Useful stitches, seams and seam finishes for silk garments
ONE more l essons that students can be introduced onto and learn from Technology and Livelihood Education (TLE) is garments specifically silk, equally one of the in-demand type. As I have already pointed out in my other article, garment retail is one among industries that constantly generates income. Here I will discuss how to sew silk garments using stitches, seams and seam finishes.
Basting and pinning are two not very popular sewing techniques that work best with many types of silk fabric. If you do not want to screw up a Php 2,500 a yard piece of silk trying to make something nice out of it the faster way, it makes perfect sense to baste and pin. There are actually several types of basting: basting pattern pieces, basting hems, pleats, gathers, set-in sleeves, positioning pockets, and more. For first fitting, basting is a must-do. Most of the time, baste can be done by hand especially when sewing “slippery” types of silk such as charmeuse, chiffon, organza and georgette. Basting prevents slippery fabric from shifting when stitch by machine. But here is an important tip, baste only with a very fine, sharp hand-sewing needle so it doesn’t leave any holes in the delicate fabric after basting thread is removed. Basting stitches should be secured from beginning till end.
When it comes to seam allowances and their finishing, seam allowances should be exactly the same width on all pattern pieces. Use the edge guide of your machine, (the marked on the needle plate) so that you always stitch the same distance from the fabric edge. Sometimes you will need to mark notches on the edges of your pattern pieces. For this make a small cut (5mm) into the seam allowance with sharp scissors. If you sew transparent silk fabric like chiffon, organza, mesh then you have to be very careful with seams – they will be visible through the fabric. So seams have to be the same width all over. Unfinished edges of silk fabric often fray easily so choose very fine threads to finish the raw edges.
How to stitch silk fabric? Stitches must be straight, even and pass exactly along the seam line. Uneven curved stitches create bumps, distortions and imperfections of the seams. It is very important to adjust a stitch length for lightweight silk. It should be small – 1.5 -2mm. When sewing silk fabric especially lightweight charmeuse, chiffon, organza, georgette, gauze, we use quite often special seams called French seams in which the allowances are hidden inside the seams themselves. This kind of seams very neat but they are mostly used for straight pattern lines while sewing bedding or for example side seams of clothing. French seams can be used only for lightweight or medium-weight silk. On heavy fabrics it would look bulky. The width of the finished seams should be 5 to 7 mm. What to do is to press it toward the back of the garment.
Now in sewing hems for silk garments, the last on this topic, are some of the amazing techniques that are commonly used. It’s a little bit time consuming because hems are sewn by hand in this case but the result is really fantastic – on the front side of the garment there is absolutely no hint of visible stitches. Sometimes it feels like it is simply impossible to spoil an exquisite delicate silk blouse or dress with a line of stitches along the hem. Regular hem finishes just don’t fit the style of the garment. But this method is good only for straight hems.
So, what are the steps? First is to make sure that you cut the hemline straight. Second is to mark a straight line 1.5 to 2 cm from the edge with a special marking pen. Third is to apply a piece of thinnest knit fusible webbing 1.5 cm wide with an iron. Fourth is to fold the fabric edge to the bottom line of the fusible tape, baste and press. Fifth is to fold the hem again but now to the upper line of the fusible tape. You can use pins to do it then baste and press again. Sixth is to sew the hem by hand with invisible stitches inserting the needle only into the fusible tape. Be careful not to grab some threads from the silk fabric. Lastly, take out the basting thread and press. ( Paid article)