Monday, October 28, 2013

#6 - FabricMart Choice - Polyester Chiffon Panel Print

(Sorry that this post is later than usual. I had other things I had to get done over the weekend and I didn't get this post written up Sunday night, as I usually do. I do work full time, so I had to squeeze in the writing of this post around work on Monday.)


Rules for Challenge 6

Using the fabric we have selected for you, challenge yourself by making a unique garment and working with a material you may not have used before to create one well-made garment. You can use a pattern of your choice to construct your garment.

You will be judged on creativity, functionality, craftsmanship, and fit.


FabricMart sent each contestant the same fabric. Two panels of a polyester chiffon striped panel print. I hung it from my front porch so you could see the whole thing.

A Challenging Challenge

This challenge was definitely my most challenging challenge. I am not afraid of sewing polyester chiffon (and, in fact, I used it last week on the first version of the vintage dress), and I love stripes, as a rule. But the colors in this fabric are just not my colors and this is not a fabric that I would buy for myself. It would look completely out of place in my closet.

Dyeing the Fabric

What I really wanted to do was to dye the yardage. I took a piece of the fabric, some Kelly Green iDye, and a stainless steel cooking pot to see what would happen.

Wow, iDye is an interesting product - this was my first experience with dyeing polyester. You dissolve the two "flavor" packets in water, toss in the fabric, and cook for 30-60 minutes. The instructions say to stir often, but they don't say to stir constantly.

I learned some interesting things:

  • The fabric turned solid green almost immediately. (A very pretty solid green, I might add.)
  • I found that I *had* to stir constantly. If I stopped stirring for a few seconds, it was like cooking tomato sauce. Huge bubbles would erupts, sending jets of hot dye all over the stove, on my floor, and narrowly missing me.
  • It produces an acrid odor that smells quite toxic. I guess it takes heavy chemicals to dye polyester.
  • Even though I turned the heat down to the lowest setting, dangerous bubbles continued to erupt.
  • I decided that cooking it for 10 minutes was enough. (I didn't want to keep dodging jets of hot dye or stirring constantly for another 20 minutes.)
  • Ten minutes *was* enough. The fabric was colorfast, even when I washed it in the washing machine.

Once the fabric was dyed, I liked it much better. I even liked the hand of the fabric better. I was sorely tempted to dye the entire yardage, but I was pretty sure that the judges wanted us to use the panel print, so I resisted. (But it was not easy for me.)

I had chosen the kelly green dye because I thought it might complement the striped fabric, and it did. I decided to use the dyed fabric as an accent.

The dyed fabric alongside the striped.

Taming the Fabric

To tame the polyester chiffon, a notoriously wiggly and uncooperative fabric, I used a Palmer Pletsch product called Perfect Sew.

Perfect Sew is some great stuff! The instructions tell you to lay the fabric down and to spread the product over it. I did *not* want to do this. This liquid is gelatinous and I did not want to get it on my cutting table. Instead, I put the fabric into a bowl, squirted the Perfect Sew on, and "tossed" the fabric like it was a salad until it was evenly coated. I squirted on additional Perfect Sew as needed. My hands became very sticky, so I am glad I did not get this on my cutting table.

Coating the stripes with Perfect Sew
Coating the dyed green fabric with Perfect Sew

By "tossing" the fabric, I got very good coverage with the gel. I then hung the yardage over the shower curtain rod to dry. I smoothed it as much as possible as it hung from the rod. Once it dries, it has a "crisp" hand to it. It is very much like sewing on organza, rather than chiffon. Organza is not an "easy" fabric to sew either, but it is much more manageable than a squiggly chiffon.

Out of sight of the camera, I am holding the fabric away from the rod.
See how rigid it is?
Nice and crisp.

Once you have completed the garment, you wash it and it returns to it's previous soft state. The instructions say to machine wash, but I washed it in the sink with warm water, changing the water a couple of times, and swishing it thoroughly. I then laid it in a towel, and rolled it up to remove the excess water. I then hung the top on a hangar, again from the shower rod, to dry. It dried very quickly and required only a light pressing to remove some wrinkles.

Original fabric on the left. Fabric treated with Perfect Sew on the right.

I highly recommend Perfect Sew, though you can't use it on garments that can't be dipped in water, such as on a lining for a tailored wool jacket.

The bias neck binding. Treated with Perfect Sew, the bias strip holds a crisp pressed edge.
The strips for the front bands, also treated with Perfect Sew

Choosing a Pattern

I did not want to make another dress. I rarely wear dresses, and I've made three dresses in the last three challenges, so I decided to make a top. Inspired by some RTW tops, I decided to use the stripe horizontally and to use the solid green as contrasting front bands.

After a lot of dithering, I settled on a Sandra Betzina pattern. This pattern includes a top and a skirt, and I had made the skirt last January. I liked the top, but hadn't gotten around to making it. And then, at Pattern Review weekend last April, Sandra Betzina wore a top made from this pattern and I quite liked it on her. After PR weekend, a sewing friend made the top and it looked great on her.

Both of these women are "normal" busted, I might add.

(A little foreshadowing here.)

I decided to use the stripes in the panel print on the horizontal. This meant that I would have to match the stripe at center front and at the side seams. Matching this stripe is a bit challenging, as it morphs as it travels across the panel. Some stripes change width, and meander, or even just "pop" to a new location.

Cutting out the back

This top has a very interesting sleeve design, as you can see in the following picture.

From from V1333. You can also see my vertical only FBA (I did not need width) and the shirttail hem that I added.

The side seams are sewn, all the way up to the top point. That "petal" shape of the pattern becomes fabric that bunches up under the arm, gracefully, one hopes. The top part of the petal, where the scissors are positioned, is left as an unsewn slit and becomes the sleeve opening.

So cool, in theory, but so awful on me.

In my case, the fabric bunching up under the arm made my boobular area look completely out of control. The slit for my upper arm was just big enough for my arm with no extra ease, making it look like a pasta machine was extruding my arm.

Not pretty.

So I had to make some changes. I unsewed the side seam beginning above the bust and I left the rest of it unsewn. This created the "flutter" sleeve. I trimmed it up a bit and then hemmed it, using teeny tiny hems. I left the original slit in place, and hemmed that with teeny tiny hems.

The resulting sleeves are much better for a busty person with fuller upper arms.

Trimming the seam allowance from the hem, before the final fold that encloses the raw edge.
Completed sleeve hems

Alterations and Modifications

I used my normal Sandra Betzina pattern size - a C. I made the following modifications:

  • A 1" vertical only FBA, so there are side seam darts.
  • I omitted the waist darts.
  • I added the shirt tail hem to front and back, copying the one from the Grainline Archer.
  • I omitted the front facings and the back neck facing.
  • I finished the neckline with a bias band.
  • I finished the front with narrow bands, cut from the dyed chiffon.
  • I modified the sleeves (as described in the previous section).


Except for the issues that surfaced with the sleeves, the construction was pretty straightforward. There were a lot of teeny tiny hems to sew. I showed the technique in my post for challenge #5, but here are a couple new pictures.

Cutting the seam allowance from the bottom hem
Both sides of completed hem

More Pictures


Vogue 1333


  1. Beautiful stitching! I am going to have to give Perfect Sew a try! Good job getting through this one ;)

  2. That's a hard one for sure. Good luck.

  3. Exquisite narrow hem -- congratulations.

  4. A good job with some problem fabric. Thanks for all the product tips. I especially like the back view and those toned arms!

  5. I gave a gasp of admiration when I saw those tiny hems. and the bias binding with no straggly threads. Wow! you *did* tame the beast! Yup, I think that you reached FM's objectives of using "a material you may not have used before to create one *well-made* garment."

    Great job!

    Rose in SV

    Well done!

  6. Ps. anxious to hear your thoughts on the new Vogue patterns!

  7. I bow at your feet...truly I do...because that is one beautiful blouse...made from one onerous fabric. I'm going to have to remember Perfect Sew. I need some of this is my notions stash! I have learned something new from each and every one of your garments and this one is no exception. Good luck in the voting!

  8. I've never heard of Perfect Sew and wish I'd known about it sooner!! I had a super hard time with this challenge. To be honest I totally hated this print. But i got through it. I think you did a great job with the challenge!!

  9. You are doing such amazing work. This is such an interesting post and your top is very cute.

  10. Beautifully sewn! This style suits you and the kelly green accent was a great idea as it introduces a colour you would wear as well as being a lovely contrast in keeping with the stripes. Lots of great tips too :) bravo!

  11. You have done very well with a challenging fabric. Polyester, sorbet colours, and vertical stripes are probably the three biggest crosses in my fabric book. Well done.

  12. This was a hard one, but you pulled the rabbit out of the hat and came up with a great piece. Fingers crossed!

  13. Brava, brava, Sharon! What a save of a less-than-ideal fabric! Your "teeny tiny" hems are incredibly fine and beautiful. I love the contrast of the dark green and your "restraint" in using the dyed fabric. I already have ordered some Perfect Sew for when I need it...thanks so much for introducing so many of us to this sewing aid.

  14. Well done!!! So clever to dye a chunk of it, and so lovely to make such teeny and perfect tiny hems! And such a good re-design of the fluttery sleeve! Really, excellent fashionista work!!

  15. You pulled if off. Great job.

  16. Completely impressed with your creative make on this one...

  17. Polyester chiffon?!? You are truly a miracle worker! I would have started crying and given up in frustration.

    By the way, I was dying a pair of cotton gloves green this past week with a new-to-me dye (Tulip liquid dye, since Michaels was out of RIT) – how is that for synchronicity!

  18. This is beautiful. You have some amazing skills. Really nice work!

  19. SO impressive on so many levels! Thanks for all the great tips you've been giving - great info!

    I can't imagine anything more unpleasant in the sewing realm than having to work with challenging fabric in colors, style, and feel that I dislike - major kudos to you for pulling it off so beautifully - amazing save!

  20. You put so much work into your projects, you definitely deserve to win! I really like the finished garment and actually think it suits you. As you have red tones in your hair the green and brown look very natural and flattering. I know I would wear this a lot if I had made it! I liked the pattern when it came out but I am glad you mentioned about the 'boob' effect. I have recently started following your blog as I have had a surprise increase in assets of late and I was googling to see how to cope with fitting the situation. I am so glad your blog is here, to help with my style/shape dilemmas!

  21. Once again, you came up with a winner! I was waiting to see what you would do with this fabric. This top is fabulous. Can't wait to see what's next in this great challenge. Good luck.

  22. Another winner, Shams, using a difficult fabric so you continue to get my vote. Thanks for the tip using Perfect Sew.


  23. Ahhh! Smart idea to dye some of the material! I did not even consider dyeing! I hope you are working on the next challenge already, you are surely going through with this top. It's well made, hangs so nicely on you, and it DOES suit you quite well. I am so curious about Perfect Sew now... it gives such perfect results. I'll keep this tip in my sewing vault, thanks for sharing.

  24. Interesting challenge. I voted, of course.

    V 1378, the Donna Karan pants, are PERFECT for you. You have the legs for it. DO blog about it when you make this one. Notice I did not say IF, just WHEN.


  25. You work FULL time? You're kidding, right?

  26. Fantastic job constructing this top. Your hems are incredibly even and tiny! And the style looks great on you. A winner, in my opinion!

  27. What Laury said!!

    Shams, I am totally in awe of your knowledge and your courage - your willingness to try anything! Good luck.

  28. I could have used that Perfect Sew on this project. I absolutely detested this fabric. You picked a good pattern for it though, and I actually like your flutter sleeves better than the original pattern sleeves. My experience with iDye was that it really dyes dark. I understand totally your desire to dye the whole yardage.
    The next challenge should be a fun one for you!

  29. I came to this post by following several links to get to the Perfect Sew, and I must say I'm impressed and want to try it. But more importantly, that top is so flattering on you! The green complements your hair and coloring and the horizontal stripe looks so slimming! Who would have thought! And your workmanship is very precise and beautiful.

    1. Thanks, Cynthia! Actually, that was the top that got me kicked out of the competition! LOL. I didn't care for it on me, but I appreciate the kind comments! I do like Perfect Sew, however. :)