Silk Charmeuse Cami with wow-factor back

For a simple looking top, this took me a loooonnnng time. However it was an interesting sewing journey and I’ve learnt a lot more about silk! Silk charmeuse is a fabric that demands careful handling and thoughtful sewing – and packs a punch when you finish. It’s worth every minute.

I had originally planned to sew a long, draped evening dress with this lovely amethyst solid silk charmeuse  but I decided that I might appear to be drowning in a purple tidal wave so I decided to sew a shorter dress. I spent eight hours sewing the lined bodice and even though the pattern listed charmeuse as one of the recommended fabrics – I wasn’t convinced. The pleats were just ‘not right’ so I decided to return to the fabric and have another think.

I did what I should have done in the first place – I patted the silk, ran it through my hands and draped it over my shoulder. What silk charmeuse wants to do is drape… and I kept returning to the idea of a slinky cami top to wear with skinny jeans. I wanted a simple but striking pattern. Too often we look for complex pattern details – however the simple fact remains often the simplest shapes and designs showcase a beautiful fabric the best… and Mood Fabrics does have such a magnificent selection…

and I settled on Simplicity 1424….

Simplicity 1424 in silk charmeuse
Simplicity 1424 in silk charmeuse

This pattern is described as a ‘top with back interest’ and recommends ‘silky types’. The back has a dramatic cowl back and the front has an upper layer which provides a double layer of fabric and creates a sweet doubled ruffled/fluted hem effect.

This time I did a few simple things which improved my sewing results enormously – and since this project is all about the fabric I’m going to share a few of those tricks in case you are tempted down the silk charmeuse sewing path.

Simplicity 1424 in silk charmeuse from Mood Fabrics NY
Simplicity 1424 in silk charmeuse from Mood Fabrics NY – I really should have given that side seam one more press with the iron before I jumped in the car and headed to the nearest beach!

FLAT PATTERN PIECES

I used some ‘Crafting Trace & Toile’ – it was from my ‘stash’ I picked it up one day while buying interfacings. I traced the pattern pieces onto the Trace & Toile as if I was cutting out fabric – and created full piece flat pattern pieces. This enabled me to more easily lay out the fabric as a single layer – no cutting on the fold. This technique meant the silk could move around a lot less.

Flat Pattern pieces for sewing with silk - Mood Fabrics
I created full pattern pieces to avoid cutting the silk on the fold.

NO PINS WHEN CUTTING

The ‘Trace and Toile’ is slightly textured and tends to grip the fabric a little. This also negated the need for pins – which I had found tricky with the Vogue 1344 pieces that I had cut… pinning the pattern pieces caused the fabric to shift and slide – very frustrating!

I used some glass tumblers from the cupboard as my weights. This made the cutting process so much easier and more accurate. The glasses are also very heavy and smooth which was perfect for this purpose.

ROTARY CUTTING

I often tell people that a big cutting mat and a rotary cutter is an excellent investment – never more so when sewing with silk! I’ve had mine for years – however Mood does have them in stock if you are considering one!

SEWING SIMPLICITY 1424 IN SILK CHARMEUSE- some tips

The Straps

For the straps I decided to block-fuse a piece of the silk with a very lightweight fusible interfacing. This made the straps a little more stable, lie flatter once ironed and were also also easier to turn. Rather than using the cut edge as a guide when sewing, I used the folded edge – doing this means that your straps will be the same width for the full length of the strap – which I think is more accurate than relying on the cut edge as a sewing guide.

I never use a loop turner, for narrow straps a bobbin pin is perfect. I cut a small slit about 1/4inch down from the end of the sewn tube. I then slide one side of the bobbin pin into the slit and the other into the tube itself. You then gently wiggle the end as begins to turn itself into the tube and thus the right way out. It does take a little patience to get the tube to start to turn but once it does it is quite simple to slide the bobbin pin along the inside of the tube – in the same way you thread elastic through a casing using a bodkin or a safety pin.
Turning narrow straps with a bobbin pin
Turning narrow straps with a bobbin pin

I left off the lingerie slides and made my straps a fixed length. I choose to do this as I think it would have make the straps ungainly and bulky. The silk charmeuse is silky soft and the lightweight interfacing means they lie beautifully flat on my shoulders.

Hems

The hems – I do have a rolled hem foot for my Bernina – however this silk charmuese simply did not want to obey and feed through the foot consistently. So I elected to do the three-step rolled hem manually. It does take a lot longer however there is a great degree of control which I think it great for this type of fabric.

I’ve sewn hems using this technique several times – however if you are new to this – check out the Craftsy Blog’s online tutorial for some help. This is better than the method Simplicity recommends for this particular fabric, essentially Craftsy has you stitch one extra row but the results are worth it.

Seams

I guess you might be expecting that I French seamed the top… ah no I didn’t. The upper front bodice seam is concealed between two layers of silk. I felt the French seam may have created a ridge along the neckline. So I sewed the seam and then sewed another line of stitches 1 to 2mm away from the first row of stitching in the seam allowance. I trimmed the seam and also understitched the neckline.

For the side seams I also double stitched the seam, trimmed and then used my overlocking foot & stitch on my Bernina sewing machine to neaten the edges. Very tidy!

Strap ‘Interest’ Variation

This pattern has fabric straps running horizontally across between the front and back straps. I decided to leave off the front strap, I wanted to keep the front simple in contrast to the rather dramatic WOW factor of the back.

For the back, I replaced the single back strap with a very fine chain, I attached the chain in loops so they fell in waves down my back – mimicking the flowing folds of the silk. I simply attached a metre/yard of fine chain to a jump ring on one of the lingerie circles and then across to another jump ring on the opposite shoulder’s lingerie circle – going back and forwards with the chain loops becoming increasingly longer. I did this with the top lying flat on my ironing board.

So there you have it. A cute little cami with a little bit of wow at the back… in divine silk charmuese from Mood Fabrics NY. If you haven’t tried sewing with this type of fabric – you really should. It feels like water running across your skin.

This top uses just 1.2m or 1.5 yards of 60in wide fabric.

Browse the seductive Mood Fabric Silk Charmeuse range here

Simplciity 1424 with Mood Fabrics Silk Charmeuse

A deceptively simple cami in Mood Fabrics silk with a little bit of WOW

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Comments


  • Fiona
    June 30, 2014

    Beautiful Lizzy! You are so brave to try such a challenging fabric but you really have conquered it! I love how you’ve used the chains across the back too keeping everything soft and drapey

    • Sew Busy Lizzy
      July 2, 2014

      I did think I may have lost my mind for a while but in keeping it simple & letting it be all about the fabric it worked out beautifully in the end!

  • Chris
    June 30, 2014

    just gorgeous!

  • Mary Danielson
    June 30, 2014

    Wow! This blouse is absolutely stunning. The color of that silk is gorgeous and you used it to perfection. What splendid workmanship!

    • Sew Busy Lizzy
      July 2, 2014

      Thanks so much Mary 🙂 it is tricky stuff to sew… however just doing a few simple things does make it so much easier. It’s quite glorious to wear!

  • Rose Britton
    June 30, 2014

    Oh, my! That is lovely!

    • Sew Busy Lizzy
      July 2, 2014

      Thank you Rose – it feels wonderful as well

  • Rachel
    June 30, 2014

    So pretty! I love that purple, but can see what you were saying about it being a little too much for a full, draped dress.

    • Sew Busy Lizzy
      July 2, 2014

      It is a beautiful shade of purple, it’s not too dark or harsh to wear.

  • Amanda S.
    June 30, 2014

    This top is so beautiful! I love the color and the dramatic back. I’ve bookmarked that tutorial as I find tiny rolled hems to be such a pain but that makes them look pretty easy.

    • Sew Busy Lizzy
      July 2, 2014

      Even with this silk the rolled hems were quite easy. I actually enjoy doing rolled hems, the result is great for not too much work

  • Kelly
    July 1, 2014

    Oh my gosh this is just gorgeous! I love the chain detail in the back, it really adds something special to an already beautiful top. I appreciate the tips too as I just bought some really beautiful silk charmeuse and am working up the courage to dive into it. In the meantime I just keep petting it 🙂

    • Sew Busy Lizzy
      July 2, 2014

      Thanks Kelly I wondered if I put in too much sewing detail but I also spent a lot of time patting my fabric & figuring out how to make something out of it – so I decided to share in case it helped others.

  • Sarah Gunn
    July 1, 2014

    Stunning!, Lizzy! Thank you for the many tips 🙂

    • Sew Busy Lizzy
      July 2, 2014

      Thanks Sarah, the chains were a last minute addition – and only took minutes – compared to the hours for the sewing. When I conquer something I like to share – after all if it saves some else googling until their keyboard starts smoking LOL

  • Sallie
    July 1, 2014

    Really beautiful top, Lizzy! I love the cowl drape of the back and the chain detail is so feminine and sexy!! Great job! And thanks for all your handy sewing tips, too!

    • Sew Busy Lizzy
      July 2, 2014

      This would look rather fabulous on you Sallie – especially paired with some of your amazing jeans!

  • oonaballoona
    July 1, 2014

    wow lizzy, that is BEAUTIFULLY done!!!

  • Stephanie Newman
    July 1, 2014

    Oooh, this top is SO nice! I love the color of the silk charmeuse and the style of the pattern. You won’t mind if I just go ahead and copy you, right?

    • Sew Busy Lizzy
      July 2, 2014

      Go for it Stephanie! My mother always said that imitation is the highest form of flattery!

  • Lori
    July 2, 2014

    Lizzy, that top is so stunning. Beautiful job.

    • Sew Busy Lizzy
      July 19, 2014

      Thank Lori – I was nervous about making it but so pleased with the unexpectedly fab result!

  • Ginger
    July 2, 2014

    Wow, this is stunning! Really, really gorgeous work!

  • Peter
    July 3, 2014

    This is just gorgeous — I love the color and the fabulous drape. So elegant!

    • Sew Busy Lizzy
      July 19, 2014

      Shucks – that’s a lovely comment. Sometimes it’s good to take a deep breath and sew something ‘out of the box’.

  • Cennetta Burwell
    July 3, 2014

    Lizzy, you are absolutely gorheous. The top is unique and sexy chic

    • Sew Busy Lizzy
      July 19, 2014

      awww thank you – that put a smile on my face…

  • DebB
    July 3, 2014

    Gorgeous!

  • Michelle
    July 7, 2014

    Hi Lizzy, I agree with everyone. This top is stunning!
    I had overlooked this pattern and want to Ty it now.
    Only thing, is is bra friendly? I absolutely would have to wear one. 😉

    • Sew Busy Lizzy
      July 19, 2014

      Ah no. It’s not bra friendly at all… but you could wear one of those stick-on ones… the front is a double layer so it does help with lumps and bumps.

  • Theresa S
    July 7, 2014

    I love the chain detail on the back. Might have to borrow that idea for one of my own projects!

    • Sew Busy Lizzy
      July 19, 2014

      Excellent – happy to provide the inspiration!

  • CatDoesIt
    July 10, 2014

    So pretty – love the chains in the back, give structure to the drape

    • Sew Busy Lizzy
      July 19, 2014

      I agree, I think without the chains the top could verge on nightwear but the chains give it a bit of hardness and edge.