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Working with Silk

Working With Silk

Pre-treating

  • Silks are washable, but always test a swatch first to be sure you like the results.
  • To test, I cut a 4-5” strip across the width of the fabric, and if it ravels, serge the raw edges. Then, cut in 3 sections and hand launder one piece, machine wash/cool/gentle on another, and wash/dry gentle on the last.
  • Fragile and embellished silks may require dry cleaning.
  • Silk organza is one fabric I NEVER machine wash/dry as it becomes much softer and wrinkled - though this may be a desired effect.
  • I sometimes toss silk taffeta in the washer/dryer, which makes it a bit more cotton-y, this kicks back the silky shine and creates lovely all-over crinkles. I 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 as usual, and it will retain the soft crinkles.
  • After sewing, never put silk in the dryer again. Hand launder or wash gentle and air dry. I take silks out of the laundry while still very wet, hang on a hanger and pull and smooth the seams and hems, allowing the weight of the water to do the work, then touch up with an iron or not.

Cutting

  • Cut sheers and slippery fabrics on top of paper, squaring off the end to align the grain. Use tissue or pattern making paper.
  • It is ok to tape the paper together to get the width of the fabric. Place the pattern on the fabric, pattern pieces on top, then pin and cut through all the layers.
  • This keeps the shape of the pattern pieces so you can move them around to mark.
  • Mark with tailor tacks, snips or tiny dots with a dressmaker's pencil. I avoid using tracing wheel/paper as it can leave marks

Sewing

  • Make samples with scraps to see which combination of needle size and thread works best.
  • Sew with a sharp needle
  • You can use silk thread, but a fine long staple polyester thread is a good choice too
  • Test for iron temperature and whether the iron leaves marks if you press on the right side.
  • Use an organza press cloth if needed

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© Marcy Tilton