Archive for August, 2011

August 31, 2011

Notes on Four Ply Silk

My dress is done and I am over the moon! It is my favorite project to date! The fabric was a dream to work with and the finished garment couldn’t be more beautiful on.

Before beginning, I contacted Sunni, from A Fashionable Stitch, to ask for her advice on handling 4 ply silk. You might recall her beautiful silk skirt that she made during the Ginger Sew Along that she hosted. Armed with Sunni’s advice, the research I found in my library, and my personal experience I’ve compiled a run down of working with 4 ply silk.

Notice the difference between the warp and the weft threads on this piece of 4 ply silk.

What is 4 ply silk? Ply refers to the number of threads used in the weft of the fabric. Naturally, this means that 4 threads are used for the weft in a 4 ply silk. However, with modern technology it is possible to breed silk worms that produce a thicker silk strand that is equivalent to 4 plies. Fabric made with this thicker strand is still called 4 ply. It’s pretty easy to tell by looking at a cut edge (parallel to the selvedge) which category your fabric falls into. I don’t have a particular allegiance to one manufacturing method but take note that it’s the multiple plies that give 4 ply silk its texture.

4 ply silk is really versatile lending itself to both day and evening wear. Not only does it look amazing in drapey garments but it can be used in tailored patterns as well. The fabric is substantial with amazing drape. It breathes well and doesn’t wrinkle easily which would make it a wonderful fabric for traveling. Its construction produces a heavy fabric that (surprisingly) isn’t terribly thick.

Purchasing: Since you’re spending a pretty penny on 4 ply silk, I would not purchase it on a bolt. Bolted fabric has a tendency to have permanent creases and fading where the fabric was folded.

I purchased my 4 ply silk at Satin Moon Fabrics in San Francisco. Susan, one of the owners, told me that it was the nicest quality she had ever seen in a 4 ply silk and she knows her fabric! If you can’t make it to San Francisco you can also find it online. A quick search turns up these options:

New York Fashion Center Fabrics: 4 ply silk crepe, available in over 100 solid colors – $51.99 a yard (swatches available)

Gorgeous Fabrics: available occasionally, like this beautiful pearl gray– $24 a yard

Prep: 4 ply silk on a roll has a tendency to stretch and will shrink after washing. I’ve been told that 4 ply can be handwashed or dry cleaned but take the time to test a swatch before sacrificing your yardage.

Cutting: If your 4 ply fabric has substantial texture you might want to consider a directional layout. I didn’t, however, and it doesn’t seem to have mattered. It’s not an overly difficult fabric to cut. I used pins but found that they created too much bulk and affected my accuracy. If I’m lucky enough to work with 4 ply again, I’ll use pattern weights (my normal method) instead. While not as squirrely as charmeuse or chiffon, I did find that the fabric moved around during cutting. I cut on a glass surface which could be part of the problem. If you’re worried about this or experience too much movement, try laying the 4 ply on top of cotton flannel and cut through all layers.

Needle: 70/10 Sharp

Thread: A good quality cotton thread should do the trick. I used a mercerized cotton from Mettler.

Stitch Length: 2.2-2.6mm. I used 2.6mm throughout except 2.5mm for the hem.

Pressing: I used a dry iron on the silk setting on the backside of the garment and then steamed while holding the iron away from the fabric on the right side. Sunni, from A Fashionable Stitch, told me that even with a pressing cloth she had a terrible time with the iron leaving a shine on her 4 ply silk. The method described was the only way Sunni found to get a good pressing without shine on the right side. My particular fabric didn’t seam to shine with pressing but I didn’t want to chance it and used Sunni’s method. I would recommend testing the fabric before you begin.

Interfacing: I would recommend a sew on interfacing like silk organza (crisp but lightweight), silk georgette (adds body without affecting the drape), or a good quality muslin (adds body and weight). I used silk organza on both the arm and neck facings.

Seam Finishes: overcast (hand or machine) is ideal but for the right garment a fell seam could also look nice. You’ll want to avoid adding bulk so a french or even a turn-and-stitch seam would be out. Although 4 ply silk is fairly stable, I would recommend finishing the edges because the 4 plied weft looks pretty messy if left alone. For my garment I hand overcast (using a blanket stitch) all exposed seams.

Hems: blind hem (hand or machine) or twin needle hem. Like seam finishes, you’ll want a hem that doesn’t add bulk. I don’t think the fabric would work well with a rolled hem but I’d be happy to be proven wrong.

I’m still learning about this amazing fabric so if I’ve left out a technique that you use or have my information wrong, please let me know! I’d be happy to update my findings.

I’ll be back tomorrow wearing the finished garment! I can’t wait to share it with you.

August 26, 2011

WIP: Pattern Runway’s Kimono Sleeve Dress

Oona convinced me to take a leap and order the Kimono Sleeve Dress from Pattern Runway. I spent Wednesday printing (ran out of ink, of course), cutting, and taping together the pattern. I really appreciated the printed grid and the paper edges that aided in the taping process. This was something that I hadn’t experienced with the free Burda and Colette patterns that I’ve printed at home. I also spent some time reading through the instructions and looking through the tutorial.

Yesterday, I cut the dress from muslin and ran through the construction. I hope you can forgive the dark photos but I finished as the sun was setting.

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Pretty much any fabric is more flattering than muslin, thankfully! Looking past the fabric, though, the overall form is nice. I was expecting to have to make some alterations but I’m so pleased with the muslin’s fit that I don’t think I’ll change anything. Although my hips and bust were a perfect size Medium, my waist is closer to a Large. Due to the elastic waistband, however,  I resisted cutting the size Large and I’m glad that I did. There’s a lot of ease in the design and I wouldn’t want more fabric around my hips or bust. If I were really picky, I would shorten the pattern at the armhole to accommodate my petite height. Comparing my muslin with the garment on the dress form (here), the proportions seem about right though. Given this, I’m going to proceed without alteration. There is a chance that I’ll end up raising the hem but I don’t see any harm in cutting the pattern as is and see how the drape affects the length (and the appearance on me).

Although I won’t be making any adjustments, I’m glad that I made a muslin. I mentioned that I’m going to be cutting this from my precious 4 ply silk and I can’t begin to tell you how nervous I am. I feel like a fraud working with such amazing fabric and I’d really hate to ruin it. I keep telling myself that I’ve purchased ready to wear that was more expensive than this fabric and then never wore the garments so ruining this fabric can’t be any worse.

I’d like to take the project slowly and keep notes on my experience so that others who are working with this pattern (or 4 ply silk) might benefit. I haven’t found any other bloggers (or burda members) who have written about this dress – if you have, please let me know. I’d love to see your finished project and read about your experience. Happy weekend, all!

August 25, 2011

Picnic Skirt

Before I cut into the fabric I bought for my nieces, I decided to use some scraps to test the sizing. I used Made’s Market Skirt tutorial and came out with this:

I’m going to mail this today and hopefully I’ll get some feedback on sizing. It looks like it should fit the eldest, but it seems really large for the little one. At any rate, it’s so darn cute and should fit someone at some point!

August 24, 2011

Did It Work?

The bias tape did soften after a long, hot soak but it’s still too stiff for the shirt. You can see where the tape bends outward under the arm. So is this my favorite shirt? No. Will it see more wear? Yes. Most importantly, this shirt is a lesson in following your instincts!

August 23, 2011

Pattern Runway

Have you all seen Oona’s darling dress for this week’s Oona Does it. I just love those lines! The pattern is from Pattern Runway and sold through etsy. Not only do I love the curved princess line sundress but look at the kimono sleeve dress! It’s just what I’ve been envisioning for that 4ply silk I bought earlier this summer. Wouldn’t that make a smashing dress for the fall?

Both patterns have captured my attention but I’m hesitating because they are print-at-home. Has anyone else used this line? Should I take a chance and print? I’d love to hear what you think and see some finished garments.

August 23, 2011

Skirts for My Nieces

My niece has been asking me to make her a skirt for a couple of months. Her original request (which she has not forgotten) was rainbow fabric with jeweled colored hearts. She’s 4. Although I wasn’t able to find (exactly) what she was looking for, I think she’ll like what I’m making up. For her, I’m going to make a full skirt with an elastic waist. The bottom layer will be this pink plaid with a layer of the sheer stars over the top. I think it’s going to be really funky and fun!

For her little sister, I’m going to make the same style of skirt. The yellow will be the lining that has a ruffle on the bottom. I’m going to keep the self fabric simple and attach the ric-rac to the bottom and maybe somewhere at the waist.

I haven’t made too many things for my nieces and nephews because they all live so far away from me and getting the appropriate size can be troublesome. I’m hoping that the elastic waist will help somewhat but I’m afraid I’ll have to wing it with the length.

I can’t wait to get started on these!


August 22, 2011

Update: A Shirt from a Dress

I really liked the shirt that I made last week (which I haven’t managed to get a picture in yet, sorry!) so I thought that I’d use that pattern again to use up the salvaged fabric. Everything seemed to be going fine until I attached the bias tape to the neckline and armholes…

You see, I bought some black satin (poly, I’m sure) bias tape from Britex for a Sorbetto a few months back but it wasn’t the right width. Besides, it felt really stiff and I wanted to wait until after I had washed it to use. The washing never happened but I used it anyway. I was right – It was too stiff and ended up not lying flat and felt really uncomfortable one. I have the garment soaking in some hot water right now in the hopes of the tape softening.

Do you think it will work?

August 21, 2011

Reinvisioning Used Clothing

With fall around the corner I’m starting to sort through my summer clothes and make decisions about which pieces I’ll store and which I’ll donate. In general, it’s been uneventful and fairly straightforward. However, there is this one dress…

I picked this up last year at an outlet but haven’t got much use for it. I love the colors but the dress hides everything I love on my body so I end up feeling frumpy in it. Since the skirt is full, I’ve decided to break it down and reuse the lining and self fabric in a different garment.

The print is lovely but it is reminiscent of Hawaiian shirts so I’ll need to tread carefully. If all goes well, it should make a beautiful, lightweight blouse to wear while summer is still here.

August 15, 2011

WIP: Blouse with Gathering

A quick peak at a shirt based on a recent school assignment. I’ll be away from the computer for a few days but when I return I’ll show you the finished garment!

August 13, 2011

WIP: Faux Yoke with Button

Another project from my dart manipulation section that I’d like to take further. I used an example from Harriet Pepin’s book that brings the control vertically to the central front. From there a faux yoke is drafted along with the square neckline. It’s rather youthful and would look darling as a sundress but I’m also thinking that it could look really nice as a pinafore in wool.