It’s been a while since I last posted an entry in the silk series — it had to be put on hold for Spring Quilt Market coverage, but now it’s back! Today, here’s a guide to some of the more common lightweight, sheer silks, just in time for summer. I still have a few more types to cover, and we still need to talk about sewing techniques. Which you’ll really need for these guys — they’re some of the most challenging fabrics to work with.
Batiste – plain weave, tightly woven, lustrous surface, made with fine yarns. On the little sample I have, I noticed that it’s sheer when flat but just the slightest bend makes it opaque. Not widely available online. About $9 per yard.
Chiffon – a looser plain weave, very thin, ethereal, and drapey, sometimes labeled “gauze” though true gauze uses a different weave (the leno weave). Some kinds of chiffon have a crinkled texture. (I have a J.Crew dress made of crinkled chiffon, and I can attest that the crinkly texture is not destroyed by ironing.) Widely available in a range of solid colors, prints are available but harder to find. $8-17/yard.
Georgette – a sheer, lightweight type of crepe fabric. Crepes usually plain weaves made with alternating plied s- and z-twist yarns, which adds strength, reduces luster, and lends a pebbly or crinkly texture. $7-14/yard.
Habotai (or Habutai) – plain or twill weave silk that is shinier and more lustrous than chiffon and georgette, but more loosely woven and lighter than batiste. The name originates in Japanese but the fabric is produced in many countries. $8-10/yard.
Organza – another plain weave, only this one is very crisp, almost wiry. It made me think of silkscreening fabric, which in turn made me wonder if this is the type of silk that originally put the “silk” in silkscreening. One of my older screenprinting books says to use organdy if you cannot afford the more expensive “bolting silk.” All About Silk* notes that organdy is often confused with organza, but technically organdy is a cotton fabric. $10-14/yard.
*The swatches in the images above were included with All About Silk: A Fabric Dictionary & Swatchbook (Fabric Reference Series, Volume 1) by Julie Parker, which also served as a general reference for this article and series.