I’ve been making seams in sheer fabrics for a long time, but everywhere I look, the methods touted for doing this seem to be old fashioned and rather clumsy, as well as having little strength in use. Here are some ideas to make a success of durable seams in sheer fabrics. These seams are worked in sheer silk chiffon, using 1 120’s poly thread.
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My favoured method is with the serger or overlocker. For a seam in a garment that may be stressed, the three thread rolled seam is the biz!
I first set up the machine to make a 3 thread rolled hem:
The tension dials are set with a higher looper tension to pull the upper looper thread round to wrap the seam, and the stitch length is set to the upper end of the rolled hem mark. As this is such light fabric, I’ve also lessened the foot pressure. Different machines will need different tensions set, so be careful to test! Also, don’t forget to set your stitch lever to the rolled hem setting. On very fine sheer fabric like this I like to use a size 70 needle.
Here you can see me stitching the bias silk chiffon seam I’m using a dark thread so that it shows up well and you can see what happens. The seam is completed, and from the outside looks no thicker than a pencil line. Using matching thread makes this seam almost invisible. Sheer fabrics are one area where having a really good colour match can make a huge difference to the final look of the garment. You can see the way the seam vanishes in the last two pictures.
The next three pictures show the same seam worked with a shot silk organza.
The silk organza is much stiffer than the chiffon, so tends to suffer from ‘pokeys’ – threads that poke out of the wrapped seam. These can be trimmed off. From the outside the seam is very fine.
An even finer seam can be worked in much the same way using two threads. This should only be used where there will be NO stress on the seam, for example in the overskirt of a ball or wedding dress.
If you don’t have an overlocker available, you can still sew sheer fabrics with success.
Set up your machine carefully to cope with the fine fabrics…
I’ve given my trusty Husqvarna Lily 550 a Teflon foot as this is gentler on the delicate fabric than the standard metal one. Fine fabric needs a fine needle, and this is a size 70. Foot pressure has been set to a light 2.5 rather than the normal 4. I’ve chosen a 2mm stitch length, and set the machine to a slow speed to start with: going too fast can chew up delicate fabrics like this. As this is fine fabric, I’m using a 120’s poly thread. Tension is set to a normal 4.
The first example is a felled seam
Sew the seam first with a normal seam allowance: Press the two seam allowances together and fold the seam allowance so the cut edge is along the seam line: press along the fold. I don’t cut down one of the seam allowances on such sheer and delicate fabric because, while that may give a finer felled seam, it detracts from the strength of the cloth, and if the seam is to be stressed as part of a garment, there is more to be gained than lost by keeping it. Sew carefully down the folded edge, through all layers, enclosing the raw edge of the fabric. The final two pictures are of the two sides of the seam: the inside, and then the outside.
This next sample is a zigzag seam
First sew your seam as above. Press the seam allowance together, and this time when you fold it, fold it so that 2/3 of the seam allowance is folded down and you have a narrower space between the stitching and the folded edge. Press. Turn the fabric over to you can see the line of stitching. Sew down the folded edge close to the stitching line. On this delicate fabric I used a three-step zigzag as this stops the fabric bunching and folding inside the stitching. While that may make the finished seam narrower, it also tends to make it stiffer! Trim the spare seam allowance off close to the stitching, and press so that the cut edge is underneath.
Here you can see some pictures of the sort of garments made using these seam methods. This is part way through construction, and the hems have yet to be completed. The gown is made of silk chiffon and the bolero of a shot silk organza.