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Sewing Special Occasion Fabric

August 6, 2012

Everyone needs a little something special once in a while. It could be a wedding, honorary dinner, prom or anniversary date but sooner or later you will be sewing with Special Occasion fabric. I'm talking silk, satin, or velvet. That little black cotton dress just doesn't give you the same feeling as one crafted from slinky satin or sleek silk. You will feel infinitely more elegant in a velvet dinner jacket rather than a twill. But these specialty fabrics need some TLC or better yet a different point of view than your casual fabrics. Try these tips when it comes time for you to whip up something extraordinary for your wardrobe.


Silk, though it may seem strong and resilient, is quite delicate when being sewn. Use the smallest needle for your weight of fabric (I often use a size 10 needle) and make it sharp. A dull or universal needle can run the risk of snagging and pulling your silk fibers and distorting the fabric.

Start your iron at the lowest setting and move it up if you need it. I also recommend using a pressing cloth. Any dirt or debris on your iron can easily ruin your silk fabric. Be sure to have sleeve rolls and pressing hams handy to get the prefect press so you don't distort your silk fabric.

Pink or serge your edges or use french seams because silk easily frays and you don't want wayward threads poking out at that special event.

Read about my Dupioni Silk Kimono dress for more info on sewing silk

Kimono Dress yellow2.jpg



Satin can snag or pull even more easily than silk and because of the high, smooth sheen these imperfections can be more noticeable. So use sharp needles on this fabric as well as on silk and be sure this includes your pins as well. Use long, sharp pins and work from the wrong side as much as possible.

Satin also frays easily so use pinking shears, a serger or French seams to keep your edges looking nice; you want your fancy garments to look as nice on the inside as they do outside.

I keep a can of static cling spray on hand when working with satin since it can easily pick up static electricity and stick to itself making it difficult to work with. A quick spray now and then will ensure that you don't lose your mind with frustration.

Check out my Satin Kimono Dress for more tips on satin.


Thumbnail image for Kimono Dress green1.jpg


This or any napped fabric needs special attention when ordering yardage, lining up your pattern pieces and cutting. You must make sure that all your pieces have the nap running in the correct direction. This can mean you need extra fabric for a given pattern made from velvet as opposed to a non-napped fabric like linen, seersucker or sateen. Measure twice & cut once should be a law and not a guideline or even a rule when working with velvet. You don't want to try on your finished piece and it just look off or plain wrong.

Press your fabric from the wrong side to remove wrinkles. Not only does this make it easier to iron but it also preserves the nap of the fabric. Use a pressing cloth if your iron is dirty.

I prefer to use large headed pins when working with velvet since this makes them easier to see in the thick fabric. If you have pins in a contrasting color that helps too.

Use a walking foot to prevent shifting of your velvet. Due to the nap, velvet doesn't really sit well on top of its self when RS are facing. The longer stiff fibers can shift under the pressure of the sewing foot and feed dogs. A walking foot ensures that both top and bottom fabric move together, reducing any shifting.


Check out our Special Occasion Fabric Section


You can tell there is a nap when your fingers can leave trails in the fabric like above.  


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This page contains a single entry by published on August 6, 2012 7:54 PM.

Fascinate Me! (Part 1 of 2) was the previous entry in this blog.

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