How To Guides

Working With Silk Dupioni

It seems like silk dupioni is nearly everywhere these days. Which is a very good thing - not only is it beautiful, but it's also relatively easy to work with. If you haven't tried working with this lovely fabric yet, let me share some tips that might make your sewing experience more enjoyable.

Silk dupioni is created by weaving a fabric with fine silk yarns in the warp direction, and slubby, thicker silk yarns in the crosswise direction. The slubby yarns are created when two silkworms spin their cocoons side by side. Silk shantung is very similar to dupioni; the difference being that shantung is generally finer woven than dupioni.

Dupioni Fabric Care: When choosing a silk dupioni fabric, not all are created equal. Some fabrics are woven more tightly, or with finer yarns than another. The dyes used to color the fabric may also vary. This must be taken into consideration when choosing how to care for your dupioni fabrics. The finer woven, more expensive silks often hand or machine wash much more successfully with less change in appearance than a lesser quality fabric. Bear in mind that washing any silk not only creates an opportunity for color loss (washfastness varies quite a bit depending on the dyes used), but also change the hand of the fabric. In the table runners above, the fabric was relatively tightly woven and the fabric was actually machine washed and dried prior to construction. It lost some of its 'body' becoming softer in hand and slightly in color, but was still acceptable. Having prewashed the fabric, I know I can continue to wash it without concern. But there have been instances where I have handwashed a dupioni fabric and regretted it. Always test first if you think you will want to wash the item. Otherwise, dry cleaning is a much safer alternative.

Project Selection: Dupioni lends itself well to home decoration projects or garments that are structured or tailored. It does not usually drape well; this may change slightly after washing but do not expect it to ever be a 'fluid' fabric. If using for quilting, use a wider seam allowance. 1/4" seam allowance is not sufficient for dupioni; it frays easily in the crosswise grain direction and therefore needs wider seam allowances to prevent seam 'slippage'. For garments, avoid trimming too close to the seam and consider using seam finishes that add strength and stability, such as flat-felled or French seams.

Tools: As with all silks, dupioni can cause tools to dull. It is important to use sharp shears or rotary cutting blades. I have silk fibers permanently imbedded into a cutting mat from using a dull rotary blade. Likewise, use very fine silk pins for pinning. Microtex (or Sharps) sewing machine needles are strongly recommended, and you may need to change the needle before finishing if you are doing a very large project. If you start to hear a 'popping' sound when the needle strikes, it is dull and needs to be changed. Use a smooth, high quality thread; polyester, mercerized cotton (smoother and stronger than regular cotton thread) or silk can all be used. Standard stitch lengths are generally acceptable. If you have any puckering (unlikely), keep the fabric taut while sewing.

Silk dupioni truly is a joy to work with when you understand its unique characteristics. Pacific Fabrics has a great selection - give it a try!


Back to blog