Have you ever sewn with silk Crepe de Chine? I had not. I wasn’t even sure what it would feel like, but the name sounded very delicious. As part of my sewing journey, I like to learn about all types of fabrics, so I decided to order some real Silk Crepe de Chine from Fabric Mart.
Since we are going into fall, I wanted something in a deep rich shade, and couldn’t decide between a deep periwinkle and a deep teal, so I ordered two yards of each. The teal was sandwashed, whereas the periwinkle wasn’t, so I was curious as to what the difference would be. While I was waiting for it, I went to the J.Crew outlet that is nearby because I knew that Fabric Mart also carried some polyester crepe de chine from J. Crew, and I wanted to compare it to see if there was enough difference in quality to warrant the price difference. The polyester version sells for $6-$7 per yard, whereas the silk version sells for $20-$25 per yard.
When I got my order, I could definitely tell the difference from sandwashed and non-sandwashed, and the polyester type. The sandwashed silk crepe de chine had much more texture- a little pebbly and seemed heavier. The non-sandwashed was smoother, but both of the silk fabrics still had an interesting way of absorbing and reflecting light. Compared to the polyester crepe de chine, they were softer and richer feeling. It's hard to capture this quality in photos, but here is one that kind of shows the light reflection:
I could tell that this was going to be a challenging fabric to work with, so picking out a pattern with simple lines was going to be important. I wanted to make some simple tops that could be worn to work with either skirts or pants, and I tried out a few patterns with some inexpensive fabric to make sure that I would get a good fit before cutting into the good stuff.
I decided on Butterick 6187. It was a slip-on style, so I could skip buttons or zippers, with a nice v-neck for wearing necklaces and an interesting hemline. This is one of the Connie Crawford patterns that advertises modern ready to wear sizing, and sure enough- I made a large straight out of the envelope with no alterations, and it fit wonderfully. I didn’t have to do any of the adjustments that I normally do. After making this, I immediately went out and bought all of Connie’s other patterns that are still in print! Here's a peek at the construction from the inside. The facing is caught in the shoulder sleeve seams to hold it in place.
Working with the crepe de chine was easy- it didn’t roll, took pressing well, and didn’t stretch out of shape. However, it does have some downsides- wherever you touch it, it will wrinkle, and you cannot hide any mistakes that you make with it- little tucks or waves show up prominently. I’m generally not a very precise sewer, but with this, I had to take my time, and be super careful.
It also does show water spots. I started out using steam in my iron, but then saw a couple of places where the water had dripped from the iron, that were still visible even after it had dried, so I turned off the steam for the rest of the way. Working with a print would have been way easier. I am a little concerned about perspiration stains with these, so I found this interesting article online about how to get perspiration stains out of silk which uses cream of tartar and aspirins of all things!
To transition these to cool weather, I tried them on with a few cardigans. This cardigan is using a Fabric Mart knit from last year that had a Missoni-type weave.
I didn't make the grey cardigan below, but you might recognize the fabric that I used from my pants in this picture from this post about the convertible skirt.
I'm excited that I learned about a new fabric, and got some great new tops in the process. I will probably be hand washing these in cold water with a drop of baby shampoo for future care.
If you are thinking about trying silk crepe de chine, I would recommend starting with a simple design, and go slowly. Definitely fit your pattern by making a muslin out of a cheaper fabric before you start sewing with the real stuff. When you are sewing with it, make sure your sewing area is clean and dry so that no spots show up inadvertently.
Do you have any tips on working with silk crepe de chine? Do you have experience working with the polyester crepe de chine as well? If so, please share!