Sewing: Silk is A Pretty Beast

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One of my favorite new aspects of the Alt Summit conference was that the bulk of sponsors did not give out swag at the conference. They mailed it to our doorstep the months leading up to the big week. Brilliant. I can devote one-on-one attention to some very neat, hand-picked brands and I don’t have to lug anything home. This was probably the most effective and tasteful brand-placement I’ve seen at any conference I’ve attended. Good Job Alt peeps. Good job.

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Kollabora sent us special gift codes that went towards a purchase on their site. Of course, I used my gift code for fabric. Their other supplies were tempting, but look at this silk! I’ve bought silk before, but I haven’t really worked with it until now. Not from scratch, anyway. I wanted to make sure that I did everything right with this yardage, so I did a little (not a lot, mind you) research. Here are a few tips that definitely came in handy:

Use a pattern that’s a winner. Silk is so tricky to work with, you don’t want to be altering anything afterwards, so either make something that’s a winner or draft up a muslin before-hand. I drafted this skirt pattern from scratch, but I had made it before (here) and it was a real winner. The drape of the fabric was a perfect fit with this particular pattern.

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Pretreat. If you plan on dry cleaning the silk in the future, no need to do this, but pre-wash the yardage beforehand if you plan on laundering the garment yourself. I just threw the yardage in with my regular wash, but I’ll definitely be hand-washing this now that it’s made. I don’t want my 35 year old top-loader to rip it to shreds! It’s nice to have the option, though. If you’re not sure about how the silk will wash cut a small swatch and see how that does in the laundry first. I’d hate for you to mess up some $80 a yard fabric because of my previous success with laundering silk!

Cut carefully and cut once. My pattern pieces were all on heavy paper, so I trued up the grain on my fabric, carefully laid out the pattern pieces, weighed them down with weights and cut each piece out with a rotary cutter. Jen has a fabulous tutorial on how to cut silk (or slippery threads) with scissors.

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Finish all seams. If you have a serger, use that. If you don’t, you’ll want to encase all of your seams with binding or French seams. You don’t want any raw edges showing.

Use a silk needle. Use the sharpest needle possible. I used microtex with great success.

Pin twice, sew once. Go slowly if you have to, but try to get your seams done right the first time. It’s fine if you have to unpick the silk, but you’ll still be able to see those old holes from the previous seam.

Iron carefully. Use the silk setting on your iron and/or use a presser cloth. I just have a sheet of white quilting cotton that I use. I can use my highest setting, and as long as I’m using that cloth over my precious fabric, nothing will go wrong. Nothing should, anyway.

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I think this goes without saying, but I love my new skirt. The fabric drapes and flows so nicely as I walk, and it’s so silky and soft. Probably the nicest fabric I’ve worked with ever.

So have you worked with silk before? Am I the only one who trembles behind the knees at the thought of working with something so nice?

Outfit details:

  • top: H&M
  • bow tie: handmade
  • bracelet: thrifted
  • skirt: handmade
  • tights: H&M
  • shoes: thrifted

Fabric was provided by Kollabora, this is not a sponsored post.

 

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    1. Truly Myrtle says:

      The silk is beautiful! I haven’t sewn with silk before, so thanks for your tips :) I have a piece tucked away waiting for the “perfect pattern”…
      Love the tights – I have some just the same :)

    2. kelsey bang says:

      these are fantastic tips! I love your entire outfit! the color combo is fantastic! loving the skirt! I am sad I didnt use my card they sent in the mail now :(

    3. Heidi says:

      Thanks for the tips, I’m pinning this for future reference. I bought a silk shirt from Salavation Army for about 50 cents a while back and I have yet to do anything with it. (It’s way too big.)

    4. kristin says:

      Great tips. I found Jen’s tutorial indispensable when I sewed with silk, too. It’s so scary to sew but so worth it when it’s done. LOVE the skirt.

    5. Kristin says:

      Silk can be a total beast to work with! The only tip I would add is to make sure you use a microotex needle, or some other kind of very sharp, fine needle on your machine. Silk can snag easily with regular needles and nothing, to me, looks worse than snags in lovely fabric! Great job on the skirt – love the mustard with the red.

    6. Lindsay says:

      So pretty! The one and only time I sewed with silk, it puckered and I ruined my outfit. So I’m grateful for the tips. :)

    7. David Preston says:

      Very pretty and I love the colors!

    8. [...] Melsissa Esplin of I Still Love You fame also has some great tips for sewing with silks [...]

    9. The skirt is stunning! -Marci @ Stone Cottage Adventures

    10. Sarah Helene says:

      THANKS for the tips when sewing silk. Gorgeous print for your UNIQUE skirt pattern. I’ve sewn on silk fabric hand loomed from India, but about 22 years ago. I recall being really careful so I wouldn’t need to redo . . . used French seams on my skirt. THANKS for sharing. Sarah Helene in Minneapolis

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