Stabilising shifty fabrics with gelatine!

When I read about Sew Busy Lizzy using gelatine to stabilise slippery fabric, I was fascinated. I had the slinky polyester bird fabric (used for this blouse) in my stash for about a year and a half before this point, but as I loved it so much, I didn’t want to risk ruining it! So while I was staying at my parents’ house last August, I decided to use a ‘good drying day’ (as my Mum would say) to experiment. It only took me six months after that to use the fabric…

The bird print polyester fabric I stabilised with gelatine

This is a really easy technique for stabilising tricky fabrics – it won’t quite make silk satin sew up like quilting cotton, but it certainly makes it a lot easier. Although I found Lizzy’s tutorial here and this Threads article really useful, there are a couple of things I wanted to add!

I’m based in the UK, and didn’t find powdered gelatine in the supermarket – I could only find leaf gelatine. This stuff comes in packs of 4 leaves, and is pretty cheap at around £1-2/ pack.

I worked out that 1 leaf of gelatine was roughly equal to 1tsp gelatine power (err, I can’t remember how. But I do remember puzzling it out for a while…) I then made up the gelatine as per the instructions, diluting it with 1 litre of water per leaf of gelatine.

I treated 3 different bits of fabric at the same time – some silk satin, drapey polyester and drapey viscose. Altogether there was about 5.5m fabric. I think this was a little too much as the treatment was slightly uneven, so I would recommend using a metre per litre of the gelatine solution. All three fabrics were really well stabilised, although the man-made fibres seemed to absorb the gelatine even more than the silk.

Having now used the silk and polyester, I can say it made the sewing tons easier! Here is my method and tips:

1.       Work out how much gelatine you need for your fabric. Use the following as a guide
1 leaf gelatine: 1 litre water: 1m fabric
So if you have 3m, then use 3 leaves gelatine in 3l water (etc.)

2.       Melt the gelatine according to pack instructions. Once the gelatine has melted, add as much warm water as necessary – I would do this in a large bucket or basin. Mix well.

3.       Add the fabric to the gelatine solution, mixing it well again. Make sure your fabric is submerged in the solution.

4.       Leave to soak for at least an hour.

5.       After soaking, gently squeeze out excess water. Hang out fabric to dry. If at all possible, I would hang it outside, as the liquid can drip out and make a bit of a mess. Otherwise hang it somewhere you can easily clean!

6.       Use fabric as you normally would!

7.       Once your garment is made up, leave it to soak for around 20 mins in hand hot water. Rinse out and wash fabric with detergent. If this doesn’t wash all the gelatine out, you may find you need to repeat this step.

Once fabric is dry, you should be able to feel the difference in the fabric’s texture and drape. I would make up items as soon after the treatment as possible. I made up my birdy blouse 6 months after the gelatine treatment, and I haven’t noticed any detriment to the fabric. However, it did take a fair bit of washing to get the gelatine out of the fabric – I don’t know if this is because the gelatine had been in the fabric for quite a while, or if it always takes this long!

I ironed my blouse using steam, and it was fine, but again, the gelatine treatment had been in the fabric for several months, so steam may affect the gelatine if you have treated your fabric more recently. Try it out on a small section if you’re not sure.

Have you got any other techniques that you’ve used for stabilising tricky fabrics?

Birdy Lottie blouse

Hi everyone! Can’t believe it’s been over a month since my last post! I have been doing quite a lot of sewing – there’s a warm wintery Cambie that I just can’t quite bear to finish (I’m so over winter right now!), and a few other things in the pipeline. Anyway, I’ve got at least one finished project to show you today:

My new birdie blouse! Please excuse the wrinkles - I had worn this all day and didn't fancy ironing it again... lazy!
My new birdie blouse! Please excuse the wrinkles – I had worn this all day and didn’t fancy ironing it again… lazy!

I bought issue 2 of Love Sewing back in June for the gorgeous pattern on the cover: the Simple Sews Lottie Blouse. It’s a loose-fitting simple bow blouse, suitable for beginners. I thought it would come in handy as a quick, easy stash-buster, that would also fill a wardrobe gap of chic work blouses… and I was right!

This blouse was on the front cover – so pretty! Image from:

I made this over a few short sessions this weekend – I cut out in front of the Sewing Bee on Thursday, sewed up half of it on Friday night, and finished up on Sunday night. Even taking time to get all the bias binding nice and smoothly topstitched, it only took about 5 and a half hours in total! I’m really pleased with the result.

I made a couple of Sorbetto tops last summer, so I used the pattern pieces to gauge the fit of this blouse, as finished measurements weren’t printed on the envelope. I cut the 12, grading to a 14 at the hips. This is also the sizing I would have chosen if I’d just been following the size chart, so it does come up fairly true to size! As the fit is loose, I didn’t make any fitting adjustments. It hangs a bit oddly at the back if it’s not tucked in, but I’m probably always going to wear it tucked in with a high-waisted skirt, so that’s not a problem!

The pattern is marked as ‘ambitious beginners’ which I would say is about right. There were a couple of parts which irritated me a little about the drafting of this pattern. The main one was notches – or rather lack thereof. For the neck bias binding, the instructions say to bind between points a & b, but there are no notches marking this on the pattern pieces, meaning I had to guess where they would be. The same happens with attaching the collar/ necktie. I initially didn’t attach it to enough of the neckline, and so the necktie looked really weird. I went back and sewed on a few extra inches, which made it look better. I have marked these points from my finished blouse on to the pattern, so I have it ready for next time!

My other main annoyance was that only part of the neckline was bias bound. Although this doesn’t show through, as it’s covered up by the necktie, it does irritate me that there is a raw edge in my otherwise neatly bound and French-seamed top! I zig-zagged it as this fabric frays like nobody’s business (and at that point, I couldn’t be bothered making more binding!). Next time, I would make enough biding to cover the whole neckline.

The raw edge of the neckline - so annoying!
French seam on the shoulder, and raw edge of the neckline – so annoying! Luckily it hasn’t frayed too much so far.

Now on to my fabric! This blouse is certainly a stash buster – it used only 90cm, including making the bias binding for the neckline and armholes. The necktie really does need a full width of 60” wide fabric, mine came up a little bit narrow so I shortened it by about two inches from the middle.

I am usually a massive fabric snob, and I much prefer sewing with natural fibres rather than polyester. This poly is so gorgeous though that I couldn’t leave it! I wouldn’t want to wear it in anything close fitting, but in a loose blouse, it’s fine. I probably will only wear in coolish temperatures, as even though it’s loose, polyester is not fun in warm weather!

I used a tip from Sew Busy Lizzie on stabilising fabric with gelatine, as the fabric was so shifty. I’ve got a quick tutorial and some hints ready, so look out for that in the next few days!

Me in my new blouse! If I look a little pained, it's because I was FREEEZING. Thanks to my colleague for taking the photo :)
Me in my new blouse! If I look a little pained, it’s because I was FREEEZING. Thanks to my colleague for taking the photo 🙂

Despite my slight gripes with the pattern, I really love this blouse, and it came together so nicely! I will definitely be making more!

Fabric: 1m birdy fabric (from Sew Over It) £10
Thread: £1.70
Pattern: Free with Love Sewing
Total: £11.70