For a remarkably simple looking top, this took me a loooonnnng time. However it was an interesting sewing journey and I’ve learnt a lot more about silk!
This is my second make for Mood Fabrics Sewing Network and my first ever with silk charmuese.
I’ve always been most curious about sewing with silk. You hear such nightmare stories. I have sewn with silk cotton blends and found them delightful so I had some degree of confidence that silk charmeuse could be conquered.
I had originally planned to sew a long, draped evening dress but I decided that I might appear to be drowning in a tidal wave of purple so I decided to sew a shorter dress and settled on Vogue 1344. It lists charmeuse as one of it recommended fabrics. I cut out the bodice pieces and spent eight hours sewing the lined bodice over two days… and I wasn’t happy with it. The pleats were not behaving and I felt the fabric was not right for the pattern. I could have solidered on but decided to take a different approach.
Then I did what I should have done in the first place – I patted the silk, ran it through my hands and draped it over my shoulder. Obviously what silk charmuese wants to do is drape… so I set about finding a relatively simple pattern which would let the fabric do the talking – too often we look for complex patterns – however the simple fact remains often the simplest shapes and designs showcase beautiful fabric the best.
I settled on Simplicity 1424 – described as a ‘top with back interest’ and recommends ‘silky types’. The back has a dramatic cowl back and the front has an upper layer which provides a double layer of fabric and creates a sweet doubled ruffled/fluted hem effect.
I only used 1.2m of silk to make this top. This pattern also has a cute little swing top that isn’t quite as revealing as this one – it uses even less fabric!
This time I did a few simple things which improved my sewing results enormously – and since this project is all about the fabric I’m going to share.
FLAT PATTERN PIECES
I used some ‘Crafting Trace & Toile’ – it was from my ‘stash’ and is sold alongside interfacings generally. I traced the pattern pieces onto the Trace & Toile as if I was cutting out fabric – and created full piece flat pattern pieces. This enabled me to more easily lay out the fabric as a single layer – no cutting on the fold. This technique meant the silk could move around a lot less.
NO PINS WHEN CUTTING
The ‘Trace and Toile’ is slightly textured and tends to grip the fabric a little. This also negated the need for pins – which I had found tricky with the Vogue 1344 pieces that I had cut… pinning the pattern pieces caused the fabric to shift and slide – very frustrating!
I used some glass tumblers from the cupboard as my weights. This made the cutting process so much easier and more accurate. The glasses are also very heavy and smooth which was perfect for this purpose.
I often tell people that a big cutting mat and a rotary cutter is an excellent investment – never more so when sewing with silk!
SEWING SIMPLICITY 1424 IN SILK CHARMEUSE- some tips
For the straps I decided to block-fuse a piece of the silk with a very lightweight fusible interfacing. This made the straps a little more stable, lie flatter once ironed and were also also easier to turn. Rather than using the cut edge as a guide when sewing, I used the folded edge – doing this means that your straps will be the same width for the full length of the strap – which I think is more accurate than relying on the cut edge as a sewing guide.
I never use a loop turner, for narrow straps a bobbin pin is perfect. I cut a small slit about 1/4inch down from the end of the sewn tube. I then slide one side of the bobbin pin into the slit and the other into the tube itself. You then gently wiggle the end as begins to turn itself into the tube and thus the right way out. It does take a little patience to get the tube to start to turn but once it does it is quite simple to slide the bobbin pin along the inside of the tube – in the same way you thread elastic through a casing using a bodkin or a safety pin.
I left off the lingerie slides and made my straps a fixed length. I choose to do this as I think it would have make the straps ungainly and bulky. The silk charmeuse is silky soft and the lightweight interfacing means they lie beautifully flat on my shoulders.
The hems – I do have a rolled hem foot for my Bernina – however this silk charmuese simply did not want to obey and feed through the foot consistently. So I elected to do the three-step rolled hem manually. It does take a lot longer however there is a great degree of control which I think it great for this type of fabric.
I’ve sewn hems using this technique several times – however if you are new to this – check out the Craftsy Blog’s online tutorial for some help. This is better than the method Simplicity recommends for this particular fabric, essentially Craftsy has you stitch one extra row but the results are worth it.
Strap ‘Interest’ Variation
This pattern has fabric straps running horizontally across the front and back straps. I decided to leave off the front strap and replace the single back strap with very fine chains of different lengths so they fell in waves down my back – mimicking the flowing folds of the silk. I simply attached a metre/yard of fine chain to a jump ring on one of the lingerie circles and then across to another jump ring on the opposite shoulder’s lingerie circle – going back and forwards with the chain becoming increasingly longer.
So there you have it. A cute little cami with a little bit of wow at the back… in divine silk charmuese from Mood Fabrics NY. If you haven’t tried sewing with this type of fabric – you really should. It feels like water running across your skin.
JEANS IN JUNE & JULY! Update
Blog post coming very very soon – I’ve started a pair… made some blog buttons and half written a post. So sorry – life has been a runaway train at the moment.