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Seam Finishes for Silks

Fabrics of different weights fabric need different types of seam finishes.
A Hong Kong seam is quite an eye-catching finish for silk, especially when you choose a contrasting fabric to bind the edges.
Photo: Jack Deutsch

by Linda Lee
from Threads #139, pp. 61-64

For some people, the idea of sewing silk fabrics is terrifying. Certain silks are more challenging than others, but there is nothing more rewarding than sewing an exquisite garment, using the best fabric and the finest finishing.

lining More on seam finishes

• Complete Guide to Seams and Seam Finishes
• Video: How to Sew a French Seam
• Video: How to Sew a Stitch and Pink Seam Finish
• Video: How to Serge Seam Allowances
• Video: How to Sew a Single-fold Clean Finish Seam
Silk pieced insertion

Before you begin, there are a few things to keep in mind while sewing silks. A simple way to ensure good stitch quality is to adjust the stitch length. For silks, shorten the stitch length to 2mm; you'll have fewer puckers. As you sew, hold the fabric both in front of and behind the needle to give the fabric a little tension. Don't pull the fabric through the machine-just lightly guide it.

After you sew any seam, press it flat to meld the stitches before you proceed to the next step.

Honing your skills when sewing silk is all about using the right sewing aids and choosing the right techniques for stitching. It's the difference between homemade and professional.

In the photo at left, the Plaza Jacket from Lee's pattern line gets an elegant update with silk pieced insertions. The pattern is available at

Seam finishes
Fabrics of different weights fabric need different types of seam finishes.  

Sewing aids

Here are a few extra items that are useful to have on hand when sewing silk.

Single-hole throat plate. If the fabric tends to get drawn into the throatplate needle hole, switch to a throat plate with a single small opening. Of course, you can't sew a zigzag stitch with this type of throat plate.

Fusible web tape. Many silk fabrics tend to slip and slide, so try a product that binds the fabric together before you sew it. Fuse a strip of fusible tape to one side of the fabric, and remove the paper backing to expose a sticky strip that you can fuse to another piece of fabric. This holds the fabric in place for stitching.

Pins and needles. I prefer to use IB C glass-head silk pins. Be sure to change your pins often.
Start each project with a new needle, and adjust the size according to the weight of the fabric. A universal needle, size 70/10, is a good starting point.

Thread. The right needle and thread combination is essential. I prefer 100-percent-silk thread. The next best choice is pure cotton. Polyester threads tend to pucker. For lightweight and sheer silks, choose a lighter thread, or use a two-ply machine-embroidery cotton thread.

Trimming tools. My favorite scissors are Gingher no. 5. Some silk fabrics are so slippery that you can't get a good hold on them-no matter how nice your scissors are. A bird and clamp tool is a device with a clamp on one end that attaches to the edge of a table and another end that pinches the fabric to hold it taut while you are trimming. They are attached to each other with a string and act as a third hand to help you hold your fabric steady.

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Comments (7)

MonetViera MonetViera writes: Lovely article
Posted: 12:46 am on December 7th

2gaudygals 2gaudygals writes: The jacket featured in Seam Finishes for Silk, can anyone tell me what the pattern is or where I might find it? Thank you,
Posted: 2:33 pm on January 7th

twohanz twohanz writes: Thank you for the great article. I'm making a silk blouse for my Aunt's 100th Birthday, and while I have an overlocker I wanted something smarter and the French Seam info is just what I needed.
I particularly found useful the Bird and clamp idea brilliant as we can always use an extra hand from time to time.
Seems there are many uses for the japanese Clover Clamps.

Cheers David.

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Posted: 11:30 am on December 6th

DesertMermaid DesertMermaid writes: Brilliant article! I haven't advanced to the level illustrated as I am a novice. Thank you! I feel more inspired and encouraged to try "difficult" fabrics :)
Posted: 2:48 pm on September 13th

Mike32 Mike32 writes: This is one of the best articles about sewing sheer and silk fabrics. I came looking because I want to make a silk chiffon skirt--and the fabric was very costly! So can't afford any errors. I think the double zig zag will work perfectly. thanks again.
Posted: 4:50 am on July 18th

design4u design4u writes: Thanks for the info and assistance, i think this will be very helpful because I have a few fraying fabrics to try it on.
Posted: 3:53 pm on December 3rd

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