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After careful preparation (see previous posts here and here) your silk is now ready for cutting.
First of all, you have to find the grain and make sure it is straight. To do so, first of all straighten your selvages. I usually align my selvage with the edge of the cutting table. Very often the fabric is cut on an angle, but with very fine and slippery fabrics it can be hard to notice. To make sure your cut edge is straight, pull a single thread out to make a “snag”. Then trim your fabric along this snag to get a perfectly straight edge.
Now to the layout
First of all, single layer only. I know, it doubles your work, but double layers can and will shift, ALWAYS. So save your fabric and your nerves and cut in single layer.
Make sure your single fabric layer is laying flat. Bubbles on fine and very patterned fabric can be tricky to see, so to check I run a ruler over it (just gently slide it over the fabric). You’d be surprised how often I find a bubble or two.
Here is a tip – when you are laying out your silk, close that window and switch off the fan.
A gust of wind will lift the fabric and you’ll have to start over again.
There are a couple of methods to ensure your fabric does not shift while you are cutting it.
- A grabby underlay. You can use a piece of corduroy, wool, velveteen or something like that as an underlay. Simply cover the cutting table with a nappy fabric (nap up), lay out your silk and cut. This underlay will stop silk from shifting. Wool even sticks to silk with static – finally a good application of static! This method is good if you are using scissors.
- Tissue layers. Lay out the silk on a sheet of tissue paper, put another sheet on top and cut all 3 layers as one. Silk between the sheets will not move. Good for rotary cutters.
- Double sided tape. I have never used this method. It involves putting bits of sticky tape on your pattern and then sticking it to your fabric. Be careful with the sticky residue!
Personally I prefer the first method, because I use scissors and loath a mere thought of cutting any paper with it. Also I don’t like waste (such as two layers of tissue paper). Call me weird, but no waste is a major brownie point.
Pin or not?
If you insist on using pins, pin in seam allowances only, because pin holes will be visible and often permanent. Use the sharpest pins possible or even better, forget the pins altogether and use pattern weights. I noticed that no matter how careful you are, you will shift the fabric while pinning it.
When you are marking silk don’t use chalk. First of all, you won’t get a good line. You’ll drag all the fabric with chalk, ruining your perfect layout. Save it for denims and tweeds. For fine fabrics, use water soluble or vanishing pens.
Draw the line very lightly making sure the fabric does not shift. Also, test your pens and make sure they indeed vanish before making any bust dart marks and such. If in doubt, use tailor tacks instead.
Now I am going to reveal some shocking insider info. Often I have to mark a very patterned silk and no marker shows well enough. In these cases I use a silver Sharpie.
Silver shows on EVERYTHING. Also, silver Sharpie is forever, ladies and gentlemen, so make sure your layout is final and cut off the sharpie line when cutting out. Don’t you dare marking bust dart points and buttonholes with it, outlines only.
Small parts are an absolute murder to cut out accurately. For these kind of jobs I highly recommend block fusing. Block fusing is when you interface a piece of fabric first, and then cut it. Your life will become infinitely easier, because interfaced silk is a completely different beast. Your cuffs and collar stands will be lovely and straight.
Test your interfacings, as only the best ones can be used on fine fabrics. Make sure the glue doesn’t come through to the right side and your interfacing doesn’t show through. Nude coloured interfacings are the best.
Do you know the secret trick that can help us work with silk? Do share!
Image sources: www.cafleurebon.com, www.blogforbettersewing.com, modestlyostentatious.com, oliverands.com, www.dickblick.com