In order to prepare myself for designing and using sheer fabrics I bought a piece of silk chiffon and a blouse pattern (ostensibly) designed for sheers.
Here is how I got on.
The pattern is my size (b34) and I checked the fit would be good, compared to my measurements. As a vintage pattern there is sufficient but not excessive ease in the pattern. There is not much shaping at the waist, but this is blouse designed to be tucked in. I elected to use gathering rather than pin tucks. I do want to conquer pin tucks and I think they will be a good feature in a sheer outfit, but I thought that with this pattern (one with gathered sleeves) that gathering was preferable.
I asked for advice about making this blouse and I got a lot about how to control it – from cutting it out and sewing it between tissue paper, to soaking it in gelatine. But I didn’t bother with any of this. Because I didn’t have to. When I practiced cutting and sewing the inexpensive silk chiffon I found it was fairly well-behaved. Chiffon has a little bit of crinkle in it and a matt appearance. In my view this makes it a pleasure to sew – it doesn’t slip around too much. But it is delicate and almost weightless and has a tendency to blow away. I hadn’t used it for a garment before, although I had used it as bias binding.
Because the cutting (I don’t have rotary cutters) was far from perfect I ensured all the tailors tacks were in. I find working to these is much more accurate than following the cutting line on unstable fabrics. So I got around this problem.
However I used ordinary basting thread and maybe it was a little heavy. Some books suggest marking with silk basting thread but I didn’t have any. For an experiment I tried ordinary silk thread too – it was nice and light but it didn’t really hold as well as traditional basting thread – which went in and came out easily enough – I used a small, fine, sharp hand sewing needle.
I used black silk organza as interfacing as everyone suggested and this worked perfectly.
The lace I used was the brown stuff I had bought. I do think black would have looked good actually, but what I did was stitch two pieces of brown lace together with a tiny zig zag onto a piece of black organza, using dark brown thread.
Before I started I research how to sew chiffon and asked for tips from you. Then I made a few samples to check how things would work. The French seams worked well, as did the organza interfacing. By using a nice new sharp needle (I only had an 11, although 9 was suggested), and good quality Gutermann polyester thread, I found the stitching uneventful. Thankfully I didn’t find my fabric being “pulled down the hole” as numerous people had warned.
Conversely I had an enormous problem with the lace, mainly because I didn’t really understand how to make a mitred corner. To cut a long story short, I attached the lace to the yoke assuming the mitred corners would be put in before it was attached to the bodice. Actually you have to mitre the lace first, then attach it. So I tried to detach it, but the tiny zig zag, the lace and chiffon refused to comply so I just chopped off the lace, threw out the yoke and remade a new one. I then had to remove all the stitching from the lace before I could start again. Long, tedious job.
I also prepared the sleeves. These are gathered into interfaced cuffs, and have a button-hole in them. When I tried them on I was dismayed because they were too tight. I do a bit of weight training and I immediately worried my biceps were overdeveloped. I wondered if in 1959 ladies had tiny upper arms. Eventually I twigged that the yoke means the shoulder seams are dropped and the sleeves will fit much lower down than I had anticipated. Phew!
I am avoiding attaching the lace, and doing the button holes. I am nervous. I will update you in a few days when I have tackled them.