Laying out, marking and cutting sheer silk chiffon, organza and other “slippery” fabric


How to cut chiffon, slippery fabric, sewing with silk, sewing tips, sewing techniques, learn to sew, sewing chiffon, sewing basics, how to sew chiffon.


Chiffon can be difficult to work with because of its lightweight and slippery texture. In this article I want to show you how to cut chiffon without problems (well, almost without problems). It is actually “how to cut sheer fabric” because cutting chiffon fabric ( or cutting silk ) is no different than any other sheer material. You may also want to refer to my article “How to cut fabric perfectly straight” which may be very useful in showing how to cut sheer fabric straight.


But first a few words about chiffon…

A girl in a chiffon dress … What does she look like? Delicate, fragile, airy, feminine. A dream girl. This exciting image is inspired by a fabric of rare beauty for which poetic comparisons to a butterfly  wing may not even be exaggerated. It’s not for nothing that the costumes of the heroines of historical films and fairy tales are made of chiffon or organza. These materials are practically weightless and it seems that a person dressed in it hovers over the vanity and frailty of the world.


Designers and stylists create truly magic with this fabric, using it alone or in combination with other materials. Recently, it even became fashionable to combine chiffon with knitwear and ( surprise ! ) leather and fur. Chiffon is also versatile: in combination with satin, it makes clothes elegant, ideal for an evening out. And for everyday wear chiffon can also be combined with dense fabrics: denim,  cotton, linen.


Chiffon is well draping, you can use it to hide the superfluous and to emphasize the truly beautiful. It is important only to assess yourself honestly (with a critical eye), and then it becomes clear which zone to give the will of transparency. And it is very important to decide if it is advisable to use chiffon on its own or combine it with other fabrics.


Light flowing dresses, skirts, blouses, tops and especially scarves – all are good candidates for chiffon. Another common usage for chiffon is in accessories, such as brooches, hairpins,  flowers. Chiffon is a frequent visitor to fashionable catwalks, it is used in many designer collections. The fabric is universal, the clothes from it will help to hide shortcomings and emphasize the winning sides. Women of different shapes, age and wealth love and choose chiffon.

Cutting out slippery chiffon fabric can be almost a nightmare. You can’t use pins to stabilize the fabric for cutting because they will leave holes in this delicate fabric. You can’t cut it on fold because the fabric will move and shift and you will lose the grain line easily. And you can’t easily mark the fabric with chalk or a disappearing ink pen because the fabric will shift as you can see in these videos below. And we didn’t even start sewing chiffon !

I think what any sewist dislikes the most about sewing garments from silk chiffon is cutting out patterns. But the cutting-out-pattern stage can be almost painless if you practice these tips.

First, place the fabric in one layer on the table. Put selvage parallel to the table edge and use a masking tape to keep the fabric in place. The tape will not leave any marks on the chiffon after you take it out and the fabric will not shift while you are marking the pattern edges. It is better to cover all sides of the fabric piece with the masking tape if your table is big enough. Or you can cover 3 or even 2 sides with the tape if your fabric is bigger than the table. But in this case use weights to keep other sides from shifting. The weights are not as effective as the tape though.

Arrange the pattern over the fabric but don’t use pins, as I said these may permanently destroy the fabric. You can use weights to keep the fabric and the pattern together. I usually use stone figurines, they are highly polished and will not snag or stain the fabric. Of course any heavy object that will not damage the fabric is equally good, from canned goods to heavy tools ( clean tools ! ). I do not like to use wood objects around my fabric unless they are fully varnished because any imperfection in the edges may generate splinters and that is a no-no around delicate fabric.

Next step is marking the fabric from the pattern. I use mostly a disappearing ink pen for this, sometimes soap or chalk, depending mostly on the color of the fabric.

For cutting always use the sharpest and best scissors you have or can obtain. In fact investing in an excellent pair of scissors is a must if you are serious about sewing. 

I use Gingher and Fiskars for lightweight fabric but you can use whatever good scissors you have. The subject of scissors merits probably an entire article but any scissors you use should be sharp, feel comfortable in your hand and should cut the fabric with ease. If you feel resistance or difficulty when cutting some fabric it probably means the scissors need sharpening / replacing or you are probably tired. 

Also I never use my good scissors for any other purpose but cutting fabric, some people say there is no harm in cutting paper also but I also see no harm in keeping around a cheap pair of common scissors for paper. 

And here is an affiliate link for my favorite Fiscars scissors .You can buy them in this online store

I like very much these Fiskars scissors

I also like very much to use these Gingher scissors for cutting silk chiffon. You can buy it here (an affiliate link)


My favorite Gingher scissors





I have mentioned the “you are tired” here: I never cut out patterns when I am tired or distracted and I usually try to finish the cutting phase in one session. An error at this stage can be expensive in time and fabric lost or even impossible to repair if the fabric you have is just enough and there is no reserve to fix a cutting error.

Now I want you to see my Instagram post (it wasn’t about cutting chiffon though, it was about cutting out fabric). Just a little bit of humor.

Measure twice, cut once

The cutting table is also very important, the table has to be high enough to allow you to comfortably work and large enough to hold a piece of fabric on it. But not too large because you will need sometimes to go around the table to reach some corners.

Mark darts, notches, right and wrong side, top of piece (if necessary) during the cutting-out stage.

For a full project that uses sheer silk fabric please look at my article “How to sew a dress without a pattern”.

So, don’t be afraid to work with chiffon. If you will use a masking tape it will be no problem to cut

out chiffon. Now I want to show you what I made from 100% silk chiffon (just to inspire you to

make something from chiffon).

I prefer to use pure silk chiffon for clothing. But chiffon can be also 100% polyester. Actually, this is the chiffon fabric you can find in any retail fabric store like Joann fabric in USA and Fabricland in Canada.  From time to time I use it to make curtains. But I don’t wear polyester. You can find my thoughts about polyester and our health in this article  “The chemicals we wear everywhere”

So, where can you buy 100% silk chiffon? I buy it online in store.

This online store is filled with excellent natural fabrics that have been carefully selected, beautifully displayed and properly described. And their prices are quite affordable. If you are seeking to buy pure silk chiffon you may like some fabric below. They really have big selection of beautiful 100% silk chiffon.


  1. Amie

    Did you use a pattern to make that dress in the center picture? I love it!

    • Olga Balasa

      Hi Amie,
      thank you for your kind words! Yes, I used a pattern from BurdaStyle magazine 12/2015. I am a long time subscriber to the magazine and use their patterns often. But I changed sleeves (they are different in the magazine).

    • Doreet

      hi, i really like those simple little dresses above,cause they are perfect for summer–and I tend to like simple patterns cause I can use very complex prints that I have.Thanks for the infor. on how handle, and lay out chiffon,cause I was just sewing a very large, gold colored huge scarf,and it’s my first experience with chiffon.(I have worked with silk gauze before but mostly to paint prints on carefully with fabric paint.)So pinning, sewing, ect. and especially TO CUT CHIFFON was driving me crazy.Would you say that smaller pieces like a scarf,can also be handled with quick drying fabric glue?(I may have missed that.)and which glue would you recommend?thanks very much, great finished clothing and wonderful colors and prints(I love bright colors myself.)— 🙂

      • Olga Balasa

        Thank you ! If you refer to permanent stitching, no, I do not recommend that for any garment. If you refer to temporary stitching, I heard that starch can be used for chiffon ( I personally did not use ), but I do not see this as a viable solution since the glue, whatever that is, would need to be washed after or you will end up with a scratchy piece. I would not really want to wash a piece of chiffon before I use it if I can avoid that ( I may wash it before I use, yes, much easier ). So the answer is that it is probably a matter of personal preference, and I lean towards no glue when it can be avoided. To answer your other question, in the rare occasions I use glue I use Crafter’s Pick glue but this will not work with chiffon.

  2. noha iraqy

    Very useful …thank y …but I wana more easer method ….

    • Olga Balasa

      Thank you! Chiffon is not very easy fabric to sew. What do you plan to make from chiffon? Maybe you can make it from thin cotton fabric which is easier to cut?

  3. Judy

    Can you tell us how you made the cape ,it is so pretty .

    • Olga Balasa

      Thank you! I love to make and wear capes. This one is made with Butterick pattern B5714. It’s a great pattern and fits good.

  4. Judy

    Thank you for teaching us so much,love the cape over the beautiful dress how did you make it ?

  5. Karen Medin

    How do I even the edge where the store has cut it. I need to make sure it is an even straight edge and cut it in a square.

    • Olga Balasa

      You can do it by pulling a thread.
      Find the unfinished edge of a fabric (perpendicular to selvages).
      Pick out a single thread on the frayed edge and carefully pull it. As you pull the fabric will gather a little. Straighten the fabric and pull the thread out completely.
      You will notice that it left a visible gap line. Gently cut the fabric along this “path”.
      As you pull the thread it can break before you reach the selvage. Not a problem. Cut along the path till you get to the place where your thread snapped. After choose another thread in the same line and repeat the process until you cut to the selvage.
      Your cut will be perfectly straight.
      Cut with one hand holding the fabric and the other hand holding the scissors. Don’t lift the fabric from the table.
      You can see my video about it here

  6. Martie

    Thank you for your beautifully clear and very helpful information.

    • Olga Balasa

      Sorry, I am late with my reply. Thank you very much for stopping by! I am happy to know that the information was helpful. Do you work a lot with chiffon?

  7. Stephanie Holmes

    I sew in silk chiffon a lot. I make loose blouses with short sleeves. I find that the silk chiffon doesn’t last very long. This would break my heart if I didn’t have a big box of the stuff, in a wide variety of exquisite prints, waiting to be made up.

    I starch the chiffon heavily, then dampen and iron it on the dining room table covered with a woolen blanket. Then it handles like any other, stiffer fabric.
    When the garment is complete, I wash it quickly in warm water and hair shampoo, rinse it well in warm water and leave in the shade on a padded hanger to dry.
    I find silk chiffon to be an easy care fabric. The only thing I don’t like about it is its short life. A simple, quick-to-sew design is best. The silk doesn’t survive sufficient wears, to justify an investment in time-consuming detail.

    • Olga Balasa

      Just tried your method. It works also, I agree with you. Thank you for the idea! The only thing I have doubts about is that I have to make it wet too many times. I also agree with you that clothes from silk chiffon don’t last long. But to me it’s not really a problem, I can always make more with the patterns I already tried. Happy holidays!

  8. Ellen H.

    I want to attach a 4″ chiffon trim to the hem of my genuine leather skirt. Any suggestions?

    • Olga Balasa

      Do you need to cut the chiffon trim? Or is it already cut? Or do you need a bit of advice on how to sew chiffon to the leather skirt? Or you need style suggestions? Send me a note to my email [email protected]. I have a tutorial on how to sew a leather pencil skirt, so you can check it out if you are interested.

  9. Dawn Lowton

    hi i am hoping to make a dress from some chiffon i have but i have no idea what to line it with. It will be the first piece of clothing i have made so any help appreceiated.

    • Olga Balasa

      Hi, did you sew before? Do you quilt? If it’s your first piece of clothing project I wouldn’t use chiffon, you need some experience to handle this fabric. If you want to use chiffon try to make something easier than a dress. For example, look at this easy blouse As for the lining, I like to use 100% silk habotai for chiffon garments – you can buy it using this link But thin 100% cotton knits will work also.

  10. Desi Smit

    Thanks for tips…living in Nigeria ,we been cut of the word…..I sew my own dresses

    • Olga Balasa

      Thank you for your sweet note Desi! I sew my own clothes too.

  11. Barbara

    Just to say that you look especially smashing (UK term of praise) in the red out fit!

    • Olga Balasa

      I agree. She looks smashing even without the red outfit.
      Alex (Olga’s husband).

  12. Corrie

    Hi Olga love all your stuff I am busy and can’t sew everything but I read as much as possible which you where near. Keep up the good work I am looking forward to the next lesson love Corrie.

    • Joanna

      I am cutting off some bridesmaids dresses made of chiffon how is the best way to do this to get it even?

      • Olga Balasa

        I delayed answering this because I needed to think; but I did not come up with an universal answer. I guess it depends on the original pattern, dress, how strong are the seams (can you take them apart easily?), what defects the material has (holes, pulled fibers, perhaps cigarette burns, stains, etc.), etc. My gut feeling says I would not cut the dress for the material until I know how I am going to use the fabric, and then knowing what I need to get out of the old dress, perhaps the way to take it apart would become obvious. But as I said, I don’t really have an universal answer, sorry.

  13. Anna

    Hi, thank you for this thorough description of transferring patterns to fabric. I have 200 pounds of silk, mostly japanese kimono fabric, chirimen (crepe de chine) and satins ranging from slinky to bulky, but dread transferring patterns so I never use it for anything other than square designs. Using masking tape never crossed my mind! I will definitely give this a go and try some curves!

    I had an additional idea, if a fabric is really difficult I could at points actually use masking tape to to set the pattern to the fabric after stabilizing the fabric to the table/floor. In the most horrendous cases I could tape the entire pattern to the fabric and cut trough the tape close to the pattern, the tape acting as a stabilizer. (scotch tape for this one, for visibility and to not hurt the scissors?)

    • Olga Balasa

      I think every idea needs to be tried first; if we don’t look for new ways we are doomed to never progress! I suggest whenever you use sticky tape, any kind, make first sure it does not hurt the fabric. I used masking tape because it is designed to be removed and the sticky part does not usually harm the fabric, the regular adhesive tape is much stronger and might damage the fabric when removed. Try first on a scrap piece. Myself, I do not cut my patterns, I transfer them to paper and THEN I cut the copy. I think your idea (cutting the fabric through a transparent tape used to affix the pattern to the fabric) is doable (see comment before, if the tape is good with the fabric) but make sure the glue that is on the tape does not stick to the scissors. Usually when cutting Scotch tape there is a LOT of glue that remains on the scissors and that will affect the quality of the cut pretty fast and the scissors need to be cleaned.


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