Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Working With Chiffon

I have had this fabric in my stash for quite some time, in fact, I don't even remember where I got it. It is a polyester chiffon. I recently made some black pants from the Kwik Sew Easy Sewing book. If you have never looked at this book, it is definitely worth the investment. But, more on that later.

I have several pieces of chiffon, but have been avoiding them. First, I'm thinking that they will be hard to work with. Second, I don't know what in the world to make with them. Third, I know I will have to line them.

Well, I am here to dispell all of those myths! I decided to make #129 from the latest (July) BWOF. Unfortunately, they do not have a picture of this on their website, but it is a VERY basic sleeveless overblouse. In the picture in the magazine, it looks straight cut on the sides. IRL, it almost has a tent shape to it. In a regular fabric, this would look terrible on me, but I think in this chiffon it will look good.

As you can see in this picture, chiffon is very see through. For most things, I think I would have to line them. However, this top is more like a tunic or overblouse, so I think it will look good over a black cami or tank top.

So, this is how I started working with the chiffon. This is a polyester chiffon, so it is not quite as slippery as silk, but probably not enough difference to help a lot. First, I lined my cutting table with cheap left-over christmas wrapping white tissue. I laid the fabric on top of that as carefully as possible. It is almost impossible to get the grain straight on chiffon, but I lined up the selvages and tried to get the grain as straight as I could. I cut with a rotary cutter and a fairly new blade. The tissue paper really makes the fabric stay in place better and helps when cutting. When I have cut fine fabric like this before without the tissue, the cutter tends to embed it into the cutting board - not good for the fabric or the board.

This top is super simple and only has 2 pattern pieces, bias strips for neck and armholes, and a small rectangle for the front placket. I also picked this pattern because there are no darts, collars, or other fussy details. It does have a nice little placket in the front, and I like the way it turned out.

Trying to press the placket piece was almost impossible until I remembered to use starch. Actually, I like to use Mary Ellen's "Best Press" or Magic Sizing, but any of the 3 will work. This made a world of difference and the fabric behaved fabulously after that. I then starched and pressed the pattern pieces before sewing them. I have starched the yardage before laying it out, but I think it is harder to keep the grain straight doing it this way unless you have a large press board where you can really get that grain straight while pressing, I would recommend using the starch after it is cut out.

I did some sample stitching on scraps to make sure I had the right combination of thread, needle size, and stitch length.

What is working best on this fabric is
polyester embroidery weight thread
size 11 needle (I'm not sure if it is a sharp or universal)
2.5 stitch length
I lessened the upper tension by 2 clicks.

At the beginning of seams where the fabric may get pulled into the feed dog, I start the seam by sewing with a little piece of tracing paper underneath the edge. This tears off easily and keeps the seam from getting bunched up.

I am using french seams at the shoulders and sides. THe neck and sleeve edges are bound with bias strips. One thing I can already see as a problem is that I did not lengthen the front of this to accomodate for FBA (I just widened at the sides) and I'm thinking the side seams are going to hang down funny. I may have to adjust that after the side seams are sewn.

I have had this book for a couple of years, but never really used it until now. I have read it and looked through it many, many times, but never actually made anything from it. A couple of weeks ago I made a pair of shorts, and most recently I made the same pattern, but in the cropped pant length. These fit me well and are my new TNT for easy going casual pants and shorts. What I like about the book is that they have several master patterns and then show you lots of ways to change them. You really can do ALOT with these patterns since they are very basic and simple to sew. You can make them just as as, use the suggestions in the book for changes, or go off on your own with these. There are the following patterns in the book
button up blouse
T shirt
straight skirt
gored skirt
pants, shorts, cropped pants.

All of the patterns are shown with different lengths, sleeve variations, neckline variations, and a variety of fabrics. The author also shows you how to turn the top into a cardigan, change the width of the pant legs, different pocket applications, and a variety of embellishment ideas. The shirt pattern has no dart, but if you have any sewing book that shows alterations, it is easy enough to add one. Some of the pictures in the book aren't that up to date looking, but you can easily see how to make them look current.


Rhoto said...

Now THAT's a very helpful review!! Thank you for your details. 'Looking forward to seeing your new creation.
Warm greetings,
Rhonda in Montreal (PR)

Rachel said...

Thank you so much for giving the detail on how you worked with the chiffon. I tried one time, but I think I chose too difficult a pattern for the first time working with chiffon.

gail said...

my hubby got me a chiffon top for mother's day and it came with a black cami. i love it and have been wondering if i can make a copy of it. which is quite a bit beyond my sewing level! but it was interesting to read all your tips on working with chiffon.

have a great day, friend =)

Meg said...

Me too, suffering from chiffon fear. I will definitely try your tips when I sew it next.

Sue said...

I have recently used that trick of pinning slippery fabric to tissue for the first time and vouch that it really does help!
Beautiful fabric and great info, thanks!

Elaray said...

I see I'm not alone in my chiffon fear. Your tips will be helpful, if I ever get the courage to work with chiffon.

Gail said...

Chiffon needs very sharp needles and very fine sewing thread. Love your fabric choice and can't wait to see what turns up.

gwensews said...

Chiffon--not an easy sew. But beautiful. Thank you for the review of the Kwik Sew book. I don't know why I don't have it, but I will now!

Maureen said...

LOVE this top Nancy....very pretty!

Faye Lewis said...

That is beautiful!

S. A. said...

Thanks for the tips on how to work with chiffon! I'm trying to make a gypsy-esque blouse for a friend and was really having a tough time with it. I'll have to try the starch!

Anonymous said...

can u please explain how you worked with the neck.bias binding for chiffon.thx

Nancy Winningham said...

I just cut the bias strips as usual, but starched the fabric first. I folded them in half lengthwise and sewed the raw edge to the raw edge of the fabric. I flipped them to the front, pressed and then stitched in place.