Tag Archives: silk

Sencha silk: All dressed up and nowhere to go

I finally finished the navy blue silk Sencha blouse that I started lo these many weeks ago. My first silk garment. With a pattern I altered quite a bit. And bust darts I created.

The good news is I made my way through a veritable minefield of potential sewing mishaps and came out with a wearable blouse (though truth be told, it feels a little tight at the sleeve holes, not sure why).

The bad news is I can’t wear it!

Colette Patterns' Sencha in navy silk

Isn’t it pretty? I wish I could wear it. By the way, it fits me better than the dress form. You’ll just have to trust me for now.

Navy is THE staple color of my wardrobe (which doesn’t work out that well with a beige cat), and yet …

I have no navy skirts. Well, not any that still fit. (Why are they still in the closet?)

I have two pairs of navy pants that I wear regularly, and the Sencha silk blouse looks horrible with both. This is not Sencha’s fault. This is my fault. These pants are just not flattering with a top that must be tucked in. I always wear them with sweaters or knit tops outside that fall to mid hip, if not below. Neither pair is a great fit overall.

So, the lovely Sencha silk has exposed a giant hole in my wardrobe: No flattering pants in navy, and no wearable navy skirts at all.

A-line skirts are flattering, and I can make those in a hurry. I only have to fit them at the waist. The next item on the sewing agenda is a wearable muslin for new skirt pattern with a contour waistband. I also have the contour waistband pattern I created for the coral polka dot skirt. Either way, I’ll be able to make a navy skirt that looks good in no time.

But pants? Oh, that’s a whole other story. In preparation for making pants some day, I bought Pati Palmer’s Pants for Real People. What was going to be a sewing project down the road has become somewhat of an emergency. I may just have to wear skirts for a while.

Until then, no shot of me in Sencha silk. My dress form will have to do.

Meanwhile, here’s what went right and wrong with the Sencha silk blouse project:

What went right

  • The silk sewed beautifully — No snags (thanks to a brand new supply of silk pins and my policy of using a new needle for every project), and handsewing the sleeve facings with the catchstitch worked great. Nothing shows from the right side. I LOVE this stitch. And if feels so much more sturdy than a slip stitch.
  • My pattern alterations actually worked — The bust dart and other changes I made helped the pattern fit beautifully. I wanted to interface the buttonhole area, so I merged the separate neck facing pattern with the center back self-facing and interfaced it all together. That worked as well. I’m not sure why the pattern isn’t set up that way, except maybe to save fabric on the pattern layout for larger sizes.
  • Pinking is awesome — Because of the on-seam construction of the sleeves, which have self facings, I couldn’t use French seams anywhere. I chose pinking and straight stitching instead. Love the vintage look of pinking, although my pinking shears (gift from a friend’s mother, say, 25 years ago. Thanks, Mrs. Mailes!) need sharpening.
  • I have found the perfect use for Clover Wonder Clips — They do a great job of holding a small double-fold hem in place before sewing. I only have 10 clips, which isn’t enough to do an entire hem all at once, so I will be buying more.

What went not-quite-right

  • The hand of the silk is a little stiff for my taste — even after machine washing and drying. I bought the yardage online. Oh, what I wouldn’t do for a decent garment fabric store nearby so I could feel before I buy.
  • My automatic buttonholer failed me — The Fancy Damn Machine makes beautiful buttonholes but, sadly, not on silk. It just couldn’t move the fabric the way it needed to. I realized later that I probably could have done them on my Brother PE 700ii embroidery machine. Because the fabric is moved by a hoop, not feed dogs and a wheel, it has no choice but to move correctly. Thankfully, I followed my usual procedure and started with the buttonhole at the bottom (the one that would tuck in). When the first one didn’t work (twice!) I decided to sew on snaps. I was IN LOVE with the contrast buttons I picked out, so I sewed them on after the snaps, just offset enough that I could get the needle through, but the snap stitching doesn’t show. No one will know the difference.
Sencha in navy silk, back view

I was so happy with the way the slightly iridescent gray plastic buttons I picked out matched the gray design on the navy silk that I just had to use them. Even without buttonholes.

Failed buttonhole

If you look closely on the left, not only can you see the failed buttonhole, but also a rough patch in the silk where I ripped out some stitches. I decided the rest of the stitches would just have to stay where they were.

  • It’s not just your thread spools that you need to protect from dust — Sencha silk lived on my dress form in its half-sewn state for WEEKS. By the time I got back to it, a fine layer of dust had formed on top of the shoulders. I dusted that off, then proceeded to sew, only to discover that a fine layer of dust had accumulated on my sewing machine flatbed extension as well. Curses! I have never noticed this with any other fabric. I guess dust just doesn’t show up as well on cotton. Apparently, everything needs to be protected with a dust cover. I got all the dust off the silk, but I’ve learned my lesson. Now I need to sew a dust cover that fits the machine AND the flatbed extension. (Alternatively, I could dust occasionally, but let’s not get ridiculous.)

I don’t even remember when I finished this project. It was sometime after Girl Scout Cookie season ended (I oversaw cookie sales for 93 troops) but before I left town for my company’s annual convention. I’m still catching up with life, but I can’t wait to do my next sewing project.

Next up: A wearable muslin for a four-gore A-line skirt with a contour waistband. I’m going to want to add some pockets.

Still scared of silk

I’ve been avoiding my Sencha silk for a while. It’s been very easy to do. I told myself that I was busy, but I’m always busy. I was really just scared.

I was scared because the next steps were to sew the ties and the neckline seam.

The ties had been troublesome when I’d tried them in cotton. They were so tough to turn that the chopstick I’d been using popped right through the end seam. How much harder were they going to be in silk?

Turns out they were easier! Once I got the sewn end going, the silk slipped right over itself; and the chopstick did not push through. I was so wrong.

But then came the neckline. In addition to the usual neck curve, it has that crazy keyhole. As I was sewing, I thought, “No more silk for me. This is destined to be a post about tears and heartbreak.”

Well, no tears quite yet. One of the ties was misplaced by a very noticeable eighth of an inch. I had to get out my dreaded seam ripper and try it again. But no problem.

My silk fears all proved to be unfounded: There are no pulls or puckers anywhere, despite the fact that I’ve:

  • Pinned outside the seam allowance.
  • Sewn some pesky curves.
  • Used a seam ripper.

I guess it’s all in the pins and needles.

Before starting this project, I invested in a set of silk pins. (Unfortunately for my fingers, they don’t have glass or plastic heads. Ouch.) They have their own blue tomato so I don’t mix them up with any other pins. I also (as always) started with a brand new needle of a nice small size (7 or 8, I can’t remember what I had on hand).

The only challenges the silk has presented have been cutting and seam finishing, but I’ll have full rundown on those issues when I do the wrapup.

Until then, here’s a peek at my progress.

Does this blouse look scary to you?

But I still can’t wait to get back to cotton!

Yes, I put silk in the washing machine … and the dryer, too!

Update on yesterday’s post regarding washing silk: I had read that you could prewash silk in a washing machine. So I did it. And although I did NOT read that you could put silk in the dryer, I did that, too. Silk in a dryer? That’s my version of living dangerously.

While it was in there, I decided to Google whether that was an OK idea. And the Magic 8 Ball that is the Internet came back with “Outlook not so good.” Yikes!

I ran to the dryer to pull out the silk, but it was already dry and about to enter the cool-down cycle. And it was intact. No visible heat damage or pulls or streaks of white as warned.

In fact, the silk was a lot softer than when it went in. It was a little stiff and crinkly and — dare I say it — polyester-ish when it went in. I don’t know if the improvement is due just to the washing, as some say, or the inappropriate application of heat as well.

Regardless, the silk has a nicer hand now.

Washing silk in the machine really should involve a lingerie bag and NO HEAT. I’ll stick to the rules next time, but this time I came out aces. And my blouse when it’s done can go in the washing machine, handwash cycle. Lucky me!

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