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May 17, 2013

Silk Charmeuse Dress Progress

From out of the chaos emerges a skirt!

Readers, the construction of my silk 40's dress is underway and let me say it's painstaking work.  Silk charmeuse shifts and ravels.  Otherwise I love it.

Would you believe I'm making this dress on my just-purchased Bernina 930?  I never expected to use it for this project, but then I started testing it and it handles the silk beautifully.

The hardest part so far has been the cutting.  Rather than sandwich the silk between sheets of tissue paper, I decided one layer was going to have to be sufficient (plus the pattern piece, which gets removed before I sew).  It worked fine.

I immediately stay the horizontal seams with my pre-stretched organza bias tape.  I'm staying curved seams (like armholes) with selvage I cut from my fabric.  The selvage is less stiff than the stretched organza but still discourages stretching.  It takes a bit of extra time to do this but not as much as you might think -- not much more than staystitching with plain thread.  Needles to say, I try not to handle the fabric more than I need to.

I was reminded by a reader that the vertical seams need to hang and stretch out, so they should not be stayed with the stretched organza strips at this point.  The skirt has been hanging for an entire day now and so far the seams look good -- no puckering or weirdness as far as I can tell.  Is there any reason to stay these at all?

I'm working on the bodice today.  It's full of darts (four on the front underlayer of the surplice and four on the back), so that should keep me busy for a while.   I still have to cut and interface my facings.

Seam edge with selvage sewn in the seam allowance.

Re the Bernina, can I share the message I sent the eBay seller I told you about on Wednesday?
I just wanted to let you know that I received the machine -- it's wonderful -- and I have left you positive feedback. If you should ever ship a sewing machine in the future, however, PLEASE wrap the accessories separately rather than leave them free in the case where they can get damaged or scratch the machine. There is a small crack in the plastic under the hand wheel (the right side, the only one that's plastic) you may not have been aware of, or it may have cracked in transit. It in no way impacts the mechanics of the machine and I'm fine with it. Sewing machines are fragile -- even ones in hard plastic cases, and really need to be double-boxed. Anyway, thanks again for the Bernina 930 -- truly a wonderful sewing machine. All best, Peter Lappin
I tried to handle this with kindness; no response yet.

Friends, it's time to get back to work.  I hope your silk projects are going well.  What's that?  You're not sewing a silk project?  Isn't it time you took the plunge?

Happy Friday, everybody!

This one's for Rosie.


  1. Nice feedback message! The silk dress progress is remarkable, of course, but what a great public service you have provided by sharing a constructive--not sent in haste--message addressing a less-than-ideal situation. As always, it's both a pleasure and an education to read your blog. :-)


    1. I agree! Well said, Peter! And I love how your dress is coming. I don't think I would stabilize the vertical seams.

  2. Don't expect a reply. I once sold a coverlock machine that came without a specific manual which was stated in the listing then the buyer upon discovering it had no manual filed a paypal claim stating it was a reasonable expectation that a machine still in the box never unpacked would come with a manual. OK fine so I found her the pdf download but no she didn't want a print out she wanted a color hard copy and wanted me to pay for her to order a new one. At $50. So yeah I got forced to eat $50 because she wanted something that wasn't part of the auction to begin with so now I view emails like that as openings for "discounts and refunds"

    I'm a good seller I am truly LOL

  3. I have two yards of fabric, received in a swap, that I think might be silk. I've never had much opportunity to fondle silk so I'm not sure but anyway, I'm a little bit afraid of this lovely piece of fabric.

    1. Cut a tiny piece of it and BURN it (hold it with tweezers in a match flame) If it smells like burning HAIR it's silk. if it melts up into a hard bead and stinks like burning plastic it's synthetic (probably polyester)

  4. Gorgeous. Don't stay your verticals, they don't need it and you run the risk that the fabric itself will drop more, but the seams won't be able to so end result, baggy swag. Yik.
    I love the idea of the stretched organza bias - my approach has always been to use it on the straight but that is a much better compromise especially for such an unstable fabric. Never too old to learn a new thing! :)
    My contribution is to sew every seam, every time, from the outer point of its diagonal to the top. So for the fronts of the surplus, from the wait end to the neckline end. And skirt from hem to waist. Armholes from underarm to shoulder on each side. This stops the act of stitching from stretching out your seam.
    And I am so thrilled you love your Nini!! I have sewn hundreds of silk frocks and garments on mine and it is a trooper every time!

  5. Did you type "Needles to say" deliberately? Either way, I love it! ;-)

  6. Peter, as much as love your progress report on the dress you know where my heart is on this post. Willy & Freddy I miss you!

    P.S. Don't stay the verticals.

  7. Great progress, and good news that your new machine handles the silk well.

    Your review was really kind given the problems.

    The dogs are totally adorable. Happy weekend!

  8. Peter,
    Why have you not ironed your pattern pieces?

    1. I did, but those seventy-year-old folds are there to stay!

    2. OK, ...I'm over 70, and I'm afraid my wrinkles are here to stay, too....

  9. Lovely fabric. The 930 I have on loan to a relative is using it for that purpose, sewing fine fabrics. My Brother that I have, which I love for my projects eats up any fine fabrics.
    It just can't handle it. My relative is making chiffon dresses and she says it sews beautifully.
    She has a Singer that she uses, but for her the Bernina is better for the type of work she is doing at the moment. I love your fabric choice, and you are so brave to take on new fabrics.

  10. Just finished reading your blog from the beginning and I've learned so much, but this is the first time I've had to wait for an update. I'm excited to see how it turns out. :)

  11. Good note to the eBay sender.

    I thought that it was dresses sewn on the bias that needed to be hung for a couple of days and that it was done after the dress was completely constructed except for hemming. If you hemmed before hanging the dress it wouldn't be even. But I'm no expert.

  12. I've just come back to the UK after a whole week in the Garment District, and haven't been able to sleep for weeks for all the excitement. Can't believe my luck - I bought my first ever silk in Mood and am learning so much from all your hard work in these posts, thank you! Your fabric and knowledge blows my mind.
    I came across Kenneth King's article "A Trick for Working with Raw Silk" on Threads and would think that technique can be used on other slippery fabrics to stop it from ravelling to death. I also see that the jacket he's making in that post is the one he wore when Lladybird Lauren was in NYC and Chelsea Flea Market with you blogged on 14 March (did my status just move from lurker to stalker?).
    Petra (bornonthebias)

    1. Meant to copy in the links:

  13. Did you cut thefabric withyour rotary cutter or shears?

  14. Ooooh, Peter that fabric is even more lovely when cut & sewn. It positively glows!

    I'm very curious to hear more about your experience with silks on this Bernina vs your Kenmore (I have Kenmore 158.17030 & 158.1941 and I'm considering another machine for fine fabrics).

  15. I learned to sew on a Bernina 930 and still sew on it when I visit my mom. It is a dream! Your dress is coming along swimmingly--all your painstaking silk work will pay off.


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