What is chiffon fabric, a guide featured by The Sewing Korner

Have you ever asked, “What is chiffon fabric?” It is a glorious, soft, luxurious type of fabric that is often used for dressy clothing and wedding dresses. It is dainty and sheer, and is especially common in pastel colors. There are many different types of chiffon fabric. Nevertheless, learning how to hem chiffon is one of its challenges, but this article is here to make working with this fabric a little easier.

Chiffon is very lightweight and sheer, and it is made with weaves of crepe yarns of the Z- and S-twist types. Because of these twists, chiffon puckers slightly and it therefore has a little bit of stretch to it, although at times the material can feel a little rough.

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    In the Beginning…

    Originally, chiffon was made entirely out of silk. In the late 1930s, someone invented chiffon that was made out of nylon. Roughly 20 years later, polyester chiffon became popular, in part because it was both inexpensive and resilient. If you were to look at chiffon with a magnifying glass, you’d notice a fine mesh or net appearance, which is why the fabric is a bit transparent.

    A lot of evening wear is made out of chiffon because chiffon is rather elegant-looking. This type of fabric can be used to make scarves, blouses, ribbons, and even lingerie. It is also used in the making of sarees in places such as India.

    Although there are different types of chiffon fabric, most of it is hard to work with due to its unique texture, which is both slippery and very light. In fact, much of the time, a French seam or bound seam has to be used so the fabric doesn’t fray. Nevertheless, people love wearing it because it is so luxurious and feels good against the skin.

    When you’re wondering, what is chiffon fabric – it helps knowing that the word “chiffon” is French for “rag” or “cloth.” It is now associated with a sheer and lustrous fabric that is woven in a specific style. Most people know the term “chiffon” and can picture in their minds exactly what it looks like.

    Today, most chiffon is made out of polyester, but other materials have also been used to make chiffon, including rayon and cotton. The latter, however, doesn’t work as well as other semi-synthetic or synthetic materials. Some chiffon is made out of silk, but it is a little pricey compared to other forms of chiffon.

    What is Chiffon Fabric and Why Is It So Unique?

    Chiffon stands out among other types of fabric in large part because of how it is made. The fabric is weaved with alternate S- and Z-twists, and the reason they’re called this is because the yarn then takes on a unique and specific shape after it’s woven this way. The result is a slightly puckered look that was once considered a status symbol.

    These days, chiffon is still a very popular type of fabric but it is usually reasonably priced, which means it isn’t always thought of as a way to show off your clothing to others. In fact, today chiffon is worn by people all over the world and is used to make tons of items, including ribbons and bows and even formal party dresses.

    In other words, chiffon is still incredibly popular and is a very attractive type of fabric, but it is now more mainstream than it used to be and therefore much more commonplace. Chiffon always has a “base” material, and it can be silk, polyester, or numerous other fabrics. Each of the base fabrics is a little different, and some are more organic than others.

    In most cases, after the opposing Z-shaped and S-shaped curves are arranged properly, the yarn is woven together usually with either an industrial weaving machine or a loom. Often, it is woven by hand simply because it is so delicate and thin.

    Regardless of how it is finished, producing chiffon is usually a very slow process. In fact, even if certain automated machines are used, they must work at a slow pace in order to protect the fabric and not cause any damage to it. Sometimes, tailors even put sheets of paper on both sides of the fabric and once the sewing process is completed, the paper is removed carefully.

    Chiffon Fabric
    Available in a variety of colors. This chiffon fabric is 42”/44” inch wide, sold by the yard and cut to order. Used for dresses, tops, apparel and other crafts projects. 

    What are the Different Types of Chiffon Fabric?

    The first thing to keep in mind is that chiffon fabric varies in the materials it’s made of and in its basic style and design. In general, materials used to make chiffon include organic, synthetic materials, and semi-synthetic materials. They include the following types:

    Chameleon Chiffon Fabric

    This is a rare type of chiffon, and it’s called chameleon because it has a multi-toned appearance.

    Jacquard Chiffon Fabric

    This is a very thin fabric but feels a little heavier when you pick it up, which is why it is often used to make kurta scarves and dresses.

    Pearl Chiffon Fabric

    This chiffon fabric has a glossy texture and a pearlescent shade, which is why it tends to stand out among the various types of chiffon.

    Silk Crepe Chiffon Fabric

    Silk Crepe Fabric Chiffon
    Great for arts & crafts, rustic home decor, western decor, wedding decorations,  table runners, wedding centerpieces, and much more!

    When most people think about chiffon, they normally think of this type. Its texture is slightly puckered and it has a slightly rough feel, even though it is incredibly comfortable.

    Silk Satin Chiffon Fabric

    Stretch Satin Chiffon Fabric
    Soft to the touch, light and breathable, soft and silky, comfortable to the touch. Fabric features compact density, good drape, elasticity, and easy to care.

    As you can imagine, this type of chiffon fabric is very smooth and soft, as well as more lightweight and transparent than most other types of chiffon.

    Your preferences when it comes to the type of chiffon you choose will help you select the one that’s best for you. Chiffon fabric offers many advantages when it comes to certain clothing items, not the least of which is the fact that it is both gorgeous and comfortable.

    That being said, there are certain challenges to working with chiffon if you like to sew. One of those things is learning how to hem chiffon, because it has to be done a certain way.

    How to Hem Chiffon

    Hemming items made out of chiffon can be difficult simply because the fabric is so thin and sheer, but it isn’t impossible once you learn a few tricks. The instructions below also apply to fabrics such as gauze, regular or cotton voile, cotton silk, and any type of “flowy” fabric. Here are the steps to follow when you need to hem this type of fabric:

    • At the bottom edge of the garment, fold over the fabric.
    • Iron the fold.
    • Use your straight stitches to sew your hemline on your sewing machine.
    • Choose a stitch length of roughly 3-4mm.
    • Trim your fabric very close to the edge of your first row of stitches.
    • Be careful with your scissors and do not damage the stitches or the fabric.
    • Take your completed hem and fold it over once again.
    • Iron the fold.
    • Next, stitch your hem, following your first row of stitches.
    • You will end up with two rows of stitching at the hem of your garment.
    • You can also use a zigzag stitch if you like (use a stitch length of under 1mm if possible).

    With any type of lightweight fabric, including chiffon, you have to make sure they are laid out very straight and square before you start cutting the fabric. Why? Because these fabrics tend to be less stable and can actually move around as you’re cutting them. Some people choose to pin the selvages together so that the yardage doesn’t slip all over the place. Using a rotary cutter and some pattern weights instead of scissors and pins also helps.

    Remember that when you’re learning how to hem chiffon or any other sheer or lightweight fabric, make the hems as neat and as narrow as possible. To hem chiffon a slightly different way, here are some instructions to follow:

    • Use a basting stitch roughly 1/4 inch from where the final hem will be.
    • Fold the fabric and iron the up side of the raw edge.
    • Use a basting stitch roughly 1/8 inch from the edge that is folded.
    • With scissors, cut off the raw edge, getting as close as possible to the second stitching line.
    • Fold the fabric again, making sure the stitched raw edge is enclosed, then iron.
    • Stitch as close as possible to the fold on the inside using a standard stitch length.
    • Cut off your basting stitches then iron again.

    Video: Hemming Chiffon

    What About Hemming Chiffon with Tape?

    You can also use hemming or fusible tape to hem a chiffon garment. You’ll also need good scissors, a measuring tape, an iron, and a pressing cloth. Here are the steps to follow to hem a chiffon garment that works with all types of chiffon fabric:

    • Decide exactly where you want to hem your fabric. Use a ruler or measuring tape for this step.
    • Use scissors to cut your tape, and again, use a ruler or measuring tape to make sure it’s the right length.
    • Take your tape and place it on your fabric along your hem.
    • Fold your hem allowance but do so on the wrong side of the fabric. This is to prevent the fabric from becoming damaged when you iron it.
    • Take your cloth and place it over your fabric.
    • Iron over the fabric using the correct temperature.
    • Give the fabric time to cool.

    Can You Hem Chiffon by Hand?

    Hemming chiffon garments by hand takes a lot of patience because it is a very slow process. You have to start by using lightweight thread that matches the color of the fabric itself. No heavy threads will do because they can ruin the fabric.

    The method you’ll use is roughly the same as the sewing method mentioned earlier, but you’ll be sewing by hand instead of with a machine. Again, remember to take it as slow as possible – even slower than using a machine or hemming tape – so that nothing goes wrong.

    Above all else, one thing is certain whether you hem your chiffon garment with a sewing machine or with hemming tape: you must go slowly and take your time. Remember, this is a very delicate and somewhat flimsy type of fabric, and it can be quite slippery when you’re working with it. Frustration can result when you go too fast, and it increases the likelihood that you’ll make a mistake.

    More Details About Chiffon Fabric

    So, we’ve answered the question, “What is chiffon fabric?” We’ve gone over the different types there are. Now let’s go into more details regarding this unique type of fabric, starting with how it’s produced and how it is used.

    Naturally, chiffon is used mostly in the making of women’s garments. This is a delicate fabric and therefore isn’t used to make everyday wear. Instead, chiffon is used to make blouses for special occasions, evening wear, and even nightgowns.

    It is also semi-transparent and therefore, it is often used for overlays, i.e., garments that are made to go over items that are opaque so that a more delicate or textured appearance results.

    If you’re wondering where chiffon fabric comes from, it normally hails from one of the Asian countries; most often, China. Nations such as Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan also manufacture certain types of chiffon, including the type made of silk.

    That being said, if the chiffon you just bought is made out of synthetic materials, it was likely manufactured in China. China produces more polyester than any other country, and they also make a lot of nylon and rayon.

    In Summary

    If you’ve ever wondered, what is chiffon fabric because you weren’t sure, you now have enough information to answer that question. Chiffon can be made out of many different materials since there are several types of chiffon fabric. These days, most chiffon is made with either silk or polyester, but other materials can also be used.

    Learning how to work with this fabric and how to hem chiffon can be a challenge, but we’ve also shown you some easy ways to do just that. Once you get used to working with chiffon, you’ll certainly become a fan of this type of fabric.

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