Tips for Sewing with Silk

Tips for Sewing with Silk

Tips for sewing with silk

I love silk.  It is a gorgeous and vibrant fabric that feels like nothing else.  I don’t sew with it often but I will be doing a scarf scrunchie project to accompany this post that is made out of silk and I thought it was a good time to talk about the ins and outs of sewing with silk.  SIlk can be expensive.  Silk blends less so.  Whichever fabric you buy there are tips and tricks to sewing with it. It can be difficult to sew with.  Unlike cotton special care should be taken when sewing with silk.  With these tips you should be able to easily sew with silk. After all, you will want to take advantage of the beautiful vibrant colors that only silk provides.  

Types of Silk

There are no less than 50 different types of silk.  Some are more popular than others.  I am not going to list all 50 different types of silk here but I will say that the most popular types include:

  • Silk dupioni: a medium weight, reversible, crisp fabric with a nubby texture. It doesn’t wrinkle easily and is durable.
  • Silk habotai: a soft and lustrous lightweight fabric.  It doesn’t wrinkle easily. It is also known as Parachute silk and is used for lining garments and to make light tops, dresses and shirts. 
  • Silk chiffon: a soft, sheer fabric with a slight rough feel It is suitable for making loose flowy clothes. 
  • Silk georgette: a sheer and strong silk fabric with a dull creped surface and a grainy texture. It is a durable fabric that snags easily and is difficult to sew.  
  • Silk charmeuse: a soft medium weight silk fabric with a satin like right side and a dull wrong side.  It is probably the most common.  
  • Silk organza: a sheer crisp lightweight strong and durable fabric.  This fabric creases easily.  It is used primarily for making veils and under gowns. You can also use this to make facings for sheer fabrics.

 How do I cut Silk?

steel scissors on red fabric

Cutting silk is can be challenging.  It tends to slide around on your work surface.  The best thing to do is to make sure you are using very sharp quality fabric shears to cut your silk.  Use long cuts to gain some control over the cutting process.  You can also use some lightweight or featherwight interfacing to add some wight to the silk to make cutting easier.  You could also slip some paper underneath the silk and cut the silk and the paper at the same time to also provide stability.  The paper may dull your scissors but they can be sharpened.  You definitely don’t want to ruin your expensive silk fabric.  

How do I Pin SIlk?  

This tip for pinning silk should be observed as pinning should be kept to a minimum.  In fact, when  you are pinning silk make every effort to use very sharp pins and to pin within the seam allowance to avoid making holes and snags in your fine silk fabric. Fabric weights are also a good solution to using pins in this instance.  

What thread do I use?  

Interestingly, you do not want to use silk thread to sew silk fabrics.  Instead for 100% silk you should use cotton thread and for silk blends use polyester or polyester/cotton blend thread for the best results.  

What Needle should I use?  

The best needle for swing with silk is the Microtex needles in size 60/8, 65/9 for thin silk and size 70/10 for medium weight silk. Microtex needles have very sharp points that will be less likey to snag the precious fabric. .

What stitch length should I use?  

This tip for sewing with silk is very important and that is stitch length.  When sewing with cotton you would typically use a 2.5 stitch length for sewing seams but for silk you will want to shorten your stitch length to 1.5 – 2 for thinner silks.  For medium wieght silks like dupioni you can use 2.5.   You should never back stitch on silk.  Instead you should hand stitch the beginning and ends of your seams to stop them from coming apart.  You could reduce your stitch length to zero when starting but you run the risk of the fabric getting stick in the needle plate.  If you are using a stretchy silk or a silk that you have cut on the bias use a zig zag stitch instead.  

What presser foot should I use?

Because this is a slippery fabric your standard presser foot may not be up to the job.  I would try a Teflon foot if it seems to be struggling.  You may also want to consider getting a straight stitch needle plate and straight stitch presser foot for your machine when sewing with silk.   

How should I finish the seams?

Keep in mind that silk frays so you will want to finish your seams on the inside of your projects.  I prefer to serge or zig zag my seams when possible but a nice french seam is perfect for many garments.  There are many other ways to finish seams that are perfect for a more coutured look to garments but I am not going to get into them in  this post.  

SHould I interface silk?

Interfacing silk is appropriate and can add additional support to the fabric.  Just make sure that when choosing interfacing for your project that you choose an interfacing that is lighter than the fabric or of the same weight. You can also use the same fabric as the project when sewing with silk to interface your project.  This is probably the best option but can be expensive depending ion the silk you are using.  Silk organza is often used as an interfacing for silk to give it a nice crisp feel.  Take care when choosing fusible interfacing for silk.  Make sure it is silk weight before you purchase it.  

how do I hem silk

You can hem silk in the same way as any other project but wide hems can pucker if not sewn carefully.  A blind hem stitch is most appropriate for a wide hem but you should hand baste ahead of time.  However, I prefer a narrow hem such as a rolled hem when sewing with silk.  It is far easier and quicker. You can check out my tutorial on how to use a rolled hem foot here.  

How to use a rolled hem foot

How do I press silk?

The best way to press silk is to press from the wrong side or to make sure that you are using a press cloth.  I actually do both.  While 100% silk can take some heat blended silk really cannot.  


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Tips for sewing with silk




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