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076: Sewing Silky Festive Fabrics

with special guest Pamela Leggett of Pamela's Patterns

In this article

So you want to sew silky fabrics?

It's coming up to the festive season and if you are like me, you might be thinking about sewing with silky festive fabrics. It's also a time when we might want to create outfits with particular design features that give them more of a dressy feel.

Pamela Leggett of Pamela's Patterns
Pamela Leggett of Pamela's Patterns

I wanted to get some tips for you on how to sew these silky fabrics as they can be tricky to handle and if you've had experience trying to work with them, that might have put you off.

So when I was last talking to Pamela Leggett she mentioned some tips that she has for sewing these fabrics that have been successful for the people that have joined her on her workshops.

Pamela joined me recently to talk about pattern fitting tips and you can find out more about that here:

What kind of fabrics can be tricky to sew?

It can be hard to know what a particular fabric can be like to sew with but there are some types of fabric that are more likely to be a bit of a challenge than others.

Golden satin fabric
Festive outfits with satin and silky fabrics

These include:

  • silk fabrics

  • silky polyesters

  • rayon/viscose challis

One of the features these fabrics have in common is that they feel very luxurious because they are drapey by nature.

That makes them lovely to wear but it makes them shift around with a mind of their own when you try to cut them out or sew with them.

It can also make them challenging to sew as the seam allowances can be difficult to line up and may not seem to match.

Stabilising your silky fabrics

There are a few different ways to stablise your fabric such as using tissue paper or spray starch. Pamela has tried many of these in the past and from her experimentation she has now found a solution that has become to her go-to option when working with these fabrics.

Perfect Sew Liquid Stabliser
Perfect Sew Liquid Stabliser

The Palmer Pletsch Company developed a liquid stabliser called Perfect Sew Stabiliser. It is described on their website as follows:

"PerfectSew penetrates fabric to stiffen it for a multitude of sewing projects, including machine embroidery. It is the only patented water-soluble product for penetrating fabric to stiffen it for sewing. Our new thicker solution provides maximum stabilization-greater stiffness in only one application."

Whilst other spray starches can really help when working with drapey, slippery fabrics, Pamela has found that having a solution that you can apply evenly to the whole fabric gives the best results.

The benefit using these stablisers mean that these drapey, challenging fabrics can be handled more like a stable quilting cotton which is so much easier to work with.

Using Liquid Stabilisers

She recommends that mixing 3 parts water to 1 part Perfect Sew can create a solution that you can soak your silky fabric in.

Soak fabric in stabliser solution
Soak fabric in stabliser solution

If you are doing this for the first time with a particular fabric then it is important to test it with a swatch or sample first.

Once you have soaked your fabric to saturate it, then wring it out gently, leaving any excess in your bowl.

Fold your fabric so that it will fit to lay flat onto a bath towel. Roll the fabric up in the bath towl to remove any extra moisture. Then hang your fabric to dry.

Once it is dry will feel stiff, so to make it more pliable, iron it using a little steam or damp cloth.

It will now feel more like a quilting cotton, making it easier to layout, pin, cut and sew.

Once you have made your garment and completed your project, you can rinse out the stabliser with cold water or handwash and the fabric will return to it's beautiful drapey self.

And you can keep your solution to use again. Pop it into a container that you can seal and it will keep for you to use the next time you want to sew a silky, drapey fabric.

Alternatives to Perfect Sew

Perfect Sew is not widely available in the UK but I have found a website for Riverside Fabrics that is offering it but it was out of stock at time of writing. I have included a link in the Links & Resources section for you.

An alternative to Perfect Sew is Terial which is advertised as a Craft stabiliser but I think that you could use it the same way and experiment with the right mix ratio that works best for you.

Pamela tried Terial and said it made the fabric a bit stiffer so perhaps try a one part Terial to four parts water to give a slightly less stiff result.

She also made her own stabliser using cornstarch. If you'd like to try that then check out this PDF guide:

Using Your Silky Fabrics

So now that you have your fabric stablised and easy to handle, what should you make with it?

There are the obvious patterns like silky tops, blouses and dresses. But this festive season why not try a couple of different options.

This year there is still a trend for mixing and matching textures such as silky skirts with cosy jumpers and silky slip dresses with longline cardigans.

Pamela has two patterns that you could try to get that look yourself:

The Glamour Slip is designed in a 1940s style as a full slip you could wear under your clothes. But with the latest trends you could pick a satin fabric and make it into a festive dress. You could add a top underneath if you want more coverage. This pattern is not cut on the bias and includes a yoke with back gathers for a more flattering shape over the tummy and hips.

The bias skirt is a gorgeous style when made in drapey silks or polyesters. This versio eliminates the need for a zip or waistand ensuring a flattering fit without the challenges of stretching out seams when adding zips or waistbands.

Be bold - Personalise your patterns

Petaluma dress personalised for awards dinner
My personalised Petaluma dress

I've been talking recently to other sewists about their thoughts on making changes to sewing patterns.

I'm a big fan of tweaking, changing and mixing and matching pattern features. Once I get a pattern to fit, which is the most time-consuming part of dressmaking, I like to re-use it as much as possible. But I don't want all my garments to look the same.

To add changes, it is great to combine features from other patterns such as necklines, sleeves, adding seam lines and adding or changing pockets.

When making a dress recently for my friend's awards dinner I wanted to dress up my creation. I took the already gorgeous Petaluma faux wrap dress pattern and decided to add a ruffle to the bottom edge of the skirt. As I had made it in a satin fabric this just really emphasised the shine as the dress moved.

If you'd like help to learn how to personalise your patterns then why not email me and find out how I can help -

I hope that you feel inspired to give these fabrics and pattern adjustments a go and if you do I would love to see what you make so please do send me photos or tag me on social media @sewmuchmorefun

Links & Resources

If you'd like to listen to my full chat on this topic with the lovely Pamela, click the button below or look for Sew Mindful on your favourite podcast app:

In this episode you'll hear:

  • 00:02:13: What types of fabrics are challenging to work with?

  • 00:04:35: What kind of challenges can you encounter?

  • 00:06:00: Pamela's Top Tip for working with silky fabrics

  • 00:14:13: Making your own stabiliser

  • 00:17:16: Mixing silky fabrics with unexpected patterns

  • 00:25:53: Tips for personalising patterns

  • 00:32:53: Tips on working with pattern markings

If you do try the Pamela's Patterns, tips or tools then please do get in touch and let me know what you think. And if you would like more help with any of the aspects mentioned in this article or this podcast episode then I would love to hear from you so do please email me at Thanks for taking the time to read this article and I hope you find some useful tips that you can apply.

Connect with Pamela Leggett

If you'd like to connect with Pamela, she would love to hear your feedback or thoughts too. Website: Instagram - @pamelaspatterns:

Sharing is caring - reviews

If you found this article helpful then please click the heart icon below to let me know and I'll create more content like this. And you can also use the icons in the footer if you want to share this with other sewing friends. If you enjoy this podcast episode please be sure to share it and to leave a review in your favourite podcast app to help others find us.

Get in touch

I always love to hear about you trying out what you pick up from these articles and episodes so do let me know:

Thank you so much for listening and for all your support. x

* this post contains affiliate links. This means if you use these links to buy something I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products I would/do use myself and all opinions expressed are my own. Read full privacy policy for more information.

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