Tips for working with Slippery Fabrics!

If you’ve stuck around here long enough, you’ll have noticed I have a real affection for slinky fabrics.

With the completion of my Satin pyjamas I thought it was about time I share some of my personal survival tactics with Satin.

BUT most of these also apply to Silks, Viscose, Chiffon, Crepe or Georgette.

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1. Storage
I’ve always heard it’s best to store Satin rolled up to avoid getting creases that need to be ironed out later. I’ve stored it both rolled up and loosely folded and I have to say I didn’t have much problem either way. That being said, best not to put a ton of Corduroy and Denim on top of your Satin if you’re not sewing it up straight away.

2. Can’t stand the heat!
Satin has a special kind of weave that creates a glossy right-side to the fabric and a dull wrong-side. This lustre can be damaged by the high heat and steam of an iron or even accidentally picking an overaggressive spin-cycle on your washing machine.

Wash at 30 degrees and turn your iron to its coolest setting. Always press on the wrong side of the fabric or if you must press the right side then use a pressing cloth. The weight of your iron, more than the heat will help you achieve neatly pressed edges.

3. Lay it down.

Don’t be fooled, slippery fabric wants to escape your cutting table as soon as your back is turned! So unless you can fit all the fabric on the table without gravity coming into play I’d suggest cutting out on the floor (not the carpet). Basting will also be your new best friend – pin or stitch the folded fabric together to increase stability.

Best to also clear a good space around your machine, as again, you’ll be sewing along and suddenly your fabric will fling itself off the table like it has decided to end it all!

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4. Nap.
It’s not as obvious as the pile of velvet but there is a subtly different sheen when you view Satin one way rather than the other. Remember to lay all your pieces out in one direction even if your print is multi-directional… if you care about things like that.

5. To the point
First off, I hope you don’t have a tin full of dented blunt pins. That’s going to end in disaster.

Use the finest machine needle you can get hold of. Nice and sharp. I always use polyester thread. Use a small stitch length and try not to rip out stitches.

If you need to unpick, hey it happens, break the threads at regular intervals and then carefully unpick the shorter lengths to save trauma to the fabric.

6. Grain
I’m going to say the words people aren’t supposed to say. Deep breath… don’t beat yourself up about the grain. HEY I didn’t say ignore it completely! If you end up slightly off-grain because of the slippery nature of the fabric, you’ll be okay.

I generally find drapey fabrics far more forgiving in this regard and they very rarely warp over time. A significant amount of ready to wear clothing is produced off-grain and it’s never done us that much harm. But it’s not like it takes long to do so make the effort to line things up as best as you can.

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7. Finishing
Before you end up in a sea of Satin-fluff you might want to think about how to finish your seams. I definitely recommend French seams. I used them for 90% of the pyjamas except for the crotch seam on the pj bottoms and around the armholes in the pj top; there I used my serger to neaten things off.

French seams are so good because they’re secure, look pretty awesome and are really easy to sew when you’ve thought through the logistics! You can even use them on curved seams, even though I didn’t as I was honed in on the finish line – aka lazy. I did take the time to encase the exposed edge of my shirt facing with Satin bias binding as I was feeling classy for about 5 mins. .

Other options still apply — zig zag the raw edges, use pinking shears or bias/seam binding, or maybe you’ve prefer to fold under and top stitch your seam allowances out of sight.

Final thoughts

  • You can use a gelatin bath or similar on your fabric to give it temporary body – this washes out easily enough but I don’t like how slimy it makes the fabric and my machine bed.
  • If you want more tips for silk check out Jen’s awesome tutorial which covers helpful cutting techniques using paper. This is a very common method for a good reason.
  • Familiar with the tissue paper technique? This is for sewing (rather than cutting) and I’ve found it very handy in the past.
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