Wednesday, October 24, 2012

It's a Labour of Love: The Saga of the Silk Dress

Readers, how do you pre-wash your fabric? I usually wash mine in the machine and then hang it outside to dry. I've learnt that this has actually been a mistake.

You see, a while ago I bought some lovely navy silk with silvery-ivory polka dots. It was on sale for $14/m from The Fabric Store during one of their 50% off sales. I saw it and immediately saw myself in a Gabby dress, swanning around in the summer with cute sandals. 

I pre-washed my fabric, cut the pattern out and then sewed the entire dress, including lining the entire thing. While I was cutting out, I noticed a white-ish line going across the silk but thought it was just a bit of dust from the clothesline. 

Readers, it was a line sun-bleached into my fabric from being hung outside. I now hang all my fabric inside. 

I was more than mildly devastated as I had grown quite attached to this frock, so I unpicked the entire dress and sewed it back together with the marked side on the inside. Did I mention I did french seams on every seam? 

Anyway, I now have a lovely unmarked silk frock for spring and summer:

These pictures were taken outside our new house. The previous owner was an elderly woman and the gardens are just beautiful. Lovely backdrops for photographing my sewing projects! Plus Little M loves going around picking little bouquets which we put in vases, jam jars and jugs .... whatever is around!


  1. It IS a lovely dress! But egads, unpicked all those french seams? That takes commitment! I also prewash and hang on the line outside - I may need to reconsider where I hang my washed fabric to dry from now on. Thanks for the warning.

  2. Gah how annoying after all that work... but it looks beautiful so well worth the effort. I'm usually too lazy to hang fabric outside to dry - I stick it in the dryer but will remember your tip. thanks.

  3. Lovely dress (minus the line!). Extra points to you for unpicking it all and sewing it back together. I would have shoved it to the back of the wardrobe and pretended it didn't exist...

  4. Rachel,

    One thing you can NEVER do is dry silk in sunlight! The harsh sun streaks and bleaches the silk. Silk must always be dried in the shade and preferably indoors. In fact I even dry black linen indoors, our sun is just too harsh! Not to mention the bleaching agents in normal washing powder.

    Always wash silks with a silk/wool wash and dry inside, in summer the dry in no time at all. Plus the silk washes replace the natural oils in the silk yarn and keep it soft.

    If washing a silk print with red, pinks in the colourway, test a piece first to check it doesn't run, as these cols are usually hard to keep colourfast. These may need to be dry cleaned. But if it's a piece dyed silk in red or pink it should be ok, just make sure you wash it on its own. Not all silks wash well, duppions, organza lose their stiffness, but I don't mind that. Georgettes shrink quite a bit and go all crepey and more opaque also nice, but must be prewashed before cutting. Silk crepe de chine is the best to wash!

    But always dry in doors - in fact if you like your garment and want to keep it looking great longer, always dry indoors!


    Ps sorry for comment overload!!!!

  5. Forgot to mention (most important) it's recommended to wash test a piece to check for colour running or shrinkage . Like calico/muslins, it's a pain in the butt and takes more time, but saves you disappointments later.

    that's it :)

  6. Def worth the effort. I guess I'll think twice about my own pre-washing.

  7. Sometimes I don't even pre wash my fabric! All that extra effort was worth it, it's a beautiful dress.

  8. Wow, I salute your effort! It was well worth it though to save such a pretty dress!

  9. Very cute and worth it! Having said that I can't believe you had that much patience!

  10. Oh no that must have drove you batty, but end result totally worthwhile. I wash all my delicate fabric in woolwash, like Colette has said above. It's funny sometimes how the fabric reacts to the washing though, it can turn from the nicest drapiest fabric to a stiff board!

  11. So glad to see the silk was saved!!!! :)