Chiffon: The Goddess of Drama

Chiffon stopped being intimidating once I understood it was a little drama queen, and it needed to be handled sensitively. By sensitively, I mean thread tracing it by hand to paper tissue in order to stabilize its slippery and shifty nature. Not even Mood Fabrics can cut chiffon straight. Look how the fabric was cut and delivered by Mood.

Look at the massive pattern piece below. It’s not the largest piece I’ve had to work with, but I need to cut and seam 7 of these!

Each piece was 58” x 32”. That’s a total of almost 34 feet of chiffon.

The thought of cheating crossed my mind the entire time I was standing there tracing by hand, but I’ve learned a hard lesson from making so many previous mistakes. The more effort I put in in the beginning, the less effort and headaches I’ll have later.

So I traced 7 panels by hand.

It took an entire evening of carefully sewing together the 7 panels. It was like trying to handle a delicate king-sized quilt under a tiny 430 Bernina sewing machine. I’ve machine quilted a king sized quilt before, which gave me the technique and emotional fitness to handle so much fabric.

Luckily, there are no major problems to report.

Here’s some good news: no hemming! This is because the pieces will be folded in half. Brilliant!

Did you miss the casual instruction above?

“Gather skirt by hand so stitches are 1/2“ long and 1/2“ apart.”

More hand sewing, only this time the stitches must be spaced apart with precision.

I measured, folded, and gathered. While adjusting the gathers on the dress form, the gathering thread snapped and all my work came undone. Imagine my horror to see 34 feet of chiffon on the ground!

No crying over spilled chiffon. Time to re-mark, trace, and gather for the 3rd and 4th time. This time, when I started over, to prevent spilled chiffon and to take the pressure off the gathering thread from the weight of all the fabric, I pinned the panel to the dress form, then measured and gathered using 1/2 inch spacing on the dress form.

As expected, even with 34 feet of fabric, the skirt looked limp.

It doesn’t really look like the illustration. We didn’t go through all this chiffon drama just to have a limp skirt in the end. So I decided to build a petticoat underneath before permanently attaching the skirt to the underbodice. This is done so the gathers are spaced proportionately around the newly-created silhouette. I’m not sure how many layers I need to be happy. I began building to find out.

Just one layer, surprisingly, added nice volume. Excited, I wanted to see what 2 layers would do.

Do we stop here or add another? Why Not.

As you can see, the underpinnings of a dress can make or break the entire look. Now its time to adjust the gathers and permanently attach the skirt to the underbodice.....all done by hand of course, to keep true to the spirit of couture.


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