Conquering Sheer Fabrics

Archive for the ‘Patterns’ Category

Circle Jacket

Once a month my calendar announces it’s time to start a sheers project.  I made this calendar entry, complete with email reminder, because I’m serious about reducing the stacks of sheers either through use or donation.  Even if I don’t complete a sheers project, the entry has me thinking and noticing how sheers are being used by other dressmakers and in RTW. This month the reminder popped up about 3 days after I realized I wanted/needed a light weight wrap in black. On that particular day, I “settled” for something else.  When the reminder popped up I knew immediately I wanted to make that wrap in a sheer and I wanted to do it now.

I searched through my sheers and found two black pieces.  One is a very nice wool gauze.  It’s the kind of fabric that deserves carefully consideration and will make a wonderful garment.  I wanted something quick and elected to used a 3.5 yard of black tricot that looks like and escapee from a glitter factory. OK, not that bad. The glitter is glued to the fabric in star burst or fireworks shapes in bright blue and gold. Very lovely, but I’m sure that the description did not say tricot or glitter.  I was dismayed by the fabric upon receipt because it was also sheer and I had over 3 yards of it.  What’s worse is there was more “free” (unglued) glitter than attached. I had a mess of glitter all over.  My washing machine and dryer were full of glitter.  I remember re-reading the description and realizing that they had cleverly described this fabric accurately while at the same time completely misleading me.  Still it was pretty and I kept it. All 3.5 yards of 62″ wide tricot.

I admit to rabidly following Rhonda’s Buss and eagerly look for her patterns.  I’m basing my sheer wrap on her Circle Jacket blogged here.  I started by following instruction pretty closely. My fabric was 62″ wide so I cut my fabric 62″ long and folded it in half.  I calculated the neck line and cut a 2.25″ diameter circle.

Like Rhonda, I opted to curve the corners mostly because I also planned to serge a rolled hem.

Curved corners should mean that I can start and just keep going until done.  Unfortunately, I had issues at the neck.  I had to serge the neckline 3 times each time cutting off another 1/4″.  I finally applied water-soluble stabilizer to the edge for serging and afterwards I “Frey -Checked” the entire neckline.

My serger either makes an unbelievable beautiful and easy rolled hem or I fight with it through the entire experience. Today was the latter.  I think fabric, humidity and temperature are all factors which effect the success (or failure).  I absolutely did not want to hem this fabric using any other method.  I persisted even though it meant that I had 3 booboos not including the neckline mess.  I Frey Checked the booboos and trimmed close.  This is such a free-flowing garment, no one will ever notice my mistakes.

Because it was such a crawly fabric, when it came time to stitch the “side seams” I chalked placement lines 15″ on either side of center and placed water-soluble, double-sided tape along my chalk mark.  Then I carefully arranged the top layer and pressed with my hands to make sure it “grabbed”.

I’m much happier with this garment than my face would lead you to believe.  As expected, it was easy to draft, cut and sew. The rolled hem issue a problem between me and my serger not the garment’s fault at all. Stitching the side seams creates a sleeve and armscye making this garment much easier to keep on the body than a shawl or Ruana would be. I can see adapting this pattern many ways.  For example, it’s not necessary to make a slit up the middle. With out the slit and using a more opaque fabric, this would make a lovely blouse.  It’s not necessary to make the garment the full width of the fabric either, which would allow for different sleeve lengths.  I stitched my side seams 18″ up from the hem. There could be many variations for side seams and for shaping/not shaping the corners.

It will always be a floating, roomy garment and need to be balanced by a closer fitting skirt or pants. But it can be so much fun too!




112 Kacy’s 5 Way Top

I was mesmerized.  In a recent broadcast, Peggy Sagger showed this fabulous pattern 112 called Kacy’s 5 Way Top.   It’s the kind of thing I’d never buy had someone not shown me a completed version. I toyed with the idea of drafting it myself. Really this is a T-shirt with a scarf attached to the center fronts.  I even asked for drafting hints on SG. The best I got was “buy the pattern and rotate the dart”.  I can rotate darts but didn’t want to for this simple garment.  I pulled out my T-shirt pattern and tissue paper and stopped in my tracks.  I realized this is why we buy patterns. So many decisions have already been made and tested. OK Big 5 does not always test.  But Indies do. Indies also make multiple versions. That’s why Indy patterns are worth $20 and the Big 5 are worth $2.  I purchased the pattern.

When the pattern arrived I determined my size using the bust measurement.  Which really didn’t matter because I didn’t even iron the tissue pieces.  I smoothed it out; placed my T-shirt on top, then a sheet of tracing paper on top of that. I traced only the section extending from the center front of my T to the fold line of Kacy’s 112.  I used the back and sleeve of my T-shirt pattern (PP104).

For anyone wondering about the differences. The front extension on 112 is not just straight lines drawn to infinity. The fold line is a vertical straight line. The extended neck and hem lines are gently sloping curves terminating at a fold line that is shorter than the center front of my T.  I didn’t measure how long the extension is but I can tell you that the fold is placed cross grain making…

..this pattern a fabric hog.  It will not fit across  60 or 68″ fabric.  I know because I had 2 yards of 68″ sweater knit and could not fit the pattern. It calls for and uses a full 3 yards of 60″ fabric.  That was a problem for me.  I rarely buy 3 yards of fabric. Oh I used to. When I was making suits I routinely purchased 4 and 5 yard cuts for my stash. No longer and I’ve given most of those suitings away. I searched my stash looking for 3 yard pieces. This was the same issue I had when making the POV (on which you also cannot skimp yardage.)  Making it more difficult, I knew that my fabric needed to be something with drape.  I finally settled upon a sheer fabric purchased from Walmart eons ago. Ok 25 years.   I tried to take photos of this fabric with my 10 MP Cannon. It needs a much more adept photographer than me. It deserves a much more adept photographer than me.  I don’t know the fiber content. I’m assuming polyester or acetate maybe nylon with some lurex threads. The gold lurex is woven at even intervals. Being a fine thread, it glitters and gleams but is not in your face Lady Gaga shiny. The fabric has been treated somehow, could be painted, to resemble the Japanese style Shibori.  Like I said, this was an ancient Walmart purchase. It could be Shibori.  Who knows what they Walmart buyers dug out of the depths of American warehouses and sold for pennies?  I can attest that I’ve tested and discovered silk, rayon, and linen in my purchases.

Since this sheer was my 2nd choice, I did not have time to pretreat it (beyond the wash it got 25 years ago before going into the stash).  I can tell you, I regretted the decision to just throw it on the table and cut. It didn’t crawl badly on the cutting table.  I’ll credit the rotary cutter with helping on that score. Scissors lift and then drop the fabric which contributes to fabric moving during cutting.  I was able to use my standard weights and a few pins. Er, I pinned the fold of the fabric to which I matched the fold of the pattern. It was the only way to convince the fabric to fold evenly along the cross grain.  I pinned roughly every 6″ which was enough. Once pinned the fabric easily smoothed into place and, as stated before, cut without moving about on top of the table; or off the table. I’ve had sheers that did that.

I taped the back shoulders.  I use 3/8″ fusible tape both in bias and straight grain versions. I used the bias version because I wanted to stabilize the shoulder but not nail it in place.  Then I looked at the back neck and realizing how much fabric was going to be hanging in front, taped the back neck.

This is a serger garment. YIPPEE!  I stitched the bust darts at the sewing machine. (Currently my favorite T pattern has bust darts.) I used a 4 thread overlock seam at the serger to stitch the shoulders, insert sleeves and stitch that long underarm-side seam.  My fabric behaved well under the needle. Not so well other places.  That front drape is heavy, even in a sheer.  Possibly a combination of sheer fabric and heavy drape caused my handling issues.  It was easy to twist the front making it out of alignment. Although I will point out that could be a plus for a future garment. Kind of a mobious scarf  thing. Possible, but not this time. This time I struggled with keeping the pieces properly aligned until stitched because pins did not want to stay in this fabric.  I have no easy solutions or tips. Instead of pinning by sliding in and out once, I doubled that. Slide in and out and then again in and out. Two bites instead of the normal one. That helped but was not a sure thing. I.E. pins still fell out of the fabric. This is not something I’m likely to solve because I prefer to starch sheer and crawling fabrics into submission.  IOW I starch using full solution and allow to dry before I even lay the fabric on the cutting table.

I switched to a 3 thread overlock to finish the long hem and neckline edges.  Actually, I pulled out my manual to check the settings for a 2-thread rolled hem and upon spying the 3 thread overlock said to myself “Hey I haven’t used this in a long time.”  I changed my serger to  the recommended settings and did a test strip about 8″ long. I like it. I usually like to switch to a wooly thread. This time I used regular serger thread in all 3 paths. The stitch did seem a little close which can cause waviness in the final run. Often a 8″ test will not show me how a 24-36″ run will look.  Fortunately, others tell me they have the same situation.  So anytime I think the stitch is a little off, I adjust.  In this case I increased stitch length from 1 to 1.5.  That was perfect.  Even the back neck is lovely.  Taping the back neck was surely inspired by my guardian angel. It was such a good idea and finished beautifully but strong.

This was a quick and fun sew. Because I modified a TNT it took me only 30 minutes to get the pattern and fabric ready.  I did have to change fabrics when the first just wasn’t enough, so make that a total of 1 hour prep for sewing.  Sewing took less than an hour.  It’s essentially 2 bust darts, shoulder, sleeve and side seams followed by finishing the long hem an neckline edges.  Definitely a 3-hour or less pattern.

OK so what we’re really here for is some pictures.  Keep in mind that these have been lightened.  My fabric is a dark blue. Dark blue doesn’t photograph more easily than dark brown or black.  It’s necessary to lighten to photos to see detail.

Photo Lightened 80%

Pattern comes complete with instructions for draping 5 different ways. Not all, in fact most of these drapes are not flattering to my robust and very pear-shaped figure.

Will I sew it again? Yes, probably.

  • First off, mentally I’m calling this the Tank Top Version.  I used my knit T-shirt sleeve on a woven fabric.I did consider making the sleeve wider. But I thought I already had done that when I was trying to eliminate the front drag line. During that process, I had considered insufficient ease as a reason for the drag line and added about an inch. Now I’m not sure I returned the pattern to its original dimensions because this sleeve is close when worn over a T-shirt.  It would work fine over a sleeveless top. So another version with more sleeve ease or in a knit is a possibility. BTW Peggy did demonstrate the garment made in a woven. Had I used her pattern pieces, it might have worked.
  • The amount of fabric required can be a show stopper.  None of the fabrics I want to use with this pattern are in 3 yard lengths.  I’d have to buy specifically for use with it. Possible but likely?…
  • …because this is a very trendy garment.  People are already complaining about drape front cardigans. Some are getting tired or the endless parade of drapes. I’m not. I hope we keep drape fronts in our wardrobes for many years into the future. But the majority rules and I follow. I won’t make this garment again if drape fronts disappear from the stores. (I don’t really pay that much attention to runway trends.)

As seen from the front of the bank line:

and the view from the back of the bank line:

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.

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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