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more ??s about silk chiffon on bias

user-51823 | Posted in General Discussion on

tonight i agreed against my better judgement to make a flower girl dress for a wedding in one week, to be worn by a 4 yr old. good news is it’s a very simple design (i’ll be drafting a pattern from a costume). bad news is the bride wants it in 2 layers of silk chiffon, on the bias.
i’ve never had great luck sewing silk chiffon on my machine, and while i’ve tried most of the tricks i’ve read in the archives using keywords “bias silk chiffon”, i think it may be in part due to my lack of a good machine. i think i can borrow a good machine for this project, as the mother of the flower girl directs the theater department at a school where i just finished doing some costumes and the bride is her choreographer 🙂
still- any other tips or tricks?
1) i will cut extra wide seam allowance, 2) allow cut pieces to hang naturally for a day before sewing (to avoid ripples at seam)
3) use a slight zigzag to flex if fabric stretches further (??)
but what’s up with that trick of sewing chiffon directly onto an underlayer of tissue to stablize? i’ve tried it and can never get the tissue torn ot neatly without pulling on the fabric… supposedly the tissue will break away neatly at the perforated line, but not for me.


  1. HeartFire2 | | #1

    well, I typed a reply and is vanished, so here goes again,

    what is the style of the dress? are the two layers sewn as one or sepperately? you need to thread trace the seam lines before you cut the fabric - while its still on the straight grain and behaving somewhat! that way you have accurate seam lines. the dress can be sewn first and hung afterwards, just don't do the hem till after its hung. Strech the seams while sewing them. There is a great tutorial on sewing bias at Charles Kleibacker's site (I met him a year ago, what a charming man)


    1. user-51823 | | #2

      thank you, that's an excellent site. i'm having problems with my computer "talking " to my printer/scanner and camera, and cannot post a photo or sketch, but the dress is a modified A line,slightly more fitted at top with the flare starting at a curve. jewel neck with 4 points around the hem, as if edges of a square. my guess is that laid out, it's not a true square, otherwise the points would hang way too low. the original is sleeveless, but something tells me the bride is going to ask for sleevs before it's done (she's the type who hints and adds on after she gets you to agree to a simple project.)
      i wil examine the original more carefully backstage today; it's a rented costume and will be shipped out tuesday.i believe it was an issue of Threads where i read to hang the fabric on the bias for a day before cutting, as opposed to stretching as you sew, supposedly to led the fabric tell you where it wants to drape. but everything i saw in the archives here said as you did, to stretch as you sew.

      1. woodruff | | #3

        Eeeek, I cannot imagine why the bride wants bias in addition to silk chiffon! The chiffon alone is going to be difficult to handle--as you know--and it's already drapy and billowy enough to do the whole ethereal job, especially for a four-year-old's dress.Well, thank goodness anyhow that we're not talking a ton of material here.If the dress is going to be hand-washable, here's what I'd try, to make things more manageable:Wash the fabric, dry it, and then lay it out nice and flat on a sheet somewhere. Spray the heck out of it with spray starch. It will dry with a slight papery hand, and will cut, sew, and generally behave like a good, light cotton as you work with it.For the bias thing, cut one and one-half inch side seam allowances. Same for front and back seams, if there are any, as there should be with bias. Thread-mark the stitching lines. As for the stretch, I'd follow Sandra Betzina/Marcy Tilton's instructions on this, pressing the cut garment as I stretched the garment lengthwise. As these ladies explain, this is merely speeding up the process that happens naturally when you hang a bias garment. After the stretch/press routine, let the pieces dry in place, and then lay the pattern pieces over them to see if the garment has significantly narrowed in width, which happens with bias. That's why you use the giant seam allowances; they're a safety net.In sewing, I'd use a very narrow zigzag for the vertical seams, holding the fabric taut, but not stretching vigorously. The reason for the zigzag is that the garment will continue to stretch a little while worn, and you want those vertical seams to give along with the dress, so things don't look saggy in the middle.Finally, after the dress is finished, you can hand wash it to remove the starch. Store it flat, if you want to minimize stretch/sag.

        1. ixs | | #4

          I HAVEN'T sewn on silk chiffon and haven't done much on the bias, but I think it would be wise to use a thinner thread and thinner needle to do this chiffon, and I think I would test wash a small piece before I washed the whole piece of fabric. 

          Please be kind to yourself and don't let anyone push you too far/hard so that a fun project becomes hard work.

          Good luck!!!  And we hope to see the results here.

          1. user-51823 | | #5

            thanks for your kind words :-)it turns out that i've had a bad stomach bug the last 2 days- i think that's probably why i was addled enough to agree to do this, before i realized i was sick.i agree that bias is overkill with the silk chiffon, however, that's the only way to eke out the pattern on what's left of the bride's fabric. i did consider starching the fabric first, but i'm really scared of messing too much with this precious last scrap of fabric.
            saturday nite (before i retired to the bathroom for the rest of the weekend) i made a dummy dress out of a polyesther that has a pretty similar drape. will try it on flower girl today after her nap. then i'll start on the real thing. wish me luck. 2 layers- under is deep blue and over is white. i will join at shoulders and make blue layer's armhole a bit larger so it doesn't show. i have a slash in back for head hole (no back seam, only sides. i suppose i'll make bias strips for edging neck, slash, and armholes.)thanks again- all further input welcome.ps- am totally clueless what to charge. re the costumes i do for this woman, we never talk money. i started out years ago volunteering for the school and as the workload grew i was compensated a token amount. but this is a private job and the mother can well afford it. i hate discussing money and have no idea what to ask; not aware of any places to go ask for estimates either. any ideas? again, simple design but tricky fabric and will need lots of handwork.

            Edited 11/13/2006 11:38 am ET by msm-s

          2. ixs | | #7

            That's why I never got serious about sewing for others; I didn't think they would pay me for how much I had to do; non-sewers just don't understand what sewing entails.  Your are worth something!  And there are books out there, but I don't think you have time for that.....

            But I think the money issue should be up front, in a gentle way, if you wish.  Then you know where you stand and how much you want to do.  Perhaps you should ask her how much she thinks the job is worth and go from there; inform her of the actual time involved.......maybe a list of all the steps you will have to do? 

            Please keep track of all your hours and materials.  That is a start.  Then, maybe someone else has an idea. 

            Good luck and perhaps a picture at the end. 

          3. Teaf5 | | #8

            Excellent advice! Especially for a last-minute request, the bride should expect to be charged far more than she would have if she'd placed the order when she did her cake, photographer, florist, and venue orders.On a child's dress, you could probably set the bodice on the straight of the grain and just do the overskirt on the bias; that way, you're not dealing with all the fitting issues of the neckline, armholes, sleeves, darts, whatever while working on the bias, but the skirt would have that lovely drape of a bias cut.A four-year-old doesn't have much body shape and probably never stands absolutely still, so attention to detail on this dress is not going to be nearly as important as the overall swish of a lovely skirt. Good luck!

          4. thehat | | #10

            how long did she give you to make this dress  a short time is more money because you are under  more stress and using left overs

          5. User avater
            Becky-book | | #11

            Please listen to Galey!!! She is right on the dot!  I used to sell Wedding wear at a retail place over 15 years ago and flower girl dresses (rather poorly made at that) STARTED at $75 and went up!!  Since this is not a charity case, charge what you are worth!!!


  2. sewingkmulkey | | #6

    I think you should charge a minimum of $75 and more towards $100.  Afterall you drafted the pattern and will spend many hours cutting, sewing and perfecting the fit and finished garment.  Your time and expertise are valuable!

    Karen from Houston


    1. mygaley | | #9

      When I don't know what to charge, I add up the hours already spent on it, including planning, and see what it comes to at $10.00 an hour. You will be shocked! I would charge $75-100 for this dress and possibly a surcharge for not having enough fabric/time. AGREE ON THE PRICE AND COLLECT 1/2 BEFORE YOU DO ANOTHER THING. COLLECT THE OTHER HALF WHEN THE DRESS IS PICKED UP, NO MATTER WHO IS SENT TO GET IT. (I know I'm yelling, but I mean to be.) If your price is not agreeable, then you have gotten out of a job you don't really want to face. Galey Sorry--I just realized this message was for MSM-s.

      Edited 11/13/2006 10:49 pm ET by mygaley

  3. sherryv | | #12

    msm -

    I may be too late with this info, but wanted to let you know about a handy notion I used this past weekend on a chiffon shrug for my 17 YO daughter.  It's called 202 Spray and Fix temporary adhesive fusible.  With the short timeline you're on, you'd obviously need to find it locally; I bought mine from Clotilde.  You spray this over the back of your paper pattern and it becomes adhesive (but removeable, like a post-it note) so you can lay the pattern on your slippery fabrics (single layer) without weights or pins and there is NO shifting.  Using this method and a rotary cutter, I was able to obtain perfect cuts.  Great stuff!  Best wishes for feeling better and a hugely successful project :)

    1. Ralphetta | | #13

      I am curious about what the product did to your pattern.  Many years ago i tried a product like that, but there was residue left on the pattern and when I tried to use the pattern a few months later it was stuck together and unusable.

      1. sherryv | | #15

        Hi Ralphetta,

        Since I never use the original pattern for cutting (always a trace-off or one printed from my computer software,) and last weekend was the first time I've used the product, I can't comment about how it reacts over time.  The label promises no staining and no residue on the garment.  The tackiness on the pattern ends in a few hours and the label says to use a cool dry iron to reactivate so you can use it again.  You might try test spraying some scrap pieces of pattern tissue and check back in a couple months to see if it's behaving the way you want.  Hope it works out for you :)

    2. user-51823 | | #14

      i have a temporary stick spray glue product, by sulky i think, that did not leave a noticeable residue and lost it's tackiness after a few days, but i am afraid that it might cause some discoloration in time, even after cleaning, and i know the mom will want the dress as a keepsake.
      i have already cut the 2 layers of the dress and sewn one at shoulders and sides. when i get the top layer done, i'll do another fitting so i can do hems and edges and finish seams inside. my sewing machine is messing up the top tension, so i'm setting up and cleaning an older machine this a.m. i have 3 old machines, none of which works great. i need to trade them all in for one that is new and dependable! 70's White, 60's Brother and '40's Pfaff. i love the Pfaff, but it still leaks oil after maintenance at the repair shop a few years ago.
      teaf's-- this is a simple one-piece, so the bodice has to be on bias for the skirt to be on bias. thing about curved arm and neckhole, you're going to be dealing with bias in one spot or another no matter what.
      i wish i could get my scanner talking to my computer. i'd love to post some photos!
      ps- thanks for all the pricing advice. a mom at my son's school said no one she knows has paid less than $200 for flower girl dresses, and while those were generally more complex looking, they were probably in fact easier than this one because of the fabric involved. i'm thinking i'll suggest $125... if it turns out well...

      Edited 11/15/2006 10:42 am ET by msm-s

  4. user-51823 | | #16

    you ready for this? the bride now wants the flower girl to have fairy wings. nylon and wire wings like you can buy at a costume shop. (and like i re-covered and decorated as a prop for the play we just finished working on).
    she had the flower girl's mom communicate this to me (wisely).
    i explained that would involve a harness of some sort and even the most minimal gear would interfere with the look of the simple one-piece flowy dress, and that if she wants wings we need to stop and rethink the dress first. i suggested cutting off the fitted top area and attaching the remaining skirt to a new, sturdier short empire bodice that could still have some chiffon draped over it (there's enough small scraps), and yet support velcroed-on wings. found this out after spending all morning and early pm messing with neckline and neck closure and basting and french seaming and placketting and hand rolling and hand sewing the armholes... i didn't finish, but i fussed and worried over it.
    i'm trying to get up the nerve to ask for $250.

    Edited 11/15/2006 11:10 pm ET by msm-s

    1. jjgg | | #17

      What do you pay the plummer per hour? (I just paid $75.00/hr to get a drain unstopped) How much do you pay the hair dresser? your doctor? Why are your services so cheap? A minimum of $25.00/hr is what you should be asking for without even a second thought. If you sell yourself short you are making it harder for the rest of us to make a living.Sorry, I really don't mean to sound so harsh, but you need to get a back bone and tell this bride just what is going on. - how much did she pay for her dress??(unless it was made in China, she paid dearly)

      Edited 11/15/2006 11:55 pm ET by jjgg

      1. user-51823 | | #21

        thanks everyone. no offense taken- i know i need a backbone when it comes to money. it's always been a big flaw of mine.
        LOL jjgg- her mom is helping a seamstress with her dress :-)
        I pity the seamstress!i did explain to FG mom, the go-between in the wing conversation, that i do not have time to make a winged dress heirloom fashion, but if the bride wants people to see a fairy come down the aisle as of THREE DAYS BEFORE THE WEDDING, i will have to treat it as a costume and nothing finer. the word came back that the bride is okay with that big reverse in direction. keep in mind that the bride and FG mom are both carreer theater people. that helps with the pressure for "fine sewing". i'll have you know i took the rest of the evening off at that... read to my 5 yr old, took him to choir practice, dropped him of at his dad's house and rented a movie (Bee Season- lovely visuals). i am still tired from the play and being sick and needed a break.
        coffee's ready so i'll start in on the conversion. thanks for the encouragement!Edited 11/16/2006 9:59 am ET by msm-s

        Edited 11/16/2006 10:01 am ET by msm-s

      2. fabricholic | | #22

        jjgg is right. I bought a little white dress with polyester lace on it for $100.00 in a RTW store. Please don't sell yourself short. This is a CUSTOM JOB. You have a talent that you are selling to her, your expertise! $250 base is what I would do. Don't do the wings till you get that agreed upon and half in your pocket. Hope you are feeling better. People should learn not to be bullies to the people they need.Marcy

    2. woodruff | | #18

      $200 should be your base price, considering the difficulty of the request for bias, plus having to work with a small piece of leftover. The addition of wings and harness should add another $150 minimum to that figure.Tell her that. I bet the requests get toned down rather quickly.

    3. User avater
      blondie2sew | | #19

      Wow I was enjoying the reading and learning about this fabric and bias and you should've seen my eyes pop out of my head when you posted that she is now requesting wings!!! wow I am just for a loss of words!! And one week before her wedding hmmmmmmmm. I totally agree with woodruff the wings are huge and this bride needs to know that you have already been working on this dress and this will entail you to re design the bodice. So quote her big. and if she pays for it then do it but you need to be ok with just letting her know. Please don't ever ever ever discount what you are worth!! Nor make excuses for how much you charge or your quotes!! I at one time felt somewhat guilty about that but got over it very quickly. I too am a hairdresser and people would always say wow you charge alot. Well Then to bad I am good at what I do and I finally was proud of that and of course with my sewing. They don't want to pay then they can go somewhere else and not get the quality that you are known for. Ok I just got down from my soap box. But please always know you are worth everything!! Just saying yes to this in a short time frame you are worth millions darlin!!Big hugs of encouragement are being sent your way

    4. flossie | | #20

      I agree with woodruff - let this "bride" know that anything can be done but at a price! I know how hard it is to set a price but believe me after the first time it gets easier! It is a sad fact but if you don't value yourself and your work no one else will. I have sewn bias chiffon and you deserve at least $200 and you need to establish the price now and not when you finish the dress. Also remember that this is not a dance costume which can be run up quickly to look okay on stage, but part of a bridal party and as such requires much more of your precious time and skills.

      Best wishes and regards,


      (Melbourne, Australia)

    5. Teaf5 | | #25

      Fairy wings are in all the drugstores right now, priced at 50% off Halloween costume prices, and they are available in Claire's and children's clothing or toy departments in the dress-up section all year round. They cost less than $20 and come in many colors.My college-age daughter's collection includes two, each with two simple lingerie elastic loops attached to the center top of the wire frame work. One loop goes over each arm, and the wings bounce and hang quite naturally from the nape of her neck as she walks.

  5. miracle worker | | #23

    Would it be possible to use a water souluble stablier and steam it away when you are done with the seam?

    I long strip about 2 inches wide of this stablized should be enough, try it on a scrap first.

    1. ixs | | #24

      Hope I am writing to the correct person......

      You know, I don't think you have to "bend over backwards for this person," unless you feel a need, as a week's notice for a dress and 3 days before change everything seems way above the call of duty, way above.   

      I wouldn't take on the job in the first place (thank goodness I don't have to); and you have a 5 year old that might (trying to be neutral) be your first priority.  Plus, will she care if you make yourself sick?  And bring you tea?  And clean your house when you are sick from the stress?

      But do what you must do, as it is your decision.  I just wish you the best. 

      1. user-51823 | | #26

        ixs- thanks for the advice. please note in my post #22 how i am putting my son first and am not going to kill myself over this. but since he spends the night at his dad's house wed thurs and fri nite thru sat noon, i have that time to work on this. on his dad's days, son still spends noon until around 4:30 with me before dad gets off work. while i admit that this week i've been sewing during part of that time, we are in the same rrom talking or singing or planning activities for when this crazy thing is over. he knows the little flower girl and likes her and has come with me to fittings, and he's managed to have fun thru this.
        FYI, i am by profession an artist, who happens to sew, and i relish inventive wardrobe/costume work when it comes along. i'm the type who enjoys the challenge of creating and problem-solving, and who gets bored if i have to stay with one project for very long, so the same things that make this job a nightmare for some (fast and wacky) make it actually fun for me. LOL- that doesn't mean i can't vent about how clueless these ladies are about switching from well-made dress to fantasy costume so late in the game :-)

        hi teafs- yes, i am using store bought fairy wings for their framework and am just making new covers for them from cheap white pantyhose from the dollar store (i've done it before) and redecorating them to work with bride's colors. the wings are $6 at the local mom and pop costume store.i've been concentrating on son last few days (did the crafts for his thanksgiving class party today), and now i've got to get back to the dress. this is the home stretch; about 23 hours till the wedding!
        it's been great coming to this site the last few nights and reading your posts. it's really helped keep me focused and confident.oh yeah- i asked for $250, the mom seemed relieved. i'm kicking myself. details later-Edited 11/17/2006 6:49 pm ET by msm-s

        Edited 11/17/2006 6:52 pm ET by msm-s

        1. ixs | | #27

          Then I'll say, have fun.   ;~}

        2. flossie | | #28

          Good on you - I'm really proud of you asking for the money.

          PS: My eldest daughter is an artist as well but she doesn't sew - she has me for that!! she just comes up with the ideas.


          1. User avater
            blondie2sew | | #29

            Ok I have to say it!!
            When you finish this project do we get a picture posted!!You Rock girl and I also make my 10 year old and 5 year old Daughters apart of my sewing!! They love to sew themselves tooWaiting for the finish like we all are!!Connie

          2. user-51823 | | #30

            it turned out great! some flaws and assymetry :-), but beautiful. i couldn't get a picture of the FG in full costume with wings on my own camera so i will have to depend on pics other folks took, hopefully coming in soon. problem with posting is still that my computer stubbornly isn't communicating with any external hook ups (printer/scanner, camera, etc), so when i get a photo i will have to ask a friend to scan and email to me in order to get it into my computer.
            The night that i asked for money, i was prepared to ask for $250, but i choked on it and said "i need at least $200". the mom was shocked and said "great! i thought it would be at least ...(long pause and a giggle).. $250". i am quite sure she was about to say "twice that", which by that time was fair, what with the narrow french seams and all. the following day i did so much redesigning and work on all the finished edges, i had to call her and ask for $350. she agreed with no fuss, although i sensed disappoitment at missing out on a bargain.
            Anyway, it was adorable and turned out, luckily, the perfect length.
            final version: made new sleeveless bodice of slinky stretch velour to match the cerulean blue chiffon under-dress. cut off the bottom 3/4 of the finished original dresses (blue under, and white over) and gathered & zigzagged them onto bodice. designed ####sleeveless chiffon "jacket" (with huge pointy hem area, as it was basically a modified circle skirt in order to flow and drape in a way that made sense with the skirt, and looked like a "fairy". slit in back and snapped to bodice at neck just over each shoulder blade, with sewn-on panel falling from neck, in center between wings (all this to make sure velour bodice was covered, but to accomodate wings.)
            can't wait to post some pics-- also, can't wait to get that check!

          3. User avater
            blondie2sew | | #31

            You did it!! Yeah!!And now you will have more confidence next time when you chat about money!!Your description of your gown sounds absolutely Incredible!! Well deserving of 350.00... I know I will be eagerly awaiting the pictures!!Did that little flower girl out shine the bride? ha ha haConnie

          4. user-51823 | | #32

            "Did that little flower girl out shine the bride? ha ha ha"
            there was an adorable moment when the flower girl, after her part was over and the couple were reading their vows, came back up and hugged the bride around the knees with her face burried, wings sticking out. i hope somebody snapped that scene!

          5. fabricholic | | #34

            Well, good for you. Thinking back on all of it, don't you feel you deserve the $350? I know that you just want to be compensated for your work. I am very happy for you.Marcy

          6. user-51823 | | #35

            that's the thing- i do deserve the money for my work, especially as has been pointed out that it was a rush job and special difficulty fabric, and i had to invent and work without a pattern. but on the other hand, as a very practical-minded person, i find it hard to stomach the idea of anyone paying that much for a one-time costume for a 3 1/2 yr old child.
            good thing the mom directs children's theater-- i'm sure she'll get her money's worth out of it over time.

          7. fabricholic | | #36

            I believe she wanted this for her child.  She wasn't thinking practical.  If she was, she wouldn't have requested a custom dress for her.  No, she wanted it perfect and that is what she received.


          8. woodruff | | #37

            I'm glad you enjoyed the challenge, glad it came out well (stunning, I am sure!), and glad you got the bucks.

          9. flossie | | #33

            So happy for you - I have logged in each day to follow your progress! Hope you manage to post some pictures.

            It will be good if this effort leads to some improvement in "payment" for your other costumes.

            Once again - good on you!

            Regards Pauline

          10. sherryv | | #38

            Wow!  This has been an amazing story - quite a fairy tale in fact, pun intended ;) - and I'm so thrilled to see the happy conclusion.  Sincere congratulations on your outstanding efforts!!! 

          11. user-51823 | | #39

            LOL- y'all don't get your expectaions up on what the dress looks like. i'ts a deceptively simple design-- it's almost embarrassing that i have made such a fuss over it! but i keep repeating to myself: rush job, bias silk chiffon, 2 dresses (one over and one under, not counting the dummy test dress i made)- made well with french seams, drafted the patterns and designed the jacket, tons of zigzaggy hemline (done quite neatly i must say) for both the skirt and jacket. then, oh yes, change it up and add some wings.
            thank you all, again, for talking me through asking for more.Edited 11/22/2006 5:34 pm ET by msm-s

            Edited 11/22/2006 5:37 pm ET by msm-s

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