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Tips for Sewing Sheer Fabrics

Sheer fabrics have been popular for many years. They have a variety of applications in both home decor and apparel. There are many types of transparent fabrics available in a variety of materials ranging from cotton to silk to polyester. The hand, or drape, of transparent fabrics can range from soft to crisp depending on the weave. In this article I will focus primarily on the use of sheer fabrics in relation to garment construction.

There are dozens of different types of sheer fabrics, but there are a few that are most commonly used that I will discuss here.

Challis is a lightweight, plain-weave fabric that is made out of rayon, cotton or wool. I have seen both sheer and opaque challis. Darker colors tend to not appear as sheer as lighter colors. Challis drapes wonderfully and works well for dresses and blouses.

chiffon dressChiffon is probably the most well known in the sheer family of fabrics. The yarn used for weaving chiffon has a tight twist which makes it strong. It is made from both natural and man-made fibers. Chiffon can be tricky to sew because it does have a tendency to slip around especially when it is being gathered.

In the image to the left, you can see a swatch of yellow chiffon alongside a design sketch of a gown. Chiffon is lovely when it is layered because the color tends to darken as you can see where it is folded over in the swatch.


Crepe chiffon is a lightweight, sheer crepe that has a rougher, more matte surface than regular chiffon. It is a pain to sew because it slips and slides all over the place.

Eyelet is more of technique than an actual fabric type. An open-work design is embroidered on lightweight fabrics such as organdy or batiste. Depending on the base fabric, eyelet can be soft or crisp.

Georgette is a loosely woven double-sheer fabric made of silk or polyester. It is most similar in texture to crepe with a very soft hand.

tulle bridal veilNet is one of the oldest textiles. It was originally made by knotting threads together. Net is manufactured from both natural and synthetic fibers. It is transparent because of space that is left between fibers. Because it is not woven, it does not fray.

There are different types of net fabrics, one of the most popular of which is tulle, widely used in bridal wear. The veil that you see in this lovely photo to the left is tulle, most likely made of silk considering the date of the photo (1929).



Organdy is one of the more crisp fabrics in the family of sheers. It works very well for gathered or pleated garments because it poofs up nicely and has a lot of body. It does tend to wrinkle easily because it is made of a plain-weave cotton.

Organza is another plain-weave fabric that is woven from rayon, silk, or polyester. It is less crisp than organdy, but more so than chiffon.

Sheer fabrics can be used to construct entire garments or they can be used to add special detailing to a garment such as adding sheer sleeves to an opaque bodice. Transparent fabrics require some special treatment when being sewn because seams will show through and the fabrics can be delicate and prone to ripping and/or fraying.

Click to read more about Working With Sheer Fabrics

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