How To: Sewing with Silk / Slippy Fabrics

hello I'm Anika from APIs oh and welcome to our tutorial where I'm going to be sharing with you how to sew with silk or silk like fabrics I'm going to be sharing with you methods on how to cut out the fabric the equipment that's useful to have sewing on the machine and by hand and pressing techniques so whether you're working with a silk fabric or a man-made fabric that is slippy and lightweight and cause new problems hopefully there'll be some tips and techniques in this tutorial that will help you so let's get started let's start by looking at some tips for cutting out silk or slippy fabrics now the first thing that I tend to do is to take either some tissue paper or some paper and I would position that onto my table I personally use tissue paper most the time because it is cheaper but you're welcome to use big sheets of paper or you're even – welcome to work with fabrics such as calico or something cheap and inexpensive what you want to do is to lay your paper or your layer of fabric onto your table or the surface that you're going to be cutting out your fabric on and generally speaking I tape it down and I generally tape it relatively close to the edge of the table so I've got a nice layer of tissue paper now I will always work with white tissue paper purely because you don't want the color to come off on your beautiful silk potentially expensive fabric however for this tutorial I wanted to make sure that it was really clear for you to see so I'm working with a pink once you've stuck your layer of tissue paper or paper onto the table and obviously you can buy this in big widths so it might be as wide as your table but if it isn't please don't worry you're welcome to buy some sheets and you can stick them together as long as you've covered the surface of your table with the tissue paper and it's stuck down then you're good to go and again you don't need to sell to take all the way down the edge I just tend to put them at intermittent intervals so that it's holding it then you're going to take your fabric whether that be a milk or a lightweight Skippy fabric that you're having problems cutting and you're going to take this and lay it down on top of your tissue paper or paper you want to match up the selvage edge with the edge of your tissue paper here so that you can make sure that the fabric is sitting straight just like so and you would do that on both sides and this is where I would suggest wherever you're working with a difficult fabric such as a silk or a slippy fabric that you cut out everything in one layer folding the fabric can make it difficult it's not impossible especially if you use the method of having the tissue paper underneath your fabric but it will be easier to cut out in a single layer the other thing to think about is make sure that your selvages are nice and neat and that the fabric is sitting flat because obviously your horizontal grain which is here will have been cut in the shop and this may not be straight so if this is sitting unstraight on the table it doesn't matter what matters is that your selvages on both edges are sitting nice and straight in line with the edge of your paper and your fabric is smooth next you're going to get another layer of your tissue paper or paper and you're going to position that on top to create a sandwich and then we're going to match up the edge of this tissue paper with the edge of the fabric and the previous tissue paper and lay that all together and because you've got the tissue paper on top you can stick that down again so we've simply kept creating a sandwich once you've added the top layer of tissue paper the selvage of the fabric and the edges of the two layers of tissue paper should line up along the edge and this is as I said normally close to the edge of my table and again I reiterate these would be white not pink I'm only using pink so that you can clearly see them the layers of tissue paper help to keep your fabric flat and they will stop it from moving and shifting and sipping and you'll get a much neater cut now you've got the fabric sandwiched between the two layers you can lay on your pattern pieces and you would lay on your pattern pieces as you normally do with your fabric you'd position them on you've measure from the grain line to the selvage and check that your pattern piece was straight then it would be up to you whether you wanted to use weights to hold the pattern pieces down or whether you prefer to pin I personally prefer to use pins and when you're working with pins you will need to choose a silk pin if you're working with a silk fabric or a silk light fabric you may find that a normal pin has will scag the fabric because it will be thicker than a silk pin the other thing to point out is that I always pin in the seam allowances so I always pin close to the edge of my fabric the reason being is that if the pin were to scag the fabric or damage it in any way they would be in the seam allowance not in the center of the garment so you're going to move your way around your pattern piece pinning it down once you've happily pinned your pattern piece on to the layers of tissue paper and silk you're going to cut it out as you normally would but you'll be cutting through the layers of tissue paper as you cut through the silk or the silk like fabric and I promise you'll get a lovely smooth cut and your fabric won't be slipping anywhere so look at the tools and techniques that you need to follow when marking your silk or silk like fabric generally speaking I work with carbon paper and a tracing wheel when I'm marking most of my fabrics however this is perfect for a cotton a linen or a majority of fabrics but for silk and silk like fabrics this can be problematic the carbon paper it may not be easy to remove the markings from your fabric and also the tracing wheel can easily damage the silk so I would personally stay clear from these if you're working with a silk or polyester silk or anything that's lightweight and slippy and potentially could scag so you need to therefore go back to more of an old-fashioned method of selling and complete tailors tacks you want to get yourself a nice sharp and hand sewing needles and they should be fine as well you don't want anything too thick when you're working with silk I personally like sharps and I personally like to work with a silk thread now this is a determined silk thread that you can tell by the blue at the top and bottom of the spool a silk thread will smoothly glide through the fabric and you'll have no problems with accidentally catching anything so whenever I'm working with silk I tend to pretty much use this for all of my hand sewing another thing to point out is that obviously although we know how we're going to cut out the pattern in the first place there may be some cutting and trimming that needs to take place throughout the process of creating your garment or product so invest in some sharp scissors a sharp little processes for clipping small things you don't want to scag any of that fabric and one thing I would recommend if you're doing any cutting without the layers of tissue paper is to invest in a pair of micro serrated scissors now these have got some very small little serrations on the blade and what they'll help to do is sort of help grip the fabric slightly as you're cutting it so it won't slip so much through the scissors something to really think about if you're working with silk often so let's look at the tips that you need when you're sewing on the sewing machine with silk or a slippy fabric the first thing is the presser foot I would completely recommend going and getting a walking foot if you're working with any difficult fabric the walking foot has feed dogs on the bottom of the foot here so we'll be able to pull the fabrics through from both the top and obviously the feed dogs on the machine as well so you've got the dogs either side of the fabric which will really help to pull your fabrics through the sewing machine so whenever you're working with a difficult fabric the go-to foot is the walking foot and it's probably the main foot that I would recommend adding to the collection of feet that you will have with your sewing machine the second thing is needle you need to work with a smaller needle so generally speaking the lighter the fabric weight be smaller the needle that you require so if you have a look here these are the Schmidt's Universal needles which are the standard needles in 80 12 or 90 14 at the sort of standard needle sizes so if you're working with a lightweight fabric you need to be moving to a 75 11 or even a 65 10 so it's a smaller size for lighter weight fabric obviously this is talking about lightweight slippy fabrics you may have some silks they're a bit difficult to work with but a heavier weight so obviously then you wouldn't need to change the needle the other thing to think about is that you need to check that your needle is sharp often you'll take out a 7511 you'll use it for a while put it back in and forget that perhaps you've used it lots of times and it might not be as sharp as E and when working with any difficult fabric is test your fabric test your fabric with your presser foot with the needle with the stitch and the stitch length and width that you're going to be doing and I would recommend actually doing some practice stitches for what you're planning on doing and this would allow you to double check that everything is okay you should never get any puckers in the fabric around here often I have students that will come in with puckers in their fabric around not necessarily close to but around here so on the fabric it's somewhere and they'll tell me that their tension is wrong more often than not the tension is not wrong it's actually that their needle is too big so if you ever get any puckers or pulls that are pulling the the yarn of the fabric back here it's because your needle is too large or perhaps it's just blunt or blunter than it should be for the fabric you're working with the next thing to look at is that generally speaking you'll be completing a straight stitch and generally speaking with lighter weight fabrics you want to have a light a smaller stitch so we will say our standard stitch is 2.5 millimeters you want to work with about 1.5 to 2 millimeters for a light weight fabric and actually can you just see as a little wrinkle ever so slightly there as I'm sewing that could mean that actually I need to go to a smaller size I potentially would try 6510 needle size with this fabric it doesn't seem too bad now but there was a little pucker back there so it is a little bit of just test test test test before you begin another thing to think about is that often the machine won't like to back Fitch the silk and it can really make a mess of lightweight fabrics so don't use the back stitch don't use your fixing stitch on machines simply go back to sewing and tying or not in your threads at the start and the end of your sewing so the next thing you'd consider is the stitch to actually do now when you're working with silk or lightweight slippy fabrics the fabric can often fray a lot so you need to do a stitch where all of the seam allowances are nicely hidden as if you don't have access to an overlocker and often if you're working with a nice beautiful fabric such as a sir that over locked seams can often not do the fabric justice so you want to be working with French seams predominantly the other option would be to work with a Hong Kong bound seams or a flat felled seam and but they are the better for working with heavier weight fabric for a lightweight silk like this you want to make sure that you're sewing with a French seam with regard to hemming I would recommend doing a rolled hem on the sewing machine or a rolled hem by hands I'll put links to tutorials for all of these stitches in the description box below another way to actually help the machine throw your fabric especially when you start sewing the fabric if you're having problems with it and if you don't have a walking foot is to use a fabric stabilizer or piece of tissue paper or paper and you can put this either side of your fabric it depends where you're having the problem whether you're having a problem on the top of the fabric being fed or on the bottom generally speaking the problem will be on the top especially if you don't have a walking foot so what you would do is put a bit of your fabric stabilizer or your tissue paper and you would use that to help you start sewing and it will probably let me go backwards with this yes there we go and that's just going to help you start throwing once you finish you're simply going to tear this away and the fabric stabilizers will tear away as do the tissue paper and you should be able to simply tear it away afterwards you may have to pick out a few of the little bits but there we go that's worked pretty well so tissue paper fabric stabilizer a bit of paper would work but it would be probably slightly more difficult to tear away than the tissue paper was one thing to add if you're really having a lot of problem with your machine and potentially the fabric is being pulled in to the hole on your machine bed is that you can actually change the the throat plate that you've got here and you can put one that's just got a very small hole in the center of it onto your machine I personally don't find that I have much use for them but some machines may struggle sewing with the lightweight fabrics and if they're really pulling it in then do try one of those another thing that you can do is actually to change the pressure of the presser foot on your machine and to increase the pressure because the fabric is very very thin your machine may find that you actually need to increase it so that it can actually feel where the fabric is to be able to pull it through the sewing machine if you're working with 100% silk then your fabric can take quite a lot of heat however you must be cautious with the steam because silk can be stained by moisture so just be careful as how much steam you put on things and obviously this will depend on how good your iron is I always recommend pressing whether you're working with silk or any other fabric I would always recommend pressing your seams after having sewn them this will help them sit much better the stitches will meld into the fabric and you'll get an overall more professional finish one tip that I do have is to use a pressing cloth and I would use this when I'm working with silk or when I'm working with any silk light fabrics because a silk like fabrics such as a polyester has more of a tendency to potentially melt or go shiny so I would always recommend using a layer of silk organza as your pressing cloth the good thing about silk organza is that because it sees through you can see whether you're accidentally ironing in any pleats or creases and because it's made of silk it can take a lot of heat thank you for watching this tutorial I hope you've learned something new and that you feel able to work with silk or slip silk light fabrics in the future thanks for watching


  1. Elaine Rennie

    Fantastic video and I have learnt so much. I do have one question though, when doing the fabric/tissue sandwich which scissors do I use? The fabric scissors or paper scissors. Thank you 🙂

  2. Lise Christofferson

    Thanks a million young lady you helped me a lot…I even have some tissue paper on hand so I don't have to run to the store. I'm now a fan!

  3. orcamum

    Could you please tell me how you would go about hemming a vertical slit in let's say a skirt when the seam above it is a french seam?

  4. loulousmum

    Hi, great tutorial and tips, thanks for sharing, you mentioned some links on how to do french seams etc on slippy fabrics, I can't find them unfortunately, am I looking in the wrong place? many thanks again

  5. Anna Ljuba

    Well done! I am happy to see that I am not a weirdo for 10 years ago coming up with using silk paper and tearing away afterwards.

  6. Torin Long

    Could you advise me on what I should have done…. I made a dress with a loose blousey style top (made of satin) which I joined to a stretch skirt to make a dress. However now after wearing the outfit several times the seam – done on an overlocker, that joins the satin fabric to the stretch is failing, the satin is starting to fray away from the seam. What could I have done better to secure the seam?

  7. Shirley Koh

    I am using brother innov-is 50. I am told it doesn't have a single stitch throat plate. I need it as i want to sew small animal toys with seams much smaller than 1/4 ". My son gave me this sewing machine so i am hoping to find it useful.


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