14 Tips to Help Sewing with Sheer Fabrics

There’s been countless times I stared at and admired beautifully flowing chiffon dresses and wished if only I could sew something as elegant.  It wasn’t until earlier this year I decided it was time to tackle a real challenge.  With all the comments about how temperamental chiffon can be, it was easy to get intimidated.  However,   I was ready for a big project and now I’m ready to share with you some of the tips and tricks that helped me sew with delicate fabrics.

  1. Speed is not your friend – this is my biggest recommendation,  sew slowly, carefully guiding your fabric through;  give yourself plenty of time to finish your project;
  2. Use masking tape to secure your fabric to the cutting table – tape the selvage of your fabric to the cutting table to help you straighten the grain and to keep it from moving around while cutting;
  3. Use a rotary cutter to cut your fabric pieces – rotary cutter and fabric weights are great for stopping sheer fabric from shifting under the pattern pieces;
  4. Fabric stiffener or starch are also great to help stabilize the fabric – this is specially true if you don’t have a rotary cutter.  Test on scrap fabric first to make sure it won’t leave any marks;
  5. Cut one layer at a time – this will seem time consuming but it is worth the extra work;
  6. Stitch extra wide seam allowances – it will help the feed dogs get an even grasp of the fabric as you stitch.  Then trim the extra allowance after;
  7. Avoid back tack – delicate fabrics have the tendency to get pushed through the hole on the stitching needle plate;
  8. Use tissue paper to protect your fabric from the feed dogs– you can use it under and/or on top of your fabric;
  9. French seams give a great clean finish look and prevent fabric from fraying – use directional seams to avoid stretching;
  10. Check your iron before touching the fabric – have a scrap piece of fabric handy by your ironing board so you can test the iron temperature before pressing your seams.  I’ve heard many horror stories of work ruined by fabric melt downs;
  11. Use a brand new sharp needle – I admit to not being adamant about this one with any other project but this will prevent snags when working with delicate fabrics;
  12. Use short length stitches – test stitch length on a scrap piece that is cut in the same angle as your seam; I’ve found that shorter stitches work better for lightweight, delicates.
  13. Baste your seams and let hang overnight on your dressform– this will allow the fibres to stretch and fall in the same way as if you were wearing it, then you can make adjustments if necessary;
  14. Try out with different hemming techniques – there are several hemming techniques talked and blogged about, try a few and find one that works and looks best for your project.  What might work for some may not work for your garment.  Here is a tutorial for an easy way to hem sheer fabrics.

Most important of all is have fun!   Chiffon will test your very basic skills but don’t let it discourage you.  It’s a great feeling when you see the final result of hard work.

I hope these will help you as it has helped me, and I’d love to hear other great tricks you may have for sewing with sheer fabrics.

Thanks for reading!


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