Conquering Sheer Fabrics

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.




Comments on: "A Sheer Burnout T-Shirt" (10)

  1. marcia elwood said:

    Love the new do. The t looks awesome.

    • Thanks but it was an accident. I knew I needed an appointment and planned to make it after the last Walmart run. It rained during that trip and my hair was just awful. When I got to Walmart I ask for an appointment and sat back to just accept whatever they could do.

  2. I love your new t-shirt. The fit is impeccable and the sleeve looks gorgeous. Thanks for all the detail about sewing with the burnout. I have a piece of fabric in my collection that I love, but have been avoiding for far too long. I may need to go on the hunt for some suitable lining fabrics. (And I think your hairdresser interpreted ‘short and cute’ very well!)

    • Thank you. That’s Pamela’s Pattern 103 or 104. Pam incorporates a builds in a bust dart as well as waist and hip shaping. It is a great pattern. Thanks for the compliment on the hair.

  3. I love the haircut and the shirt. You look like you lost weight!

    • Thank you, Kim. I haven’t lost weight. It’s the effect of the trousers and top, color and shape. Definitely will be one of my go to outfits. The hair is too short, but its hair and will grow.

  4. I think this top is very successful as far as looking summery, the white bindings definitely do that for me… Hope the poly lining doesn’t turn out to be too warm; it really looks good and is very becoming in both style and colors

    • Indigo, I’ve got the same concern about the lining. I wouldn’t wear this blouse in the winter. So if the lining is not successful, the garment is trash. Thanks for the compliments.

  5. Towanda said:

    Love your haircut. This top turned out great. This pattern is definitely a TNT for you.

Your thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: