Sew-alongs · Sewing for Argentine Tango · Sewing Techniques · Skirts · Tango Skirts

Asymmetrical Skirt Sew-Along 2: Techniques for Sheer Fabrics

Hello again! In the first post of this series, we covered a lot (make that a LOT), mostly about choosing fabrics and combining them in various ways to make a truly unique skirt. Hopefully, you’re now ready with your skirt pieces cut. Today, I want to show you some special seam and hem techniques that work especially well for sheer fabrics. Remember the one I’m using?

Sheer fabric for longer skirt layer
The sheer silver-grey georgette I’m using for the longer layer of my skirt. Special fabrics deserve special handling!

Since the sheer-fabric techniques do take a little longer, I’m going to start my skirt by assembling the sheer part, which in my case is the longer layer of the skirt. I’ve decided to sew the sides together with French seams.


Glossary: French seaming refers to a technique where the same seam is sewn twice, resulting in a completely enclosed raw edge. First, the seam is sewn with wrong sides together (the opposite of sewing a regular seam), with 1/4″ seam allowance (assuming a total seam allowance of 5/8″). Next, the seam allowances are pressed to one side, and raw edges trimmed to about 1/8″, followed by pressing the seam again along the stitching line, right sides together. Finally, stitch the seam again, 3/8″ from the folded/stitched edge. (Don’t worry, I’ll show you all this!)


French seam, first stitching line
1. 1st stitching line is sewn with wrong sides together, 1/4″ from cut edge. This can be tricky with super-lightweight fabrics, so take your time! If your fabric is particularly unruly, you might want to hand-baste this seam; trust me, this is easier than wrestling with layers of fabric at your sewing machine.
Trimming seam allowance
2. Using small, sharp scissors, trim your seam allowance to barely down to 1/8″. It doesn’t have to be exactly 1/8″, in fact, leaving slightly more is good; a consistent width is more important.
Press seam to 1 side
3. Press both seam allowances to 1 side.
Sewing 2nd stitching line
4. Fold along 1st stitching line, right sides together; press folded edge. Sew your 2nd stitching line 3/8″ from the folded edge. You really can’t see it in the photo, but sewing this 2nd seam will completely enclose your 1/8″ seam allowance, leaving no visible raw edges.
Sewing 2nd stitching line.
5. Sewing the 2nd stitching line. Before you start stitching, make sure you have a guideline that will give you a consistent 3/8″ seam allowance. (In my case, that happened to be the right edge of my presser foot.) You can use narrow tape to make your own guideline, if necessary.

All that’s left to do now is to press your beautiful new French seam!

Finished French seam
6. Press your finished seam to one side. The arrow is pointing to the 1/8″ seam allowance from the 1st stitching line, barely visible because it’s completely enclosed by the 2nd stitching line! Pretty, no?

Tip: French seams can theoretically be used on any seams (and any reasonably lightweight fabric), but they’re not really suited to curving seams, such as armhole/sleeve seams. As in my sheer skirt example, this technique is particularly effective where cut edges would show through to the right side.

P.S. In case you were wondering, the 1st 1/4″ seam allowance + the 2nd 3/8″ one = the standard 5/8″ seam allowance.


Once you’ve completed both side seams, we’ll move on to sewing the narrow hem on the sheer layer.


Glossary: A narrow hem generally refers to an edge finish that involves turning the raw edge under, usually 1/8″-1/4″, and pressing in place, then repeating this, so that the edge has been turned under twice. This technique works really well on curving hemlines like circular skirts; I show how to do a special version of a narrow hem for the asymmetrical skirt I’m making now.


Whether you’re using a sheer fabric or not, this hem is a little tricky because it has both inside and outside curves— this makes it necessary to create the narrowest-possible hem, or you’re risking a ripply edge that won’t lie smooth and flat.

My sheer fabric, like most sheers, is relatively loosely woven, making it liable to both stretch out and ravel. And in the course of manipulating the fabric to make the narrow hem, it’s all too easy to find yourself fighting with it. Make it easier on yourself by starting with this 1 additional step:

Stay-stitch near hem edge
1. Stay-stitch 1/8″ from the cut edge.

Tip: Make sure your stay-stitching isn’t too tight; you don’t want the stitching to pull the fabric in, especially around the inside curves, and you don’t want to stretch it out around the outside curves. Try a slightly longer stitch length than you’d normally use for seams.

If you find, when you’re done stitching, that there are areas that feel too tight when you gently stretch along the stitching line, you can snip a stitch (carefully!) here and there until the fabric lies really flat.

It’s always a good idea to test your stitch length and tension on a scrap of your fabric.


Again, for a regular narrow hem, you wouldn’t do this stay-stitching step; you’d just fold the edge under, press, fold it under again, press, then sew. So you’re only adding this 1 step to that process. And it’s really not necessary for most fabrics; I just find that it really helps me when working with sheer and/or very lightweight fabrics. That stitching line acts like a guide for pressing your first fold line, thus:

Press edge under
2. With the wrong side facing you, fold the edge towards the wrong side until the stay-stitching line is just to the inside of the fold; press. On the left, I’ve started turning it under and pressing for the second time, completely enclosing the cut edge; this is your final step before stitching.

Tip: When you’re pressing the hem under, especially the second time, you’ll be able to feel if there’s resistance, like you’re trying to make it lie flat and it won’t cooperate. If this happens, apply a little heat to the area, and gently stretch the stay-stitching line; this should help. If it’s really tight, carefully snip a stitch here and there. This is most likely to happen around the inside curves.


 

Final stitching line for hem
3. After your hem has been folded under twice and pressed in place, sew your final stitching line. I know this hemline seems about a mile long, plus it’s tricky with all the curves— take your time! The results will be worth it.

Oof! Believe me, I know how frustrating it can be, working with fabrics like these, but the only good solution is to be patient (I confess, never easy for me), and give your special fabrics this couture treatment— they deserve it, and so do you!

Be sure to let me know if you’re having problems with any of these techniques (comment below), and/or if you’ve come up with a better idea; it helps all of us if we all share our issues and suggestions. And I’d also love to see photos of what you’re working on!

Coming up next, we’ll  get into various elastic-waist options. This may be split into 2 parts; we’ll see how it goes. Homework: Finish sewing both skirt layers (seams and hems), and baste these layers together at the waist!

Colormusing

Want more sewing stuff from Colormusing? Check out myBratelier (lingerie sewing, including bras!), and Changing Your Clothes, which covers everything from repairs & alterations to dyeing and remaking thrift-shop finds.

And don’t miss all my color-palette-related excitement at the  A Musing blog! (Click on the dots above to visit my mother ship, Colormusing.com.)

 

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