I happen to have another large piece of slinky charmeuse in my stash,
along with all the swatches I picked up yesterday morning. I've tried various kinds of thread, stitch lengths and tension
settings. I've experimented cutting charmeuse sandwiched between tissue
paper with silk pins in the seam allowances (which works well) to
I've even experimented with stitching through the tissue paper, and then tearing the paper away from the stitch line -- quite successful if a bit messy.
I've done all of this with my handy-dandy Kenmore 158.141, which has a stitch plate that can be switched from wide zigzag hole to teeny straight stitch hole -- one of its best features -- so there's no need to worry about delicate fabrics getting pulled through.
I've read tutorials, articles, blog comments, and book chapters about working with silk charmeuse. So far my plan is to cut the silk using the aforementioned sandwiching-between-layers-of-tissue-paper method, with pins in the seam allowances keeping it in place. Of course I'll be cutting with my rotary cutter on my self-healing mat. When I tried it, the fabric stayed put and the silk cut cleanly.
Cotton thread was recommended by Claire Shaeffer (if I remember correctly), because it's weaker than the silk, so should a seam be pulled, the thread might break but the fabric won't tear. Makes sense to me.
My greatest concern are the bias edges of the overlapping bodice pieces. I will probably stabilize those edges with silk organza bias strips, using a method I read about on Marina's blog (originally from Susan Khalje) where you stretch the bias under an iron before you attach it. I haven't tried this yet but I intend to.
I also thought about cutting lengths of tricot fusible interfacing to stabilize edges but I haven't yet had a chance to test fusibles on my fabric -- I'd rather not fuse anything to it, frankly. I am willing to do all the hand stitching and stay stitching that may be necessary to keep this fabric stable. I'm also considering underlining the front lapping bodice piece (the one that gathers on the side) with a second layer of silk, but that might be overkill.
Rather than zipping the dress on the side as per the original pattern, I may create a center back seam and place the zipper there. With the side zipper, you have to pull the bodice over your head, which may cause more stress to those front bias seams. We'll see.
In other news, the Bernina arrived today. I haven't tested it out yet. Not for the first time with an eBay purchase, the packaging was very sloppy -- a soft cardboard box (and not double-boxed either), accessories loose -- LOOSE! -- in the sewing machine case (since the accessories case isn't included) to knock around and scratch the machine' s finish. Could they not bother to collect them all and put them in a bag? I'm OK with charging more for shipping than the seller actually pays, to cover handling, but this is poor handling and not worth the $10+ difference.
Anybody know if that dark gray cap-looking thing has a purpose here? I don't see it mentioned in the manual.
I'll keep you posted in the days ahead, needless to say. If everything works well, these minor annoyances won't matter (much). But they don't reflect well on the seller who was (apparently) the owner and maintainer of the machine.
In closing, friends, thank you for all your helpful comments about sewing with silk charmeuse. I'm excited about getting started -- and a bit scared too. Your advice is very helpful.
I'm a native New Yorker and sewing fanatic! I started sewing in 2009 and today make all my own clothes using vintage sewing machines and vintage patterns. I also sew for private clients. Welcome to the warm and whimsical world of Male Pattern Boldness, where the conversation is sewing, style, fashion, fabric, and more!