I’ve been chatting with a bunch of customers over the last couple of weeks who are stocking up on chiffon and other lovely lightweight sheer fabrics to make breezy spring/ summer coverups and caftans. Many people ask me for advice on how to sew with certain fabrics and chiffon is definitely up there as one of the more intimidating ones.
Chiffon is a lightweight plain-weave fabric, it has lots of beautiful drape and creates lots of whimsy, femininity, and lightness. It’s frequently used for formalwear but you can also use it for lightweight shirts and gauzy skirts.
Here’s some tips for you on sewing a gorgeous garment with chiffon or sheer fabrics.
Use sharp scissors, or better – a rotary cutter.
Chiffon is slippery and an unstable weave so the more it is moved around, the less precise your cuts and therefore garment will be. An ideal solution is to use fabric weights and a rotary cutter on a large cutting mat, both are available at Bargain Box. Use new and very sharp pins. You don’t want blunt and burred pins pulling at the fine weave.
Cut on a single layer.
For most fabric it’s more time efficient to fold our fabric and cut out the pattern pieces. For slippery and fine fabrics like chiffon, cut on a single layer. Remember to flip your pattern piece over to cut out the second piece; and if you have to cut on the fold place the piece down and trace, then flip over with the piece butted up against the fold line.
Baste tissue paper to your fabric.
Lay your chiffon down on a piece of tissue paper (or pattern trace, we have it behind the counter for you) and pin or baste through both layers. Sew the pieces together with the paper basted on then simply rip it off.
Interfacing and stabilising.
If your pattern calls for interfacing, you can cut it from chiffon or a similar lightweight fabric to your main fabric. We also have lightweight iron on interfacing perfect for fine fabrics. We’re happy to provide advice on the best solution for your garment.
Sew chiffon with a small stitch and a fine needle.
Use a smaller stitch length that will disappear into the weave of the fabric, and a brand new 60/70 needle that won’t tear your beautiful seams. Don’t backstitch, the chiffon can get sucked into the throat plate! Use a very short stitch to begin then switch to your regular (still short!) stitch; or you can simply sew leaving long ends that you can knot together by hand when you’ve finished the seam.
Seam and hem finishing.
Chiffons and lightweight fabrics are prone to fraying very easily so you must finish your seams. You can finish with a narrow overlocked or zig zag edge or do a french seam illustrated in the video above.
This wonderful tutorial is my go-to for hand rolling a chiffon hem. You can do a rolled hem on your overlocker too, if you’re allergic to hand sewing (I prefer hand sewing for a finer and more invisible finish!) Check your overlocker manual for instructions on doing a rolled hem.
Use a warm iron, err on the side of cool though because most of these fabrics are polyester and can warp from hot heat. You should always use a pressing cloth on top to avoid over heating and ensure a crisp seam.
I hope that’s helped calm your fears about sewing with chiffon and similar fabrics. As always, we are here to help you figure out your fabric choices and the best notions and tools to ensure your garment is gorgeous!