Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sew Colette: Working with Silky Fabrics

This month's Sew Colette project - the Truffle Dress - offers the opportunity to work with some lovely, yet definitely tricky, fabrics.  In this project, fabric choice will affect the final look and it's a great chance to experiment with fabrics you many not have tried before.

Sarai recommmends the following for the Truffle:  "think about the effect you want to achieve.  For a flowing look, choose a drapey fabric such as silk crepe, cotton lawn, rayon challis, or wool crepe.  On the other hand, if you want to go for a more architectural style, use a crisp fabric such as batiste, dupioni, taffeta, or cotton sateen."

In this post, I'm going to talk about using silky fabrics to achieve a soft and flowing dress.  When using delicate fabrics, be sure to use pattern weights rather than pinning.   Erin has written about her smart and thrifty pattern weights here.

According to the handbook, 'crepe has a very slightly crinkled texture and beautiful drape.  It is available in a range of thicknesses' and blends, such as silk, polyester, and rayon.  Two crepes that Sarai suggests are silk crepe and wool crepe.

Source: via Sarah on Pinterest

In addition to silk and wool crepe, crepe de chine and charmeuse would be ideal to use for this month's project .  You can choose natural or man-made blends, such as silk or rayon, depending on your preference and budget.

Below is a video by Sandra Betzina that discusses sewing with silks and the tools you need for a successful silk project.

Wool crepe is another decadent fabric.  It drapes beautifully and keeps you toasty warm.  Carolyn at Diary of a Sewing Fanatic has written a terrific post about wool crepe, including how to prep the fabric. 

Rayon Challis
'Rayon is produced from cellulose, and while it is neither entirely natural nor entirely synthetic, it does behave very much like a natural fiber. It often appears as a lustrous fabric similar to silk.  It is wonderful for keeping cool in hot weather.'
- Sarai Mitnick, The Colette Sewing Handbook

I must confess to my love affair with rayon, particularly rayon challis.  When thrifting, especially for my summer wardrobe, I make a beeline for rayon garments.  The drape is so feminine and they often remind me of WWII-era dresses, which were primarily made of rayon as silk was reserved for parachutes.

Look at Daughter Fish's beautiful rayon challis dress. Gorgeous, no?  I think this a perfect example of why drape is so important when sewing.   I was sorely tempted to make my Truffle from this fabric, but I stuck to my plan instead (humph!).  If rayon challis is your fabric of choice, I recommend reading this article written by Rose Marie Tondl; it's a fabulous cheat sheet.

Cotton Lawn
the third option for a flowing Truffle dress is cotton lawn.  Like its sisters, treating this fabric delicately is the way to go; pattern weights and a fine needle are needed.  Emma One Sock has written a wonderful guide for using this fabric, which I think you will find useful.  Downton Abbey fans will recognize cotton lawn from Lady Edith's and Lady Sybil's garden party gowns:

You can easily see how this light cotton lends itself to feminine designs, for which the Truffle is a perfect candidate!  For those that chose cotton lawn, I would recommend some equally delicate embellishments, such lace trim.

Stay tuned for my next post on working with crisp fabrics.  These are perfect for a tailored Truffle!

* * * **

Have questions? Please feel free to post here, in Erin's blog, or in the sew-along Flickr group.
We're here to help!


poppykettle said...

Great info - I love sewing with silk, correction - I love wearing silk - which means I need to sew it a lot! Any tips are always welcome to make things easier! And that chartreuse coloured zac posen dress is heaven!!!

Mika said...

This is a great post! So many useful links. Thanks for sharing.

Daughter Fish said...

So honored you like my bias cut dress! I wish I'd read the cheat sheet on sewing this fabric before making the dress. My inside edges frayed after washing the dress (even hand washing!). Good luck with the truffle dress!

Stacy @ Stacyverb said...

Ooh, you just reminded me that I have a half-finished rayon challis dress in my stash that I need to pull out and finish. Thanks for the nudge! :)

Sarah said...

@poppykettle - Same for me! Love wearing silk and get frustrated sewing with it. LOL!

@Mika - My pleasure!

@DaughterFish - It's a marvellous dress! Well done!

@Stacy - Hope you'll share photos!

Fiona said...

I'm not even making a truffle and so much of this is super useful. I'm currently trying to decide between drapey or crisp fabric for one of my Sew Cinematic projects so I can't wait for the next post!