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Sewing with Chiffon

Expert tips for working with a light-as-air textile
Threads #226, Summer 2024
Photos: Jack Deutch (left); Mike Yamin (right)

Chiffon is a lightweight, sheer fabric with a soft hand. There are many variations in weave and fiber content, but all chiffons have the reputation of being tricky to sew. I’ll share my experience with handling this delicate, filmy textile so you can sew it with confidence. 

Natural or synthetic

Chiffon was originally only made from silk. This is still a popular choice for chiffon. The other common fiber for chiffon is polyester. It is much less expensive than silk. Other fibers for chiffon are less common, but nylon, rayon, and cotton are available, as well as blends with spandex for stretch. 

Smooth or textured

Standard chiffon is a plain, smooth weave. Crepe chiffon is made with twisted yarns, which give it more texture, and widthwise give. Crinkle chiffon has small, irregular pleats, generally running lengthwise, which confer further texture and more mechanical give. Satin-faced chiffon is shinier, smoother, and less sheer, and has less give. 

Additionally, chiffon can be treated to add further distinction: You’ll find examples with pleats, embroidery, embossing, flocking, beading, and prints. Note that some ultralightweight knits are labeled as chiffon, but they are not technically chiffon. All these nuances need to be taken into consideration for the best choice of fabric. With planning, patience, and creativity, you can do wonderful things with chiffon.

Brown, green, and blue chiffon swatches

Guide to Chiffon Types

When choosing chiffon, take note of the fiber content. Depending on the garment you choose to sew, you may get better results with a natural or synthetic fiber. 

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  1. user-7313718 | | #1

    How would you hem a chiffon polyester bridesmaid dress on a serger? I am using a rolled hem setting on my serger and wondering why sometimes there are 'skips' in the rolled hem. I have a number of these dresses to hem and a sewing machine rolled hem is not my favorite and the iron/stitch/cut/turn/stitch method takes so long. I would love to use wooly nylon but cannot find a close enough color match, so I am sewing with polyester sewing thread - Gutermann.

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