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Brave Foray into Silk Chiffon

Its been a busy few months for me recently, in between my mums wedding in Italy (I made her dress!), bridesmaids dress and my sister’s wedding I have been feeling very much under pressure to make for others so when on the 6th July I handed over the last few bridesmaids dresses I felt I could relax again and do some nice simple sewing … That didn’t happen and instead I decided to use Silk Chiffon Fabric for the first time ever – selfish sewing mind you so that was nice!

I chose this beautiful Lady McElroy silk chiffon to make a 1940’s house dress from an original vintage pattern, the colours are exactly what I usually go for and it tied in with my aim to have as much of my wardrobe made from natural fibres as possible; I also wanted to foray into making something from silk chiffon so really this is my first ever attempt at it! It wasn’t as scary as I was expecting, and I learnt a lot about how this sort of fabric reacts as I am usually a cotton/wool or medium weight fabric kinda girl.

Let’s get into some detail about this fabric – It was a lot easier to sew than I was expecting, I used a fine 60/8 hemline sewing machine needle and Gutterman thread. I was worried that my machine would of just eaten the fabric but alas it didn’t which made me very happy, I pre-washed the fabric on a delicate/silks wash so it was prepared and cut it out on a floor big enough for 4 metres of fabric folded in 2, I didn’t want to risk any movement in the fabric whilst pinning and cutting it out therefore preventing any drastic length differences in the fabric once cut.

One thing that surprised me with this fabric was how much drape there was in the bias, there is a LOT of drape in the bias of this fabric so next time I would most certainly change the pattern I was using (I would probably go for more of a blouse with this or something that required beautiful draping) as it was all cut on a bias angle therefore ended up distorting the shape a bit, the dress was supposed to be below knee length originally but after the 48 hours hang it seemed to stretch a lot so there was a lot of mis-shapen edges which ultimately meant I had to cut it much shorter than planned – this wasn’t a bad thing in the end however as it is far more multi-functional.

As with all delicate fabrics especially sheers it is always best to use French Seams and double hems, they make a much nicer finish and help with longevity of the garment. I also did a lot of slip stitching with this fabric, usually I would use a double thread to slip stitch again just to hold better however with this I used just a single thread due to the delicate nature of this fabric.

Another very important tip for using this fabric is to tack, tack, tack, press into place on a low heat then stitch and re-press! Use a colour that matches the fabric so if you are unable to unpick it or some of the thread gets caught in the stitching you won’t be able to see it. I would also advocate the use of tailors tacks on this fabric due to the colour and delicate nature of the fabric.

You know how I said above that having it shorter was more multi-functional? Well it can now work as a lovely blouse tucked into an A-Line skirt – This look is one I will be using a lot as we head into autumn, a beach cover up, (luxury) lounge/nightwear, a short lovely summer dress with a breathable slip underneath (perfect for the weather we have had at the end of July) and a kimono over some jeans, cropped trousers or shorts. It is also great for layering!

Overall thoughts and takeaways?

I would use this fabric again; it was lovely to work with and feels lovely against my skin and worth the money.

I would possibly try using some sort of starching (maybe something like sugar water) to make it less drapey when sewing which hopefully would help with both sewing it and the hemming process – I would love any thoughts on this from those who use silk chiffon a lot, would this work? Does this work? Any advice gratefully received!

I would use a different pattern, I have some lovely original 1940’s blouse and shirt patterns that would work a dream with this fabric!

Overall I really do love this fabric and with more practice I am sure I will be sewing with much more silk chiffon!!

Thanks for reading,

Hazel B!

You can follow me on Instagram under @hazel_boot

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