by Shannon Gifford
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Silk charmeuse is pure luxury. It is soft, elegant, and surprisingly versatile. Charmeuse is a medium weight, woven silk with a lustrous appearance, rather like the surface of a pearl. And like the pearl which it resembles, it is an elegant classic!
Handwash in cool water with a drop of baby shampoo, rinse several times, lay flat to dry. Dryclean if preferred.
Needles and thread:
Use the smallest needle you can see to thread. I like a size 10 quilter’s needle, as the point is very sharp. Silk thread is a luxurious option for construction; if you cannot find silk thread, use cotton embroidery thread. Cotton embroidery thread is fine in texture, but strong enough to handle construction of this beautiful fabric.
If you prefer a fusible, use the lightest weight you can find. Look for Silkweight, Touch of Gold, or other super-fine fusibles. By far the best interfacing for charmeuse is silk. Use silk organza for those areas that need a bit of crispness. Use a layer of self-fabric for those areas that need interfacing but need to retain a soft hand.
Seams, seam finishes, and hems:
Shorten your stitch length slightly for construction; if you normally use a 2.5 length, shorten to 2.0. For seams on the bias, use a zigzag stitch (2.0 length, 1.5 width) to allow the fabric to maintain the stretch of the bias. Seams will require finishing, as charmeuse ravels. The best solution is to use a French seam for construction. Stitch the first seam with wrong sides together at 3/8”. Trim to a scant ¼”, press the seam open, then turn right sides together. Stitch the second pass of the seam ¼” from the fold of the original seam. This enclosed seam is elegant, clean, and classic. If you prefer to use a machine stitched finish, keep it light. Use a 2 thread overlock seam on the serger, or trim the seam very closely and zigzag over the edges to finish. Hems are best done by machine, and should be as narrow as possible.
Blouses, dresses, evening wear, bridal wear, skirts, tops, tees, scarves, and upscale lingerie.
Pintucks, lace applications, beading, multiple topstitching, bias cuts, ruffles, and ruching all work well with charmeuse. Test your desired surface treatment on a scrap before committing to a full garment; you may find that small doses of embellishment are all that are needed to make your garment special.
Charmeuse can be slippery. To control the personality of the fabric, lay it flat over a layer of tissue paper to cut out your pattern. Use weights or silk pins, and cut through the paper and the fabric at the same time.