Conquering Sheer Fabrics

First Samples

I’m leaning towards binding the edges because  I can still follow all the easy and neat finishing instructions in the pattern.  I looked for binding fabric in my stash.

I have nothing that matches exactly.  So I made a bunch of samples.

My samples are all 2″,  crosswise cut strips that are folded double (WST, lengthwise) and then stitched to the raw edge of a swatch. I varied between 1/8, 1/4, and 3/8 seams.  The binding was then wrapped around the edge and either top stitched or stitched-in-the-ditch.  #1, is a quilting cotton I wanted to use in a camp shirt.  #2 is self fabric and it was not doubled i.e. folded in half as all the other swatches. I felt it would be too heavy.  So I aligned raw edges, stitched, wrapped and trimmed close.  It does make a nice finish and is not as heavy as I expected.  Still I’m hesitant to use #2 because of what will be the combined weight when the garment is finished.

3 is a fine twill blouse fabric.  I wanted to try a contrasting binding even though I hesitate to use brown.  I don’t want the garment limited to brown and yellow combinations. Yellow works well with black and blue (my other basics) but I won’t mix brown with black or blue. I just don’t like the combination.  Interestingly this twill was not flexible enough to completely wrap the edge.  So I folded the entire seam up once and top stitched. Raw edges are still completely enclosed. The dual finished sides do create an interesting look.

4 is a crinkle voile cotton.  Very light weight. Almost an organza.  I made a self-lined blouse from this some time ago because it is nearly transparent.

5 is a cotton calico I’d intended for craft projects. 6 is a poly lining, 7 acetate and 8 is a home dec fabric.

I’m surprised at the range of yellow ochre fabrics in my stash. I prefer this muted yellow to lemon yellow and seem to buy it often but wear it sparingly. I had thought the knit-lace to be a very light yellow. In fact I expected it to match the cotton voile.Instead the the cotton voile emphasises the ‘ochre’ part of the yellow.

None of my bindings are a clear winner. Some were difficult to apply but I would use if I really liked the finished appearance.  Not shown was a tulle which was difficult for me to see while cutting folding and sewing. I knocked it out of the running almost immediately because I couldn’t imagine working with the yards of it I will need to bind all the edges of my garment. (Discussion of the chosen garment yet to come).  I like the acetate #7, but my previous experience is that acetate wears and tears quickly.   #8 takes on a greenish cast next to the knit but handled beautifully.

Once I select a binding, I still have more testing to do.  I recently bought a binding foot that I’d like to learn how to use. This project would be a perfect showcase for a newly mastered technique. I’m planning to set aside a day just to work with that foot.  By planning to do nothing else, I remove a lot of self-inflicted stress and will probably do well immediately.

For the actual project and final testing, I’ll cut my binding on the bias.  I need bias to smoothly go around the neckline.  From experience, albeit limited, I’ll need to starch my chosen fabric. Starching will add another day to my process while it dries. Even though I’m not wild about any of these binding, I prefer to work from my stash.  It’s 1.5 hours to any store. 3 hours to a store with good dressmaking fabric. So while I’d also like to try a faux suede, I know that’s not going to happen.  I could order online but I have the same problem that put me in the spot I’m in:  color.  Do I want to order and wait for samples?  Which could be out of stock by the time I receive them and make my decision. Do I want to extend this project by adding the few weeks ordering on-line  would take? No I think I’ll just sew from the stash as originally planned. So now, I just need to decide which of these bindings I want to use.

Which is your favorite?


Fusible Interfacing

My work with NL6213 deserves a second post here. My fabric is semi-sheer. The blue print opaque. The white? Definitely see-through/transparent.  This garment was a real mile-stone for me. I didn’t hesitate because it had transparent areas. I simply asked myself “Which finish shall I use?’

I opted to use a very light weight, fusible interfacing purchased from Fashion Sewing Supply. I’m sure there are similar interfacings available elsewhere. I know Louise Cutting has a very nice selection.

I cut full-size copies of the fronts. (Did not interface the back.)   I’m not sure if it was the very bias shapes of the pattern or if it was the interfacing, but it really stretched during fusing. I pulled it up several times, replaced and re-fused.  And yes I did think I was doing the lift and press routine instead of the slide and iron. I’m  inclined to believe it was a combination of bias fabric, the interfacing itself and my way of fusing. But do be careful when fusing this interfacing.  I know I will be more careful next time.

Once fused into place it handles like an underlining. Better, even. This combination of fabric and interfacing felt like a single fabric. It was so light weight, that I couldn’t feel the difference between interfaced-front and not-interfaced back.

I’d share a photo but transparent white photos no better than black, dark-blue and chocolate-brown. A good look a like would be the lightest-weight silk organza.

It could be considered an expensive solution. You can find polyester linings for around $4/yard. This retails for $8-10 plus shipping.  I used a full yard for just the fronts.

Despite the cost and difficulty at the ironing board, this is an excellent solution. My front is completely opaque, comfortable to wear and retained it’s hand.

Big, Big Facings 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.


Sheer Layers

You guys know I like Peggy Sagers?   I watch her videos as they stream or as soon as possible thereafter. Last Monday (July 13) my calendar popped up with the reminder to “start a sheers project”.  This is my year of sheers. I promised myself to either find ways to use sheers or donate them all. So I’m thinking sheers and Peggy streams an amazing YouTube featuring

Sunny’s top #113


It was a “Could have had a V8” moment. Of course, layering sheers on the outside (instead of hidden within as a lining or facing) would also reduce transparency allowing me to use a sheer as a blouse.  I didn’t buy 113. It’s the idea rather than the exact execution which excites me.  In my pattern stash I had New Look A6281

I’d picked this up back in Apr or May long before summer arrives in my neck of the woods.  I was thinking this would make a cute Summer Dresses.   I wondered now if I could use it to make a blouse. But I ran into problems. First the back is one layer.  I’d already decided this sewing was going to use a sheer. So the back would need layers as well. My other problem is that I want a tank top.  I wasn’t sure I could lop off the bottom layer and the layering would look as good. Besides, I’d have to fit this pattern and I already have a perfectly lovely fitting tank: Loes Hinse Madagascar Tank. NL A6281 is based on complete copies of the base layer. Sunny’s top has a complete bottom layer,  two overlaps that need to be carefully aligned on the bottom layer and then a reverse facing which is a copy of the base layer between shoulder and under bust. It’s stitched right side to wrong side of the bottom layer and then flipped up and over. Secured in place by either sleeves or armscye finish.   NL6281 has the horizontal bust dart (my preference) in all layers. Sunny’s Top 113 contains a french dart only in the bottom layer.  The Madagascar Tank (can I call it LH1012?) contains shaping in the side, center front and center back seams. No darts, but lots of shaping.

The first thing I did was tweak LH1012.  I had noted that I still had some armscye and neckline gaping.  I increased the shoulder slope 1/4″ and trimed 1/8″ from the CF (narrowing to zero at the hem).   To cut,I placed the front which eliminates the front shaping Loes drafted.  I cut the back with the center back seam.  The back contains important shaping I wanted to retain.  I’m not really chesty (38B). It’s my backside that’s shapely.

For my layers, I cut two copies of my back and front pieces. Just laid out the tracing paper in stacks of two, placed my pattern on top and rotary cut new copies.  To create the angles seen in the layers of  NL6281 or Sil 113 I really need to make full size pieces. Right now I’m more interested in playing with the concept of outer layers to increase opacity than I am of copying an exact style.  I guesstimated an attractive proportion and cut curves in my half patterns.   Then I cut my upper layers.  I started with 1.75 yards of 58″ wide sheer fabric. Finished with large scraps.  Ok the merchant  called it burn-out semi-opaque. To me,  if you can see my body  through it, it is sheer.

Sewing was a breeze. I serged shoulder and side seams of each set (1 base layer, 2nd longest and shortest layer). Then I basted the base and 2nd layers together at the neckline and armscye. The top layer I basted along the neckline,  right side to the wrong side of the base layer. Turned it to the right side and tried it on.

I had noted that  the LH1012 neckline had a tendency to gap and even attempted to tweak the fit before starting this version.  But I’m also guilty of not stabilizing any of the necklines. Both probably contributed to the gaping I saw at the first try one. Also at this time I noted that despite my best guess, the proportions were not close to optimum:

The side and front views were not better.  I played with folding up a hem and decided upon 3″. I planned to leave these unfinished as Peggy recommends and so neatly trimmed 3″ from the bottom layer.

The neckline required a bit more effort.  I opted to serge the necklines and then  attach 1/8″ elastic to the serged edge.  Yeah, I know some of your are skilled and attached the elastic at the same time as you serge.  But I’ve never really developed that skill.  I can’t serge elastic without managing to clip it now and then. Also, I want to be able to adjust the stretch as needed.  I used a 4mm wide x  10 mm long standard zig zag with my beading foot to trap the elastic to the serged edge without stitching into the elastic:

Interesting enough, I was trying  for a 1×1 or slightly less (like 1 to .98 application ratio). I tried the blouse on again with the intention of pulling the 4″ ends I left in place to adjust the gathering the elastic creates. The neckline fit perfectly. All I did was secure the ends.

I had intended to leave the hems unfinished but couldn’t stand the unfinished look. It doesn’t look intentional to me.  It looks like a mistake or forgot to do it or at the very least ran out of time.  I set my serger for the 3-thread edge with a 2mm stitch length using standard serger thread.   I love the finished edge:

I think too, that it adds just a bit of weight to keep the layers hanging in place instead of catching in places.

I love the finished look. It is modest i.e. covers up underwear and body. Flirty. Feminine.

Definitely feel inspired to use this technique again.  I can see changing the number, shape and length of the layers. As well as adjusting neckline or adding various sleeves. I will point out that a similar effect can be achieved with ruffles and flounces. The only thing I’d change at this point (and maybe future) is eliminating the center back seam of the upper layers.  I like having the CB seam in the bottom layer.  This is one time I whole heartedly agree with Peggy.  Shaping in at least the base layers keeps the final garment from being a sack. You’ll see more of these from me.  For Sure.

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:

Crochet Neckline

OK that’s not real crochet, it is Free Standing Lace (FSL). Except I don’t do true FSL.  Haven’t done it since my disaster with Marie’s angel. What I do is a sandwich of water-soluble stabilizer (WSS) a later of tule (matching color is possible) and a top layer of FSL. These bookmarks by Bejoscha would not cooperate with my PE770. Oh they stitched, but the bobbin thread completely covered the top. I changed needles. I reduced tension. I slowed the machine. Finally I wondered if something had happened since the last time I embroidered. I test with a previously used  embroidery but using the setup of that embroidery which was WSS, Fashion Fabric and WSS sandwich.   Worked perfectly. So I tried the bookmark again, but using the Fashion Fabric sandwich.  It worked.

I didn’t test again with tulle, but I did ponder my next step. I didn’t want a fashion fabric to show up in my final garment.  I wanted my trim to look like FSL Crochet. I finally remembered and hunted until I found a sheer, polyester crepe in nearly the same color.


I made two. Then I realized that I made exactly two and this bookmark clearly has a left and a right side.  So I mirrored the design and made two more.   I Frey Checked the edges and trimmed closely using my rotary cutter and ruler. I pinned a mirrored pair around the neckline (with the point hanging above the neckline edge) and then basted into place.  I check position . I know it looks uneven above, but I promise, put it down and the ironing board and smooth everything into place.  The two are mirrored and aligned. On my body is another story.

I still had two bookmarks left.  I trimmed them closely, applied a little glue stick to the back and then centered and aligned 2″ above the raw hem edge.

Let dry a few minutes and then stitch into place.  For permanent stitching I used a narrow (1.5mm) short (2mm) zig zag. The color matches so well that it doesn’t show; and I have a trim on the sleeves that coordinates with the trim around the front placket.

The sheer fabric remains invisible.  The sheer is very valuable because it achieves the effect I wanted.


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