Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Tips for Sewing with Chiffon


Chiffon has a bad reputation as being one of the most difficult fabrics to sew with.  Chiffon is a lightweight, sheer fabric made from polyester, cotton, or silk. It is slippery, shifty, and frays very easily.  However, I have some tips for you so that sewing with chiffon is no longer a challenge.  If this is your first time sewing with chiffon I suggest using an easy pattern with few curves and minimal seams.

The following topics will be covered in this tutorial:

  • Prepping
  • Cutting
  • Sewing
  • Hemming


Supplies needed:
  • Chiffon Fabric
  • Small universal needle - size 9(65)
  • Plain Gelatin (enough for ¼ cup)
  • Bucket or tub large enough to cover fabric with water
  • Thread for fine fabrics (polyester, silk, or mercerized cotton; sometimes sold as lingerie thread)
  • Rotary Cutter and mat OR scissors and tissue paper
  • Pattern, iron and pressing cloth, sewing machine, and/or serger
  • Wonder Clips or Fine Pins
Tips for Prepping Chiffon:
The single most important tip I have to make Chiffon less challenging to sew is to first give the fabric a gelatin bath. This makes the fabric stiffer to sew with, resulting in less shifting. Once the project is finished, a quick hand wash removes the gelatin and the fabric returns to its normal drape and texture.
To give the fabric a gelatin bath, fill a bucket or tub with warm water and add ¼ cup gelatin.


Stir for 2 minutes so gelatin dissolves.


Add fabric and make sure to submerge.  Then push out any large air bubbles, and stir the fabric around for a minute to ensure the gelatin is being distributed in the fabric.


Leave to sit for at least 30 minutes (I let mine sit an hour just to be safe). After the soak time has ended remove the fabric and place on a bathroom towel. Roll the towel up carefully to remove some of the moisture from the fabric.


Do not twist or squeeze the fabric because it will remove the gelatin; we just want to remove some of the moisture. Then place fabric to dry on as flat a surface as can be found.


When the fabric is dry it is ready to be cut.

Tips for Cutting Chiffon:
  • Use a cutting mat and rotary cutter
  • Use pattern weights instead of pins (I use tuna cans). If you must use pins, use pins for fine fabrics and pin only in the selvage.
  • Cut pattern pieces as a single layer, cut nothing on a fold.
  • If using scissors, place tissue paper under the fabric as well as the pattern tissue paper on top to create a sandwich (as seen below, however you will want to cut through all three layers at the same time). This helps stabilize the fabric while cutting.

Tips for Sewing Chiffon:
Set the needle stitch length to 2mm or 12 stitches per inch. This is a short stitch length that should be used for lightweight fabrics.

Use wonder clips instead of pins to hold fabric together


Instead of sewing a reverse stitch, hold the ends of the loose thread toward the back of your machine when starting to sew.  Then tie the ends of the string in a knot to lock the first and last stitch.


If the machine tries to eat the fabric, slip a strip of tissue paper under the fabric while sewing. It can be torn or washed away when finished and keeps the fabric from getting pulled into the needle plate. Also, if you have a straight stitch needle plate and/or straight stitch foot, use them. 

Sew seams with French seams because serged seams can be seen from the outside of the garment.


Press from wrong side of fabric, use a pressing cloth and no steam. The temperature should be a low setting such as for synthetics.

Tips for Hemming Chiffon:
Before marking hems, let garment hang for 24-48 hours in case the fabric grows. 

There are a few different ways to hem this light fabric.  My favorite way is to sew a rolled hem with my serger.  I strongly suggest using textured nylon (or wooly nylon) in the upper looper because as you can see here it makes a much nicer hem. 


A narrow hem  can be achieved by hand sewing, using a narrow hem foot with a regular sewing machine, or using Ban-rol. 

Ban-rol can be used to achieve a flawless narrow hem with a regular machine.  Recently I found a tutorial by Oliver + S that explains this technique.  In the most simple of terms, sew a frayed edge of the ban-rol to the bottom of the fabric, flip it away from fabric, sew, flip to wrong side and sew again, remove the ban-rol by pulling out the frayed edge and what is left is a beautiful narrow hem.
When finished with your project, a quick warm hand wash with a little detergent will remove the gelatin and return the fabric to original. Chiffon garments should always be hand washed and laid flat to dry.


Chiffon can be used to make a wide variety of garments such as lingerie, infinity scarves, blouses, and breezy jackets.  Do not be discouraged by this lovely fabric, follow these tips and sewing with chiffon can be relatively pain free!

For my project I used View D from McCall's 7200.  I made the size XS and modified it to fit my 9 year old.  After a quick tissue fit, I found I had to remove 1.5" from the height between shoulder and waist (over the bust area).  I also shortened it to the cutting line for views A,B,C. Perfect fit. It took 1 yard of Chiffon.

 I also combined the back panel with the side panels before cutting so the back is 2 pieces (yoke and bottom) instead of 4 pieces (yoke, 2 side panels, and center back panel).  I tried my best to match up lines where seams met.  Can you see the top yoke below? :)

Here is the inside view.  French seams make the insides look just as nice as the outsides.

Thanks for taking the time to read through my tutorial.  I hope you find some helpful tips for your next project.  This is my entry into Week 3 of FabricMart's Fabricista Fashion Challenge.  Head over to the FabricMart blog and see everyone's entries (during the day sometime on Wednesday, September 30th).  Don't forget to vote for your favorite!


  1. Well now isn't she lucky!

    Great tips and a perfect result!!! One day I shall give chiffon a try again :)

    1. Thanks Nakisha! It was totally manageable after the gelatin bath :D

  2. Wow! This is a fantastic tutorial. I read every word and it is so complete and thorough. I learned so much more than I knew. I love, love, love the fabric and what you made with it. I am going to have to get this pattern too because one of my girls would live in this for sure--it is so her! I will be referring back to this tutorial when I make it. Good Luck on the challenge!!

  3. Hearing so many horror stories, I was scared to attempt sewing with chiffon. This tutorial makes me feel like I can do it and be successful.

    1. Thanks SewNewbie! It was much easier to sew when the fabric became stiff :)
      You can do it!

  4. Great tips! I have some chiffon and will definitely refer back to these tips when I find a project for it. I love sewing with french seams too - it makes the inside look so nice!

    1. It does make the inside look so nice, and wasn't much extra work! Thanks Elizabeth!

  5. I love your daughter's kimono and thanks for the great tips!

  6. Beautifully clear tutorial and flawless finished garment. I want one! x

    1. Thank you Philippa! It wasn't too hard to make; I kind of want one now too!

  7. Excellent tips, Kristin! I usually steer clear of chiffon because it's so tricky. I will be coming back to this next time I find one I like!

    1. Thanks Gail! I usually stay clear of these types of fabrics too! lol. The gelatin was the most beneficial step in sewing with it though.


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