How to work with delicate fabrics
Nothing else is more beautiful and enjoyable to wear than a soft silk blouse. The problem is that it is rarely as enjoyable to make one because the fabric keeps on moving all around and is really delicate to work with. Luckily there are some pretty simple solutions that can help you with your struggle.
You will need :
few sheets of silk paper (tissue paper) make sure that you'll take white colour to avoid any possible colouring
thin machine needles (I use 60 which is the thinnest that I could find)
thin fusible interlining
patience :) yes, this can be handy as well
Let's do this!
1. Add fusible
Some parts of your garment can be solidified with fusible interlining which will add structure to it while making it easier to work with. I used fusible on the following parts of my shirt: cuffs, sleeve plackets, front band, plastron, collar , collar stand and even the buttons.
The are two kind of fusibles available, woven and non woven. I personally prefer to use the woven ones because they have the same structure as your fabric. Also make sure that you'll choose the color according to your fabric, white for light fabrics and black for dark ones as well as the thickness depending on the results that you wish to achieve.
2. Use thin needles
Whether you're basting by hand or sewing with your sewing machine it is best to use the thinnest needles (I use 60 for my sewing machine and 9 for hand sewing). This way you'll avoid damaging your fabric while working on it. The most annoying thing is when your needle being too thick pulls out the threads of your fabric as you sew which completely ruins your fabric.
Just note that since you're working with really thin needles they are also the most delicate ones and will break easily especially if they hit the pin. To avoid that remove the pins as you sew.
3. Use thin thread
The same as with needles it is important to choose your sewing and basting threads according to the thickness of your fabric. I personally use Coats Astra 120 polyester thread for most of my sewing projects due to it's durability and thinness. That said I make sure to use that same thread when hand basting silk fabrics because it is thinner than my usual cotton basting thread.
4. Notches and marks
Use notches or other marks lavishly especially if you're working on a bias cut seam. For example on my shirt I placed a notch every 5cm along the seam of the plastron. That way you'll avoid deforming your pieces and end up with a neat result as if you were working with a cotton. This method works great on armholes, necklines and various cut-outs.
5. Silk paper
This is a great temporary solution that will keep your fabric from moving while it will facilitate the sewing process. I used this method for side seams, armholes and the rolled hem of my shirt. First pin the seams together using the notches as guide lines. Then take a strip of silk paper and place your seam on the top of it. Proceed with sewing while removing the pins as you go. Afterwards rip the silk paper gently away. (The video below)
6. Machine tension
Last but not the least it is good to verify the thread tension of your sewing machine. I usually lower it slightly because when it is too high your fabric will end up gathered due to the pulling of the thread. You can always test this on a small piece of fabric before attacking your final seam.