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4-ply silk, need advice

nisee | Posted in General Sewing Info on

Hi, its been awhile.   I’m a new gradma for the 2nd time and have been preoccupied, happily so!    I hope someone can give me some direction on 4-ply silk.  I visited a new fabric shop here in SFBayArea. New to me.I bought what I understand is 4 ply silk.  Great weight and sheen. Started project. My cutting blade felt like I was cutting iron but it cuts very cleanly if I was careful about not dragginh the blade. My next concern is the sewing needle size. I am using a size 10, small enough for silk. It sews but sounds like it is getting dulled by the moment.  I tried to use some tailor taks to mark dart, no go.  The needle would not go without completely distorting and moving the fabric. I have managed to mark with chalk.  My question is: has any one sewn with this fabric? Have some advice on needle size? The hand is quite heavy and I think it will suit this simple tunic style very well.  So far my sewing needle has sewn the darts and seems.  They appear ok but several times the thread broke and the bobbin thread disappeared.  The fabric has some stretch to it but it soes not feel like licra just a very heavy weave. 


  1. woodruff | | #1

    Just offhand, it sounds like a needle problem. Is your sewing machine needle a "sharp"? You really don't want to be using a "universal" with this fabric. 4-ply silk is pretty hefty stuff, and Sandra Betzina, in her "Fabric Savvy" book, suggests a size 12 sharp needle for it.

    1. nisee | | #2

      Thank you, I will try a large needle. I'm wondering if my fabric had a finish or is so compressed that it makes that sound.  Like a super compressed weave, old.  So far it is doing well, I let you know if the needle makes a difference.

      1. woodruff | | #4

        Remember, we're talking a "sharp" needle here, not a universal. They have different points.

        1. nisee | | #5

          Thank you for the direction, I changed the needle and have had pretty good results. One area is still a problem.  This tunic has self fabric loop closures.  The loop is on top of the front panel.  sewing thru such a dense and small detail is giving me fits. The loops bend over their own end. That is a small area to put three or four stiches thru, keep it neet and the fabric density is awesome.  I've put this aside to consider another option.  This is a final step.  Also concerned about button on other side, not completely backed by facing so they just "hang" there.  I'm thinking about adding something!!  Any advice?

          1. woodruff | | #6

            I hate that "loops bending over on themselves" thing; it is SUCH a dumb design! Is there any possibility that the loops can be enclosed in the front edge seam rather than sitting on top of the right side?If not, here are some ideas:Just neatly close the ends of the loops, either by machine stitching or neatly handstitching them shut (think lengths of spaghetti), and then holding them in place with a couple of pieces of Scotch or paper tape while you stitch them down.Make one longer, closed length of binding and have it "squiggle" down the front, forming the necessary loops as it goes. Hold things in place with tape for stitching them down.

            Use narrow commercial ribbon or braid as loops, again using tape as an extra hand for stitching.

          2. nisee | | #7

            Thaks, I have just gone to the fabric store to look at things that I could use in place of the self fabric loops.  Color is a problem.  I could put the loops in the seam.  The way it shows on the pattern is just a design detail, that could be changed.  Now for the button issue.  I'm thinking small flat button on reverse side to support the 3/4" button called for - or reduce the button size and still use flat button for suppport..  This fabric drapes so well it is hard to visualize any additional facing or placket to support the buttons. Believe it or not I have acouple of more yards in green, blue and white.  I have seen "Eileen Fisher" tops and pants made of similar weight fabric.  I like the asian influence.  I thought this tunic top was pared down enough to give the same feel.  Come to think of it Fishers tops are either buttonless or concealed placket buttons.              Anyway, thank you for being here.  I think going into the seam is worth a try.  I let you know.

          3. nisee | | #8

            I forgot to ask you, did you mention a reference to a book on fabric?  My reference library is so old and from Threads I have learned there are better books to use.  I have been retired from work all of 2 weeks and have set out improving my work station dailly.  So many things tucked away for when I had time.  Thnaks again.

          4. woodruff | | #9

            Sandra Betzina has two books about fabics. They're actually very good, with lots of info and tips, and many photos. The titles are "Fabric Savvy" and "More Fabric Savvy," I believe.

          5. User avater
            Becky-book | | #10

            About your loops... could you put them in the front seam AND put their ends side-by-side instead of on top of itself? (this would rotate the loop 90 degrees)

            Small buttons behind your larger ones sounds good to me!

            Happy sewing,


          6. nisee | | #11

            Thanks for that suggestion, yes the loops can lay side by side but inserting into the seam was a no go.  The loops are just too thick. So, I'm thinking of reconstructing them as a tube. This would eliminate two rows of stiching and the thickness of the loops.  Ok, thank you all for keeping me thinking.  Buttons are next and LAST! 

  2. Dorothy80516 | | #3

    FWIW, I have sewn many garments, particularly trousers, with 4-ply silk.  It is a little difficult to cut, but I have never had the problem you've mentioned with the needle and thread.  I agree that you should start with a brand new size 12 needle, and use a good quality thread as well.  For the 4-ply silk, I've used the 100% cotton Metrosene with great results.

    Good luck!


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