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Sewing Satin

Satin Fabric
Satin Fabric

Satin is a popular fabric choice for making evening wear and other dressy garments including lingerie or if you are sewing for prom because it is shiny, luxurious looking, and comes in a large variety of colors. Satin is shiny because of how the fabric is woven; instead of the warp threads (those that go lengthwise) going under and over each weft thread, the warp threads are allowed to skip over numerous weft threads before going back under a weft thread. These long threads are called floats. This creates a larger continuous surface area that reflects light. You can see the weave in the photo below to the right.

Satin Weave
Satin Weave

While the gloss of satin is beautiful, there is a trade-off because this type of weave makes the fabric vulnerable to abrasion and snagging. In addition, satin, because of its smoothness can be slippery and difficult to manipulate so I want to discuss some tips to make sewing satin a little easier.

Due to the delicate nature of satin, it is best to create a muslin of the garment first and make any necessary fitting adjustments prior to cutting out the final garment from the satin. Satin shows trauma from ripping and resewing so you want to only sew once, if at all possible. Also, when fitting the garment, do not fit it tightly because satin is somewhat fragile and susceptible to pulling at the seams. It does not hold its structure as well as other woven types of fabrics.

Cutting Patterns from Satin

Prepare your cutting surface by placing a clean sheet on your surface. Not only will this protect the satin from any hidden rough spots on your table, it will also help keep the satin from slipping around on the table. Fold satin right sides together for pinning.

While satin does not have a "nap", like velvet, the glossy surface of the fabric sometimes reflects light differently based on the angle of the light so it is important to use a nap layout and keep all of your pattern pieces facing the same direction. When you are looking down on the fabric, it may look the same from both directions, but trust me, if you have one piece that was cut going the opposite direction, it will become very obvious when the garment is on and in a vertical position. In some cases, there will be a slight variation in the color and sheen.

As I mentioned earlier, satin is vulnerable to snagging, so it is essential to use sharp pins when pinning pattern pieces to the fabric. I recommend these silk pins made by Clover. They are small and sharp and leave minimal holes in your fabric. Buy a box of these and only use them on delicate fabrics to preserve their sharpness. Also, when pinning, remember to keep the pins close to the edge of the pattern within the seam allowance and just take small bites of fabric. You want to avoid pinning on live fabric as much as you can because the pin holes do not always come out of satin. If you absolutely have to pin inside seam lines, use sharp needles instead of pins. Also, place more pins than you would normally because satin has a tendency to slip and slide around. Pattern weights are also very helpful when trying to fold satin and arrange pattern pieces because you can place them on the fabric to keep it from moving around. There is nothing more frustrating than spending 20 minutes arranging the fabric just so on your table to have it slither to the floor when you turn to pick up your scissors. Use the pattern weights at the top and bottom of your folded fabric to keep the straight of the grain in place.

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