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What sewing machine for silk material

robbi | Posted in Equipment and Supplies on

I am interested in buying a sewing machine for the sole purpose of sewing on silk fabric of all weights and textures.  Most silk is the type used for making silk scarves.  What machines are recommended for sewing this material?   Roberta  


  1. mem1 | | #1

    I would recommend that you get a machine which has a walking foot.thid enables you to sew faric which is very slippery. Are you edging the scarves or sewing seams ? If you are edging then I would have thought that an overlocker wih a baby rolled hem was needed.

    1. robbi | | #3

      Hi Mem,

      I have not yet actually machine sewn an item from silk fabric.  My first project would be a rolled edge silk scarf (I have the material).  My second project would be a flared silk skirt.  I have material. 

      I have worked with silk.  I have hand-rolled several silk scarfs and lined a cardigan with silk.  I have seen how easily silk unravels at the non-selvage edges.  I have several silk blouses, pajamas and camisoles and see that there are several different ways to prevent the seams from fraying.  I do not know the names but description of the stitches used are overcast, blind hemming stitch, and ?zigzag.  I am not aquainted with the different feeders and attachments.  I would need lessons. 

      Currently I am trying to get all the information I can to make an intelligent decision on buying a sewing machine for this purpose only and do not intend to go into the trade, just for my personal use.    Suggestions have been made to buy a good machine used; to buy from a dealer who gives lessons; to take lessons first and try out different machines to learn strengths and weaknesses, etc.  I do not know if dealers giving lessons will allow specifically silk sewing.  The lessons I have taken let one make a project not experiments with the attachments.   From the little I know, it seems as though the sales people either do not know their products or want to sell the computerized/embroidery type of machines or heavy duty machines to sew denim or heavy fabric (upholstery perhaps).  While it would be nice to have a versatile machine, I am satisfied to have a reasonably priced machine which sews on silk and looks professional.

      Any help you can provide is much appreciated.  Robbi 

      I would appreciate any suggestions you may have.  Thanks.


      1. mem1 | | #8

        If you have the time I would take some sewing lessons and practise on some cheaper silk like fabrics . I use an serger all the time and find it great I think thjough that you need practise and technique and that no machine will compensate .

      2. SewNancy | | #9

        I have sewn many silk garments on my old Viking 960 and my new Platinum 750.  I have not found that I need a single needle plate, but I do use tissue paper or other light weight fabric to start sewing on.  Second, light weight thread, 60 wt cotton embroidery thread or fine silk thread and a microtex 60 ro 65 needle is imperative.  It doesn't build up particularly if you are doing a machine baby hem. Ii is also great for french seams on light weight silks.  Third, find a dealer that you like and trust and who will be there for you even after your warranty is over.



      3. sewwhat | | #10

        You mentioned making silk scarfs and lightweight silk clothing.  I am trying to cut my lightweight silk into strips for a freeform silk skirt.  When I cut the strips they look wavy.  Any suggestions?  I have already pinned the fabric at the edges and weighted the fabric down and tried to get the grain straight, but still I get a wavy look when I hold up the cut stripl.  HELP!


        1. SewTruTerry | | #11

          Are you using a scissors to cut the silk or a rotary cutter?  I have always found when I really want a straight edge on grain that tearing the fabric (if it will tear) and then carefully pressing the edge and then using the rotary cutter and staight edge to clean up the edge works well.  It is a bit time consuming but when you really want the look and the straight edge it will work everytime.

          1. sewwhat | | #12

            Good advice, I finally got the silk to tear and tore my strips and no longer have a wavy line.  This has been quite an experience for me. 

            I have sewn for years and have used a straight edge and cutting mat with an infallible grid line.  I have never had a problem with a straight edge and this was very surprising to me. Another piece of advice I received was to spray starch the fabric for better control when laying out.  This helped, but not enough to "cut" a straight line.  Thank you so much.

          2. User avater
            Thimblefingers | | #17

            Another suggestion for cutting straight strips.  Pull a thread and cut along the pull.  It doesn't create fuzzies on the edge or stress the fabric the way ripping does.  I also use this method when I'm cutting any difficult fabric.  As I cut out the pieces, I frequently pull a thread across and cut on it to keep the crosswise grain straight, then I will use this for the bottom edge of a straight pattern piece, if I have one.  Also if I'm cutting a straight front or back, I will pull a thread lengthwise and cut along it.  Then use that for the straight edge of the pattern piece - then I know it's truly on grain.  It takes longer, but if I'm sewing a nice silk or drapey fabric, it's worth the extra time in the end. 

          3. sewwhat | | #19

            Thanks for sharing that with me.  I am sure I will be able to use that idea frequently when sewing.  The silks are so beautiful and I am very interested in getting better with them.  Good technique.

        2. sewrao | | #22

          I was putting together a chiffon (not silk) skirt the other day and was having trouble feeding it through neatly. I have an old reliable Pfaff 130. Found that if I used a jersey needle and spray starched the edges and pressed lightly, the material went through well and less headache than backing with tissue. (be sure to test your material for spotting and color fastness first). 

          1. sewsew | | #23

            Thanks for the input.  I will give it a try.

          2. mimi | | #24

            I have just finished my daughters wedding dress, three layers of silk (charmeuse and two layers of chiffon) plus a bemberg lining.  I started on my old Kenmore (20 years old) and finished on my new Viking 730 (a birthday surprise from my DH).  Both machines were able to handle the silk, the Kenmore had been well kept over the years.

            The secret is not so much the machine or the plate but rather the needles.  You want to use "sharps" in the smallest/finest number possible (#9).  These needles will pierce the fabric cleanly.  Another thing to keep in mind for all your sewing, not just silk:  check your needles often for burrs and bending as these will snag your fabric and ruin it!  To prevent this NEVER sew over pins.

            If you do get a snag in your silk you can sometimes ease it out by running your fingernail along it towards the seam edge of the fabric.

            Happy sewing! 


          3. SewTruTerry | | #25

            But if you have to run your finger along snag just make sure that you do not have colored nail polish on especially red because you will only transfer the color to the silk.  Ask me why I know this because I had it happen to me.

          4. mimi | | #26

            Goodness, I'm really glad I am not one to put nailpolish on regularly!  It just wears off in the garden anyway or chips off when I remove pins while sewing.  That was the reason I stopped wearing it.


          5. sewsew | | #27

            I also used the sharp needles in a size 70, but found the titanium needles superior on silk.  They are expensive, but the thread does not break, nor does the needle.  How wonderful to make such an important dress for you daughter.  Post a photo if your daughter will allow it.

          6. mimi | | #28

            The wedding is September 26, I will post pictures afterward if I can figure out how! 

            I have one more hem to do, the top layer of chiffon.  I have had so much fun and learned so much by making this dress for her.  I really feel confident in my abilities now.  When I bought the fabric at G Street fabrics in Rockville Maryland, the sales associate who helped me gather all the elements for the dress remarked "How wonderful!  You are making an heirloom!".


      4. Pegybell | | #13


        I am shopping for a machine for the same reason.  I need a machine that will sew silk.  Can you please keep me up to date on your progress? 

        My angle when talking to dealers is to tell them I am looking for a machine that has a straight stitch needle plate and straight stitch pressure foot.  This limits the number of machines they show me  and sometimes requires them to do some reseach.

        This week I tested some Janome machines with these features.  I also got feedback from this forum about Viking machines.  Some of them have these features.  I will test Vikings next week (have to wait for the dealer to get back in town)

        I've read articles in Threads that stated these two accessories are important for sewing silk successfully on any machine.  So I've started my seach with these two accessories. 

        Again, if you would keep me up to date on your search I would be way grateful.

        Regards, Peggy  [email protected] 

        1. SewNancy | | #14

          I don't use a straight stitch plate and have never had a problem even with silk chiffon. The trick is to start on a piece of tissue paper, taut sewing and a new sharp 65 or 70 needle. Also if you can find 60 wt cotton embroidery thread for the seams you will have finer seams.

          1. Pegybell | | #15

            Thanks Nancy,

            I will print and place your reply in my "how to sew silk" folder.  What brand of machine are you using?

            Regards, Peggy

          2. SewNancy | | #16

            Viking, Platinum 750.

          3. User avater
            Thimblefingers | | #18

            I have an old Husqvarna #1+ and it sews chiffons and other delicate fabircs beautifully without a special footn / needleplate.  Also an old Elna Supermatic (1982) back when Elnas were Elnas which is also wonderful on delicates.

  2. SewTruTerry | | #2

    The more important than the actual sewing machine is the needle and the thread. I have worked with all kinds of machines from the really cheap sewing machines to the top of the line.  The other important area to look at is the throat plate.  You will need to be able to change or purchase a single hole throat plate rather than the ubiquious zigzag plate that comes on all machines.

    1. robbi | | #4


      You are a genius!  I saw that the Kenmore, Janome, Sears multiple stitch machines with the zigzag foot encouraged puckering.  Regardless of tension adjustments I just could not get any of the edgestitching to be flat. 

        I know so little about sewing machines but I am trying to get up to speed on this one.  I want a machine at a reasonable price to sew silk fabrics which are light weight for slips, camisoles, night gowns, skirts, scarves.  I have purchased beautiful silk material in Thailand and England but have been reluctant to start any project on my current but old, mechanical, commercial Singer.  I know that any machine needs to have several attachments for finishing hems and seams. 

      Do you have any suggestions for needle size, thread type etc. for sewing on fine silk fabric?  Any suggestions for a reasonably priced machine for sewing silk?  It has been suggested that only a serger will provide the required results for me.  What does a serger do, if you know?



      1. mainestitcher | | #5

        I have yet to see any regular sewing machine, no matter how expensive or how loaded wih attachments, that could overcast seams as well as a serger, or hem as professionally as a blind hemmer. Maybe once you sew the seams with whichever machine you purchase, a sewing friend who owns these could perform these tasks for you?Seams could also be finished with Seams Great or its generic equivalent.

        1. HeartFire | | #6

          There are several issues to look at when sewing fine fabrics like silk, many of which have much less to do with which machine you are sewing on - although a good quality machine is needed. You need to have the right needle for the fabric, if sewing a fine silk like charmuse or china silk you need a small - sz 60 needle, sharp - if you use a larger needle you will have holes , you also need the right thread for sewing fine things, think about using the heavy jeans type of thread on a fine silk fabric ! its just too large/bulky for the job. so use a 60 weight thread - this is a finer thread than what most general use sewing thread is. also you need to shorten your stitch length to a 2 instead of the standard 2.5 that many machines default to. again think of the jeans thread with a long stitch in a fine soft fabric, it just wont work, but if you use the same jeans thread with a tiny short stitch it will be better,Sometimes, you still need to stabilize the fabric, especially if you do need to do a zigzag stitch or some other decorative wide stitch, then you need to use a layer of tissue paper or other stabilizer under the fabric that you can then tear away.With these factors, you can sew a beautiful seam on a sheer fabric on most any machine.Hope this helps - Judy

          1. SewTruTerry | | #7

            You took the exact words out of my mouth.  I would also suggest that when looking for that machine that you want to purchase test test and test the machines and take along the silk and ask to test the machine with the silk.  If the shop owner or sales person will not allow you to test with your material just pick everything up and walk as quickly away as you can.  There is nothing more frustrating than a sales person or shop owner that is so stubborn that they will not help you in any way they can. Also make sure that the machine either comes with or you can purchase the straight stitch throat plate.  Also as far as I am concerned there is no machine that can beat the look of a hand stitched rolled hem.  Just my humble opinion. As far as the question about the Serger it is a machine that cuts and wraps the thread around the seam in one step.  It can be likened to a microwave oven (it gets the job done quicker but you can't and won't want to do everything on the serger).

  3. sewwhat | | #20

    I am using a Bernina Artista 180 and having no trouble with sewing silk as long as I use a new needle that is size 70 or preferably a titanium needle if using embroidery thread on the silk.  I do not need to change the throat plate and my stitches are beautiful even on very fine silk.  I really like Bernina machines.  I would recommend them highly.


    1. User avater
      Aless | | #21

      I am using a Pfaff with built in walking foot.I decided,as advised by my machine mechanic, to try a new single hole foot before I went to the expense of buying another needle plate.I was sewing chiffon at the time. I also took the precaution of supporting the fabric front and back by hand as it went through,even with the even feed working.The single hole foot did the trick easily, BUT do NOT forgot to change the foot before you do any stitch where the needle swings across or you'll have a smashed needle!! Gosh, those needles smash quickly!

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