Working with silk

Here are some tips for working with that tricky fabric, silk:

1. If you've gone to the expense of buying silk, there's no point (no pun intended!) using a blunt needle. You should use a new needle for every sewing project (I am no saint when it comes to following this rule - I am very slack about changing my needles). When working with silk changing your needle is especially important, so don't forget to do it! Use smaller sizes such as an 80/11 or a 75/9 needle. The sharper and thinner the needle the better. If you can find them, use speciality sharp needles for silk.

2. Use silk thread. At a real push use cotton, but do not even think about using polyester! Silk is particularly sensitive: if you use polyester thread and press your garment, there will be imprints in the silk wherever there is thread behind it. This unfortunately rules out overlocking/ serging. Only silk thread does not leave imprints when pressed.

3. Remember that silk is like paper. If you stitch through it you leave permanent holes. Most fabrics will bounce back if you have to bring out the quick-unpick and the needle marks will disappear, but not silk. Check, double check, and triple check that you are sewing the right pieces together with right sides together.

Silk pins have flat heads.
4. The same goes for pins. Remember to only put pins in within the seam allowance so that the holes are hidden within you garment. Silk pins are a great investment: they have very sharp points and thin shafts so make pinning easier. You may choose to baste more of your seams just to be safe and to ensure you machine-stitch it right the first time.

5. If you try to push a pin in and it won't slide in with relative ease, put the pin aside and grab another one. I've noticed that even good quality pins sometimes have some duffers in their ranks which are slightly blunt, and pins do blunt over time too. If you try to force the pin in you will make a ladder along the fabric.

6. Turn the steam setting off on your iron. Just to be sure, I take all the water out of mine before I start working on a silk project. Water drops and steam can leave unsightly marks on silk that will not come out.

7. Silk tends to fray easily, so handle your fabric as little as possible.

A walking foot

8. Silk tends to be slippery. Make sure the table you are working at has plenty of room to the left of the machine for your fabric to lay upon. If you have a quilting extension table, use it. Also, use a walking foot to ensure both pieces of fabric are fed evenly under the needle.

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