Conquering Sheer Fabrics

Archive for April, 2014


My first sheers project, is a repeat from about 3 years ago.  At the time I purchased a silk chiffon remnant from Gorgeous Fabrics. I know I was thinking of some type sleeveless top. It arrived in fall – past the time of sleeveless –  and far to lovely to be tucked away into the stash.

My photography, while continuing to improve, does not show the full beauty of this fabric.

I did not give upon the sleeveless top option. No that fall, I trimmed the frayed ends and finished with a narrow zig zag stitch.  I reasoned that as a scarf, as I wear a scarf, the selvages and rough finish would not show.

Edges are invisible!

See? I have a specific purpose in wearing scarves.  I am not one to wind a scarf around my neck for the purpose of adding color.  Personally, I’ve seen too many inartistic uses of scarves in that manner.  A scarf for me is a utility garment.  I wear scarves, in cool weather, it over my shoulders  but under my coat or jacket.  My scarves thus fill any voids between coat and body. It’s rather like weather-stripping a door or window and keeping out cold breezes. Worn under the coat, as I do, the scarf is also a dirt barrier. The scarf will absorb my body oils, makeup and perfume rather than my coat.  A scarf, even 100% silk, can be easily laundered at home. A coat, requires a bit more effort and expense. By wearing a scarf my coats rarely need cleaning. — They do benefit from a bit of airing and at times spot cleaning. But a treacherous trip to the dry cleaners is unnecessary.

It was not this scarf that I first thought of when starting my pursuit of sheers. When I started this blog, I thought myself totally ignorant.  I sorted out information that I’ve been collected and read it. I also took a Craftsy Course and sorted through my own fabrics corralling and evaluating the sheers and semi-sheers which have managed to find a way into my stash. I realized with surprise, it was not that I didn’t like sheers; or didn’t have ideas of how to use sheers but my lack of construction expertise which halts my use of sheers. As I contemplated my fabrics, I was overwhelmed with ideas of what I’d like to do with each of the fabrics.  My problem was, where to start; what techniques to explore; what ideas to attempt. I became somewhat paralyzed unable to choose where to start. I finally decided to change the make-shift scarf into an item of real pride.

I learned from my work with crepes and other crawl-away fabrics, to tame them with starch. So I began my mixing a 50/50 water/starch solution and soaking my fabrics. Afterwards, I hung it on the rack to dry in the bathroom. I returned next day and found, as expected, the fabric had taken on a scary form of its own.

With a little bit of steam and patience, I persuaded the fabric to lie flat. I then trimmed the selvages and uneven edges.  I used the rotary cutter to square the ends, but the scarf is a rectangle. Without question, my corner serging is …. rough. definitely in need of improvement. But I didn’t want to spend time working on that particular skill. I choose to use a bowl to round the points.

Before trimming and squaring.


I cut large test swatches from the silk trimmings.  I pulled out the black Maxilock Stretch thread and the binder of serging samples I constructed over a year ago.

I love technology and love my machines. I’m also a firm believer in spending time with new technology and new machines for the purpose of learning what they will do as opposed to what I want them to do. When Sally (my HV S21) came home more than a year ago, I spent at least a week making samples; and remaking samples. Remaking until I was satisfied with the results. Then I record the final settings but with the understand these settings are the point at which to begin when I actually want to use a technique. My goals with this project were controlling the silk to produce a perfect, serger,  rolled hem.

I was pleasantly surprised that my initial settings were perfect! I also tested the silk by adding strips of self-adhesive, water- soluble stabilizer. I wish I’d had more of this or at least enough to for this project. Because on the actual project the straight sides rolled and serged beautifully, but the corners stretched . Resulting in a slightly wavy curve.

Biased corners

Once trimmed to a curve, the corners were bias. The stretch should have been anticipated. I probably should have delayed this project until I could obtain the needed stabilizer. As it is, I will take away the knowledge that starch alone is not enough to control bias.  If it is important, I must be prepared to take an extra step.

I find one other fault with this project. I joined the rolled hem as I was taught i.e. by taking 5-7 stitches overlapping the first 5-7 stitches. Most of the time, this is not even noticeable. But on this silk, rolled-hem, it forms a lump which is exacerbated by my running the ending threads through the stitching to finish the hem. I’m thinking, especially since I am always likely to run the ends through the stitches and then Frey Check the hem to finish, that ending the rolled hem stitching immediately before the first stitch would be a better choice.  Any advice to share?

At the arrow, thread ends are tucked into the stitching and then Frey Checked.

I promise these flaws are not visible during wear. In fact, a non-sewist would never know they even existed. But my purpose is mastering sheers. Taking these delicate, difficult fabrics and producing perfection.  I note the two flaws as things I need to work on the next time I use a rolled hem.

Worn with pride.




Why make another blog?

Blogs have become a replacement for the binders and notebooks that I normally collect. Blogs don’t take up any room in the house — beyond the computer which is used for much more than blogs. I find that they are easily searched. I love blogs. My own especially.

But why do I need another blog?  Sheer fabrics are long-standing challenge for me.  I want something similar to my Cover Stitch Cookbook. I want to explore uses and techniques with sheers and create a media to which I can return and review how I did something. Unlike the Cover Stitch Cookbook, I don’t plan to create a physical binder. I won’t 100% rule out eventually creating a physical binder. At least initially I think that the online media will be enough.  I keep the Cover Stitch Cookbook next to the cover stitch machine for easy reference. I don’t anticipate needing to pull up sheer instructions and follow them step by step.  That’s something time will tell. If it becomes apparent  I need physical media, then I will create it.

While this will be a separate group of posts devoted to 1 sewing subject, working with sheer fabrics, the blog won’t be especially busy. I plan to make one garment every month that somehow incorporates a sheer fabric. Again, I won’t 100% rule out making more than one post per month, but the plan is to consistently work towards mastering sheer fabrics and developing a number of applications. In time, this blog will be a nice fat reference book.  For now, it’s two tiny posts about a bold plan.

Hello world.

Sheer Fabrics defeat me.  Partly it is that I have little use for sheers in my life. I mean, how many sheer curtains do I need to hang? Don’t forget, we’re talking cold Dakota weather. Sheer curtains aren’t the first choice up here. No the first choice, is either nothing, or something with a significant R-factor.

And, I don’t really care to sew lingerie.  Especially the kind that make use of sheer fabrics. Think about it. I would invest lots of time and varying amounts of money for a garment that will be worn 5-6 minutes for 5-6 times. I’m sure I can get the same effect from RTW and for the time the garment will be worn, who cares about fit, eh?

Nonetheless, sheer and semi-sheer fabrics make their way into my stash. I do try to avoid them.  On the most recent fabric order, the last thing I did was go back and check that I didn’t have any sheers in the basket. So how did I get 2?  Well they weren’t described as sheer. Their description was “silk chiffon”.  The vendor was entirely correct. I should have known that chiffon be it polyester, nylon or silk will by it’s very nature be sheer.

One saving grace of sheers is that they fold compactly. They don’t necessarily stay neat on the shelf, but they do fold into a small amount of space. But right now I’m looking at a significant amount of sheers. In my stash. Waiting to be utilized. Almost, begging to be utilized.

I seriously considered donating them all. But in retrospect, sheers seem to be a weakness for me. As much as a consciously try to avoid them, my subconscious keeps bringing them home. I say time to figure out how to make use of sheers in my life.

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