Silk, an ancient fabric, was once worn only by the wealthy. Today, you can make a silk dress to wear all year. Silk is an easy fabric to sew and wear. Sew silk chiffon, muslin, crepe, charmeuse and gauze for softly draping designs. Back lightweight silk with shantung, organza and taffeta to add substance. Use heavier weight and nubby silks for tailored or structured styles. Achieve great results by learning how to sew with silk.
Cut silk with well-sharpened scissors. Silk's tiny threads pull and bunch unless your scissors and cutting tools are very sharp. Use a fresh rotary cutter blade each time you cut a new garment. Sharpen scissors and fabric shears regularly to avoid ruining beautiful silk at the cutout stage. Never cut more than a single layer of silk at one time. Silk's fine, smooth texture can mean slipping and sliding of the fabric as you cut. Align the fabric grain to your pattern and the cutting table. Place a stiff paper on your cutting table to stabilize very fine silk. Roll out the paper onto your cutting table, then position the silk fabric on top. Butcher or clean packing paper works well for this task.
Pin silk with care. Fine silks show pin holes later. Pin the fabric toward the inner edge of the seam allowance. Take care when using chalk to mark fabric. Use tailor tacks to avoid leaving any marks or residues, suggests author Barbara Weiland Talbert in "The Sewing Answer Book: Solutions to Every Problem You'll Ever Face." Make a double length of thread in an easy-to-see color and remove after you finish sewing the dress.
Stitch with polyester thread rather than silk thread. When sewing very fine silk, silk thread may be too heavy. Select 200/3 polyester thread for the finest silks. Match your sewing thread to the weight of the silk. Similarly, use a small needle when sewing thin silks. Use the very smallest needle possible: an 8 in the United States or a 60 in European sizes. Schmetz Universal needles for silk or Microtex needles are suited to sewing silk.
Steam seams with an iron to flatten them. Press each seam on both sides before opening the seam. The heat of your iron meshes the fabric threads and your stitching to product a beautiful couture-worthy result. Always use a soft piece of silk as a press cloth to avoid scorching delicate silk with an iron. Pressing silk requires medium to high heat, but using a press cloth safeguards your dress in progress.
Create a dreamy silk dress by starting with a simple Princess-style China silk slip, shown in "Couture Sewing Techniques" by Claire B. Shaeffer. Make bust darts at front side seams, and darts between the imaginary line of the breasts. Attach three separate silk skirts slightly below the waist of the slip. Sew a base skirt of net, then cover with organza and crinoline in contrasting colors. You'll feel like a princess wearing your own design.
Laura Lemay started writing in 1996. She has published articles on Luxist, Paw Nation, StyleList, Gadling, Urlesque, Asylum, BloggingStocks and other websites. Lemay also worked at "Ladies Home Journal" and "Institutional Investor." She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Smith College and a Master of Arts in education from Virginia Tech.