The toughest aspect of sewing lingerie is dealing with the tricky fabrics that lingerie requires. Silks, lace, velvet, and all the other slippery fabrics that are most commonly used are the hardest to work with. Fortunately, lingerie is usually only seen by you and those you love, both of which should be forgiving of your sewing! Let’s break down some of these challenges ahead.
Photo via Alison Smith
Sewing with silk
I heard somewhere a million years ago that cutting silk is like trying to cut water. Yep, that’s exactly how it feels. Just when you think you have it held in place and on grain, you realize that with one little touch, it is totally off grain and sliding off your cutting table. Curses.
What silky fabric needs is stabilizing and one of the best ways to do this is to cut the fabric sandwiched between two layers of paper. I know this sounds crazy, but I learned this trick when I worked at a fabric shop fresh out of high school and believe it or not, it really works.
Here is how to do it:
1. Tape the paper down to the table and spread out your silky fabric on top lining up the selvages and having the silk open with no center fold.
2. Very carefully lay paper down on top of it, making sure not to move anything out of place. Using silk pins, pin your pieces down on the paper through the silk and the under layer of paper. Because nothing can be cut on the fold, you will need to draw the mirror image of any piece that is to be done on the fold.
3. Pin along every edge, close to the edge so that once you un-tape it in the next step nothing will move out of place.
4. Once everything is pinned, un-tape the paper from the table and cut as usual.
You might flinch at the idea of cutting paper with your fabric scissors, but this is a worthy reason to dull them, since you want to cut the silk with your sharpest scissors. Just be sure to plan a sharpening shortly after.
When sewing with silk or other semi-sheer fabrics, even with silk pins, it is best to keep your pins inside the seam allowance in case they mar the fabrics when being punctured with the pins. You might also want to consider using French seams so that all the seam allowances are hidden and pretty inside the garment.
Sewing with velvet
In addition to silky fabrics, velvet is a luxurious choice for entire pieces or just for trim. The amazing thing about velvet is its fluffy texture, but if handled incorrectly, that pile can be crushed and can never be undone.
Much like when working with silks, use silk pins and pin your pattern pieces to the velvet in one single layer. Folding the fabric can create a permanent crease.
Only pin on the back or wrong side of the velvet and handle the fabric with extreme care. Keep a light hand when marking notches, darts, and the like. Typically the nap goes down the garment, but that is a personal choice. The important element is consistency from piece to piece so that the nap goes the same way around the body.
The key with all of these fabrics is to take your time and handle with care. Silk and velvet are some of the loveliest fabrics to wear, so don’t be afraid, just move to and from each step with a plan and everything will work out!