Hey, I sewed chiffon and it wasn’t all that bad! In keeping with my very loose goal of trying to wear more skirts, I added this peach chiffon skirt to my small collection of wearable skirts. The chiffon has been in my stash for a couple of years just waiting for the right project, and this turned out to be just that project.
Peach Chiffon Skirt
Burda Easy Fall/Winter 2014 skirt 3D
I’ve seen Burda Easy pattern magazines floating around occasionally, but this issue is the first one that I’ve bought. The concept is really pretty cool for a magazine. They take a few basic models and turn them into the many other patterns in each issue with a couple of additions or subtractions from the main pattern. Looking through them is a really good introduction to how designers can take one idea and develop it into an entire collection very quickly.
In the case of the skirt patterns from this issue, they start with a pencil skirt (with lots of exposed zips) and then change the silhouette with various squares of fabric inserted into the seams. I chose the frothiest of them all.
I periodically go through all of my Burdas when I need some new ideas, and this immediately jumped out at me. The soft drape of the hem would be perfect for chiffon. The only problem–sewing chiffon.
That time you ignore practical advice…
I took Sarah Veblen’s Understanding Sheers class years ago on Patternreview, and I remember her saying that polyester chiffon was the one fabric she would avoid at all costs. She convinced me that it was spun by Satan himself. I could still hear her loud words echoing in my head when I came across this striped polyester chiffon. It was in a group of flat folds at Colorado Fabrics, and I picked it up and put it back down again no less than 3 times, trying to be wise. Still, I ended up buying it because the peach was so pretty and the stripes that go every which way were so interesting. I figured that one day I’d be brave enough to tackle it or it would end up being a wadder.
Sewing chiffon without pain
Chiffon is a love/hate fabric. It’s hard not to love the drape and the flow and the soft romanticism of this fabric, yet it’s a bear to handle. So what do you do dear? You starch the living daylights out of it.
I’ve been catching up on That Sewing Blab, and Alethia made a passing comment on one episode about starching chiffon to help with the handling. What a great tip that turned out to be. Even with all of the many seams on this skirt, I had no problems handling the chiffon. The starch kept the fabric from shifting around on me while sewing and cutting and made it no more difficult to sew with than a cotton voile.
Sharp needles and good threads for chiffon
If you’ve never picked up Sandra Betzina’s book More Fabric Savvy, I’d highly recommend it. She lists about every fabric under the sun and then gives you advice for what needles, finishes, stitches, and threads to use. For chiffon, her advice is to use cotton thread for construction because it doesn’t stretch (no puckers in the seams!) with fine microtex (sharp) needles.
For hems, she recommends using fusible thread in the bobbin. When you press it, the fusible thread melts to stabilize the fabric and give you a nice crisp hem line which you can then roll. I’d need to show this in a video to explain it properly, but let’s say for now that it works so well. Polyester is such a hateful fabric when it comes to pressing, but the fusible thread pressed into the PERFECT hem.
The fusible thread worked so well that I made an extra scarf for my hair with the leftover fabric.
Foldover Elastic Waistband
To simplify the waistband, I eliminated the waistband facings in the pattern in favor of foldover elastic. I did the same kind of tiny waistband on my lace overlay skirt on my night dress for The Day and Night Dress Challenge. It’s quickly becoming a favorite way to handle waistbands on skirts because it’s minimal and extremely comfortable to wear. As a bonus, that little bit of elastic helps hold up my skirts which is a real challenge on my body.
The pattern as is is unlined, but I added a lining in nylon tricot. I did this because of the sheerness of the chiffon and because I hate wearing slips. I eliminated all the seams on the fronts and the back by overlapping the pattern pieces. Doing this required me adding a dart in the back as the back has kind of a princess line. I shortened the skirt lining by 4″. The tricky thing about the pattern is that the bottom skirt portion is just a big square with a hole in the middle. You get this by folding the fabric twice and cutting the circle on the fold as you would for a circle skirt. Because of this, if you shorten it, you have to shorten both sides of the square.
Light as a cloud
This might be my favorite skirt that I’ve ever made. It just floats. You know that scene in Funny Face when Audrey Hepburn is running down the stairs and her dress is floating behind her?
That’s totally how this fabric moves. This will not be the last time I sew chiffon for sure!
How about you? Have you sewn chiffon? Do you have any favorite tips for handling it?
Elizabeth Farr is the writer behind the Elizabeth Made This blog where she shares helpful sewing tips, step by step sewing tutorials and videos to help you explore your creativity through sewing. She has written sewing Eguides and patterns, been a featured teacher at Rebecca Page’s Sewing Summit and Jennifer Maker’s Holiday Maker Fest and her work has appeared in Seamwork and Altered Couture magazines. She also created a line of refashioned garments for SEWN Denver. When her sewing machine isn’t humming, she’s playing and teaching violin, and hanging around a good strategic board game with her husband and 4 kids.