a narrow double hem at the beginning (turn under twice) and stitch for about 2.5cm (1”). Then with needle down, raise presser foot and lift fabric to feed the edge into the coil on the foot. Lower presser foot and continue stitching, with the fabric coiling into the foot as you go.