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Topic: So I bought some Thai silk....  (Read 699 times)
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« on: December 09, 2005 10:14:20 PM »

...2 years ago, with the intention of making a dress out of it. I don't know what possessed me to spend $80 on that silk when I've never sewn with silk in my life, and after buying it, the pattern, another (easier) pattern, the sharp machine needles, the fusible interfacing and silk thread...and I've been afraid to touch it since. Now, I think I ought to make this dress, especially since it's black silk and I'm a music student without a really nice black recital dress, and a recital in March.

And I have absolutely no clue when it comes to sewing with silk. I can't put pins through it because I know it'll puncture the fabric permanently....I have no idea how you cut it, what you can mark it with/shouldn't mark it with, how you actually sew it on a machine or by hand (or if there's no difference?)...

I think I'm going to make the dress out of some cheap muslin or something before I even touch the silk, but can anyone give me some tips on sewing with silk? What should I do? Or more importantly, what should I NOT DO??
« Reply #1 on: December 10, 2005 07:31:39 AM »

Hi there ... So sorry, I've never made clothing from Thai silk before but have made little things like bags from it. ...

However, one thing I'd suggest is: if at all possible, don't make a dress.
Too tough/too much  for anyone who's anxious about the fabric & other things (and I assure you I'd be that way too about making a dress from 'any' kind of silk, lol).

Instead, I'd make a long simple elegant dressy skirt -- oh also not too tight a style, especially at the hips & if you have to sit during your performance -- because, if I recall correctly, Thai silk is usually doupioni silk, which doesn't like to be 'stressed' at seams.
Even if it isn't dupioni but some other silk type though, stressing any kind of silk at the seams isn't exactly the greatest idea.  Imho, fitted/tailored silk styles are muuuuch better left to professionals & commercial manufacturers.

So just me (definitely no pro!) I'd do a skirt ...
unless for some reason there's some prohibition against wearing evening skirts for a performance ...?
If 'all'black *is* a requirement, of course you could pair the skirt up with a black sweater or soft black silk blouse.
If you wish. & if permitted of course, you could also brighten things up just a tad with an easytomake fabric belt, for example. And, you can wear a long black skirt for just about any other dressy or formal event too -- it's one of the most longterm-useful things any woman can have in the closet.

[[btw, hub&I have attended daytime & nighttime recitals & concerts in the US & elsewhere all over the world for decades ... Although admittedly, all-black & dresses-only were 'de rigueur' for all female artists many years ago, seems for some time now the rule's been relaxed a bit. So far I've never seen anyone in fuchsia & chartreuse plaid, y'know; but long black evening skirts & even occasionally a touch of subtle color, sure.
Edited to add: These days, there are also some quartets/other groups & also some soloists who wear what I guess one could call a 'trademark' color other than black, but maybe that's not something students regularly do.]]

But to go on ...! apologies for being so verbose, lol

Re pinning --- sure you can pin silk. But if I were you I'd use high quality, round head, dressmaker or quilting type pins; flathead el-cheapos often snag/leave holes/etc etc no matter what the fabric.
If you're still anxious about holes, just pin very slightly above your marked lines instead of right on top of them.
Re marking ---
I always use the kind of dressmaking marker or chalk that can be all or very-nearly-all brushed right off, and I do try to be careful to make the marks light, not grind the stuff into the fabric, of course.
My marking stuff was picked out for me by a longtime expert seamstress at a local specialty fabric store which happens to carry many kinds of silk -- but I'm sure someone at JoAnn's or any other allpurpose fabric store could also recommend the best kind to use too (assuming someone else here can't -- unfortunately I'm not able to sew much of anything any more so I no longer have those marker thingies)
And one more thing ---
I've never had anything silk (woven or knit garment, yardage, whatever) that was ruined by careful, gentle washing. Drycleaning? YES.  Washing? Never. You can also iron silk fabric if necessary -- which is why there's a silk setting on the fool things, hee! ...
Sooo... if I were you I'd consider washing the yardage before I did anything else.
« Last Edit: December 10, 2005 07:59:22 AM by Ayn » THIS ROCKS   Logged
« Reply #2 on: December 10, 2005 07:58:33 AM »

You can invest in some silk pins too if you're very worried about pin holes being left behind with regular pins.
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« Reply #3 on: December 10, 2005 08:05:19 AM »

I think a nice shift dress would be gorgeous, but don't forget you probably need lining so that the silk hangs properly. 

Darn, just last night I was wishing for silk after altering a silk dress for a customer and now I read this........drat I have to buy some now.

try searching google for sew silk for tips: http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rls=RNWE,RNWE:2005-22,RNWE:en&q=sew+silk


Michelle Giordano

« Reply #4 on: December 10, 2005 08:15:14 AM »

oh & I forgot about the scissors...
Just about any scissors'll cut silk or any other fabric ... but ... I've found, when making just about anything out of anything, it honestly does pay to use the best-quality dressmaker/tailor type scissors you can possibly afford.
But, I can understand if you're not into making other things, you might not care spend that kind of money --- so I'd say either make sure your old scissors are properly-/well-sharpened or get a new one even if not tiptop quality.

also I think Divasews' tip -- using silk pins -- should further ease any anxiety over pinning ...
and michellegiordano, you coulda gone all year without posting that, lol. Not the silk-sewing tips links, they're great, thanks -- but all those irresistibly lusciously yummy silk SALES links are horrrrrible.. for the budget, anyway!!    [along with linen, silk just happens to be my lifelong favorite fabric]
« Last Edit: December 10, 2005 08:25:26 AM by Ayn » THIS ROCKS   Logged
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« Reply #5 on: December 10, 2005 03:22:22 PM »

and michellegiordano, you coulda gone all year without posting that, lol. Not the silk-sewing tips links, they're great, thanks -- but all those irresistibly lusciously yummy silk SALES links are horrrrrible.. for the budget, anyway!!    [along with linen, silk just happens to be my lifelong favorite fabric]

Silk Sales?  OMG I didn't see that, and I just spent all my money......drat!

Michelle Giordano

« Reply #6 on: December 11, 2005 06:27:30 AM »

awwww!  MG: sorry if I kinda mis-led you or anyone else ...
I just meant all those  links to 'sales places' -- i.e., places that sell silk. Didn't necessarily mean that all of em definitely had 'a sale' going on (in the sense of lowered prices).
I like silk & linen & other all-natural fabrics so much that sometmes I get wacko, just plain don't care what the price might be. But then again, it seems both web & brick-n-mortar fabric places always have 'some' sort of special sale going on toward or after the holidays, of course.
« Reply #7 on: December 11, 2005 07:38:52 AM »


I just found a great Quicktime/RealPlayer video made by Sandra Betzina over at the Threads webpage http://www.taunton.com/threads/pages/tvt022.asp Very helpful.

I found a page on washing silk here: http://www.srfabrics.com/care/silk.htm. Most importantly, if your silk is something like a dupioni, that needs to be dry-cleaned, be very careful when you iron it - any water coming from the iron will spot it. Drain the water out first if you're concerned.

Sharp needles are good, but are they a fine gauge? Generally you want a size nine or ten - any larger then that will make lots of pulls in your silk, all but ruining it. When you pin for cutting and seaming, pin within the seams of the fabric, and you won't have to worry about the holes showing.

Also, I'd be against using the fusible interfacing - usually the setting you have to have the iron at is higher than what you want for the silk itself, and the results can be iffy. Underlining (as well as a lining) is preferable if you need extra stability in a few places (guide here - http://www.taunton.com/threads/pages/t00010.asp). This will also reduce stress on the seams. It takes a bit longer, but is always worth it.

Take a trip to the library for a book or two on specialty sewing, like maybe even something on couture, as it will probably have more info on sewing with delicate fabrics.

Making a muslin first is very highly reccommended - I think it's worth trying that first, because if you get frustrated after or during that stage, you can do what Ayn said and make something simpler like a skirt. I think you should give yourself a chance to try it while you have a good excuse like this, you know?

Go for it!
« Reply #8 on: December 11, 2005 10:34:52 AM »

Thanks for all the help everyone!

The pattern I've got is New Look # 6371, view B or C, though if anyone knows of a better pattern (perhaps not requiring the interfacing?), the fabric store I use here in Montreal is having a big sale on McCall's patterns so I'm open to suggestions. I've got 3 1/4 yards of the silk.

Ayn- don't worry about being verbose, I'm the same way. I only use my nice yellow-head quilting pins for everything, so I think I'll cut a little corner off and test how those pins work. My scissors are nice and sharp, I think anyway, cuz they don't touch anything except fabric and were shearing through some flannel wonderfully yesterday. They're just those big orange-handled Fiskars though, nothing too fancy. Making a skirt instead is a really good idea- I'm going to try the dress in muslin first, and if that's a disaster, skirt it is. I'd just rather have a dress because I've already got 5 black skirts in different lengths and fabrics, but no dresses. Lately I've actually been forbidding myself to buy black clothing because I have too much already! [as a sidenote- you're totally right about the black not being such a requirement anymore- generally soloists with orchestra do wear a different color. I could go with a colorful dress but I think for now, since I'm still only an undergrad especially, I'm going to stick with the black. Maybe next year, for my big graduation recital...bright red! hah that would  be awesome]

Divasew- they have pins for just silk? If my quilting pins are awful, then perhaps I will get some of those...if they're not too expensive.

Polycotton- thanks for the encouragement, and links! I'm bookmarking them to look at after my exams are done. I thought the fusible interfacing sounded kind of wierd, but when I bought the fabric the woman at the store helped me pick one out that she said would work. I think I'll do a test patch with a corner of the silk and a little of the interfacing  before I try anything. And as for underlining, I'll do whatever to make this dress come out well...I don't want to have to invest in a nice black performance dress again for a long time.

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