Skirt Failure: 6 Tips for Sewing with Sheers

by Kelsey Norwood

in Crafts,Sewing

I found a free skirt pattern that I’ve been dying to try with some chiffon and it was a complete failure. See how the side seams are bunchy?

AAAGGG! All that work…not exactly wasted I suppose. Cutting the fabric out was much more difficult than I had imagined, but the sewing was a disaster.

Next time I’ll do some things different:

1. Use a smaller and new needle (size 70 is good).

2. Have a new machine or at least one that has really a good and responsive tension dial. This was my main problem – my machine is old and unrepairable and the tension dial doesn’t work. Grrr.

3. Use a presser foot with a flat bottom – the standard foot is usually flat.

4. Use a smaller than average stitch length (2 instead of 2.5).

5. Try a walking foot if you have one so that both layers of the fabric feed through the dogs evenly.

6. TEST FIRST! Experiment on a little scrap of fabric before sewing the side seam of your actual skirt.

I will make this skirt work, even if it means I have to get a new machine. I will conquer sheer!

For now I’m going to try the side seams again and maybe take off the fitted waistband and sew some wide elastic there instead. I think it will distribute the gathers more evenly and hopefully look a little more full.

And then I will make an under skirt and wear the darn thing to church!

I have some more yellow polky dot chiffon that I’m going to use and try the pattern again. Hopefully I can get it right the second time!


1 angel April 19, 2012 at 1:20 pm

good for you for trying! I am scared spitless of anything but cotton!

2 June April 24, 2012 at 9:45 am

Dear Kelsey,

The problem is your sewing machine. There are not to many sewing machines that sew chiffon well. I happen to be a sewing teacher and all my students sew on Pfaff sewing machines. These are the best machines out there because they have a built in walking foot and will sew chiffon or denimn with not problem at all and no puckering. Go to your local shop and bring a bunch of sample fabrics along (including a scrap of the chiffon). I promise you, you will be amazed. Happy sewing and thank you for your wonderful blog.


3 Yvonne August 25, 2013 at 9:11 am

I have a 45 year old (!) Elna Super, and it sews thin fabric like chiffon amazingly well, without the help of a walking foot. You can still find these old Elna’s on Ebay for a small price. The problem is often to get the seam started, it helps to sew along a small peace of drawing paper (put it under the fabric) to get the seam started, without having to pull half the fabric out of the machine. You can tear the paper away carefully afterwards.
Yvonne (Netherlands)

4 Katie M September 2, 2013 at 8:25 pm

I just made a maxi skirt with a similar fabric. I learned that you can snip along the edge, and tear the whole thing instead of cutting. Then it’s definitely straight and you don’t have to deal with all the issues of scissors. We serged most of the hems and used a brother sewing machine that’s only a couple years old. I thought that snip and rip tip might be useful to you though.

5 stella t August 24, 2014 at 10:45 am

Take this extra step…..use sheer iron on….only only it is easy to cut, sewing is just as easy….and cos the sheer iron on is so light, it does not affect the look.

6 Tania Hansen February 26, 2015 at 10:09 pm

I Sew with a lot of chiffon due to my daughter’s love for the stuff. First- if you can afford silk chiffon, it is wondrously easier to work with.
Second- Pin, pin, pin, the along seam line so that the point of the pin
faces away from you. Take the pins out as you sew along.
Finish the seams with a french seam or a false french seam wherever possible to prevent fraying.
Third-gently pull the fabric starting with the threads so that the fabric won’t get sucked into the machine. Continue gently pulling the fabric from behind the presser foot at the same rate it is being sewed. This will help with puckering.
Fourth- press all seams carefully as you sew them.

Hope this Helps,
Tania in Boise

7 Clare March 17, 2015 at 11:01 pm

I can recommend sewing tissue paper in with the seam and then tearing it out, or I often use painters tape instead of pins and then pull it gently off the fabric at the end. The tape stabilises the fabric and allows you to use a tension that would work for a stiff cotton.

8 Cindy April 6, 2015 at 7:39 pm

If you pull slightly front and back as you sew, it will keep your seam stretched enough to avoid the problem you had. It takes a little practice but it will work. Even if you have an old machine.

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