Among all the fabrics that I see and touch everyday in the store, I have to admit that silk is the most luxurious. Nothing flows off your fingertips or falls in a soft pile on the cutting table like silk. My buyers, Lauren and Liz, and I shop all the time for beautiful fabrics that we can pass along to you. When we get in a stunning silk print, we can't help but gasp in excitement!
We've said it a hundred times to our customers: you don't have to be an expert to sew with silk, you just need to take your time. Patience, care, and the right notions yield proven results. And we try to help the process along by giving you hints and tricks on the Fabric Lady and Stonemountain blogs.
If it's your first time sewing with silk, by all means pick a SIMPLE pattern—trust me, you'll never buy silk again if you're trying to make a complex button-up, long-sleeve blouse on your first try. So remember to keep it simple. We chose Megan Nielsen's Sudley Dress & Blouse pattern. We love it because of the variety of looks that you can achieve with just this one pattern. An added bonus it that the back is the same as the front, so the keyhole opening can be worn both ways!
We chose this luxurious silk piece to work with. We love the hand-dyed look of it and the neutral colors can be paired with so many pieces in my wardrobe. Silk has a beautiful texture that can be integrated into your everyday wardrobe. It's not just for date night! It elevates the pieces its paired with and can be great for casual wear.
Options for Tracing the PatternLaying and cutting out a pattern in silk takes time, especially when the print repeat is large like our fabric. And of course it's slippery! Laurel uses her big kitchen table to line up the fabric edges with the table edges and anchors the fabric with weights to keep it stable while she decides pattern placement.
Trace your pattern in the correct size, or cut it directly from the tissue. Because both the tissue and silk are prone to shifting, it's a good idea to actually cut out the pattern in the size you will be making - that way you are only cutting along the perimeter of the pattern piece and not through the paper as you cut the fabric.
We carry many helpful tools to aid you in this part of the process, including a variety of tracing materials. These items are available by the yard or roll and help you preserve you patterns and can also aid in the fitting process.
|From left to right: Pellon Tru-Grid, Pellon Red Dot Tracing Material, Medical Tracing Paper, Swedish Tracing Paper.|
- Pellon Tru-Grid has an accurate 1" graph for duplicating, altering and scaling up patterns. It is 100% polyester and 45" wide.
- Pellon Red Dot Tracing Material is a nonwoven dot graph material. It features an accurate 1″ graph, used for scaling up, duplicating, or altering patterns. It is stable in all directions, but light enough in weight to allow for excellent drape. It is 100% polyester and 45" wide.
- Medical Tracing Paper is a high quality white paper with a smooth finish. Each roll is 21" wide by 225' long. Great for pattern making or applique!
- Swedish Tracing Paper is a sewable pattern paper. Trace your pattern, sew the very same material, and try it on before cutting your expensive fabric. Use it to make a durable master pattern. Strong, see through & drapably soft. Rolls are 29" wide and 30 ft. long.
Finding the Right Cutting Tool
And speaking of cutting, silk can be a little testy when your scissors are not sharp. You don't always need expensive scissors, they just need to be sharp. Laurel's go-to Ginghers were in need of a sharpening, so she actually found another pair that would work better for this project.
We LOVE scissors here at Stonemountain, and everyone has their favorites. We polled the staff to see what their picks were!
|From left to right: KAI 11" Ergonomix Scissors, Fiskars Softouch Spring Action No. 8, Tula Pink Hardware - 8" Shear, Olfa 45mm Ergonomic Rotary Cutter.|
1. KAI 11" Ergonomix Scissors have ergonomically soft handles which allow fatigue-free cutting on all types of fabric. Cuts multiple layers of denim with ease while trimming cottons without any fabric slippage. Heavy duty blades for a powerful cut with an extra long blade length, made of a hardened stainless steel.
2. Fiskars Softouch Spring Action No. 8 have flat-bottom styling for making long, straight cuts. Ideal for cutting multiple layers of fabric, string, paper, construction paper and many other materials. Left or right handed.
3. Tula Pink Hardware - 8" Shear are limited edition, handcrafted 8" fabric shears that are a necessity for any sewing basket. The razor edge sharp blades make them the perfect choice for cutting through all of your fabrics with ease.
4. Olfa 45mm Ergonomic Rotary Cutter features an ergonomic design that provides a comfortable and positive grip. Simply squeeze the handle to engage the blade. Dual-action safety lock allows the user to lock the blade open for comfort and closed for safety. Designed for both right- and left-handed use. Great for cutting fabrics into shapes, strips and pieces for sewing, quilting or craft projects.
You can shop all of our cutting tools on our website!
Print MatchingMany of our indie pattern designers print their patterns on heavy paper, which is great for multiple uses. The Sudley pattern is in soft tissue, so it's actually little easier to layout on this silk print. For instance, in order to match the front and back skirt piece, Laurel traced around one element of the print on the pattern paper and then used that marking to place the pattern for the second skirt piece on another section of the fabric. The result should be a good enough matching of the skirt front and back pieces.
If your pattern paper is heavy and opaque, you could cut notches in various sections of the pattern edges and use those to match up the print. Big prints like this one with irregular shaped lines, just need to be matched enough so that the bulk of the fabric's design elements somewhat line up. Sometimes it's impossible for a perfect match, so don't over think it...e.g. we're thinking big white stripy shaped areas matching with neighboring white areas, etc.
Finishing TechniquesThe Sudley view that we chose was dictated by the amount of fabric that we had - we had to make a shorter version in order to match the major elements of the print. And Laurel knows me well enough after three years of collaboration, so she knew that I would like a shortened "tunic" style with the mid length sleeve. We will use several sewing and finishing techniques we know—some serging, some French seams, some self-facing and some bias facing. When you invest in a beautiful fabric, you don't want to take shortcuts, so take your time and enjoy the ride.
For the skirt sections, we finished the two side seams with French seams. We used this same technique on the shoulder seams and bodice side seams.
Step 1: Sew the two pieces together, wrong sides together, using a scant 3/8" seam allowance.
Step 2: Trim the seam allowance down to approximately 1/8".
Step 3: Fold right sides together and sew with a 1/4" seam allowance.
Step 4: Press and Voila! The inside seam looks beautiful!
The skirt of Sudley is gathered at the waist of the bodice. Gathering silk is a little challenging because it frays so easily. Solution: serge the edge first, then do two rows of basting stitches. (We will also serge the bottom of the bodice before we attach the gathered skirt to minimize fraying.)
Our pattern instructions call for finishing the keyhole opening with bias tape. Because the opening has a severe curve, we opted to make a self facing, by tracing around the opening on another piece of our silk. When your fabric print has so many changed in color, try to match the keyhole facing to the bodice keyhole print. Silk is sheer, so you wouldn't want a blue section directly under a white section. In addition, we had to totally switch out the thread to match the white area around the keyhole. Yes, it takes more time, but we're making something special, remember?
| BEAUTIFUL!!! (Use sharp little scissors to clip curves on silk!)|
I hope that you will be inspired to try this Sudley Dress and Blouse or a silk in your next project.
Please feel free to email me with photos of what you are making @ email@example.com. You can also follow me on Instagram @fabriclady3 and/or @stonemountainfabric.
We are super excited for the new garments made out of our favorite independent patterns - all available at Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics in Berkeley and online!
Cheers and Happy Sewing,
Suzan @ Stonemountain & Daughter