The sound of satin brings to mind glossiness, luxury, and softness. There is no end to beautiful things being made and sewn with satin – wedding dresses come foremost to my mind, not to say luxury lingerie.
Many people confuse silk with satin. Silk is a natural product but Satin is not. Another frequent mistake people make is thinking of satin as a fabric type alone. Satin refers to the weave which makes the fabric which is also known as satin.
Many fabrics made of satin weave may not be satin. Examples are Sateen – A cotton fabric woven in satin weave; Venetian cloth – a woolen cloth made in satin weave.
What is a satin fabric made of?
I always thought of satin as a certain fabric type just like cotton and silk. Now I know it is a fabric made with fibers of silk, cotton, wool and even synthetic materials like polyester and acetate woven in a particular fabric weave which creates the silky smooth texture. Once upon a time, the satin fabric was made only with silk fibers but not anymore. Addition of synthetic fibers like nylon has made satin affordable to people like me.
Basically speaking, it gets its glossiness from its weave rather than the fibers. The weave of satin with minimum interlacing between fibers creates the famous smoothness and glossiness.
What are the different types of satin fabric?
Satin is available in many weights, as well as qualitities. The many different types of satin available in the market –
Antique satin – A heavy dull lustrous satin fabric; this fabric is woven with uneven (slubbed) yarns resulting in a textured finish.
Baronet satin – Very smooth satin found in many bright colours. It is very lustrous. It has Rayon yarn in the weave.
Canton satin – Soft heavy Satin with a ribbed texture (crepe finish) in the back
Charmeuse – A lightweight satin which drapes very well; it is very clingy and has an attractive luster on the surface (but dull on the backside)
Duchess satin – A heavy stiff satin with not much shine. It is used in making bridal wear
Crepe back satin – One side satin and one side crepe so can be used with either side
Hammered satin – A textured satin
Messaline – A lightweight satin
Panne satin – A stiff satin which is very glossy
Slipper satin – Satin with a cotton back
Panne satin – fabric with super luster
Slipper – Lightweight satin with cotton on the reverse.
Characteristics of Satin
The most important characteristic of satin is its ultra smoothness. The fabric has a dull back.
Generally satin is drapey but Not all satin fabric is drapable. There is very stiff satin as well so when buying fabric online check the drapability of the particular satin you are buying. The smoothness also may differ. If you are making a dress get a swatch and compare smoothness and drape before buying.
Water staining is a characteristic of satin cloth. Hence if you use the fabric to sew dresses in summer you should be prepared for some staining where you sweat
The fabric cut edges frays a lot.
The surface is prone to snagging so it is difficult to maintain the soft smooth surface of satin – so you can say it is high maintenance.
Caring for satin
Satin is not your everyday fabric. If you want a hardworking fabric you had better settle for cotton. If you want to sew clothes with Satin you had better take care of it the right way. Most satin clothes come with the label – Dryclean only. If there are designs embossed on satin these designs may fade with constant wear.
One problem many faces with satin is the appearance of water spots. Donot use water spays when ironing satin. It is always better to press satin from the wrong side.
Some inexpensive satin may have broken small fibers on the surface which look unsightly, especially after a wash. Handwashing the satin clothes inside out may prevent this from happening. (Checkout the post on proper handwashing of clothes)
Marking & cutting Satin
Satin is one fabric which calls for a muslin first before making the final garment. It may be very difficult to rectify mistakes in sewing satin. If you have sewn a seam wrong and has to resort to ripped stitches, this will mar the look of the dress, as the soft smooth surface of satin will show the stitch marks prominently. I know from experience that picked seams look horrendous on satin.
Cutting satin fabric is a challenge for even the hardened sewist. It will try your patience like no other fabric. The slippery nature of the fabric makes it difficult to keep it position on the surface. Make sure the surface also is not slippery. Keep pattern weights. Cut single layer only always. If you cut in two layers, the layer underneath will/may definitely shift and you will have a different sized piece.You cankeep paper underneath and cut together with the paper. The crispiness of the paper will give some stability to the fabric. You can use rotary cutter and mat also.
Having very sharp scissors is mandatory when cutting satin. Getting yourself a serrated edged scissors helps greatly. These scissors have tiny teeth-like grippers that hold slippery fabric as you cut without slipping. Their blunted points prevent snagging of fabric.
Marking satin. The smooth surface of satin will smudge and smear the chalk lines and you may find it is permanent. Also as it shows water staining marks prominently if you try to remove chalk marks with water you may get very ugly looking water spots. Marking on the dull side of satin is the solution.
Use pattern weights instead of pins wherever possible. Where you have to use pins, use sharp silk pins; I would pin only within the seam allowances – satin shows pin marks clearly.
Needle and thread used for sewing satin
When sewing satin you have to use very sharp needles. Microtex (sharp) needles work very well especially for thin satin which may snag with regular needles; otherwise a lightweight standard universal point needle would do. A walking foot / even foot is said to be the best for use with slippery fabrics.
Buy cotton-wrapped polyester thread, or a lingerie thread for sewing satin fabric.
How to sew Satin
Satin frays a lot. But thankfully it doesn’t fray on the bias. So if possible cut on the bias. Also if you cannot cut on the bias, leave wide seam allowances and do not forget to finish the fabric edges. I sometimes apply fray check immediately as soon as I cut. French seams also work very well, as the fabric edges will be well hidden. Satin dresses are usually lined so that will take care of a lot of frayed edges. Interlining also gives some weight to the fabric.
Use a short stitch when stitching satin seams. Keep the fabric taunt with your left hand as you are sewing satin, as the fabric may disappear into the needle plate. It is a good idea to test the tension and pressure and stitch length on a test piece first before trying on the final garment . Some also use thin paper under the fabric when sewing
You should also choose a needle plate with a small single hole – I dislike it when satin disappears into the machine. If you have the zig zag pressure foot on your machine change it with a straight stitch pressure foot for sewing straight seams on satin.
On necklines you can use stay tape if you are not using lining . Stay stitching is mandatory to avoid stretching
Pressing satin on the face of the fabric may cause shine marks – so press on the wrong side or if you are pressing on the face of the fabric, use a pressing cloth.
For everyday clothes, satin is probably a poor choice – I can think of the perspiration stains on satin dress armpits as the number one reason. Then other reasons like how it snags easily – and even a simple pin mark remains, like forever. But as an occassion wear fabric, the lustrousness of satin fabric is exceptional.