What is SATIN ? Tips on sewing and caring for the fabric

what is satin

The sound of satin brings to mind glossiness, luxury and softness. There are 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 maynot be satin. Examples are Sateen – A cotton fabric woven in satin weave ;Venetian cloth – a woolen cloth made in satin weave

What is satin fabric made of ?

I always though of satin as a 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 way 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?

There are many different types of satin available in the market –
Antique satin – A heavy dull lustrous satin fabric
Baronet satin – Very smooth satin found in many bright colours. It is very lustrous.
Canton satin – Satin with a ribbed texture in the back
Charmeuse – A light weight satin which drapes very well; it is very clingy and has an attractive luster 
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
Ribbed satin
Slipper satin – Satin with a cotton back

Antique Satin -Heavy Satin with a dull texture

Panne satin – fabric with super lustre

Slipper – Lightweight satin with cotton on reverse. 

What are the 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 are 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 diffcult 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 comes with the label – Dryclean only. If there are designs embossed on satin these designs may fade with constant wear.

One problem many face 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 donot 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 hate 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 shiny marks – so press on the wrong side or if you are pressing on the face of the fabric, use a pressing cloth.