Taming the slippery fabric beast… or gelatin will change your life

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been experimenting… rather like this…

Beaker from the Muppets

Not sure which one is me…

So what lead me to this? This…

Sew Bossy package from Leila of Three Dresses

Sew Bossy package from Leila of Three Dresses

Yup, that 100% silk business scared the heck outta me. Until this point I have avoided slippery fabrics like the plague. In fact… I probably would have preferred the plague…

Once confronted by the Sew Bossy Challenge there was no running away from my sewing demons… they had come to live in my sewing room (shacked up with my drunk monkey, eating popcorn and throwing their empties at the wall – it was mayhem!).

While freaking out, and naturally, tweetin’ about my sewing angst, Leila, my Sew Bossy Boss told me (nicely) to go forth and bathe my silk in gelatin.

Exactly. What the???

So I checked out Leila’s post about this. Then Google lead me to the Couture Academic’s post. Then Threads. And finally Ms Gelatin Bath herself via Google search and Twitter… drum roll please…

Lena Merrin of the Sewing Space right here in Down Under Land aka Australia.

Let me tell you – this is genius. I bathed that silk and cut out that Grainline Archer – and sewed it up like the boss (until the collar but that’s another postpatience).

I was so impressed that I tried again last weekend with some seriously wafty, floaty, super sheer, very temperamental poly chiffon (yeah, I know, I know! Polyester! What the?? BUT the print is glorious and if that project works you will be sagely noddin’ your heads and saying “that Lizzy might be the fruitcake of the bakery but that fabric is all shades of awesomesauce,” Patience people, that’s another post too.).

I used the mixture from the Sewing Space which you can find in greater detail here – go read it for the instructions, I’m no guru I’m more Beaker-like – in a nutshell you need:-

  • 3 teaspoons of gelatin (powdered stuff from the supermarket, I think mine was about $3)
  • a cup of tap water (which I heated up in the microwave after its 30 minutes of brewing with the gelatin)
  • a bucket
  • 3 litres of water.

That is all.

Oh… and

  • a defiant, slippery fabric of course (that needs a good punch in the chops to let it know who is boss)…

… and then, without a Muppet Beaker-like explosion (which would be kinda fun but not very productive), your sewing life will be transformed FOREVER.


Go tame those slippery fabric beasts and let me hear you ROAR!


Just keep your sewing area dry (so no crying about a wonky seams now!) and rinse it out at the end. Your fabric is not super stiff, the gelatin just gives it enough body to make cutting and sewing so much easier!

Thank you Lena & Leila! This is liberating stuff, a few more of my sewing demons have been evicted from my sewing room, never to return. Jump over and check out Lena’s free files – there is a great file of how much fabric you need for different types of garments and a croquis file – now I can really stash and sketch… *rushes off to sewing room*)

65 thoughts on “Taming the slippery fabric beast… or gelatin will change your life

  1. I could have used this 4hrs ago, but I’ve cut out the damn thing now, might be tempted to try with cut pieces just to make them easier to sew! You are too helpful!

    • I’ve thought about that – I think for smaller projects it would be good but with 2m of fabric and lots of shirt pattern pieces I think the gelatin was best for the Archer project. It gives the fabric a slight crunch and it doesn’t slide at all, I didn’t have to pin much.

  2. What a fabulous! I’ve been using Sullivan’s Spray Stabilizer (recommended on Colette website) but it always leaves residue all over my hands and floor…this seems to be a much more convenient! I’m excited to try it out!

  3. OMG! This is genius! Just like you I steered away from silky fabrics because I’ve been warned right left and centre how difficult it is to control when sewing! just read the recipe on your link, I assume this works with all/most kinds of silks? (wouldn’t want to damage it!)

    • Me too. I used it on 100% silk and barely used pins!
      I guess if you can wash it, you can gelatin it. Perhaps experiment with a sample first. gelatin it, dry it, sew it, rinse it, dry it.
      If you have questions try contacting Lena through her site, she’s lovely & very helpful.

  4. Wow, this sounds genius! Thanks. I have just waged war with a silk Scout Tee (and although I triumphed, it was a close call). I am seriously considering a chiffon Zinnia skirt (new Colette pattern), so this sounds like a good tip to bear in mind if I pluck up the courage. Incidentally, I was planning to use a poly chiffon. Is that bad?

  5. Thank you SO MUCH for sharing this idea!! I have some material that I have been avoiding because it is so flimsy and slippery. I put it in a bucket of the gelatine solution yesterday, following all directions, and wala!! It is just stiff enough to work with!! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!! I will never forget this wonderful idea!

  6. At first I thought you had started drinking with the monkey but after reading your post, you’ve convinced me to try this! Bring on the slippery fabrics! And thanks for sharing. 🙂

  7. i don’t think i’ve ever heard of this! sounds amazing! okay, some technical questions (cuz i have some silks to cut into…) can you still press the fabric just the same (as in, the gelatin won’t leave any marks in the fabric from the heat)? and how do you dry the fabric post-gelatining? do you have to make sure it’s on grain or can you still true it up for cutting?

    • I figured more people needed to try this – it’s not my idea but I’m really happy to share the brilliant stitcher who thought it up. Yay for Lena!
      It changed what I think I can & can’t sew and that’s got a be a good thing!

  8. Genius! Thanks for this amazing tip, I’m working on silk scarves and it’s been like working with a table full of freshly caught mackerel. That silk is so dang silky!

  9. Oh Lizzy, why dont’t I read my blogs daily, just cut out a dress on Sinday of very silky silk like floral lusciousness and cussed a great deal when I unpinned, every piece relaxed into new unpatternlike shapes and I just know its going to be a drama to seam up. Gelatine!! Beep beppetty beep, and btw I love Beaker!

  10. Lena is a clever lady for sure and this is one of many tips I have bookmarked. I have some lovely very slippery silkies I wanna up one day. Thank you for the reminder 🙂

    Isn’t it fab learning new tricks?

  11. Pingback: Sew Bossy… falling in love with Archer | Sew Busy Lizzy

  12. Pingback: Stabilising shifty fabrics with gelatine! | Cinderellis Sews

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