There are all types of “satin” fabrics out there, and many of them are well-suited to hand embroidery.
Satin, just to make it clear from the start, is a weave. It doesn’t refer to the fiber make-up of the fabric, but to the weave of the fabric. Satin fabric (unless it’s double-faced) is normally dull on one side of the fabric and shiny on the other.
Good satin made with natural fibers will often have a nice body to it – it’s not slick, limp and slippery. Rather, it’s a little stiffish, but “buttery” in a way. Smooth, easy to cut, substantial – it just feels good.
Silk satin, cotton satin (or sateen), and some natural fiber blends (silk / cotton and silk / wool) in satin weave are all suitable for hand embroidery, and all of them have one thing in common that you might want to be aware of before you start working with them:
They roll and shed.
The cut edges of most satin fabrics tend to roll up, making it a little more difficult and fiddly to mount satin fabric on an embroidery frame. They also tend to shed wispy bits of thread that can catch in your embroidery.
Today, I’m going to show you a quick cheat for working with fabrics that have a tendency to roll and shed on the edges.
Here’s my satin fabric. This is a silk / wool blend, in a champaign-gold. It’s a beautiful fabric – substantial, with a gorgeous hand (it feels So Nice!), and it cuts beautifully. It also takes stitches really well. You can see some examples of this fabric in use with embroidery here.
I’ve cut a piece of the satin out, so that it is at least an inch larger than my embroidery frame on all sides.
The fabric itself is at least three inches larger than my stitching area on all sides. It sounds like a lot of waste (six inches wider and six inches taller than the design area), but the excess is necessary for at least two reasons:
1. The excess allows plenty of room to frame up the piece for stitching, while still allowing enough room inside the frame for comfortable stitching. There’s nothing worse than an embroidery frame that’s too close to the embroidery. You end up not being able to manipulate your needles next to the edge, or get little scissors in where you might need them, and so forth.
2. The excess allows plenty of space for finishing options – mounting for professional framing, sewing into items, and so forth.
You can see here how the edges of the satin curl up. This is right after cutting. Over time, it will curl a little more. Depending on your the type and weight of the satin, the edges may have even more curl. On some silk satins, the edges will curl into tight little rolls.
Taping the edges of fabric is not something new. I don’t do it on long term projects, but I do use tape on short term projects.
For long-term projects that may be on the frame a while, or where the waste won’t be cut off for a while, there are more labor intensive approaches that work for taming curling edges.
For example, using a machine, you can sew the edges of the fabric to twill tape before mounting it on stretcher bars or onto a slate frame. I prefer this method if I’m going to be working on a project long-term, and especially if I’m going to be using a slate frame.
But for quick preparation for short-term projects, low-tack masking tape or low-tack painter’s tape comes in really handy.
First, I cut the tape just a little longer than the length of the edge of the fabric I’m covering.
I lay the tape on my table (usually on my cutting mat, so I can keep things nice and straight), with the sticky side up.
Then, line up the edge of the fabric nice and straight, leaving a half inch overhang of exposed tape, and, pressing from the center out to the outside edges along the length of the tape, adhere one edge of the fabric to the tape.
Next, fold the remaining exposed tape up over the edge of the fabric, finger pressing it to the fabric from the center to the outside edges.
Do this all the way around, trimming excess tape off the corners.
Next up – tacking! There’s a handy dandy tool set for tacking fabric to stretcher bar frames, called E-Z Tack It – if you use stretcher bar frames often, you should invest in one of these tool kits! It makes tacking and untacking super-duper easy.
I’m using Evertite stretcher bars. They’re my go-to stretcher bars, and over the years, I’ve collected them in pretty much all the sizes available. I’ve been using and re-using them (and re-using them again) for a long time, and they’ve been utterly worth the investment.
Tack the fabric onto the frame, working from the center of one side of the frame out to the edge. Return to the center of that side of the frame and tack out to the edge. Tack right through the tape!
Then repeat with the opposite side of the frame, and then with the other two sides of the frame, pulling your fabric taut as you tack, but not warping it. It won’t get really taut until you tack the final side of the frame.
With the Evertite frames, you can then tighten the corners (as explained in this tutorial on setting up an Evertite frame), and your fabric will be….oooooooh. Perfect for stitching!
And the edges of your satin fabric will not shred and will not curl, because they’re all taped up! It’s a great little method for quickly neatening the edge of your embroidery fabric for short term projects that are mounted on stretcher bar frames.
As always, you’re welcome to ask questions or make suggestions below!