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Dec 11, 2015

Lessons Learned Sewing My First Silk Blouse or "Never trace darts with red carbon paper"



Roughly three years ago, at the Chelsea flea market, I impulsively purchased three yards of lightweight silk taffeta in a gold, beige, and black plaid, at a very good price.

Since these really aren't colors that suit me and I don't have much occasion to sew taffeta, the fabric sat.

Fast forward to now.  I have to sew a self-drafted blouse -- the final project for my FIT patternmaking class and due next Wednesday.  Now we're certainly not expected to use fancy fabric, we just have to draft the pattern ourselves.  But since I had the silk and thought it might work well for the type of blouse I had in mind -- semi-fitted button-down with bishop sleeves, collar stand, and collar -- I decided to use it.

Here's my inspiration (View 3):



This is my dress form, a Size 8:



Just to keep things interesting, I decided to make French seams on the sides, shoulders, and armholes of the blouse: good practice and not as difficult as I'd feared, since the taffeta was stable.





I made one big mistake on this blouse: I traced my fish-eye darts (there are 12 darts in all, 8 of them fish-eye) with red (RED!) carbon paper.  What was I thinking?  Lo and behold, after pressing my darts -- ugh.  See the red line along the vertical fish-eye dart?  The worst were the four darts in front, where I'd pressed my tracing wheel hardest, making the red really bold.



The inside looked like this:



I panicked.  I decided I'd try to wash the red out by rinsing it with laundry detergent.  The bad news is that the red didn't come out.  The good news is that the blouse wasn't ruined.  The pattern had room enough for slightly more fitted darts, so I stitched a little beyond the dart lines, enclosing the red marks so that they were no longer visible.

FYI, I asked Kenneth King about this and he suggested marking darts on silk taffeta with a hera marker (or tracing wheel) over a slightly soft surface, to crease the fabric, and then go over the crease with a white chalk wheel.  Live and learn.

Since washing the silk made it softer and gave it a slightly different look, I decided to wash my bishop sleeves (as yet unattached) and all the silk I would use for my collar and collar stand.  Here's what the washed silk looked like before pressing -- scary!



But it did press well.  The blouse still needs buttons and buttonholes, but it's otherwise finished.  My one fear is that it may have shrunk (my PGM 8 is smaller than the "curvy missy" AlvaForm 8  I use in class).  I guess we'll find out next Wednesday!



Poofy bishop sleeve detail

I learned a lot making this blouse and I look forward to making another one someday, only without the drama.

Any fabric marking/marker bleeding nightmare stories you wish to share?

Have a great day, everybody!

47 comments:

  1. This is the kind of technique blog post I really enjoy. As you learn, so do we (or so do I, as I have everything to learn). I'd never heard/read of a hera marker. Nice save!

    Though the fabric may not be your best color, it's a great fabric nonetheless.

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    Replies
    1. I'd never heard of one either though I was gifted one once and (99% sure) gave it away since I didn't know what it was for.

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    2. Further proof (were any needed) that one great way to hide good info safely out of sight is to write about it in a book (Shirtmaking p.13):) As mentioned there as well, the same function can be almost as easily accessed with a non-toothed tracing wheel, a long fingernail, or even the edge of a credit card (testing thoroughly of course). And you can help make the subtle indentations these tools create much more visible by positioning a light (like my fav the Bendable Bright Light) so it casts a raking light across the direction of the mark, creating a precise shadow. Otherwise, these scoring marks can be pretty hard to see, esp. on patterned fabrics such as your silk, Peter. Lovely work nonetheless!

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    3. Thank you, David. I will reread!

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    4. It's quite a brief mention, less than my comment here! I tend to mark darts with pins or thread at the tips and widest points then just eyeball the lines between, and use my extended guitar-picking fingernail more often that I actually reach for the hera. But I love having one, just for the reminder:)

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  2. It was at FIT where I was taught that the only carbon papers one should ever use are white and yellow. PERIOD. And yes, I've learned the hard way before that...

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  3. I once used blue chalk. Never again. You've brought back all the bad memories...

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  4. I've had bad wax tailor's chalk experiences (the favorite of a colleague in the shop)... it supposedly disappears with the iron's heat, but on a certain fabric it left melted wax marks!
    I've taken to doing thread traced tailor's tacks on many fabrics.
    Also, I always wash my silks. It can change the hand but I like the softer feel, an the ease of future cleaning is priceless.

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  5. Waxed based tailor's chalk and clay based are not the same thing - don't ask me how I know this. :) At least it is nice to know I am not the only one who has experienced "visible" markings. Since then I always test my marking method on scrap fabric. I discovered that on some fabrics even the Frixion pen marks don't disappear 100%.

    Nice save on your blouse!

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  6. No tracing dart problems, but I have very few quilt markers that will either stay long enough to follow the pattern or refuse to go away after I finish.

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  7. Oh LORD! I will not use wax chalk - it never comes out. I'm pretty careful about using blue, regular chalk too (or other colours). But I'll use marker on denim. Weird.

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  8. I guess everyone has to have made this booboo at least once. I used yellow tracing paper on the right side (good grief!) of my ivy green tussah silk bridesmaids dresses. Had to take them all in same as you did for your blouse, luckily they were pleats on a bell shaped skirt so it didn't make much difference in the fit! I had a sewing student who used wax chalk to mark all the skirt gores right in the middle of each panel for her taffeta evening gown. When it was pressed they showed through to the right side...RF, LF, RB, LB, RSB, LSB, etc.

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    Replies
    1. kayronb58@gmail.comDecember 11, 2015 at 7:54 PM

      Use needle and thread to mark darts.

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  9. Do you have Senor King on speed dial?

    The blouse is impressive - so many darts, so well executed!

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  10. Well don't feel too bad as I did the same darn thing and I knew better from years of experience. Yes, what was I thinking tracing red on a white silk blouse, really dumb. Washing silk it never comes out like it was so I'm into cleaning it in my dryer with some Dryell stuff I buy.

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  11. Sometimes you can rinse silk in cheap vodka to get out mildew smells and stains (learned this listening to a Madona interview.). Whether or not it also takes out the fabric dye with the stains depends on the dyes used, I've had it go both ways so always test a small scrap first. In the future, try to avoid ironing the tracing marks before washing if they are a contrasting color-sometimes this inadvertently heat sets the color to the fabric. I sew a lot with silk and will mark my cutting lines of printed fabric with a coordinating colored fine uniball pen but thread trace the darts.
    For washing, consider using orvis (many of the enzymatic detergents really degrade silk fiber fast), and since silk looses its strength when wet, use a mesh laundry bag/ pillow case to keep it from getting twisted and rung.

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  12. The blouse looks great! And as I tell my teenager, homework is about the process and not the product. I've had the same experience with the red paper, so on fabric like that I use the white paper and then go over it with chalk, because the white disappears the second you press it. And I always wash my silk (after testing a swatch and before cutting), because if the iron spits you can wash it again and you're not stuck with a watermark. I usually dunk silk in the tub and air dry, then cut. Silk is remarkably resilient!

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  13. Not my marking disaster but my mother's. She is a quilter and has used the blue water soluble marking pens since they were created. She has never has a problem despite doing the things they tell you not to do, like pressing over the marks. One Christmas she was making six similar wall quilts as gifts. On one of the six nearly identical quilts the marks bled and spread across the entire quilt. Nothing would budge those marks and eventually the quilt ended up in the cat bed. Mom's still using the markers and nothing similar has ever happened.

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  14. Those French seams though. That's the next thing I want to learn. I love this blouse! Sorry to hear about the tracing troubles!

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  15. I made a white silk blouse to go to a wedding. I only noticed out in the sun on the day that the dart on one shoulder was pink, and the other shoulder was green from the chalk I used.

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  16. Oh I did that once, must have been late 80s and it was a wedding dress for a customer, white poly crepe with cut on cap sleeves, fitted bodice, peplum and straight skirt. So must have been late 80s! I marked the thing up with virulent orange carbon paper and I had a terrible job getting it out using drycleaning fluid. Luckily the customer was really laid back and didn't care. But I was a wreck!

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    Replies
    1. I'm starting to sweat just reading this! Talk about high anxiety!!

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    2. Hello (pause), dear!

      What could be more calming, than a greeting from me?

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    3. I knew you were right around the corner! LOL!!

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    4. Mr. Spider this little fly is progressing on Instagram! Ha!

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  17. I did the SAME thing with the same red carbon paper. As a matter of fact, I took a workshop in NYC and was taken to a FIt bookstore and bought those life size sheets of the stuff in every color. I did it on a lovely liberty of London shirt dress (and it was very expensive fabric!). I did eventually get it out with dawn soap and very very hot water. Repeatedly! My bigger mistake however, was not making the Muslim with sleeves, because who ever heard of sleeves not fitting, right! Well, I have swimmer arms and mine didn't fit. Boo hoo! Lesson learned on both counts. Now, I do darts with tailor tacks and a white chalk wheel on only 1 side, so much happier with them! I always thought I was a big failure if both sides of the traces darts did t disappear into the stitch line. I do t have to worry about this anymore and they come out much better.

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  18. blue chakoner chalk on my yellow flannel pjs, still there 2 years after sewing and countless washings!
    sometimes wax irons out and sometimes it doesn't. as others have mentioned, i test first on a scrap.
    your school dressform is quite curvy! that was the first thing i thought when i saw your pic of her.

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  19. I've had several minor tracing or marking disasters, so only use hand basting or light powdered chalk now. I am even afraid to use the Frixion pens that so many love. The most frustrating was a white jacket with *beautiful* bound buttonholes that I marked with red tailor's chalk that wouldn't come out. I think I may have pressed and set it. It was so disheartening, but I solved it with white fabric paint.

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  20. Beautiful blouse! Don't ever use blue tracing paper with white or light colored fabric...it will never come out either!

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  21. I was taught (by my pattern teacher) to mark my darts the way they do it in the RTW industry: You make a dot at 3 cm below the top and above the bottom point of the dart and at its center, you make dots at 1 cm from the stitching line (so only 1 for a dart with a total width of 2 cm, 2 dots for a wider dart. For narrower darts, I just make 1 and remember to stitch closer than at 1 cm from the fold). In RTW workshops, pattern pieces are often cut out in stacks and these dots are marked with hot needles, creating tiny holes with burnt edges, which doesn't matter because they will be hidden in the finished garment (they are all in the seam allowance after all). I just mark mine with tailor's chalk.

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  22. I once grabbed a pink permanent marker instead of my pink washable marker to mark the wrong sides of my fabric. I got one wrong, so still have a little pink mark on my jacket. I scrubbed but it wouldn't all go away!

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  23. Fellow sewists,, please realize the value of disappearing purple ink pens. I once created white Greek Goddess gowns out of white satin polyester. By the time I had finished draping and fitting them using purple pen for my markings, they were essentially purple in color. Two days later they pristine white. On light colored fabrics, purple disappearing ink pens are the only way to mark. On darks I prefer Clover Tailors chalk (it's the good stuff real tailors use), or white Chaconer for a fine line. Give it a try!

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    Replies
    1. I had someone tell a sad story of 'disappearing' pens. She had marked the beaded applique placement on the bodice of a wedding dress. The disappearing pen (straight out of the package, so no mistake) did NOT disappear. Or wash out. Or iron away, or scrub away. She had to remake the bodice and redo all the handstitched applique. She had quite the panic.

      So the moral of the story is TEST FIRST!!

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  24. Every time I alter a ready-to-wear garment in which the manufacturer has punched holes for dart ends, I curse that manufacturer. You can often remove pencil, carbon wax, and even ballpoint pen ink -- but a hole is a hole is a hole. It's usually a hole right at the bustpoint, so any attempt to patch or darn immediately draws one's eyes to the wearer's nipples. Most of us don't want strangers staring at our nipples. I don't.

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    Replies
    1. FCF Fast Cheaap Fashion is not normally a good candidate for alterations. Sometimes you just have to tell a client that a garment has had its day. If it is sold on a hanger in the store rather than folded and on a shelf, it's closer to its "used by" date right from the beginning.

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    2. Yeppert. It is usually more of a struggle to alter decent garments, BECAUSE they are so well constructed -- more details to work around, more sewing to unpick before doing the alterations. Still, you feel more virtuous at the end, saving a decent garment to live again; than taking in or letting out a shirt from the "$7 Store." (There was such a thing in my town, once. Everything in the store cost $7.)

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  25. Also, I was taught to mark using a sharp sliver of soap, instead of chalk or marking pens. Works great on any medium to dark color; smooth, firm fabric. Lasts longer than chalk, comes off easier than wax.

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    Replies
    1. I've often used a #2 lead pencil. That stuff usually falls off before I finish sewing. Works on cotton, denim, dacron, acrylic, and linen. YMMV. No experience beyond that.

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    2. Crayola fine point children's washable markers. So far, they've never washed out of any fabric I have used, and they are cheap, cheap, cheap!

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  26. Not about the marking - I love that you cut the sleeves on the bias. Stunning effect.

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  27. Oh, Peter -- so sad your blouse went awry. That fabric would have been gorgeous for your vintage-inspired design. I have more marking and bleeding disasters than I care to recall. I also have disappearing marker disasters (when the ink disappeared too fast, before I'd finished sewing things together). What about marking your darts with a line of silk basting stitches? Or would they be too difficult to remove afterwards if they got tangled up in the machine stitching?

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  28. That is a beautiful shirt. I love the big collar, which really looks nice if you are thin from the waist up.

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  29. I have always had a weird loathing of sleeves. until last winter when it dipped below -30 and I saw the error of my ways!

    but anyway, I love your bishop sleeves! they have inspired my to do my own bishop blouse!
    after Christmas of course.

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  30. No, I've never had this problem. My Sewing I teacher at FIT told us never to use tracing paper on anything except muslin.

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