Chiffon

By | May 7, 2016
Chiffon yardage. Source: Etsy.com

Chiffon yardage. Source: Etsy.com

Here’s another one that often gets confused with organza and organdy. Chiffon is yet another lightweight sheer. It’s usually made from silk, cotton or synthetic fibers.

Chiffon has a much softer hand than organza and organdy. It’s not stiff at all, in fact and has a very fluid drape, as illustrated by the dress on the left.

 

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A chiffon dress previously owned by Betty Ford. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

A chiffon dress previously owned by Betty Ford. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

If I’d been able to shoot this on video, I’d be waving some chiffon around letting you see how light and airy it is. Chiffon is the next best thing to a cloud made into fabric form – especially when it’s made from silk. Silk chiffon is dreamy.

Chiffon is sometimes confused with georgette, but chiffon is lighter in weight and feels smoother underhand than georgette does.

You can use it for costumes that have just stepped out from fairyland. For lingerie. As a contrasting overlay on top of a solid color. But don’t use it for a veil as it WILL fall into your face and stick to your makeup. For veils, use organza or tulle – something with enough body to keep it off your face.

Nylon chiffon is extremely cheap and I wouldn’t use it if any alternative presents itself because I don’t like nylon very much. But if you must use it, expect to pay about $3 a yard. Polyester chiffon starts at around $4 a yard for solid colors, maybe $6 or $7 a yard for printed patterns. Silk chiffon will start around $20 a yard, and more like $30 a yard for the fancier two-tone / cross-woven varieties.

Chiffon is slippery and it frays as soon as you look at it. When you have to cut chiffon, only cut one layer at a time – don’t fold it double and try to cut two pieces at once, as it WILL move. Use basting spray to hold your chiffon in place – one coat to stick it down to your cutting surface and another to stick the pattern paper into place on top.  

Use a rotary cutter, not scissors – even if you have to borrow a cutter from your boring ol’ mom who does nothing but quitting and thus has half a dozen of them. Borrow her cutting mat while you’re at it, too, or else you’re going to mess up your table and blunt the cutter’s blade.

Don’t cut notches into the seam allowance – make what’s called a ‘tailor’s tack’ – which is a little stitch of doubled-over thread inside the seam allowance to mark those points on your pattern.

Think twice before reaching for the fray check to control the raveling as it will make the edge stiff and because there’s not very much to fabric, you could end up with the fray-check soaking beyond the range of your seam allowance. Use a very light hand indeed, and practice on a scrap if you MUST use it.

When it comes to actually sewing chiffon, this is a great time to become very good friends with anyone who owns a serger. Pay them any price they demand in order to show you how to use it. A serger will enclose the seams as you sew and stop the fabric from unravelling.

If you don’t have access to a serger, put this on your to-do list: learn how to do French seams, and, if your budget can stretch to it, get a straight-stitch presser foot and throat plate for your machine, as well. It’ll reduce the chance of your chiffon being pulled/pushed down into the bobbin case of your machine and getting all snarled up.

Sew chiffon with a sharp – or “Microtex” needle and cotton thread – or silk if your budget can justify it. Silk thread isn’t as strong, but it’s much finer. Also consider enclosing your seam in some tear-away stabilizer before running it through. That’ll also reduce the chance of it snagging on the feed dogs.

Chiffon is a beautiful fabric but, oh, you pay a price for its beauty.

Nylon chiffon.

Nylon chiffon.

 

Printed chiffon. Source: chiffon-fabric.com

Printed chiffon. Source: chiffon-fabric.com

 

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