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Sewing Q&A
Terry Siemsen

Can you give me some tips for sewing with chiffon?
Irene S.,

Chiffon and other lightweight fabrics drape beautifully and work well for designs with soft tucks, gathering or shirring. These fabrics often are used in multiple layers. Choose simple designs with few seams.
  • To prevent distortion, cut chiffon in a single layer. Cut on a padded cutting board or cover the cutting surface with a sheet or tissue paper to help keep the fabric from slipping. Use pattern weights or pin into the seam allowances only using fine, sharp pins. Cut with a sharp shears or rotary cutter.

  • Sew with a good quality mercerized cotton thread or extra-fine cotton-covered polyester thread.

  • A fine needle, size 60/8, 65/9 or 70/10 is necessary. Note: The lower the number, the finer the needle.

  • Hand-basting seams will enable you to sew them without pins, reducing the chance of distortion or stretching. Stitching through tissue paper or a lightweight stabilizer also may help.

  • Hold the thread ends when beginning sewing and stitch with 12- to 20 stitches per inch. A straight-stitch needle plate can help prevent the fabric from being pulled down into the feed dogs and jamming. A test seam will allow you to make adjustments for your fabric and sewing machine.

  • Remember, because chiffon is sheer, all the construction details--seams, darts, hems and facings--show through to the garment outside. Single thread darts, narrow hems and French seams are recommended.

  • A double-stitched seam also works well on chiffon. Sew a 5/8" seam with a straight stitch or a very narrow zigzag stitch. Stitch a second row of straight or slightly wider zigzag stitches 1/8" from the first. Trim close to the second stitching (Figure 1).

    Figure 1
    Trim close to second stitching.

  • If interfacing is required, use silk organza. It's strong and stable, yet lightweight and sheer.

  • Replace wide facings with narrow bias facings or binding.

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