How to Sew with Sheer Fabrics

comments (5) May 27th, 2011     

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Soft, floaty, delicate, fluid, and sumptuous—these are the words that  come to mind when describing a garment made from a sheer fabric.
The key to making the most of these fabrics is to sew seams, edges, and  hems that are lightweight, sturdy, and nearly invisible.
This double-stitched seam works well when navigating sharp curves or angles on necklines or armholes, and also as a straight seam.
Soft, floaty, delicate, fluid, and sumptuous—these are the words that  come to mind when describing a garment made from a sheer fabric.

Soft, floaty, delicate, fluid, and sumptuous—these are the words that come to mind when describing a garment made from a sheer fabric.

Photo: Jack Deutsch
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by Fred Bloebaum

Soft, floaty, delicate, fluid, and sumptuous—these are the words that come to mind when describing a garment made from a sheer fabric. Whether it’s silk chiffon, georgette, or lightweight organza, transparent fabrics are not necessarily fragile, and sewing with them isn’t difficult when you know the right techniques.

The key to making the most of these fabrics is to sew seams, edges, and hems that are lightweight, sturdy, and nearly invisible. To do this, all you need is a fine thread, such as 50- to 100-weight silk or cotton, a size 60/8 to 70/10 sharp needle, and a medium-short stitch length. This will get you stitches that disappear into your fabric and, coupled with the methods that are described below, will have you sewing sheer fabrics like a professional.

Sew visible seams minimally
The key to couture sheers is a light touch. Here are two seam methods that will make sewing with sheers crystal clear.

Reduced French seam
A French seam is actually just two parallel seams. These directions work well for patterns that call for a 5⁄8-inch seam allowance. An ultranarrow seam allowance is the result.
1) Position the two layers of fabric with wrong sides together.
2) Stitch with a 1⁄2-inch seam allowance.



3) Trim the seam allowance to about 1⁄16 inch.



4) Press the seam toward one side.
5) Fold the two layers along the seam line with right sides together. Press the fold.
6) Stitch 1⁄8 inch away from, and parallel to, the first seam to create a nearly invisible enclosed seam.


Double-stitched seam

Sewing angled or sharply curved seams can be difficult with a French seam. This double-stitched seam works better when navigating sharp curves or angles on necklines or armholes and also as a straight seam.

1) With right sides together, stitch the seam, using the designated seam allowance.



2) Then stitch a second time, 1⁄8 or 1⁄4 inch inside the seam allowance. Trim close to the second stitching.



3) Although this technique results in a raw edge, the second row of stitching keeps the seam allowance from raveling.


Keep hems narrow

Try one of these three subtle hem finishes to keep your edges neat, clean, and elegant.

Narrow zigzag hem
The narrow zigzag hem works especially well on the bias. (Hang your bias-cut sheer garment for 48 hours before hemming.)
1) Mark the hemline.
2) Trim the hem allowance to 1⁄2 inch.
3) Press the hem allowance to the wrong side of the garment on the hemline.
4) Set your machine for a short, narrow zigzag stitch. (Test on a scrap to get the best stitch results.)
5) Sewing from the right side of the fabric, begin stitching, allowing the needle to just catch the folded edge of the fabric when it swings to the right. Stitch all the way around the hem in this manner.



6) Trim away the excess hem allowance using appliqué scissors.


Narrow rolled hem

A rolled hem is a double-fold hem, but the hem allowance is only 1⁄8 inch, so it looks almost like a roll. This technique finishes a sheer garment elegantly.
1) Mark the hemline.
2) Trim the hem allowance to 5⁄8 inch.
3) Stitch around the garment 1⁄2 inch from the raw edge.



4) Press the 1⁄2 inch hem allowance along the stitched line to the inside.



5) Trim the hem allowance to 1⁄8 inch.   
6) Roll the stitched edge over the hem allowance.
7) Edgestitch close to the inner fold from the right side of the garment.


Narrow chiffon hem

Even though there is a raw edge in the chiffon hem, the second stitching holds it close and prevents raveling. Use this technique to hem large, square scarves, as well as garments.
1) Mark the hemline.
2) Trim the hem allowance to 1⁄2 inch.
3) Stitch on the hemline all the way around the garment.
4) Press the hem allowance to the wrong side along the stitched hemline.



5) Edgestitch again through all layers, close to the original hemline.
6) Trim the excess hem allowance with appliqué scissors, close to the second row of stitching.

 

Excerpted from SewStylish Summer 2007, page 28. You can purchase the latest issue of SewStylish on newsstands now, or visit our online store.

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Comments (5)

TeenaGrace writes: Lacy 701:
Here's what I'd try:
Copy the design from the dress onto a piece of paper.
Un-thread your sewing machine and set it on a very long stitch length.
Stitch over the design, leaving holes in the paper.
Place the paper over the dress, then dust the stitching line lightly with either chalk dust or baby powder (any oil-free light colored powder will work).
Lift the paper straight up, off the dress, and little dots should remain where the powder went through the holes.
Carefully do your hand-beading along the stitching line.
Posted: 2:02 pm on July 3rd
patsy331 writes: I know how to sew but then again I don't remember hardly anything from my freshman class in high school. I dabbled in it when my daughter was little but then I had to go into the workforce. Now, I need to do something. I've had a stroke and I have other problems but my worst problem is having nothing to do. I have a sewing machine and I know the basics. I want to sew some pillows and other crafty things and then maybe some clothes. Baby steps first.
Posted: 6:29 pm on June 7th
Muria writes: Lacy701,
If you're looking for a design to put beads on sheer fabrics, there are lots of possibilities. Virtually any embroidery design can be used for this purpose, including the Aunt Martha iron on designs (there were more available a few years ago, when Sublime Stitching came out). You can also look at some of the fancier coloring books, and put the beads along the outlines. Dover Publishing is a good resource for that, though I can frequently find interesting designs in the coloring book rack in the kids section of Borders.

For copying the design that's already on your dress, it might work better to using some sturdy tracing paper, and do a rubbing over the beads (soft crayons, pastels, or even just pencil should work). If you're working on washable fabric, you can draw on the fabric itself with a sliver of white soap, for a design to follow. Good luck!
Posted: 11:37 am on May 28th
Lacy701 writes: Where can I find patterns for sewing beads on to sheer fabrics? I have a very pretty black dress, with sheer over the under dress,there are beads on the upper part of the dress,but there is also a run in the dress.I would like to add more beads to cover up the run.I would take the pattern from the top of the dress,and scan it ,but the dress is black,so the pattern is not showing up.I would go blind trying to figure it out.Any ideas would be great.Thank-You !!!
Posted: 1:50 am on May 28th
gurlzatwurk writes: A beautiful seam can also be created with a very narrow zig-zag sewn over a "filler" thread and then trimmed very close to the stitching. I used to sew my young daughters sheer blouses and used this method in the collars for a nearly invisible seam allowance.
Posted: 4:18 pm on May 27th
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