Sewing Sheer Fabrics

Sewing Sheer Fabrics
Sheer fabrics with their gossamer translucent surfaces can be deceiving as to their strength, however they are at least as sturdy as wovens. Sheers can have a crisp or soft “hand” that relates how the fabric feels to the touch.

Crisp sheers like voile (light weight, plain weave, found in curtains, dresses and blouses) and organdy (light, semi-sheer often found in evening and bridal wear) can be sewn using traditional sewing techniques. Soft sheers like chiffon, georgette and organza are light as air and require care when cutting (pin to tissue paper and cut as one to avoid fraying) and stitching (hand baste seams to avoid movement).

It is interesting to note that while organdy and organza are similar in appearance and texture, organdy is usually woven of cotton or nylon, while organza can be made of silk, polyester or rayon.

Use silk pins within seam allowances to temporarily hold together the seams as they are sharp, smooth and pull out easily, leaving barely perceptible holes in fabric that does not self-mend when pierced.

For best results, very sharp dressmaker shears should be used when cutting these airy fabrics as the fabric can easily become caught between the blades. These sharp shears with an offset handle that lays flat on the cutting surface can cut fabric smoothly along the length of the blade leaving a sharp undistorted cut edge. Handle cut fabric edges carefully to avoid fraying as much as possible.

Use the machine’s straight stitch throat plate rather than a zigzag stitch plate to avoid having the fabric dip down into the needle hole opening. Cover the side ends of a zigzag stitch plate with painter’s tape to reduce the opening for the machine needle to pass through if a straight stitch plate is not available.

Pins, chalk or tailor’s tacks are best to use for marking darts, notches and other pattern markings.

Test the machine stitch on layered scraps of the same fabric to duplicate a seam. Use a sharp fine sewing machine needle (size 65/9 is often best), short stitch length and adjust thread tension and presser foot pressure so that the top and bobbin threads appear equal in length and depth on the fabric.

Use fine silk thread or cotton thread numbered between 50 to 100. The thread spool will show a number for weight followed by ply. For example, a number listed on the spool end as 50/2 indicates 50-weight 2-ply thread that is relatively thin and durable. The higher the thread weight number though, the thinner the thread will be.

Avoid backstitching to secure the beginning and end of seams as the fabric will often bunch up under the machine needle. Leave long thread tails and pull up the bobbin thread to the top (or vice versa) and softly tie the thread ends together to knot securely. Alternatively, shorten the stitch length to .5 or 1.0 for a short distance at just the very beginning and end of the seam length to secure the ends. The remaining seam in between would be stitched at the desired stitch length.

Hems should be very narrow for soft sheers or any depth for crisp sheers. A narrow zigzag hem works well on the bias. Hand-stitching a rolled hem finishes any sheer garment edge elegantly.

Press carefully first on scraps of the fabric to determine the iron’s heat setting and steam settings. Press lightly using a press cloth over a pressing ham or tightly rolled towel to avoid seam lines from showing through to the right side of the garment.

Sewing on sheer fabrics is a delightful change from sewing heavier weight woven cotton and cotton blends. It will test the patience and skill of any sewer however the beautiful look of sheer fabrics is well worth the effort.

Sew happy, sew inspired.

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