marlene.jpgYou know how once in a lifetime you meet someone who tells you something, shows you a new way, or teaches you a valuable lesson that always sticks with you?  Well, I had the privilege of such an unforgettable life lesson.  After qualifying  as designer I worked as assistant designer in a clothing factory in Cape Town.  The owner, who was also the head-designer, always said:  "Never blame the fabric for poor quality!"  And boy, did this stick with me! Twenty-two years later, here I am, head of my own design college, and I often hear those words from my own lips.

If seams on satin fabric pucker up, don't say:  "But this Satin fabric does that", because my reply to the students is simply that you haven't even tried.  You haven't applied all the speciality sewing tricks. 

Unfortunately many a customer just loves satin dresses, be it fashion of the day or not.  Satin sells.  You can bet on satin dresses parading any red carpet, and you can double that bet on the fact that most of these will proudly display a puckered seam.  I see satin dresses with puckered seams in display windows of top design houses.  And yet I am not willing to simply accept that it is the fabric's fault.

Over the years, I advised students not to use satins in their graduating ranges, but denying them the experience (or the struggle) is not the answer.  So, now I am sharing with you my satin sewing tips which has been compiled from trial and error and input from experts.

How to sew a perfect satin seam

puckered.JPG•    Before the sewing even starts, look at the design and how it will be cut.  Satin dresses should not have too many seams, especially not too many vertical seams that will fall on the warp (length grain) of the fabric.  Seams on grain pucker more easily than seams that fall on the bias.  Where you do however have vertical seams that will fall on the warp, cut your pattern on weft grain, (cross grain) so that the vertical seams do not fall on the warp. 

•    Know your machine!  Use a small, single hole throat plate which prevents the fabric from being swallowed into the machine.  Try a narrow straight stitch foot or a flat-bottom presser foot may help.  Adjust the pressure on the pressure foot (if your machine has this function)

•    Use a wider seam allowance, in order to move your machine needle to the far left, as to provide support on 4 sides.  Left, right, front and back

•    Hold the fabric firmly on the front and back, not pulling, only firm enough to support the fabric, keeping it a straight angle when guiding it through the machine

•    Use a sharp universal needle with longer stitch lengths

•    Loosen the top tension on machine

•    Change the characteristic of the fabric in this stitching area, by fusing the seam allowance and the stitching line with a soft fusing.  If your seam allowance is 1.5 cm, your fusing strip should be 1.7 cm

•    Test your seam on an off-cut fabric piece, where the seam falls on the same grain as your cut garment. 

•    A puckered seam will not stop puckering after pressing.  Test all of the above methods.  Do not rush a satin seam.  Testing actually saves time, because after you have tried to 'fix' a puckered seam with pressing, you will surely find that pressing is not the answer, leaving you not choice to unpick the seam, and start from scratch. 

Marlene Oostehuizen is head of the North West School of Design.

Add your comment (5)
written by onan81, December 08, 2010
thank you for these tips !!!
written by LiseM, December 04, 2010
Thanks for the tips!Will be using them the next time I work with satin.
Please continue on forwarding your lessons learned smilies/smiley.gif
written by nwsd, December 02, 2010
Hello Strawberry Thief.

glad to be of help. good luck with your range. I would love to c it.
written by Strawberry Thief, December 02, 2010
Awesome tips thank you so much. I will be incorporating a lot of satins in my range and can sure use all the advice I can get.
Thank you

smilies/smiley.gif smilies/smiley.gif smilies/smiley.gif
written by Angie, December 01, 2010
Another tip: stay stitch your seams then hang the dress on a figure form for 24hours - that way the natural stretch will present itself before you commit to a seam line (especially if you are cutting on bias)