Silk is such a luxurious fabric to wear, unfortunately, sewing with it is not so luxurious. In fact, it's a real pain in the butt if I'm being honest. So today, I wanted to share a few tips about sewing with silk (and other fine/slippery fabrics) that I've picked up in my time sewing with it, just in case you fancy making your Afternoon Blouse from it.
The major issue I've always encountered with silk is that because it's so slippery, it tends to move off grain during cutting. Unfortunately, you can muslin a garment as many times as you like to get the fit right, but if the pattern pieces slip off grain when it comes time to making it with your fashion fabric, chances are the final garment won't fit right. So...
1) Think about cutting one pattern piece at a time instead of folding your fabric to cut out 2 pieces. It might take longer, but generally, the pattern piece that is going to slip and go off grain is going to be the bottom piece. For pattern pieces that are placed on the fold, I would recommend re-tracing the pattern piece into one whole piece, and cutting in a single layer from that.
2) If you prefer to cut your fabric on the fold, try putting it between 2 pieces of tracing paper. Sounds weird I know, but the tracing paper has more grip than silk, which means it will hold those slippery pieces together. To do this, fold your fabric along the grain and pin your selvedges together. Place your folded fabric on top of a piece of tracing paper, and then put another piece of tracing paper on top of that. Pin your pattern pieces on top of the tracing paper, making sure to get all four layers secured, and cut your pattern pieces out.
3) Use silk pins AND pattern weights. For some reason, there is a mindset that you either need to be in one camp or the other when it comes to securing pattern pieces to your fabric, but this really is not the case, especially when it comes to cutting silk and other difficult fabrics.
Most people have their favourite way to secure patterns (mine is with pins) but use both if you have to. I use cans from the cupboard and weigh my pattern piece down in the centre (use as many as you like!), then pin the outsides of the pattern with pins (again, use as many as you like). It might sound a bit overkill, but if you've ever experienced the dread of ruining a lovely bit of fabric, you'll do anything to stop this happening in the future.
4) Which brings me to pins. If you don't have silk pins, and have no plans to buy any, ONLY PIN INTO THE SEAM ALLOWANCE! Pins will leave little holes all throughout your silk that are nearly impossible to make go away, no matter how hard you try to push them closed. And actually, even if you do have silk pins, I would still try to keep them within the seam allowance, just in case!
5) When it comes to silky necklines, you should think about stabilising the seam to give it a bit more structure. Silk is designed to flow, so if you have a neckline that needs to hold it's shape like the Afternoon Blouse, giving it a little extra love will help it to retain the original design lines.
Not sure how to stabilise seams? Check out my post here.
6) Take your time! You just can't rush sewing with silk - if you do, it will come back to bite you in the bum. Enjoy the process, listen to the fabric (fabric whisperer?) and you should end up with a lovely garment at the end.
If you have any more tips for sewing with silk, I'd love to hear them! I'm always on the lookout for ways to make it easier (and hopefully not ruin any more beautiful fabric!).