Learning to work with a new fabric can be difficult. It can be even more difficult if that fabric is as particular as silk. However, once you know the basics, you’ll be creating beautiful projects in no time! So, without further ado, here are 12 tips you need to know when you are sewing with silk.
1. Wash Your Fabric
Before you can sit down and start sewing, you need to make sure that you are properly prepared. When you are working with silk, one of the first steps that you’ll want to take is to wash your silk. This is important not just for cleaning the fabric but it also to prevent it from bearing watermarks when you use steam to press it while you work.
Luckily, most silks can be machine washed now, making your job a little easier. It’s important to note, though, that machine washing silk can cause it to lose some of its shine. However, if you are worried about this, you could always take the fabric to be dry cleaned for the same effect without the loss of your silk’s high shine.
2. How To Cut Your Fabric
When you are preparing your fabric, one of the things you need to do is to cut the fabric to the length that you need. To put it simply, though, silk is a slippery fabric that can be hard to cut. So, how do you get the right cut on your fabric?
Well, you have a couple options. If you want to spend a little extra money, you could get a fabric stabiliser to make the fabric stiffer. Unfortunately, some of these can mark fabric. A simpler option that many people choice is to sandwich their silk between two sheets of tissue paper or cheaper fabric while they cut it down to size. You can also make your life easier by using serrated shears, which have a greater grip on the fabric than standard shears.
3. Test Your Fabric
Before you jump right into sewing your fabric, you should test it. To do this, you can take a smaller piece of silk and run it through your sewing machine. This way, you can see if the needle, tension, and stitch length are correct. If they aren’t, you aren’t ruining your project - just a strip of test fabric.
If you are hand sewing your fabric, it is still a good idea to practice sewing on a piece of practice fabric. This is an especially important if you haven’t used silk in your projects before as you aren’t used to working with this type of fabric.
4. Test Your Markers
A big part of preparing your fabric is marking the measurements that you need out on the fabric. However, silk isn’t like many of the other fabrics that you work with because not all fabric markers that you use will completely come out when you wash the fabric. Chalk, for example, won’t work because it won’t wash out. Instead, try for a water soluble pen or a vanishing pen.
Once again, the best thing you can do to ensure that your project turns out right is to test your markers on a strip of scrap silk. This way, if you grab the wrong type of marker and it doesn’t come out of the fabric, you aren’t sacrificing so much silk that you can’t complete your project.
5. Pins and Weights
When you are marking your fabric, you often also pin certain places. With silk, though, the holes that pins make are more visible than with other fabrics. To avoid this, at the very least, you should use extremely sharp pins as to make sure the hole is as small as possible.
An even better option, though, would be to use pattern weights instead of pins. With these, you can weigh your fabric down to stay in place and they don’t leave any permanent signs on the fabric after you are done. In truth, though, many people end up using a mixture of pins and weights to get their fabric the way that they want them.
6. Snip Stray Threads
One thing that can be a little frustrating about silk is that it frays so easily. This means that when you are cutting your fabric, you are likely to end up with a few stray threads hanging from the edge of the fabric. Before you go any further, you are going to want to snip these strays off. Otherwise, you risk getting them caught up in your sewing machine or getting in the way of your stitches.
7. Press Your Fabric Face Down
When you go to press your fabric, you should consider placing it face down on the ironing board. This is because, as we mentioned before, silk is prone to watermarks when it is introduced to steam. Of course, as we said, washing the fabric can help against this. However, better safe than sorry.
8. Use A French Seam
As we mentioned earlier, silk is very prone to fraying. As such, sewing the seams on your project can be a little frustrating. By employing a french seam, though, you can encase the edges inside the seam, preventing further fraying.
9. Sew With Cotton Threads
There is silk thread available and it is beautiful for embroidering and thread tracing your garments. When it comes to holding seams together, though, this thread is rather weak. Instead, trade it in for a stronger choice like cotton thread when you are sewing seams.
10. Stabilize Seams
When you are sewing a seam that needs a little more structure - like a neckline, for example - you should consider stabilizing the seam. Taking a few extra minutes to do this will ensure that your necklines don’t droop or sag.
11. Use A Sharp Needle
Earlier, we noted that when and if you use pins with your silk you are going to want to use very sharp pins to avoid any damage to the fabric. When you are sewing your fabric - whether by hand or with a machine - you are also going to want to make sure your needles are very sharp. This way, you won’t cause any extra damage to the silk by trying to force a dull needle through.
12. Be Patient
Finally, you need to remember to be patient and give yourself time to learn when you are working with silk. Silk is a little different from other fabrics that you might have worked with before and as such, there is a bit of a learning curve. To combat this, take your project one step at a time and don’t rush yourself and you’ll end up with a garment that you can be proud of.