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Sewing with Special Occasion Fabrics

Tips for sewing Special Occasion Fabrics by GYCT

Choosing Your Fabric

Choosing your fabric is probably the hardest part about sewing.  You want it to be perfect for the occasion.  The Holly and Ivy Dress is perfect for using special occasion fabrics.  But sometimes those fabrics can be a little scary.

Today, I thought we'd take the scary out of sewing with special occasion fabrics such as satin, chiffon and velvet.  So here are a few tips and tricks to use when choosing to sew with special occasion fabrics.

Tips for sewing with Satin
Make sure to have nice sharp scissors.  It really does help prevent fraying as satin tend to fray a lot.  I usually will cut my fabrics using pinking shears.  This helps with the fraying, especially if you are not planning to overlock the seam finishes.

Tips for sewing Special Occasion Fabrics by GYCT

Satin does not like water.  So when you use your iron, make sure not to steam or steam very little.  You don't want to end up with water marks.  And press on the wrong side of your fabric, the not shiny side.  If you do need to steam, try using a pressing cloth over your fabric to keep a barrier between the moisture and your fabric.

When sewing, remember to purchase a smaller size needle for satin.  A size 60/8 or slightly larger needle would be appropriate.  You'll also want to reduce your stitch length to make it smaller.  This helps prevent some of the pulling and skipping of stitches.  It is always smart to test your stitching on a scrap piece of fabric before sewing.

Tips for sewing with Velvet
Tips for sewing Special Occasion Fabrics by GYCT

Velvet makes beautiful dresses, but it can be a pain to sew with.  The first thing you need to do is find the nap or direction the velvet should go.  Velvet has piles, which is the fabrics that stick up.  You'll want to make sure the piles are going the correct direction.  To do this, "pet" your velvet fabric.  As you do this you will see that the fabric is smoother as softer one direction than it is in the other directions.  The fabric should hang so that the nap is nice and smooth.  Cut all your pattern pieces so the direction of the nap or piles is correct.

Picking your needle size for velvet is pretty easy.  You can use a size 70/10 and be just fine because the fabric is fairly thick.  If you are using a finer velvet, you'll want a smaller needle.

Tips for sewing Special Occasion Fabrics by GYCT

Next, velvet moves A LOT during sewing.  This is because of that piles we talked about.  You'll want to either use a basting stitch to hold your layers in place or you can also purchase a basting spray (kind of like a spray glue) to hold your layers in place while sewing.  I tend to do a simple basting stitch.  I run it along my seam and then sew with my sewing machine.

Finally, pressing velvet is important.  Because of the piles, velvet seams can be bulky.  However, you don't want to put your iron directly on the velvet or it will crush the piles and ruin the look and feel of the fabric.  So you can use a needle board (which most of us don't have) or grab a nice thick towel.  Place the towel down on your ironing board, place your velvet, piles down on the towel and then your iron over the velvet BUT NOT TOUCHING IT.  Let the steam come through and finger press as needed.  If you need to directly touch a seam, place the towel over the seam and touch the iron only to the towel.

Tips for sewing with Sheer Fabrics
There are so many beautiful sheer fabrics like organza, chiffon or georgette.  But they can really be trouble to work with.  Start by getting the correct needle size.  You'll want a 60/8 needle.  This helps prevent some of the pulling.  You can also use a layer of tissue paper while sewing to prevent the fabric from getting caught in the sewing machine.  

Tips for sewing Special Occasion Fabrics by GYCT

To finish your seams on sheer fabrics, you'll want a seam finish that is not noticeable.  So make sure you thread matches your fabric well.  

For chiffons or similar fabrics, I would suggest a french seam to keep the fraying edges enclosed.  

For organza or similar fabrics, a narrow zig-zag stitch is appropriate.  Using bias tape can also be a great way to finish a hem for a sheer fabric.  

Learn how to make your own bias tape.

Tips for sewing Special Occasion Fabrics by GYCT

Be careful when pressing sheer fabrics.  Some do not do well under the hot iron.  Finger pressing may be the better option.

Tips for sewing with Tulle
If you decide to do an underskirt or add some fullness using tulle, there are several things you can do to be successful.  First, make sure to use a smaller needle such as the 60/8 size.  
Tips for sewing Special Occasion Fabrics by GYCT

Next, using some sort of stabilizer like bias tape along the edges will help your tulle keep its shape and make it easier to sew.  However, if you are gathering tulle, you can also use tissue paper to help.  Place a strip of tissue paper over the tulle where you plan to sew your gathering stitches.  Sew the two layers together.  At the end, just rip off the tissue paper.  Makes the tulle sew much better.

DON'T iron tulle.  It will melt.  Just don't!

Cutting Out Your Pattern

Now that your fabric is picked, get cutting.  Make sure to use sharp scissors and follow your pattern and cutting instructions.

See you tomorrow for tips on sewing up the bodice!!

Today starts Day 1 of the Holly and Ivy Party Dress Sew-along.  I am really excited to have you join us.  If you haven't grabbed the pattern yet, you can get it in our Sew Simple Home Shop

OR get the baby size 0-3 months for FREE

Now, let's talk schedule, rules and prizes!!

We are excited to have a wonderful sponsor for prizes, Bee Quilted Beauties is providing our #1 winner with a $25 gift certificate to their fabric shop.  And let me tell you, you'll have a hard time choosing.  They have some really beautiful fabric choices.  Make sure to go check them out.


Monday - Choosing Your Fabric and Tips for Sewing Special Occasion Fabrics, Cutting Out Your Pattern
Tuesday - Sewing the Bodice (Steps 1-4)
Wednesday - Inserting Sleeves (Steps 6-13)
Thursday - Tips for Sewing a Simple Tulle Underskirt (Steps 14-16)
Friday Making Skirt Gathers and Finishing (Steps 17-21)
Saturday -  Winners announced on the blog

To enter the giveaway, you will need to grab the Holly and Ivy Party Dress pattern.  Sew up your version and than join our Sew Simple Home Facebook group to upload your photo during the week of December 1st - 5th.  Winners will be chosen on Friday night and announced Saturday, December 6th in the morning on the blog.


1st Prize:  Most "Liked" Project -  Will receive 2 patterns from Sew Simple Home
 and the $25 gift certificate from Bee Quilted Beauties

2nd Prize:  Designers Favorite - Will receive 1 pattern of choice from Sew Simple Home Shop

3rd Prize:  Random Draw - Will receive 1 pattern of choice fromSew Simple Home Shop