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….
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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…