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Gemma’s Top Tips for Sewing with Satin

When I received the ‘Really Wild’ themed box my heart exploded even more. I am a very big fan of leopard print.

So big that I consider it a neutral. So discovering that the main fabric was a beautiful leopard print filled my heart with joy. One apprehension however – it is a satin. And I have not sewn with satin before. How hard can it be?

Pretty hard, it turns out. Especially when you have such a beautiful fabric that you want to do it justice. Honest truth, my first make with this fabric went wrong, but it did teach me several lessons in sewing with this material that I can pass onto you. So here are my top tips for sewing with satin!

  • Think about your pattern. Before you even attempt to cut into your fabric, consider your garment choice. Satin is very slinky and drapey, so something that is designed to be structured won’t really work. Also consider design elements, such as collars or buttonholes – because the fabric moves so much when sewing you want to handle it as little as possible, so consider a pattern that is simple in construction.
  • Use all the weights when cutting out. Satin moves A LOT. In order to make sure you cut out your pattern pieces correctly, make sure you use lots of weights to hold the pieces in place. And all the pins. LOTS OF PINS! I would also recommend using a rotary cutter if possible, that way you are not lifting the fabric while cutting and potentially moving it out of place.

  • Make sure your pins are sharp. Be prepared to use all the pins while cutting out and sewing, and make sure they are sharp. Blunt pins will snag the fabric, and pull out fibres, which you don’t want to happen. Equally make sure you use a fresh needle when sewing, especially one designed for delicate fabrics.
  • Check your stitch length and tension. Because of the lightweight nature of the fabric, the wrong stitch length and tension can cause the fabric to buckle and pull, creating an uneven look. Test out stitch lengths first – I went down to a 2 stitch length and tension when sewing my garment.
  • Anchor your first stitch when sewing. This helps to keep the fabric in place, and stops it being eaten by your machine, especially when backstitching!
  • Sew slowly! I hate to say it, but it is highly unlikely to be speedy sewing when working with satin! Because of the nature of the fabric moving when sewing, you need to take it easy to make sure you don’t misalign your pieces – likewise you also don’t want to cause the stitch tension to pull on the fabric.

  • Take out pins carefully. I am quite good at pulling pins out at speed while I sew, however with this kind of fabric I would recommend you pull them out with caution, as you don’t want to move the fabric out of place or snag it while doing so!
  • Consider French seams for your garment. Satin frays a lot, especially when handled frequently, so consider French seams, or finishing them with pinking shears/overlocked edges. Make sure the garment you are making has a generous seam allowance in order to have enough fabric to protect your seams.
  • Test pressing first. I found pressing the fabric not so successful (I was worried about burning it) so definitely try out on a spare piece of fabric first. Don’t use steam (as satin tends to hold water spots) and press on the wrong side.
  • Try to enjoy it! Easier said than done! Many a blue word was spoken when sewing up my garment, but if you take it slowly then hopefully you will create a successful make!

As mentioned, my first make wasn’t that successful – the pattern wasn’t a great match and didn’t hang very well. So I decided on something a lot more simple – the Sorbetto top by Colette Patterns, which you can get free from Seamwork magazine. A simple tank top style it has several variations for neckline and sleeves. It has no closures and is a relaxed fit, making it ideal for drapey fabrics. I went for version 1 to make it even easier, and although my box pleat doesn’t sit as flat as I would like (that fear of pressing!), it hangs beautifully and is light and airy for warmer weather. I would highly recommend this pattern for beginner sewists, as well as for first time sewing in drapey fabrics, as it really is quite a simple make. Despite the simplicity however, depending on the fabric you use it would look stunning – definitely a pattern worthy of such gorgeous fabric!