Silk Organza- Underlining and Hubris

Getting a little creative with the camera...

The sewing binge stay-cation got off to a mixed start.  I’m working with a lightweight charcoal tropical wool for a suit.  I started with a Burda pencil skirt to learn how this wool behaves. Later, I’ll move on to the jacket.

The wool is whisper-light, so I thought to underline with silk organza.  Basically, underlining/backing is an extra layer of fabric basted to the fashion fabric for body and stability.  Threads has a great basic primer on the technique.

Like a good sewist, I read Sherry’s guide to underlining with silk organza and poked through my tailoring, sewing and couture books before I settled to business.  I knew I needed to cut the silk a little wider than the pattern pieces, to allow the wool to stretch.  As I laid the pieces on the fabric, I had a brilliant thought- Cut the underlining on the bias!

Of course!  It would allow plenty of stretch across my backside in the fitted pencil skirt!  This is what happens when you’re a “jump in and try new things” type of person.  New Rule: Only try 1 new thing at a time!

Yes, it stretches at the sides, but it pulls up the bottom.  It’s kind of a cool effect, and I might be tempted to “just go with it” except this is the bottom half of my suit!  I want it to look tasteful and crisp, not “interesting.”

Speaking of tasteful, I think this looks like Spanx.  I used the same pattern before, on a medium weight linen.  While the linen skirt is figure-hugging, it’s not quite this revealing.  Perhaps the difference is in the fabrics?  Linen relaxes, wool and organza less so?

The silk pulls A LOT. Too much. No Bueno.

At any rate, I’m not too upset.  I’ll recut the skirt section, and underline it the right way.  I want to lengthen it, and I’ll probably play with the seam allowances, too.  If you have experience working with light wools and have any wisdom to share, I’d really appreciate it.

Edge taped, grograin ribbon, double layer of silk organza.

I am quite pleased with the waist facing.  That’s a grosgrain waist stay, and some fusible bias to crisp the top edge of the skirt.  I raised the original waistline and shaped it, because I need waist definition.

I can’t always account for the ways fabrics behave but I did learn how to better handle the wool/organza combination.   I keep thinking about Fearful/ Fearless Sewists.  Maybe the difference comes down to whether or how well a person can learn from their mistakes? I think that’s a key “bridging the gap” sewing skill.

None of the books said it (maybe they didn’t think they had to) but for the record- Don’t underline a close-fitted wool pencil skirt with silk organza cut on the bias.



  1. Oh you make me laugh. That is just the kind of ‘incident’ that I would have – except more frequently with food that I’m cutting for presentaiton purposes. It has been a long time since I have sewed with wool – the last time was a skirt with two box pleats in the front and a very generic bemsilk lining when I was at uni. Gorgeous fabric, shame I’m no longer that small!

    I hope you have had a fairly productive staycation! I’m really hoping we might be able to get some drafting in after I finish school in December 7!

    • It’s funny you mention that, I often find similarities between my sewing and cooking…

      We can definitely do some drafting then, just let me know what you have in mind and times. Wed-Fri is best for me. (stephc (at) 3hourspast (dot) com.

  2. Thank you for this post. I’ve just finished making a high waisted skirt which I cut down because I was worried it would be too high and I wish I hadn’t as I could do with waist definition. Why didn’t I think about a stay tape? Well at least I know for next time!

    Your S shape post is interesting as well as I’m large busted but have a flat derrier, and no hips to speak of so more P shaped I think, lol.

    Having a lot of aha moments reading your blog. I used to be fearless with my sewing when younger, I can’t believe I used to jump in and go for it, whereas now I’ve come back to sewing I’m fearful. I guess it’s because there is so much information available on the internet which was not around in my youth, and I’m getting technique overload to the point where I’m not sure how to go on, and there’s the fitting of course which is frustrating to say the least!

    • Thanks, Daisy. I’m so pleased that you’re finding useful information. :) I get overwhelmed by the “glut of info” availble on the internet sometimes, when I feel like that I just pick a technique, commit and jump in. Usually it kind of works out… And I learn lots and lots of new things, as well as what not to do. Hope to “see” you again. :)

  3. Oh, I love the waistband.

    I have to say that my brain actually decided that underlining a sticky ponte pencil skirt in nylon tricot would be a good idea. So far, not really! If I had silk at hand, I may have done what you have here… :)

    • I don’t really work with those kinds of fabrics, I’m intrigued. So underlining a sticky ponte with nylon tricot is a bad idea? Should I add it to the rule above? An amendment?

      The waistband is soooo comfy. After I took the picture, I forgot I was wearing it for quite some time. That’s what I aim for with my clothes- comfy enough I can forget them, even my “smart” clothes.

      • Well, the tricot doesn’t stretch lengthwise, but the ponte does. So that’s one problem I didn’t notice (said as I’m picking out the hem…). The tricot also loves to ROLL, and so I will have to get some spray starch before I make anything else with it.

        The skirt has a lovely weight and drape, though. Next time I think I will sew the lining separate and starch it well before I cut it out.

        (I also missed adding the CB seam allowance, so I need to unpick and re-sew the seams!)

        • Do you keep a notebook of things like that? It can be a really fantastic help when you go back to do a similar project… I bet the skirt is lovely! What’s the cut?

      • I’m working on a blog to keep track of my sewing projects. It’s just easier for me to do it online, because I constantly lose sewing notebooks. I found 5 or 6 of them while unpacking the last time I moved! I just don’t feel that it’s going to be a “great” blog, because I’m so slow at completing things! The skirt is sitting there, waiting for me to unpick the seams and re-sew them. I probably won’t get to it today either, because I have a paper to write, an exam to study for, and I’m sick. Bah.

        The skirt is just a pencil skirt with a godet in the CB seam. Because I’m not pegging it, there is a nice “swish” at the hem. The fabric is some random stuff my Grandma received from someone and passed on to me.

  4. Ohhh, yes, I’ve had this problem before …. finally, the fabric stretched out wide, but it shrinks in height … everything is learning and learning errors are also small.
    In another vein, I am very, very happy … Yesterday the postman left my mailbox an envelope and Oh my God! It was your pattern! Thank you, thank you. I am planning to use it soon. You are soooo kind!

    • Oh good, I’m so glad it came! I’m so sorry about the delay… I thought I sent it until I was cleaning my sewing room and found it there. Absent-minded me… :)

  5. Since silk organza is something so far outside my realm of experience that I can’t offer any advice there, I’m just going to wonder aloud if the Spanx factor has to do with the length more than the fit? The other skirt was longer, yes? It may simply look tighter because there isn’t as much of it. Or I may be talking nonsense because its early in the morning and my kids are distracting me.

    • The other skirt had a bottom ruffle. This one will. But yes, there’s the length… I’m definitely widening this sucker, though, I can’t *quite* walk easily and don’t even think about sitting down. ;)

  6. It’s kinda sexy, but I get that wasn’t the vibe you are looking for? :) I wouldn’t underline in silk organza for one very, fit unrelated reason. Silk organza is WARM. It’s crazy warm for a fabric of no substance. It is 5 times warmer than if it were made of wool. So putting it into your tropical wool may just make the experience of wearing it tropical, from the inside, if you know what I mean!

    • Yes, I keep hearing that… It’s kind of “indoors” clothes, if you know what I mean…. In your professional opinion, would you use something more like a fine, smooth cotton voile?

      Re: sexy- I find sexiness works against me or annoys me more often than it’s useful, so I try to only dole it out in small doses. I’m aiming for “creative professional” and not “Pro” if you know what I mean… ;)

      • Had a laugh out loud moment there Steph, I totally understand about the sexy look problem! Lining wise I’d go stretch silk charmeuse because silk has to be better breather than polyester or acetate lining, if you want slippery, non catchy on stocking and legs lining. And the little bit of stretch is useful. If you don’t want any stretch though, habotai or silk cotton maybe? Or voile, definitely makes a great lining if grippiness vs slippiness is not an issue.
        It’s going to be so scrummy!

        • Mmmmm silk cotton… Did not even occur to me. :)

          Due to a long and amusing comedy of errors, I have more silk organza on hand at the moment than I can shake a stick at. Which is fine, I’m not out heaps of money but I figure since I have it, I better use it. I have enough to learn to use it quite well… ;)

  7. Oh, rats! That’s the sort of thing I do all the time, too. Often despite good advice to the contrary. It’s like I can’t really believe something’s a bad idea until I’ve tried it myself and witnessed the problem. /sigh. I’m glad you have enough wool (and patience!) to recut and redo. I think it’s going to be GORGEOUS in the end, and I love the look of the raised, shaped waist.

    • Thanks, that means a lot from you.

      I guess my problem is trying to improve on the way somehthing is done, without trying the “right” way first.. A little lily gilding, sometimes it’s too hard to resist!

  8. I actually thought, “She should cut the silk on the bias!” and then, there it is. Thanks for making that mistake for me.

    Love your waistband & stay. Have you posted this method as a tutorial?

    Lastly, do I see cream with white together on one garment? It’s purdy.

    • You’re welcome. It makes mistakes worthwhile, to be able to share about them. :)

      I haven’t posted this method. I made it up as I went along, then wore it around the house for a while to check for comfort and shape retention. Thumbs up so far, but I’d hate to make a tutorial about something that I later discovered wouldn’t stand up to regular washing and wearing.

      Yes indeed, that’s a little white and cream together. ;) I need to do something to fix the “straightness” of the lace, I may end up trimming it narrower cause it gaps a little bit.

  9. Oh! Such a timely post! I’m currently researching how to do underlining with silk organza for a dress I’m about to make. I’m using Japanese silk brocade fabric that used to be a maru obi and it’s at least 80 years old. While it’s in excellent condition and seemingly has great structural integrity for it’s age, I feel it could benefit from underlining. I was planning on using silk organza, but with one of the comments above about it being super warm, I’m now wondering if I should use cotton instead. Hmmm. I better make up my mind fast – I want to make it in time for a Christmas party!

    • If you live in a colder or even a temperate climate, I’d probably go ahead and use the silk anyway. Especially since the outer fabric is silk as well, I think like fibers used together works well. That obi silk sounds amazing. I’d love to work with some sometime, I know it’s possible to find it if you look in the right places…

      Otherwise, you could always use a smooth, fine cotton batiste or voile. It’s super comfy and I don’t ever have “sticking” issues with my cotton linings (extra tip: edge the lining with lace to gently weight it and encourage the hems to move as two layers…)

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