Hello again from Laura at CraftyHour! I'm here today to share some of my favourite techniques for working with sheer and lightweight fabrics.
The first experience I ever had sewing any sheer fabrics was when I made my wedding dress 8 years ago. There was ample opportunity to learn – the dress had three overskirts of organza to seam and hem!
More recently I made my daughter a flower girl dress with an organza overlay and used some similar techniques to get a beautiful finish. The dress with more photos and details is blogged here.
So to begin with, let's talk about the sheer variety of fabrics out there (see what I did there?!). As I mentioned, the two dresses above were made with organza, a woven, very light, sheer fabric. Organza ravels easily and has a lot of body, not much drape. I used polyester organza, but it is also available in silk and nylon. Chiffon is another type of fabric that is woven, generally less transparent, and quite a bit more drapey than organza. Both of these are often used to make formal wear.
Another fabric that I love to use is voile, a gauzy, floaty fabric that is great for blouses, tunics, and scarves. Cotton voile, in particular, is ideal for summer garments. Similar in hand to voile is cotton silk, which I used to make this yoked tunic (details blogged here).
Voile, cotton silk, cotton batiste, and rayon challis are fabrics more suited to daily garments, as they are less transparent than true sheers and drape well. These are just some of the sheer and lightweight fabrics available.
When cutting such lightweight fabrics, it's important to lay them out straight and square. Because they are less stable, these fabrics can shift around and cause a lot of off-grain moments when cutting! For the yellow organza I used for flower girl dress, I pinned the selvages together to keep the yardage from slipping around. I also used pattern weights and a rotary cutter and mat instead of pins and scissors.
Seams and hems
To finish hems and seams in a sheer or lightweight fabric, it's best to make them as narrow and tidy as possible. A narrow rolled hem is ideal, using either a serger or my preferred method, outlined below.
Run a line of basting stitches about 1/4″ from where you want your final hem to be.
Then using that line of stitching to fold crisply, press the raw edge up.
Next, using a basting stitch again, sew at about 1/8″ from the folded edge.
Carefully use a pair of scissors to trim the raw edge away very close to your second line of stitching.
Fold once again, enclosing the stitched-down raw edge, and press. Using a regular stitch length, stitch very close to the inside fold as your final line of stitching.
A serged rolled hem is what I used for the organza overlay on the yellow flower girl dress. Check your serger manual for the exact method for a narrow hem or rolled hem. Basically, you will need to disengage the stitch finger, increasing the lower looper tension, and decreasing the upper looper tension, with the left needle removed and only three threads. You'll need to play on scraps with this till you get the settings right.
The same basic idea of stitching, folding, stitching and trimming is used to make the tiny seams, as can be seen in this closeup of my wedding dress.
You will stitch the seam, right sides together, using about 1/4″ smaller of a seam allowance than called for. Then press the seam to one side, very close to the stitching, and stitch again. Trim close to the second stitching line, then fold once more to enclose the raw edge and stitch one final time. Tiny seam finished!