Silk taffeta is a classic fabric and a personal favorite that can be used to dress up or down. Make a ball gown, cocktail dress, shirt, skirt, vest, duster coat. All this, plus it makes a perfect lining for more structured fabrics. Off the bolt, silk taffeta has a sheen that catches the light, is silky smooth and lightly crisp with a malleable hand and airy drape. In this state it is right for more dressy clothes and sumptuous curtains, draperies and pillows.
Silk taffeta is the ideal 'starter silk' for beginners as it is easy to handle and sew.
My preference is to kick it back. I like to toss silk taffeta in the washer/dryer, which makes it a bit more cotton-y, kicks back the silky shine and creates lovely all-over crinkles. Take it out of the dryer when it is just a bit damp, smooth it out, give a light press. You can then sew and press, and it will retain the soft crinkles. After sewing, machine wash gentle, either air dry or toss in the dryer until just damp, pull out and smooth the edges. Silk taffeta is an ideal year round fabric because it is a natural insulator, warm when layered, cool and airy in warm weather.
On the left side of the dress form are taffetas after being tossed in the washer/dryer. On the right, straight off the bolt.
The photo below shows 1 yard cuts as they came out of the dryer.
Check out this video showing before/after putting taffeta in the washer/dryer.
In this photo for Vogue 9174, I used washed silk taffeta for the blouse. This pattern would also work well for piecing using different colors or patterns.
Katherine's new shirt, Butterick 6459 is an excellent choice too. She has a pieced version in the works right now, see the photo above for her choice of fabrics (1 yard each) stay tuned for the result.
Sewing Tips for Silk or Synthetic Taffetas
Taffeta is a historical fabric worn in the 1700's and 1800's by the likes of Marie Antoinette and Martha Washington. In those days of hand sewing only, they utilized the raw edges with pinking machines as shown in the photos below.
Synthetic taffetas have most of the same characteristics as silk, and some of my favorite purchased in Paris jackets and vests are made from nylon or poly taffeta. So don't turn up your nose at these synthetics! They will not crinkle when tossed in the washer/dryer, but work well for doing heat set pleating and crinkling as used by Issey Miyake. A rare few are woven with a fine metallic thread, and these do hold their shape when crushed.
As a fabric buyer, I pick up every good taffeta I can find, silk, synthetic, plain weave, printed or novelty weave, I love them all.
Taffeta Friendly Pattern Suggestions: