Conquering Sheer Fabrics

Archive for June, 2014

A Sheer Burnout T-Shirt

As promised, the sheer project I’ve been working on:

I started with my favorite knit top (which is officially a T-shirt) PP104. For summer, I scooped the front neck 4″  and the back and shoulders 1″.  I wanted a flirty sleeve. PP104 includes a standard long sleeve with short T-shirt length marked. Neither are flirty.  I traced the armscye curve and 2″  down from the underarm. I marked the center and back and then sliced from hem to curve every 1″.  I spread the slashes about 1/2″ apart and taped them into place.

Then I reinforced the top and trimmed all excess tissue:

That gave me my new sleeve which I’ve filed away with the pattern.  I use this pattern so much that anytime I semi-draft a new piece, I keep it.

To be honest, I wish I had spread the slashes further. I’d have liked this to be a little more flirty. But I’m not unhappy with the final effect.


Long before I got to this point, I mentally hashed out the details of construction.  I didn’t want this to be a difficult construction. The sheer garments in my closet (constructed over an 8 year time-frame), are all third layers and I’ve forgotten most of the sewing details. I’m not really sure if what I did was easy peasy or a struggle.

My fabric is a cotton burnout.  It arrived folded double and looking quite good.  At my first attemp to use it, I realized those semi sheer bits covered most of the fabric.  What would have been a nice fabric, looked thin and cheap because of the burn-out process. I put it away.  This time, I had a new plan.  I started by immersing the fabric in a 50% water 50% liquid starch solution and then allowing the fabric to dry over night. Just before cutting, I pressed carefully.

My plan was lining. Wearing a 2nd garment beneath, is not an option for me. I just emotionally reject the idea of wearing two layers of garments during hot weather.  There was no doubt this would be a hot weather garment. I purchased just enough fabric for a short-sleeve top. If this was to be a garment I would wear, it would require a lining at least front and back. Apparently, I’ve been thinking about my sheers for a while, even if I haven’t been sewing them frequently.   In my stash was a small pile of sheer or light weight, 1-yard  fabrics purchased specifically for linings. I chose a white, very translucent, polyester knit. It wasn’t quite sheer. My sheer lining knits were in brown and black. I wanted white.  I also subjected the lining to the 50/50 starch solution; allowing it to dry overnight and then pressed.

The 50/50 solution worked almost perfectly. I like that when the garment was finished it was immediately wearable. A 100% starch solution would have required laundering before the first wearing. However the 50/50 did not completely control the curl of the fabric.  It might have been different, if I’d been able to cut and sew immediately. But I was disrupted and called away to other things while my newly cut fabric waited. Since these distractions often happen, I think I should use at least a 75% or 100% starch solution in the future.

My neckline, sleeve and bottom hems are all finished with cross-grain cut strips of the lining fabric.   Fortunately both fabrics were very stretchy. I had left about an 8″ wide strip. That would make a very choppy looking bias binding. I think I would have selected yet a 3rd fabric instead of making bias from that amount of fabric. I mentally debated the option of using the self-fabric or the white. I thought the contrasting color might add a little oomph; a little more summer to my garment.

I used the white fabric as an underlining. I taped the back shoulders and neckline of the white fabric. I did not baste the burnout and lining layers together.  I remember doing that long long ago when I was in high school. At the time I was working with cotton voile and a shiny lining (not sure what the lining fabric was, silk maybe?). That was meant to be a dressy dress. This garment is meant to be a summer T-shirt; worn and laundered frequently. I didn’t stitch the two layers together because I thought it would be faster and the finish (for a T-shirt) acceptable. I struggled constantly trying to align 4 layers. I pinned much more than normal. I checked finished seams carefully. Fortunately, I didn’t have to fix any of them. But I didn’t save any time. Definitely recommend stitching the layers together if making an under/inter lining.

The shoulders and neckline were top stitched with the cover stitch machine. I used a polyester embroidery thread, because it matched perfectly and these seams were taped, basted and serged already. Even though polyester can be strong, embroidery is fine thread and therefore weaker but a strong thread was not essential for the top stitching.

The sleeves were unlined.  I felt like what’s the point of using sheer fabric if it’s never allowed to be sheer?

One last note about the lining: it turned a thin cheap fabric into a WOW. It now drapes like an expensive, fine knit. I am concerned that two layers of knits could be too warm to wear. This is something I’ll have to experience to reach any conclusion.

I call this garment a success. But I need a few highlights for the future

  • Sheer sleeves are just as lovely on me as on any starlet.
  • A 50/50 starch solution is too weak.
  • Basting underlining with fashion fabric is faster than trying to align 4 layers.
  • 4-thread serger seams, when complete inside are great! They are strong and fast. Definitely it was easier to serger and CS than working at the SM. The larger foot makes all the difference in control.
  • Lining, even a thin knit lining, dramatically affects the drape and appearance of the fabric.


PS That’s the haircut you get when asking for “short and cute”.

PPS Pants were made in May 2013 using a 50/50 poly/acetate fabric. They are wonderfully drapey and apparently adapt well to figure changes.




Knit Lace

This is a lovely cardigan completed in 2013 and first shared HERE. It’s the most recently completed garment that qualifies as sheer because of the knitted, cotton lace.  I used the selvage for the sleeve and bottom hems. The neckline and front lapel, are fused with SAS, turned and stitched. It was an extremely fast garment made so because of these finishes. While  polyester crepe plus SAS created a stiff hem, this knit plus SAS has the perfect weight. SAS was a really good choice.

Amazingly soil-resistant,  I’ve not laundered it once and it is one of the most worn garments in my wardrobe. The knitted lace fabric works well all 4 seasons.  Unlike the previous garments, this one does not scrunch down into nothing. If I take it with me,  it needs a little room in the suitcase or often is tied around my bag’s straps IF not worn.

That completes the roll-call of sheer garments currently in my wardrobe (excluding lingerie which I did not sew). I am pleased to see that I have been working with sheer fabrics and have developed some experience. Although not all good, I know it’s important to know what not to do as well as to celebrate my successes.

Outstanding in my mind, is that these garments are all 3rd layers. No blouses, skirts, tops, why?  I have had some of all those in the past. They passed out of my wardrobe for modesty reasons. I don’t mind showing a little shoulder. Don’t mind a hint of bra or camisole. But do not want to disclose my other underwear or exhibit unclothed most of my body.  Also, I associate sheers with summer wear because on their on they are light weight and cooling rather than heat retaining.  From here on out, my challenge will be sewing sheer tops, that will preserve my modesty while exploring more sewing techniques that create fine, strong seams on these thin fabrics.  I’ll also be contemplating mult-seasonal use of sheer fabrics.

D’ates D’signs Dolman Sleeve Jacket

Like the Versa Jacket of yesterday, the D’ates D’signs Dolman Jacket works well in a variety of fabrics as long as they have drape. I’ve even used it with a light weight, very soft denim. Despite being a rather unique design, it’s also a classic shape which lends itself to multiple activities and has a large area for embellishment.  It has several pieces. A large body piece which folds up  and is stitched along the shoulder line forming the sleeves and front opening. Plus a pocket, cuffs, neckline and hem rectangular pieces.

The neckline, cuffs and hems are interfaced and stitched to the body.  I used self fabric to interface. This polyester crinkle was too sheer to disguise any interfacing.  Having never used a self-interfacing prior, I was unsure this would work. Well it not only works, but the cuff and neckband are soft against my skin.

This isn’t one of those garments with a hundred ways to wear. As I recall, the sleeves were one length. If you wanted longer or shorter, adjust the 4″ cuffs. Same with the hem because there were no guidelines and determining how to shorten was beyond me.  The neck and front bands will fold into a shawl collar shape; and  I’ve added numerous closures. Made the front bands a little wider and folded back into a small lapel or overlapped for a button. Not options in the pattern, just things I discovered over years of making it.

It is a good candidate for serger sewing. All the seams of this version were done with a 4-thread serged seam. No seams visible on the public side.  The serger made it easy to attached the curved neck, hem  and cuff lines to the corresponding rectangular pieces.

Like yesterday’s fluff of pink, this garment doesn’t get worn often. Because of the fabric it travels well. Packs down into small corners and emerges with hardly a wrinkle.  This is type fabric that can be ironed by hanging in the steam while you shower. But the color is such that it doesn’t work with all my summer wardrobe; and it is a summer garment.   Still I’ve included it here because 1) it is a sheer 2) the 4-thread serger seams were succesful and 3)self-interfacing was used.

Butterick 5355 Silk Chiffon

I first  shared this particular blouse in June 2010.

I’ve worn it 3 or 4 times during in it’s two year life span, but haven’t laundered since its construction. While 3 or 4 times may be a light amount of actual wear, the garment has sat on a hanger for a lot of that time AND the serger-rolled seams look like they were sewn yesterday.  That tells me  a tight, rolled seam is strong.  In fact it meets  all 3 criteria for the perfect sheer seam: narrow, unnoticeable and strong. (Although I personally would at times want the seam to be a visible embellishment.)

I completed all the serger-rolled hems before stitching the side seams.  I didn’t want that lump or uneven stitching which can occur when rolling crosses a seam. As far I as know, there isn’t a serger out there that can reliably handle these seams.

The scoop neckline was bound with narrow purchased bias tape and then turned to the inside before being top stitched.  Another strong seam (it hasn’t raveled or stretched at all during this time) and only slightly visible. I think it’s another good choice for finishing sheer edges.

This tie is made from two, narrow, long rectangles. I barely had enough fabric. I did something unusual and maybe not such a good idea. I serged the long sides, wrong sides together. The short ends were cut from the selvage and are unfinished. The serged seams are on the outside and they do show.  I think the seams are OK. It’s the selvage edge that is unattractive.

This blouse, like the scarf shared previously is 100% silk chiffon, also purchased from Gorgeous Fabrics. I started with a yard and half and barely had enough to finish the self fabric tie belt. Wearing it has a soft, romantic feel. Kind of easy, floating.

I wear this as an over-garment i.e. 3rd layer. There are times and places when I need protection from the sun or relief from cold (dr’s offices, grocery freezer sections) and so keep a 3rd layer with me when out and about. This blouse not only fulfills the need, but it packs down to nothing. Furthermore, I can wad it up into a ball; poke it into a bottom corner of my purse and let it sit there for hours/days; and when I pull it out it will unfold and be perfect. The wrinkles just shake out. The reason it doesn’t get worn more is that 1 piece front.  I don’t mind pulling something over my head in the morning, but I don’t want to be putting on and taking off a garment several times daily. It messes my hair and makeup. Oh and makeup soils. So now I need to launder this item which was worn less than an hour. (Why is it that spot cleaning does not remove mascara, but a fully wet laundry will?) I’m also at odds with the tie belt.  I did not add belt carriers at the seams because I wanted to option to remove or just not wear the belt. Personally, I don’t like seeing unfilled belt loops. It looks to me like you forgot to completely dress or are so untidy a portion of your garment couldn’t be located. (Both things that I do.) Because I like the blouse, I am contemplating an alteration, re-do, or up-cycle.   I’m thinking of dividing the blouse in front, rolling the edges, maybe reshaping the neckline and resulting lapel a little. I haven’t decided but the belt either goes away or gets carriers. IOW it’s time to make a commitment, does or does this not requiring a belt?  I’ll update this post when I decide; however, I’m in no hurry.


LJDesigns Versa Jacket

This pattern is an instant classic, IMO. Lj Designs Versa Jacket

I constructed it using a sheer polyester but the pattern would be equally as lovely in a wool crepe, rayon challis or any fabric with drape. Lyla (owner of LJDesigns and the drafter of this pattern), develops the jacket shape through clever folding and minimal stitching. I do believe that minimal stitching forces the fabric to drape into the desired shape.  Look at these “cuffs”:

They are not separate pieces of fabric. They are not interfaced. What they are is carefully drafted. I needed to mark, fold and stitch precisely. Two stitches extra and it was too long. Two stitches short and the cuff doesn’t form. I added a silver conch closure and top stitched bias tubes onto the color for embellishment.

This garment travels well. The fabric can be folded, twisted or bunched into a small space. Pulled out and shaken off to wear. The wrinkles just disappear.  Strangely, it is also soil resistant. Unlike yesterdays fluff of pink, this garment has seldom been laundered. That and because my fabric is a neutral, dark denim makes this is one of my most worn summer garments.

But the reason it is here, is because the fabric is sheer.

I used a 4-thread serger seam for most of the stitching. There are critical areas (the cuff) which had to be stitched at the SM. This time the 4-thread seams work because there are no exposed seams. Lyla made sure this would be a garment you can wear with pride.  I rolled the hem but my serger balked and made lots of loopy edges. So I turned the serging up once and top stitched.  Gorgeous finish.

A Pink Wrap

I made this so long ago, I can’t remember the details and I can’t find my pattern. I think it is my oldest, sheer garment. I thought it was a Sewing Workshop pattern named Mimosa, but the Mimosa on that site is a neat looking blouse.  This is an asymetrical, bias cut wrap. Well almost wrap, as it does have inset sleeves and a shoulder seam.  As I remember, it was two pieces: a sleeve and a large weirdly shaped body. Sewing on the correct lines forms a shoulder, neckline  and suddenly armscyes are visible. The sleeve is inserted and all the edges are finished or not if you prefer. If could be a quickly sewn garment. I remember struggling with the polyester crepe fabric that want to crawl away at the cutting table and serger.

At the time, I chose to serge the shoulder, neckline, sleeves and armscyes with a 4 thread, flat serger stitch. They’ve lasted well (the serged seams) and are not terribly visible because  (1) most are inside (2) there aren’t many seams and (3) this sheer fabric has a busy print.  Nonetheless, should I make something similar, I think I choose the serger-rolled  or serger narrow seam.

I chose to finish the yards of outside edges with 1/2″ Seam-A-Steam applied and the edge turned twice. Although this garment has been laundered several times, all these edges are stiff. I like their appearance and maybe being a little stiff is a good thing. I mean this crepe polyester tends to drops straight down. Chiffon has a floating effect, this crepe has totally surrendered to gravity.  At the time I was concerned that my 3 yards of fabric would not be enough, yet seemed like a horribly large amount of fabric to use. In truth all that yardage is what keeps this from being curve hugging and is therefore more flattering to me.  I do prefer garments which suggest feminine curves without revealing all the adipose tissue required to form those curves.

I wear this garment frequently. It is light weight and packs away to nothing either within a suitcase or purse. When pulled from the depths of wherever, it shakes out the wrinkles and envelops my figure in a lovely fluff of pink.  It doesn’t get daily wear because a) it’s a summer garment with some spring and fall wearability but not good for cold (winter) 2) I’m really focused on the monochromatic dressing to create a columnar effect during wear.  I avoid color-blocking. I think color blocking tends to shorten the figure.  I’m short enough.

I would not make another garment exactly like this which is probably why I no longer have the pattern.  For one thing it’s very distinctive.  But the real turn-off for me is that the back collar comes together in a peak with a serged seam that folds over to the public side and shows.


I don’t use 4-thread serger seams as decorative elements. They are, for me, strictly utilitarian and should be hidden.  Although you get different views from side to side, it really has only one look. I have on occasion tied the front edges together:

but that was to keep them out of the way of something I was doing. It’s not really flattering.

It’s a good garment, excellent summer wrap  but more of an example of what-not-to-do with sheers.  I share it again now, (pretty sure this was on my blog long ago), more to document its errors; to have a place where I can review just what that type of hem and seam looks like.

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