“Slip Sliding”

Last week I thought I would have my niece’s top done and in her hands by now, but the rehab center for whom I sew walker bags called and needed some bags ASAP.  At about an hour a bag, it took about 20 hours, so, with those now done, I am back on track with my own sewing.  I thought I would share with you some tips on working with silky materials.  My niece’s top happens to be a polyester silky print, but these tips are useful on all kinds of slippery fabrics such as satin, silk dupioni, silk, flannel back satin, crepe back satin and anything else that has a silky quality.

First of all, you need to make sure to save a piece of scrap material from whatever you cut out.  You really need to do a test on any machines you plan to use; sewing machine, serger, iron, etc.  Test what stitch lengths, needle size (I used a 75/11 embroidery needle. I liked the thin needle, sharp point and large eye) and presser foot pressures are best as well as what temperatures your fabric can tolerate.  Next, look at your pattern to understand the order of construction.  I must admit, I rarely follow the steps in the order given in a garment pattern.  I tend to do all the fussy stuff, such as applying interfacings, serging raw edges and pressing in all hems first.  This leaves easy construction and pre-pressed hems when all the pieces are being assembled plus I get to stay away from trying to manipulate larger pieces of fabric in awkward ways.  Lastly, pinning will be essential.  The fabric will move against itself and against the machine in unpredictable ways.  Some fabrics will even catch on your hands as you manipulate the fabric! When going around curves, (like this top’s neckline) make sure to pin any facings or cut pieces starting in the middle and work your way around each side.  

Let’s take a closer look at some points along this slippery journey!

I like using a fusible knit tricot interfacing with silky fabrics. It gives the fabric a nice hand but does not tend to weigh it down and get stiff.
Of course, using any fusible will leave a sticky residue on your iron. Some people use a designated iron for fusibles. I don’t, since allowing the glue to build up on an iron makes it more unpredictable in its heating due to resistance. I clean it off as soon as I finish fusing.
I have found this cleaner works well. You just need to use something designed for the job that can remove glue from your iron safely and not stain your fabric after the cleaning. Never use a cleaner that is flammable, for obvious reasons!
Once the iron no longer has those spots of glue, you are ready for the task ahead!
Remember to test your fabric to see if it will “heal” after pinning. You will need to pin a lot, but not too close together. You will need to readjust your fabric often as you stitch. If pin marks show and don’t heal, you will need to pin in the seam allowances only.
Did you know you can use your standard foot to maintain a 3/8″ seam allowance? Put your needle in center position and run your fabric edge along the outside edge of the foot. Also, when sewing slippery fabrics, set your machine to stop in the “needle down” position to help you hold the fabric in place.
If you have to sew any fabric tubes, the “Fasturn” tools work great!
The tube I needed to sew and turn was a fabric tie that goes around the waist. The “Fasturn” completed the job in less than two minutes.
Curves are hard to sew with a slippery fabric. I sewed the neckline with the interfaced facing on top and the silky unstabilized fabric on the bottom. I disengaged the IDT system so the fabric on the bottom could be eased into the facing using the feed teeth.
Once I was happy with the neckline sewed on the sewing machine, I trimmed the seam using the serger. This allows the curve to stretch a bit and eliminates the need for me to clip the fabric around the curves. Fabric always remains stronger when you don’t have to clip it.
When topstitching the neckline, I pinned everything starting in the middle of the back of the neck. The fabric wanted to twist as it went around the circle. I also used my right side bi-level foot and ran the edge of the material right up against the guide. I changed my needle position to the right to give me a very small topstitching distance from the edge. This eliminates any fabric twisting as the curve transitions through the different fabric grains.
I will continue working on the top more tomorrow, but I am glad my print matching from last week is paying off! The patterns on the front are matching…
…and there are no complete circles at the points of the darts!

I hope these tips help you should you choose to sew on one of these great fabrics. Happy Sewing!