Silk Blouse


(img from, from purveyor of worm friendly silk)

I have had a piece of blue* silk satin in my fabric pile for about two years. It was purchased at a place called the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse, a source for some other great fabric I picked up on a trip to Oakland, CA to visit friends.

It's been historically difficult for me to identify fabric content on the fly (especially blends) though I've developed a bit of a protocol. The idea of a 'burn test' seems impractical to me, especially since I have fire anxiety. I also have a hard time identifying fabric weaves as well, if its categorization falls anywhere beyond plain, twill, satin, jacquard, and any texture vaguely identifiable as 'crepe'.

So, as far as I can tell, this blue fabric is made of silk, and of some sort of satin weave.

Silk satin is, among contemporary sewing circles, notoriously hard to work with. Stories abound of slippage, pins falling out willy-nilly, over-pressing, spotting, etc.

I had an okay time. As far as keeping things positioned and cutting on the grain, I give myself an A-. Practicality aside, silk satin feels simultaneously precious and sturdy, which makes working with it fairly arousing, associations with lingerie aside. It links you to a history of fine garment making, though it also seems oddly utilitarian in its historical duration as a material.

A few things that turned out well: Despite a tendency for slippery fabrics to curl and pucker, I was able to press construction into submission with few negative effects. This is the work of a good iron (or, as suggested earlier, a fabric containing hints of cotton and/or rayon).

Also (as pictured above) I was able to create some nice smocking, despite the pillowy nature of the fabric. I used one of my new favorite tricks to stay the smocking: Using a piece of the fabric's selvage as a coordinated stay tape.

Here is the blouse, semi-finished. The big blue** bow came from a mixed bag of ribbon scraps purchased at the nefarious Sturbridge Antique Textile Fair. The pattern used is the top half of a Butterick dress pattern from the early 1940s. Our next installment will be on the evolution of this particular garment, from idea to object.

Future installments may involve discussion of subjects contained herein. If so, this article will link to those articles once created.

*blue in this case refers to what is loosely defined by Wikipedia as the following: Air Force, Blue Gray, Cadet, Cornflower, Dark Pastel, Glaucous, Moonstone, Steel, UCLA. This collective color identity best defines the blouse fabric. This reminds me of a project I participated in with artist Benjamin Austin involving conversation conducted to manifest a color sonically and dialogically. I would like to include this work in a future post.

**alice, powder, periwinkle, etc.