How to sew chiffon fabric

Written by valerie whittier
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How to sew chiffon fabric
Sheer fabrics require specialised sewing techniques. (voilages image by Unclesam from Fotolia.com)

Chiffon is a lightweight translucent fabric available in a wide array of colours. The fabric offers delightful creative opportunities, but working with chiffon is very challenging, even for experienced sewers. Chiffon can easily become damaged or tangled in the sewing machine when stitching seams. Its sheer delicate nature makes it difficult to cut and presents ongoing challenges during the construction of linings, facings, hems and other essential garment elements.

Skill level:
Easy

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Things you need

  • Pattern for a garment
  • Tissue paper
  • Chiffon fabric
  • Scissors
  • Superfine straight pins
  • Lightweight cotton thread to match chiffon
  • New sewing machine needles, size 8 to 10, very sharp

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Clean the fabric before cutting. Silk chiffon requires dry or steam cleaning, while synthetics such as polyester or nylon can be machine washed on a delicate setting. Always test a small scrap of fabric before washing or applying heat to the whole piece.

  2. 2

    Place a layer of tissue paper under the fabric and place the pattern pieces on top, pinning it in place. Cut one layer of chiffon at a time.

  3. 3

    Attach a wide straight stitch or roller presser foot to your sewing machine and use a throat plate with a small hole. If you have a larger hole, like one designed to allow zigzag stitching, you can cover the hole with tape and use the needle to pierce a smaller hole. Do not cover the feed dog with tape, as it needs to move freely to advance the fabric through the machine.

  4. 4

    Set the machine stitch length at 10 to 12 stitches-per-inch and use even upper and lower thread tensions when sewing seams. Hold the loose ends of the threads behind the needle as you start each seam. Hand knot the loose ends to secure; do not use machine backstitching.

  5. 5

    Sew tiny rolled hems by hand or use a hemmer attachment on your sewing machine.

Tips and warnings

  • Practice with simple projects using remnants until you feel you are ready to tackle a complete chiffon garment.
  • Try using French seams, which use two rows of stitching, the second seam encasing the raw edge for a neat finish. This provides a neater appearance if the seam shows through, and can also improve the drape of the garment.
  • Delicate chiffon ruffles and other embellishments are often used with chiffon and on garments constructed of heavier weight fabrics. Ruffles are easily created by setting your machine to use a long stitch with tight pressure.
  • Fabric stabilisers can greatly simplify the process of working with chiffon. You can apply soluble stabilisers to seam lines or dip the entire fabric, which also facilitates cutting. Before committing to this approach, test a small scrap of fabric to ensure the process of removing the stabiliser does not damage the fabric.

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