How to : sew rayon or silk fabrics
Rayon fabrics are often very scary to sew! I have long been afraid to sew them, as I didn’t take time to look at how I could facilitate this task. Today, thanks to some advice and experience, I love these fabrics!
In this article, I will give you the keys to easily sew rayon or silk fabrics! Are you ready? Let’s go!
Choosing your pattern
Start with small projects to experience this kind of fabrics before. Don’t start with a big dress project for the first time, because you risk to demotivate yourself. Start for example by a tank top or something simple regarding the construction. Whether it is for the time spent, or for the cost of the fabric, it is best to train a bit before!
When sewing this kind of fabric, it is important to have the right material, to make it easier for you. So here is the list.
– Fine tipped pins
Larger pins can leave holes in your fabric, I recommend you to use super-fine sharp pins when working with this kind of fabric. Moreover, you can sew more easily with the machine but also iron with these pins.
– Small sewing needles
Just like the pins, the sewing needles are very important as they could make holes in your fabric! It is therefore important to choose specific needles for sewing rayon like 65/9, or 70/10 maximum, Of course, everything will also depend on the thickness of your fabric.
– Use a cutting board and a rotary cutter
If you usually use sewing scissors, be aware that the cutting board and the rotary cutter are the easiest to cut rayon fabrics. It is totally possible to cut with scissors of course, but this other technique will make the process easier for you!
If your project requires the use of interfacing, now that fusible sheerweight interfacing works perfectly and will not effect the drape of the rayon. Do not use the same thickness as you use for cotton fabric!
– Fabric starch!
This is the advice I have been given and which has changed my life completely! You can find this product in spray in sewing shops, but also in supermarkets and it will stabilise your fabric and give it a little less drape, making it easier to lay it out straight and get your pattern pieces into place. After that, it will be easier for you to sew it. In addition, this product goes away completely after washing.
Tips for prepping and sewing
– #1 : Pre-wash your fabric
This is a rule that should be respected for all fabrics but especially for rayon fabrics ! The reason? They shrink! Imagine spending several hours sewing a project, and once washed it is way too small? The worst drama of the seamstress! So it’s best to wash your fabric before you even cut it. Personally I prefer to dry my fabrics outside rather than using the dryer.
– #2 : Spray starch your fabric
Simply spray the starch on your fabric and wait for it to dry. You could iron your fabric to speed up the process. You will see that your fabric will be much more stabilised, which will greatly facilitate the sewing process. – #3 : Spread your fabric on the table for the cut
It is important to use the largest table possible, or even the floor! Everything will depend on the size of your project, but the fabric must be flat, all along. This way, it will remain straight and in place for the cut. You can use tissue paper sheets between your fabric and the table, which will hold it in place and limit movement when you cut. Personally, I prefer to cut my fabric in different parts : first the bodice, then the skirt, then the sleeves if I make a dress. This way, I work with smaller pieces, which is easier to cut.
– #4 : Line up selvedge to the edge of the cutting board
To prevent your fabric from moving and some parts not being cut properly, it is advisable to pins the edges of the entire fabric.
– #5 : Lay flat your pieces once cut, or roll them
Rayon fabric or silk tend to stretch very quickly. Once you’ve cut your pieces, you have two solutions : either you lay them gently flat, or you can roll them. This will minimize this effect. This also applies during the sewing process!
– #6 : Use a smaller stitch length
It is best to use a 2mm seam when sewing as it will prevent the fabric from gathering. And because rayon can fray easily, the smaller stitch will help prevent any fraying going beyond the seam line, which will give you nicer finishes.
– #7 : Do not pull or push your fabric
Take your time when sewing this kind of fabrics, but do not pull your project when you are sewing! As mentioned above, rayon fabric tends to stretch easily, so it is necessary to sew slowly, and not hesitate to adjust the different parts during the process.
– #8 : French seams
Rayon fabrics tend to fray a lot, and it is not always nice to have an overlock seam on the inner seams. If possible, I would advise you to make french seams when you can, as it will male your project beautiful outside … and inside!
– #9 : Rolled hem
If your project includes a ruffle, I advise you to sew a rolled hem with your serger to finish it instead of a thin hem. This will be much easier for you to sew , but in addition the fabric will not be weighed down by the hem. – # 10: Choose a thin bias
If your project requires a bias as a finish either for the armholes or for the neckline, I advise you to use a very thin bias to be sure that it won’t stiffen your fabric. If you can, it is even better to make your own bias in the original fabric, or use a Liberty bias as they are very thin.
– # 11: Ironing Secrets
As always in sewing, the ironing part is very important for the success of a project. To iron delicate fabrics, I advise you two things : first, it is necessary that your iron is not too hot! Prefer a medium temperature.
Also, avoid going back and forth over the fabric, as this can cause the fabric to stretch out. This tip is especially important when finishing hems as you could end up with wavy hems. Prefer lift and press instead.
– # 12: Hang your project before sewing the hem
You’ve already heard it, rayon fabrics tend to stretch, which can be catastrophic for your hem! I experienced it with my Betty dress from Sew Over It : the hem, sewn too early, was totally uneven! It is advisable to suspend your project for 24 hours, especially if it has been sewn into the bias (such as the Deer & Doe Réglisse dress) before sewing the bottom hem. Afterwards, prefer to fold your project rather than suspend it.
– # 13: Make a mark seam for the hem
To make it easier for you to sew the bottom hem of your project, I advise you to make a seam that will serve as a mark to fold your project. For example, if you need to remove 3 cm for your hem, make a seam 1.5 cm from the edge, fold at that point and sew your hem. This way you will be sure that your hem is similar. However, for rayon or silk fabrics, prefer to make very small hem in order to keep the beautiful drape of your fabric.– #14 : Avoid projects with buttonholes!
Another tip from my own experience … I’ve made the Sylphide dress from Papercut Patterns several years ago : I chose a very nice rayon fabric and as the skirt was cut into the bias, the buttonholes were a very bad idea! As you can see on the picture, the hem of the skirt looks uneven, and this is due to the weight of the button placket and buttons.
And here it is! I hope this article will have helped you, and please, don’t hesitate to tell me what you thought of it! Happy sewing to you all!