Sulking, Not Sewing

chiffon swatches

Oh, how I wish I had a new make to share with you! Unfortunately, the past week has been spent sulking. And when The Great British Sewing Bee forced contestants through the squeezy tube of sewing known as a silk chiffon blouse, I could hardly bring myself to watch.

I’d just failed at making a silk chiffon blouse.

Pussy Bow CollageHaving made three Pussy Bow Blouses I really wanted to make one in black silk chiffon as a go to item in my wardrobe. I ordered the requisite fabric on line. When it arrived it was sheer. Really sheer. Gossamer thin. Spun by baby spiders. Cut from fairies’ wings. AM I MAKING MY POINT?! This stuff was going to be a devil to work with. Still, I plunged on.

Like a good girl, I did all my prep work:

  • I changed the needle in my sewing machine.
  • I cleaned and oiled my sewing machine. This is unheard of.
  • I made three swatches (see top of post) to establish best stitch length and best method of finishing seams.
  • I even put a post it note on my machine to remind me to adjust to the slightly longer stitch length every time I turned to this make.
  • I cut out the fabric, pinning with silk pins and using my silk shears.
  • I was good to go!

stitch length post itSewing the main body of the blouse wasn’t too bad. If you enjoy sewing black silk chiffon with black thread on another endless winter night. On one occasion I leant back, blinked hard, and announced to my dog, ‘I literally cannot see a single thing I’m doing.’ I was clutching a seam ripper at the time…

I spent hours stitching, trimming, turning the bow and then delicately hand sewing it to the neckline of the blouse. Hours! I gave it a final press and held it up to the light. This happened.

chiffon bow

You could see all the internal guts. I should have used some lightweight interfacing. I hadn’t.

I tried on my WIP. Even with a black camisole layered underneath, it was close to revealing my internal organs. Then, on Twitter, Fehr Trade warned me that the worst was yet to come – hemming the darn thing.

It was time to admit defeat. My blouse went into the bin. I’d wasted some lovely fabric, but I’d learnt an important lesson. I’m never working with silk chiffon again!

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42 Responses to Sulking, Not Sewing

  1. Amanda says:

    Hahahaha, me neither!!!!

  2. Eliza-sew-little says:

    I’m not a chiffon fan either. My chiffon advice is buy RTW. There I’ve said it.
    Sorry this one didn’t work for you. Your other blouses are beautiful.

  3. sewmanju says:

    Oh dear Karen what a shame. I haven’t worked with silk chiffon but just finished up this polyester chiffon blouse: https://sewmanju.wordpress.com/2015/02/13/mccalls-6604-diy-feather-print-chiffon-top-with-pleated-neckline/
    I know you wanted a silk blouse, but what about trying a polyester chiffon first or a silk georgette (sheer but slightly easier to sew IMO?) I have the pussy bow pattern printed off as my next top!

  4. Caroline says:

    Gutted for you. Such a shame after you spend all that time on it x Put it down to a lesson learnt. Never work with silk chiffon again – unless you / we learn some new advice / magic?!

  5. Pat beadle says:

    You should try stabilising your fabric .spray starch or hairspray work wonders.
    Do this before anything else,I.e. Before cutting out.

  6. This fabric looks just like the one Neil used in the challenge this week! He really struggled, I have no idea how he ended up with a completed blouse. All power to you for admitting defeat, I stayed far away from all shears for a few months after

  7. sewchet says:

    I use silk chiffon a lot, but only over a base such as a boned ball gown and it’s still difficult to work with. Don’t give up – success will be even sweeter!

  8. LynneB says:

    Thank you!!! This makes me feel so much better. My efforts with a lovely but impossible leaf print silk chiffon overdress have left me permanently scarred. There was much swearing and cursing – so much that even my 10yo daughter knows to talk me out of it if I see a pretty silk chiffon in a store and am tempted to break my vow. Never again!

  9. helen says:

    Sometimes you just have to admit defeat and move on!
    After your first 3 blouses you did inspire me to get the pattern and make a pussy bow blouse – in an easy to sew viscose – not chiffon!

  10. Chris says:

    That’s such a shame! I have to admit it made me nervous just to look at the swatches at the top of your post. I guess that’s the point where I’m happy that I’m not a chiffony kinda girl and look and feel ludicrous in the fine fabrics that others look so stylish in.
    Haven’t watched the Sewing bee yet – will I need to cover my eyes, just peering through between my fingers every once in a while?

  11. helen says:

    re: hemming this beastly fabric, I successfully hand rolled the hem on my most recent make in silk chiffon… took a while but worth the effort if you ever brave it again..

  12. Last week I watched sewing bee and thought “I’ve done waistcoats and welt pockets, I’ve made 3D children’s costumes, I could actually do this”. This week I heard the words “sheer fabric” and thought, no, I definitely could not do that at all. I couldn’t even contemplate doing it at home with all the time in the world.

  13. jay says:

    Bad luck. I’m not sure what fabric that sheer is made for actually. After you’ve struggled with making up, how do you wear it?

  14. Please don’t give up! Silk is measured in weight by mommes. It looks like your silk was about 6 mommes when you need to aim for 8 or more to get a more solid result, or making it double layered. Also, lining the turned in bits with some black silk organza really helps to make them less “on display”.
    Silk chiffon is the most gorgeous thing to wear, like angel’s breath, but the seethroughness I can understand is not what you were aiming for! And hemming it is a breeze, it will roll hem like a boss. xo

  15. lisa g says:

    What a shame it didn’t work out! Though I wouldn’t swear off all silk chiffon; it does come in different weights. I made a silk chiffon kimono (oops… never blogged) that was virtually a breeze to sew. It was much more substantial than any poly chiffon I’ve used previously.

  16. Hélène says:

    Silk chiffon? No, thanks! Great for a scarf, but for a blouse, I also feel it is “revealing my internal organs”!

  17. Sheree says:

    I have a few pieces of silk that I feel slightly scared of cutting into. Compared to your silk chiffon they now look positively easy! Felt so sorry for the sewing bee contestants this week. And now I feel sorry for you.

  18. katemcivor says:

    I’m glad this happened to you, too! I have a lovely silk chiffon shirt hanging in my sewing room. “Lovely” except for the completely off-grain center front seam. My chiffon has a (straight) checkerboard pattern that hangs in waves across the front of the shirt. There is no hiding the complete off-grain-ness of my cutting. My friends say it’s ‘fine’ and I should wear it. I’m not so sure!

  19. Silk chiffon is a nightmare to work with and specially using home sewing machines! All the french seams and baby hems! I’m sorry didn’t work out…

  20. redsilvia says:

    OH my! It’s like a perfect storm of sewing nightmares there. Well take the good advice from the comments and find heavier silk or buy retail. Both are sound ideas. Now move on to something else, say cotton and spring like, to cleanse the palate. I can send you some Hawaiian cotton I picked up in Honolulu if you need a tropical change.

  21. Roobeedoo says:

    I don’t know how to wear voile never mind chiffon! When I have seen chiffon blouses for sale they often come complete with their own undergarment. As for sewing silk anything – eek! I am actually toile-ing for a silk top this weekend and have come to the conclusion that if I can’t even get cotton lawn to behave with my pattern, I had better stay far far away from the silk!

  22. so feel your pain, hate a project that goes wrong.

  23. Britney says:

    Oh no! It’s such a shame it didn’t turn out, it would have been amazing! I don’t think you should give up completely, just get a heavier weight one! I get it though, I had a bad experience with some very thin, very stretchy knit…not fun to hem!! Lol don’t give up!!

  24. Gill says:

    Oh what a shame. A bit late, but in case you try again, I read a great tip for making baby hems on fine fabrics which might have helped
    http://weareallmagpies.blogspot.co.uk/2011/09/how-to-sew-baby-hem.html
    I’m def going to give it a try, I’ve even ordered the Banrol

  25. Melissa says:

    I feel your pain, it’s the worst when projects we are excited about go wrong! You’ll get the next one!

  26. the only time i work with silk chiffon or ANY chiffon is when it is fully underlined and lined OR if it is being used for a dance costume. otherwise: NOPE!

  27. Ligi says:

    So sorry your lovely silk chiffon did not work! I tried to make a golden yellow silk chiffon blouse years ago– I became so agitated that husband had to leave the place after my meltdown…I could not even look at the lovely silk again! However, I now love working with silk crepe— a really forgiving and wonderfully drapery material, especially for cowl necks– I have made three from silk. I have also sewn a silk crepe tunic lined with a lighter silk crepe. It feels like air, and I am glad I lined it, as it made the finishing easier. This is timely, as today, I saw a silk chiffon blouse, but the silk was attached to jersey– I thought maybe I could buy a t shirt, and maybe drape silk chiffon over it…this looked good in the shop, of course… Maybe not so easy to actually do….Wish you lots of luck on your next silk adventure:)

  28. Meg Kundert says:

    OK, so the first one always goes in the trash like mine did, but then I read about dipping the fabric in a weak gelatin solution before you cut. It stiffened the fabric a bit and makes it easier to manage. Here is the link to the Threads article: http://www.threadsmagazine.com/item/27608/firming-up-fabrics-with-gelatine
    This worked great on my silk charmeuse and silk chiffon, but I must admit that my chiffon wasn’t quite as sheer as yours.
    There are also washout stabilizers that you can buy but I haven’t tried them.
    Try, try again!

  29. Thank you for sharing your victories and your frustrations! As a beginning sewer, it’s nice to know that even the pros feel like they meet their match with certain fabrics and techniques 🙂 I really enjoy your blog and best of luck on your next project! (Love that you “write” British – it so adds to the fun of reading)

  30. Kathy Lynch says:

    Like everyone else here Karen, I too feel your pain! (The sewing community is a lovely empathetic bunch, hey!) It’s SUCH a disappointment when garments don’t turn out as we planned.
    Here in Australia, we’re reliant on youtube for the current series of GBSB & so far I’ve only seen Episodes 1 & 2. It sounds like I’d better “fortify” myself (read: 2nd glass of Shiraz) when I settle down to watch Episode 3! Fancy putting the poor souls through such a hard task & so early in the series! I don’t know how they don’t all have meltdowns!

  31. Margo says:

    Life is waaaaay too short to dwell….. glad to hear that you have moved on! You prepared much more and went further into the process than I would have ever gone!

  32. Cheryl says:

    I feel your pain. It is always so exciting making something that we have in our imagination, only to realise that some fabrics never behave. All that time, there is always another lesson to learn

  33. PinhouseP says:

    I tried chiffon once…..
    😉

  34. Oh yeah – chiffon – the inside is the outside and everything shows.
    One of the seam finishes I use for chiffon or sheer georgette is a french seam….with the added step of a fine serge line for the first seam then press, turn and stitch the final. I use a pretty small stitch length – 10 stitches per inch. I’ve made an organza trench coat using this technique….it worked!

  35. Ohhhh Karen, I’m sorry! I am also so glad I don’t have the desire to wear or sew a silk chiffon blouse, because I’m certainly not attempting it. I fret enough about things showing through lawn, let alone chiffon!

  36. Owlsballs – you should have buried it in the garden! Jo x

  37. Elena Knits says:

    You poor thing. I also suffered when I saw the contestants working with those fabrics and told myself: never for me.

  38. Robin says:

    Do try silk georgette. Recently I made a lovely suit, with the jacket in georgette, and wool pants lined with leftover georgette. Great stuff, and the extra fine thread bought for this project worked very well. Use French seams whever possible to hide the guts.

    I bought a few yards of a novelty silk chiffon with minks dots once (really adorable stuff) and was so intimidated just looking at it that I made the simplest bias cut pencil skirt with a poly lining, based on a pattern made made for exactly this kind of sheer but difficult fabric. It turned out great except I should have also lined in silk, and for the hem, which was a bit of a disaster, but maybe redoing with a rolled hem now that the project is well behind me and the hard bits are forgotten is not such a bad idea.

    Karen, thanks for sharing. It really helps to hear about the projects that don’t turn out as planned. So many good lessons learned. And hopefully it feels better talking about it with others, and getting useful comments back that you can use next time!

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