Conquering Sheer Fabrics

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Tulip Sweater

Long time since I worked with sheers, almost a year.  I’m back because I still have a few sweater knits that should have been sold as sheer or tissue-knits.  I don’t understand why these fabrics were even considered “sweater”.  Including today’s project, I think I have 3 left.

I was lucky enough to find a 1+yard remnant on the fabric site where I bought the original. I hoped it would be enough to make a self-lining. I’m using my dartless block created in November 2016. I love the darted knit block but I always think of sweaters being slightly shapeless or boxy.

I cut the fabric as I was using it. I cut 2 fronts, shaped the tulip hem. Took both fronts to the serger and serged all the raw edges. Serging was the only way to control the curling. I did try spray starch. A starch dipping would have been necessary. I had cut the two front necklines at different depths. I finished them now with clear elastic and the 3-step zig zag. It’s a nice finish. I turned the hems up and fused them in place. I top stitched the hem at 1″ and 1-1/4″ — almost looking like a cover stitch. Then edge stitched along the hem fold. It creates a firm edge. Not really crisp. It’s still a fold rather than a sharp crease. But it looks really nice and has some body. I stacked the two fronts one on top of the other and stitched the shoulders together.

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My only criticism of the front neckline is that it doesn’t really show all that well. I mean you look at it and then look a 2nd time to see that the necklines are stacked.  I think this design feature would show better on a solid color or if I had trimmed the necklines with a contrast. Maybe white FOE?

I used a Burda procedure for the backs. Oh I serged all the edges first. It was just too big of a hassle to leave the edges unfinished even at this early stage. I laid one back down on the cutting table face up. Placed the tops face down on the first back i.e back and both fronts are now RST. Placed the 2nd back on top also face down. Then I basted the shoulders together. Stopped and checked that the all the pieces were firmly enclosed in the shoulder seam before serging from one shoulder, across the back necklines and all the way across the other shoulder. Didn’t quite do that right. The back and front shoulders didn’t meet exactly at the neckline. At the SM, I stitched and then trimmed until the shoulder line and back neckline looked nice. Except that back neckline was wimpy. The front with its turn and stitch, clear elastic application was really nice. I decided to press the back neckline towards the piece that would be on the inside and then stitch clear elastic along the seam allowance. That did it. Both back and front necklines were firm but stretchy; shoulders meeting perfectly. I turned the back over and pressed along the shoulders and necklines, then basted the back’s side seams and armscyes. From this point on I can treat the back and fronts and 2 pieces instead of 4.  I hemmed the back and set the unit aside.

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Did not have enough fabric to make 4 sleeves i.e. self-lined sleeves. I dug through the stash and found a white tricot that I’ve used for lining fabrics before.  I think it was manufactured to be slip/underwear type garments but works wonderfully as knit lining too.  I cut the sleeves with hem . Cut their linings without. I thought I would be able to turn up the hem and create a nice crisp edging. Jumping forward– this idea didn’t work. To my surprise when I stitched the linings to the sleeves, the linings were not exactly 1-1/4″ shorter than the sleeves. I didn’t fight the issue or cut new linings.  (I have little hope that this fabric will survive more than one winter. It just doesn’t look durable.)  I inserted the sleeves. Then stitched that long seam from hem, to underarm to cuff.  Finally I top stitched the cuff similarly to the body i.e. 1 row looks like cover stitch with edge stitch along the fold. It looks nice.

I thought that the knit block still needed some tweaking even before I converted it to a dartless block. This soft knit really displays the fitting issues.

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The sides have those big drapes I’m always struggling with and thought I had nearly fixed. Those big U’s result from a combination of my shoulder slope and rounding back.  I’ll probably wear a vest with this ‘sweater’ because a vest covers the worst of the drapes and drag lines.  Interesting note, I’ve purchased 2 sweaters from WM this year. Both are worsted weight sweaters. So medium weight. One is a stocking knit stitch the other, deeply cabled. Neither show the big drag lines.  Note to self:  soft, light weight, draping fabrics reveal all. DO NOT BUY any more.

I’d also say this particular tulip hem is not all that slimming:

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I was thinking that the diagonal of the tulip hem which was cut to end just above my waist would totally disguise my tummy and make me look slimmer. I don’t look like Santa, exactly, but ….

 

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I think the biggest issue I have with these sheer sweater knits, is I want to use them as sweaters.  I want a light-weight sweater top. The fabrics won’t do that without help and then they become less sweater like.  I think when these fabrics were manufactured, the designers were using them in wraps, cocoons, shrugs, ponchos i.e. garments I don’t wear or make a lot of.  I’m stuck in a mind-set of wanting to use the fabrics in one way.  If I could get past that mind-set, I might make something really creative. Sigh….

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Yellow Knit Lace: FINISHED!

I moved all the posts for this project here, The Sheers Workbook blog, because despite being thick and hefty knit lace is see-through. Largely, transparent. Finishes used for this project will be useful to know for other sheers projects. 

 

I managed a trip to the fabric store 90 miles away. Searched their shelves and unexpectedly found a fabric I thought coordinated for edge binding.  When I got home I realized it did not meet my desired ‘keep it neutral’ criteria.  The fabric background matched my yellow knit but the print was brown and olive-green.  I would not have worn the resulting garment with my navy and black collections. This garment will be worn so seldom that I want to expand its usefulness by keeping it neutral. So out with recently purchased fabric and return to one already in the stash and tested. The cotton crinkle:

I was satisfied to stitch everything at the sewing machine while testing, but for the final application I wanted a fast and reliable method. I purchased another binder for my cover stitch machine.  I wanted a B-type which folds the binding on both sides of the garment. I purchased from the guy on Ebay and received my binder in less than a week. The binder worked wonderfully with every fabric except the knit lace. I could never feed the knit lace evenly into the binder. After a frustrating hour I decided the cover stitch wasn’t going to work I would have to bind the edges at the SM.

I created 10 yards of bias tape 1.5″ wide:

I did it the old-fashioned way of cutting strips from yardage and joining them at right angles on the SM.  I know lots of people like to fold and offset and fuss in all kinds of ways. They  claim making bias is so much easier but I find I spend more time trying to figure out this new easy way then it takes me to just do it.  I serge finished both edges and then realized I only needed to finish one edge. The other would be serged to the raw edge of the knit lace and wrapped up and over.  Oh well, the serge roll hem takes no time.

I did use New Look 6249 for my pattern

I made a change to the pattern.  I decided not to use the shawl collar/band.  Instead I added a front overlap.

I taped the  front and back neckline and shoulders. Up close the taping can be seen in the finished garment, but I felt it important to reinforce the shoulder seams before serging.

On second thought I rounded the front, hem edge

so I wouldn’t have to work with mitering.

I bound the armscyes first then serged the side seam closed before binding the long, long, long outer edge of the garment which includes neckline and hem.  I was done in much less time than I took testing.

Fit is about as expected. I already knew from previous use of this pattern, that it would be very loosely fitting. It’s rather like a Ruana with the side lower-edges serged together. It has one other fit advantage in that the shoulders are shaped. The shoulders of the garment cup the wearer’s shoulders instead of standing up right like Ghangis Khan’s uniform.  I do think the previous version looked a little better. It was a black wool. Black really does tend to visually diminish the size but also knit lace has a tendency to stretch.

My knit-lace vest is a nice comfortable, shawl type garment and will serve me well every winter for several years. Maybe summers too.

 

Note about the fabric:  The worst issue with the knit lace is the same feature which makes it so lovely: the holes. No matter how it is cut ( it will at least need to be cut to length,) there will be little strips of fabric sticking up that won’t cooperate with any stitching. A serger rolled hem was not possible. I didn’t like how the serging looked when crossing air (the holes). Long time ago I worked at using ‘Seams Great’ which is a transparent, knit strip usually 1/2″ or so wide. I could never control the strip and create an even application.  I’d rather not use something, particularly when it is a struggle to do so, if the end result is clumsy. Binding with the up-and-over method finished by stitching-in-the ditch proved to be the best option for me with this fabric at this time. I’m not ruling out the possibility I could get smarter or something new might be invented in the future.

 

Big, Big Facings

I.ve shared this blouse as my basic block but it also is worthy of mentioning here because this is an excellent example of how to handle a sheer fabric. In a word: Facings. Big big facings.  Some might say semi-lined

My garment fabric is a cotton voile which is semi-sheer or almost opaque. Don’t mind you knowing where my belly-button is, but I don’t want the two dark spots shortly north  and my underwear to be visible.

I cut the above facings from a cotton batiste using the same pattern as the garment.  I just laid them on the fold of  cotton batiste; cut around the neckline, shoulder, armscye and a few inches down the side seam. I eye-balled at the fold a few inches lower than where my cut ended at the side seam and free-handed a curve between the there and the side seam. Later, I trued the front and back side seams. I also cut nylon-tricot, fusible interfacing. To cut the interfacing I used my new ” pattern” the just cut and trued facings.  I included the darts in the batiste and interfacing. I stitched the darts and shoulder seams of the garment and facing (batiste),  then fused my interfacing to my facing.  I slashed the interfacing along dart lines so that it would overlap and lay flatly.  Works. Not especially pretty on the inside and not something I would do for a challenge or competition.

I stitched the now interfaced facing to the garment at the neckline; right sides together. Turned and finished the neckline. I serged the side seams of the garment separately from the side seams of the facing. When turned and smoothed into place, the wrong side of the facing is towards the wrong side of the garment and the interior of the garment is smoothly finished. This is a nice finish because the voile is not completely sheer and the seams are not highly visible.

Note that the facings at this point are mostly ‘free’. They are attached only at the neckline.  I serged the sleeve to the garment catching the facing at the same time. Yes, this took a little pinning and some manoeuvering under the serger foot. I didn’t think it was all that fiddly.  I finished the facing-hem with a 3-thread serger overlock. Finished the sleeve and bottom garment hem with a wide rolled hem using Maxilock Stretch in Gold.

Facings were secured at neckline and armscye but that still allows them to move around and be out-of-place.  I tacked the facing to the side seam which helps keep them in place once the garment is on.  I am finding that when dressing I have to be sure to pull the facing down at center front and center back. Both garment and facing fabric have a little cling. Besides the facing wanting to stick, the garment back wants to hug my high hip.  Overall, I think this is a lovely summer blouse and excellent use of facings/semi-lining.

 

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.
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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.

 

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