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sewing silk question

blessedtosew | Posted in General Sewing Info on

I recently decided to make a dress out of some beautiful yellow silk charmeuse.  Since it was the first time I had sewn that fabric, I made sure the dress pattern was simple.  Things were going well–I used pins specifically for silk to pin the pattern pieces to the silk and used a silk sewing needle.  As I was sewing the side seams, I accidentally hit a pin with my sewing needle even though I had been very careful not to sew over them.  The needle broke and I didn’t stop the machine in time and it ripped a small hole in my fabric and pulled the silk very badly (about 3 inches of pulled material extending from the side seam).  Unfortunately it was not in an area where I could cover it with a belt.  I feel like such a failure that I am scared to try sewing this fabric again. 

1)  Do you think this was just one of those mishaps that happens to everyone no matter how long you have been sewing?

2)  Do you think it would be easier to sew silk twill?  How does it compare to silk charmeuse?  I have to order all my fabric over the internet since I live in a small town so I can’t actually go feel of it ahead of time.

Thanks for listening and for your help.

P.S.  I just realized I haven’t introduced myself even though I have posted here a few times.  My name is Rachel and I live in a small town in south Alabama.  I teach in a community college and have been sewing for 9 years.  I am not formally trained and feel like much of it is trial and error, but I love it.

Edited 4/2/2008 1:20 pm ET by blessedtosew


  1. NY2NZ | | #1

    Hi Rachel,

    RE:  the charmeuse......(btw:  I've done it, and I covered it with embroidery...there is an option for you)....anyway...the pull....did you try to steam the fabric and bring it back towards the side seam?  Sometimes that works, and the pull shrinks back to the seam.  Be VERY GENTLE and work it softly.

    Its a bummer that you live in the sticks.....but I wonder if it might not be worth it for you to find a swatch book such as are used in textile/design uni courses?  This way you can feel the type of fabric, even if it isn't the exact fabric you are ordering?  You said you worked at a community college...is there a bigger Uni around that you can ring up the art/design department and enquire? (The books cost about $200 but they may give you a professional courtesy discount...)

    Now, if you want a silky soft fabric that is easy to sew:  Rayon.  Love Rayon.  Heaps of it available in the US on the various online sites.

    Good luck and keep us posted.


    1. blessedtosew | | #2

      Unfortunately I threw the dress away.  I was so mad with it.  Thanks for the rayon idea.  Are you talking about rayon challis?  I did an internet search and that seemed to be the one that is silky feeling.  I am wanting some in a bright canary yellow color.  I found some on a website called cherrywoodfabrics.com, but it is $18/yard.  Yikes.  I only paid $8/yard for the silk charmeuse I messed up.  I got it at fashionfabricsclub.com  Do you have a source for rayon at a good price?  Thanks.

      1. NY2NZ | | #3

        Try fabrics.com.  I like the Rayon Batiks there.

        Now that I am in NZ, I have to find it online at trademe or spend a day in the fabric jobber shop in Wellington looking.



      2. MaryinColorado | | #4

        Hi!  I'm sorry you had the mishap sewing over the needle.  Oh, don't blame yourself, it happens to all of us, I think the sewing gremlins rotate around the globe wreaking havoc.  I try to think of these things as "artistic opportunities" and rework the fabric or what's left of it into something, a scarf, collar and cuffs, shawl, pockets, piece it into a new wholecloth, etc.  Of course, that's after I hide it from myself for an indefinite period of time so I'm not tempted to shred it! 

        I love sewing garments from rayon, it is sometimes difficult to find it locally even near Denver.  JoAnnes and Hancocks both have some, but several are too sheer and lightweight for my preferences. 

        http://www.equilter.com isn't just quilting fabrics and notions and books.  They also have fabrics and supplies for garments and fiberarts.  On thier main page, use the "search" on the top LEFT and type in Rayon Batik or Rayon Bali Batiks.  They have some pretty ones.  They have great customer service too.  I've been very happy with purchases from them.  They are online only and located in Boulder, Colorado. 

        I've been sewing up summer dresses and tops out of rayons and really enjoying it.  You can serge or sew it, it is slippery so I cut it out with a rotary cutter and only put pins in the seam allowance areas.  I've used painters low tack paper tape on some that was extremely slippery, but that's rare. 

        Good luck and happy sewing!  Mary

  2. Josefly | | #5

    Omigosh, yes, I think it happens to everybody. Silk, especially charmeuse slides around so much, and the fibers to seem prone to pulling when a mishap occurs. But try it again sometime...maybe baste instead of using pins. (The dreaded B word!) I think the silk twill will be less slippery and easier to handle, but the silk fibers still don't have much give, and when pushed or pulled by a broken needle or pin, are likely to distort the fabric.

    I'll bet you were sick about it...I would've been. Better luck on your next attempt.

    1. blessedtosew | | #6

      Thanks.  I ordered silk twill this morning. Maybe it will have a little more body to it.  I am going to try again.  I did rescue the invisible zipper that I put in the dress before I tossed it.

      1. Josefly | | #8

        Oh, good. Were you able to find the canary yellow you wanted? What pattern are you going to use? I bet you'll feel more confident with the silk twill, and your previous experience with the charmeuse will pay off.

        1. blessedtosew | | #10

          I did find the yellow I wanted at fashionfabricsclub.com and the pattern I am going to use is M5618 View B.

          View Image

          Edited 4/4/2008 11:21 am ET by blessedtosew

          1. Josefly | | #13

            Oh, nice pattern. I love the neckline. Show us some photos when you finish?

          2. blessedtosew | | #14

            I will.  Is there a specific section on this messageboard to show pics?

          3. Josefly | | #17

            Yes, there's a topic category called "Photo Gallery," listed among the other topics like this one, "General Sewing Info," on the left side of the message page.

          4. woodruff | | #16

            Re sewing on slippery silks like charmeuse:I have sewn with quite a few such difficult fabrics and the never-fail solution I use--with anything I plan to wash (and I do wash all my silks)--is spray starch.I lay the dry fabric out nice and flat on a clean sheet and spray the heck out of it with spray starch. When it's dry, without even ironing, it has the hand of nice, crisp, light cotton and is easy to sew.When the garment is complete, I throw it in the washer to remove the starch. I have done this with a number of quite dressy silks, including crepe de chine and charmeuse, with no ill effects.You can try the treatment on a swatch and see if you like it.

  3. woodruff | | #7

    We have all sewn over a pin and ruined needles, for sure, but I have actually trained myself--on beautiful fabrics, at least (not necessarily on crafty stuff)--to pull the pins out out before they get to the foot. It really did require training, concentration, habit--the whole nine yards!

  4. meg | | #9

    O, dear! My sister-in-law says that sewing on charmeuse is like trying to sew water - it moves everywhere, doesn't it. I wonder if you make another attempt at it would you be in favor of hand basting the seams together before stitching them by machine. Silk twill is probably somewhat more stable, less watery.

    Another option, should the broken needle/hole in the fabric event occur again, is to create some fabric art with the area in question. Applique or embroidery can cover a multitude of sin, and can transform your 'oops' moments into a wearable piece.


    1. blessedtosew | | #11

      That reminds me of the time a tore a hole in the collar of a little girls dress I was making.  I just embroidered some flowers over it with my machine and no one ever knew. 

      1. sewelegant | | #12

        Emma One Sock fabric has a wonderful site


        She has lots of information for you to read on sewing with the different fabrics as well as how to take care of them. 

  5. User avater
    clairezbo | | #15

    The only mistake you made was tossing the material. My mother was my sewing teacher, and once told me, you will make 1.000 mistakes, but never the same one twice.  Usually if you cool off a bit after a mistake, just walk away, you will come up with a solution. I once surged a hole in the back of a corduroy jumper I was making for my granddaughter, ended up putting a bow over it. Nobody ever knew. Don't let the mistakes get you down, Even my mother was wrong, i have made the same mistakes more than once. Wait till you cut two left sleeves out of some very expensive material. Just keep on sewing!!!!! I bought the same pattern. love it!!

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