Working with soft, slippery fabrics such as silk can be difficult, but it’s a much easier task when you follow a few simple tips. Silk moves around a lot as you’re working with it, but once you learn more about it and how to fool with it, you can learn how to sew silk like a pro in no time.
The key to working with silk is the proper preparation and cutting, and most importantly, going slow. Speed will not be your friend when you work with silk, so taking your time is extremely important if you want great results.
First Thing’s First: How do you Sew Silk as a Beginner?
If you’re a beginning sewer, silk might not be the best fabric to start your journey with. In fact, you’ll likely do much better with silk if you already have experience working with other types of fabrics, such as linen and cotton. Beginning sewers may just find working with silk way too difficult for a first-time project.
Just like other fabrics, it’s always best to go ahead and wash your silk before you do anything else. This helps get rid of the shrinkage and eliminates any excess dye that could bleed onto the fabric later on. But the first thing you’ll need to do is check the instructions to make sure it is indeed washable.
While most silks these days are machine-washable, some aren’t. In reality, it’s not a good idea to even buy silk fabric unless it is washable or you don’t mind getting your clothes dry-cleaned from now on.
Cutting the Silk Fabric: Easier Than it Seems
We all know that when it comes to sewing projects, cutting the fabric is a crucial step. If this step isn’t done right from start to finish, it can ruin the entire project. That’s why it has to be done to perfection every time.
Cutting the fabric correctly is especially important with silk because things can turn sour quickly, but here are a few tips that can make the process just a tad easier on you:
- Make sure you wash your hands before working with silk because this type of fabric stains easily.
- If you want to help keep your fabric from moving around so much, try placing it in between two pieces of tracing paper so that cutting is a bit easier.
- You can also spray a tad of spray starch onto the fabric, which temporarily keeps it a little stiffer and therefore easier to work with.
- Use silk pins instead of regular straight pins. Silk pins are fine and longer than usual and besides, they’re specifically made for delicate fabric such as silk.
- Use a rotary cutter instead of cutting shears. It makes the task much easier, and you’ll also want to use a good cutting mat along with it.
- When you iron silk, always use a presser cloth and a dry iron. This is because silk can easily get watermarks. You might also want to test out the iron on a scrap of the fabric first, and make sure the iron itself isn’t dirty.
When you’re learning how to sew silk and how to cut it the right way, keep in mind that you’ll need to get rid of frayed edges as soon as possible. The sooner you cut them off, the better it’ll be because you won’t have to worry about them messing up the fabric later on. You’ll want the fabric as neat as possible before you go any further.
This is also why you should use French seams on your seams. It keeps those frayed edges hidden and keeps the look clean and neat for many years to come.
Remember that earlier we mentioned how important it is to work slowly when you’re working with silk? This is super important when you’re cutting out your pieces. Choose one piece at a time, work on cutting it just right, then put that piece to the side before you start on another one.
When it comes to basting silk seams, you should always do this by hand. It’s time-consuming, that’s for sure, but it will make sewing it on the machine later on a lot more efficient.
How to Sew Silk: Tips on Needle and Thread
By now, it’s likely that you’re wondering about the best needle and thread to use for your silk project. When it comes to your sewing machine needle, never use a standard needle. Fabrics such as silk need needles that are sharp and very slim so they can go through the fabric without damaging it.
Which size of needles are best? For fine silk, try either 60/8 or 70/10; and for medium silk fabrics, you can use 80/12 and get good results.
Regarding the thread, it might make sense to buy silk threads for your seams, but this is a no-no. You’ll need something a little stronger for silk fabric, such as a much-stronger cotton thread that will keep your seams looking neat for a very long time.
Having said this, you can use silk thread for details on your project, but never to keep two pieces of silk together. It just won’t work.
Sewing Silk Fabric the Right Way
Before you start learning how to sew silk, there are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind. When you go to mark your fabric, test it out on a scrap piece first. This is because not all marking pens come off of silk, and you’ll want to know that ahead of time.
The tension on your sewing machine also needs to be checked before doing any sewing. The last thing you want is for the silk fabric to wrinkle or pull as you sew.
Also, the stitch length you choose is important, and remember that smaller stitches always look great on silk fabric. For this reason, you should stick with a stitch length of 2.0.
At some point, you should also consider whether you want to give your garment a lining. It takes a little longer to complete the project, but it gives the garment a very neat and professional look in the end.
Those Difficult Silk Seams
Now for a few words about silk seams, which sometimes present a challenge all on their own. To finish your seams, you can use a zigzag stitch or a serger. You can also use a serger with a differential feed because that works as well.
In addition, you can make the seam more stable by sewing a thin strip of bias into your seam allowance. It also makes for a much neater look.
If you take strips of fusible interfacing and use this along the sides of the seams, it’s a great way to stop the fabric from fraying.
As you can see, you have several options when it comes to getting great-looking seams in your silk garments. It just takes a little know-how and practice.
In Summary: How to Sew Silk with a Sewing Machine
Learning how to sew silk isn’t that difficult once you learn a few basics. It is always recommended that you practice on a scrap piece of silk before starting the project, especially if this is the first project that you’ve worked with this type of fabric.
Remember that silk is delicate, is prone to watermarks, and will move around a lot as you work with it. Learning how to deal with the challengings of working with silk is easier once you learn a few basics, and hopefully this article has taught you just that.