Satin is recognizable for having a shine on the correct side and a dull “wrong” side. The shiny finish is accomplished by using a weaving technique whereby the weft threads (subtitle: the threads that run perpendicular to the selvedge edge) skip over the top of several of the warp threads, rather than going under every other one. Go to An Introduction to Various Weaves to learn more about that sort of thing.
The wrong side of a satin may be dull, or it can have a semi-shiny surface on one side.
“Crepe back” satin is shiny on one side, with a semi-shiny, pebbled texture on the other. Crepe satin is a popular costumer’s choice. The pebbly texture is achieved by using a tightly-twisted yarn in the weft, and either side of the fabric can be used in a costume – just keep track of which side is the “right” side!. Some costumers will choose to use this “wrong” side as the right side for their project, as it can be attractive in its own right.
A satin with a crepe finish on both front and back is called a “double crepe” satin.
Satin can be made from many fibers, such as silk, polyester and even rayon. Polyester is the most common and most affordable option. It can be made in many weights, ranging from lightweight – suitable for lingerie and evening wear – to moderately heavy. Heavier satins are sometimes called “bridal” satins.
Rayon satin has the softest hand and sheerest drape to it. Silk satin is also quite nice because, hey, it’s silk. Polyester satin can be a bit on the stiff side, depending on the overall weight of the fabric. Polyester satin is your go-to fabric for kids’ Halloween costumes. It’s cheap and it’s washable and kids don’t care if it’s looks like… well, like polyester.
Many heavy satins do NOT forgive pinholes, so be careful when pinning a seam. Make sure your pins are inside the seam allowance, or use clips/clamps instead – first testing to make sure your clamps don’t leave a mark, either!
Polyester satin usually runs about $10 per yard. A pure silk satin will cost three to four times that, depending on whether it’s pure silk or a blend.
Satin looks fantastic and it’s a popular choice for all kinds of costumes. Superhero capes, princess dresses, you name it. But it’s shiny awesomeness can make it a challenge to sew. When you put it down on the cutting table, it’ll slide across itself at the least provocation. A rotary cutter, pattern weights and a cutting mat will be your friend with this stuff.
Check out How to Sew Slippery Fabrics to learn more.
You absolutely must take the time to pre-wash your satin no matter what it’s made of, because there’s almost certainly a chemical residue from the manufacturing process left behind and that can cause skipped stitches when you’re sewing.
Wash it in warm water with a mild detergent and line dry. The same holds true for cleaning your costume, too.
Polyester satin can be a challenge to wear. It’s an artificial fiber, so it’s not going to breathe very well. If you have polyester immediately next to your skin, you’re going to sweat, and it’ll stain. Take what precautions you can, with lining, undergarments and foundation garments. And don’t go dancing in the sprinklers when wearing satin. It shows water spots something horrible and once they’re in, they can be impossible to remove. On the same note, if you have to use an iron, keep it turned down to low and NO STEAM. Use a press cloth if you want to be extra-cautious.
Use a sharp or Microtex needle when sewing satin and cotton thread. If you can find embroidery thread – NOT floss – use that, as it’s lighter in weight than all-purpose thread and gives a more subtle seam. If you’re using a lightweight satin, shell out for a straight stitch foot and a matching throat plate for your sewing machine, to reduce the risk of your fabric getting pulled down into the machine’s guts.