Here is the information from my research as well as from the meet-up:
There are several methods to stabilize sheer/fluid fabrics. Each is suitable for different requirements.
For fabrics that are washable, a good method is to saturate the fabric with a solution of 1 part laundry starch to three parts water then hanging the fabric to dry.
Prior to wetting the fabric, pull a couple of threads from one raw edge to establish the true square grain; pin and match this end to ensure the fabric’s squareness.
(Do this before wetting it; it is much more difficult to line up layers of wet fabric.)
When hanging the fabric to dry, make sure to keep the square end evenly matched.
I fold the length of fabric in half and dry it on a hanger, spreading a towel on the floor to catch the dripping starch.
When the fabric is dry, probably overnight, it will have quite a bit more body and more stability.
Another alternative is Sulky Solvy, a water soluble stabilizer.
And a really cheap alternative worth trying is a solution of corn starch in warm water; you will need to experiment with proportions of each. I’d be interested in hearing about your results.
For fabrics that cannot be washed in water, I tried Sulky’s “Totally stable” iron-on tear-away stabilizer. This stabilizer is about the weight of light fusibles. Apply it to fabric as you would a fusible.
Again, pull a thread from a raw edge to determine squareness, pin the fabric to the stabilizer, then apply heat.
The stabilizer seems just a little too heavy to sew through, but I imagine it’s doable.
You can simply peel the stabilizer off of the fabric when ready; it leaves no residue.
And, the great part about this stabilizer is that it’s reuseable! You can “fuse” it to fabric multiple times. Of course, once you have cut out a garment with it, you will no longer one whole rectangular piece so you will need to do some “patching” for subsequent uses. Use scraps of the stabilizer as pieces of “tape” to patch bigger pieces together.
- Finally, for fabrics that cannot be washed or that cannot take a lot of heat, or are too light and gauzy, sandwich fabric between two layers of tissue paper 1.
- Use “microtex/sharp needles” which has thin shaft and sharp point. For instance, Schmetz Microtex/Sharp Needles. The thin shaft and sharp point these needles are more fragile and need to be replaced more often. They are good for high thread count fabrics such as silks and microfibers.
Use fine sewing machine needles for silk: size 60/8 or 65/9.
American sizing 8 9 10 11 12 14 16 18 19 European sizing 60 65 70 75 80 90 100 110 120
- Information on needle types:
- Use needle point types H-M, H, or HJ.
- Information on needle sizes:
- Selection of needle: use 60, 65, or 70 needles 1.
Thread: with 70 needles, use regular polyester thread; with 60 or 65 needles, use embroidery thread, which is finer.
Use polyester thread, which stretches slightly (cotton thread does not) 1.
Use fine pins or silk pins. I use Clover’s “patchwork pins” which are very fine: 0.016″ (0.4mm) diameter, 1.4″ (36mm) long.
By comparison, Dritz #21 pins are 0.027″ diameter. Dritz #44 pins are .035″ diameter, which is about twice as thick!
- craftstylish.com has a page with lots of tips on working with silk, as does denverfabrics.com.
- Interface with silk organza 1.
Use a “baby seam”. This page has a very good tutorial on sewing a baby seam. This page has a couple of pics of baby seams in black chiffon: pic 1, pic 2.
The same “baby seam” technique can be used in a “baby hem”:
- Stich 3/8″ from edge, fold on stitching line & press
- Stitch again about 1/16″ from fold, trim raw edge as close to second stitching line as possible, removing about 1/4″.
- Fold on second stitching line and press.
- Stitch again 1/16″ from folded edge.
The Threads April/May 2003 issue has a seam technique for sheer fabrics in an article by Kenneth D. King.
- Overlap pieces (right side to wrong side) and stitch together.
- Fold one seam allowance over on the stitching line and stitch 1/16″ from it through all layers.
- Fold the other seam allowance over (in opposite direction) on stitching line and stitch 1/16″ from it through all layers.
- Zig zag a satin stitch over the stitching lines, covering them.
- Trim off both seam allowances close to stitching line; trim thread whiskers with an electric razor.
youtube video, “Mastering Silk with Sandra Betzina”: Helpful Hints for Sewing With Silk