Chiffon Basics: While there's no denying that floaty silk chiffon is totally yummy and surprisingly sturdy, polyester chiffon is much more widely available, infinitely cheaper, easy to iron into crisp pleats, and overall easier to care for (no dry cleaning required). Whether silk or polyester, chiffon definitely gets a bad rap when it comes to sewing because of its slippery, sinuous qualities. Fortunately, many expert sewers have developed a slew of tips for taming this bad-girl textile, such as sandwiching fabric between two layers of tissue paper before cutting, so that it doesn't slide around so much. (Chiffon is also available in other fibers like cotton or rayon.)
Pattern Picks: When you choose a pattern, no matter how tantalizing the fashion illustration, be sure to check the back of the pattern envelope for fabric suggestions to make sure that chiffon or a similar fabric is included. Patterns are drafted for specific fabrics and it is important to make sure that your material will work with the pattern. Check with your fabric store clerk before substituting chiffon for another fabric suggestion. For instance, georgette is a similar fabric that is less fragile than chiffon and often can be used interchangeably. For beginners, go with patterns with simple lines and seams. Long sleeve versions are just as floaty and sexy, but can prettily camouflage less than perfect biceps.
Pleats and tucks: Of course, who of us can resist all those gorgeous pleats and tucks we see on the runways? I would never discourage a sewer from tackling a beautifully pleated or tucked blouse pattern, but I would suggest in those cases relying more on hand- than machine-sewing, as you'll have more control of the fabric. With some basic pattern drafting, you can even add pleating and tucking to a style you love. In fact, you can also send a piece of fabric to have the entire swathe pleated before sewing.
Hem and seams: Because chiffon is fragile and frays easily, you will want to take particular care with finishes. Cut fabric on the bias whenever possible to add curve-hugging shape and eliminate fraying. Enclosed French seams will protect raw edges from unraveling, and baby hems and hand-rolled hems will finish this delicate fabric nicely. Lining can be complicated, so either underline with a matching or nude-hued organza (just remember this will give more structure and make it less floaty) or wear a matching or nude-colored tank under your pretty creation. Now you're ready to go Goddess!
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