Sandwashed Silk
by Shannon Gifford
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  • Sandwashed Silk

    Silk is the "queen of fabrics". It is soft, supple, and elegant. Nothing else feels like silk! Silk is a classic fabric that is available in several weaves and textures. Sandwashing is a process by which the silk is treated to give it an even softer surface texture, almost suede-like in feel. This fabric is incredibly soft, has a matte surface, and drapes beautifully.


    Silk responds best to hand-washing in cool or cold water. Use baby shampoo, just a drop, as the cleanser. Rinse the fabric several times and lay it flat to dry. Some silks can be machine washed in the gentle cycle; test a sample of your silk before sewing to see if this is right for your fabric.

    Needles and Thread:

    Sandwashed silk needs a sharp needle. Use the needles marked "quilting", as they are the old-fashioned "sharps". A size 75/11 is the best choice for sandwashed silks. Use cotton, cotton/polyester, or all polyester thread for sewing sandwashed silk. If you have access to silk thread, it would be a beautiful, elegant choice for your silk garment.

    Seams, Seam Finishes, and Hems:

    Standard seams, medium length stitching (2.5) are fine for this fabric. Hems can be done by machine or by hand. A variety of seam finishes work well in this fabric. Try French seams for an elegant finish. A 3 thread balanced serged seam finish works well. For the most beautiful finish, bind the edges of your seams with thin bias strips of silk.


    Use the lightest weight interfacing possible. I like So Sheer or Touch of Gold for use with silks, if I plan to use a fusible. Use a press cloth when applying fusibles to silk. For a sew-in interfacing, use silk organza, prewashed cotton batiste, or a third layer of the actual fabric cut on the bias. If you need a crisp collar or cuffs, use polyester organza. Cut two layers of the poly organza on the bias and baste them together. The synthetic organza has good body for interfacing soft fabrics.

    Pattern Suggestions:

    Blouses, dresses, pants, lightweight cardigans, tees, tanks Draped details work beautifully in this fabric.

    Creative Possibilities:

    Many of these fabrics have a beautiful selvedge which can be used as a trim. Cut the fabric 1 inch or more from the selvedge edge and insert this selvedge in seam allowances as you would use piping. Sandwashed silk is beautiful when smocked. Use small glass beads to connect the pleats in your smocking for a beautiful treatment.

    Additional Tips:

    A straight stitch presser foot and plate will be a valuable tool for working with this fabric.

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