Since taffeta has body and holds its shape, it is ideal for full skirted wedding dresses and evening gowns. It was traditionally used for corsets, so it works well for garments with close-fitting bodices too. Softer, plain-dyed taffeta can be used for linings. Taffeta is also great for décor like draperies, pillows, lamp shades, throws, and event decoration.
The price of taffeta varies depending on its fiber content. A top quality, 100% silk taffeta is perfect for a wedding dress, special occasion gown, or fine draperies. Polyester taffeta is a much more affordable choice, especially if you need a large quantity for event décor.
There are many different varieties of taffeta. Classic Taffeta is lightweight with a nice sheen, and can be used in garments to provide body and volume.
Crushed taffeta is mechanically treated to give a permanently crinkled finish producing an interesting textured fabric for clothes and pillows.
Stretch Taffeta has a duller sheen. Its stretch makes it easier to construct garments that are fitted to the body.
Button Taffeta is gathered in certain areas with elastic thread to create button-looking designs on the front. It’s primarily used for event décor.
Some varieties of taffeta may have a ridged surface or one with a water-like moiré appearance, depending on how it is woven or finished.
Another popular type of taffeta is called shot taffeta where the warp and weft threads in the weave are dyed in different colors so that the color of the fabric varies depending on how the light catches it. It’s ideal for a special occasion dress, especially one with a full skirt, as its appearance constantly changes as it moves with the wearer.
If you haven’t already got one, invest in a walking foot to feed your fabric evenly under the needle and prevent the upper layer shifting over the lower layer. It will help to produce a seam that is smooth and pucker-free.
The fact that taffeta is a fairly stiff fabric with a slippery surface means that it requires careful handling to achieve a good finish.
It needs to be held securely in place when being cut and the seams must be stitched carefully to prevent shifting and puckering when being sewn by machine. This is easy to achieve with a few handling tips.
Taffeta also has a tendency to fray or ravel so the raw edges need to be finished.
Care & Preparation
It isn’t normally necessary to pre-shrink taffeta but it is a good idea to iron the length of fabric before you start. This will mean any slight changes that occur will be produced to all the cloth and differences will not arise to small areas as you press seams during the construction process. A slight pebbling may occur as the fibers shrink with the heat. Make sure you use a pressing cloth to protect the surface of the fabric.
Fold the taffeta so it is double with the selvages together. Hold paper pattern pieces to the fabric with long, fine pins and place them in the seam allowances as holes can sometimes remain in the taffeta after the pins are removed. Weights may be helpful but pins will hold the pattern pieces more securely.
Use shears with long blades or a rotary cutter if you have a self-healing mat large enough to lie beneath your fabric.
Make sure that all your pattern pieces are placed in the same direction as color differences are likely depending on how the light catches the surface.
Use very fine pins and place them within the seam allowances when possible in case they leave permanent holes in the cloth. Consider basting (tacking) layers together with 100% silk thread before sewing the seams as the silk thread should slide out afterwards without damaging the material.
Needles & Thread
Use good quality thread to match the fabric in both color and fiber (silk thread for silk taffeta and polyester thread for synthetic taffeta) and a fine (size 70/9), universal needle works well with a stitch length of 2.5mm.
Taffeta has a tendency to fray so French seams, which completely enclose the raw edges, are a good choice for a beautifully neat finish on the inside. However, French seams are only appropriate for straight seams and they are slow to make so consider using a serger/overlocker for finishing the edges. It may, in fact, be useful to serge/overlock all the edges of the pieces before starting to sew a project together to prevent raveling through handling. In this case, the already serged plain seams can be pressed open.
When sewing seams the upper layer can slide over the lower layer causing a wrinkled appearance when the seam is finished. To avoid this, help the machine to feed the taffeta under the presser foot evenly by holding the fabric with your left hand behind the foot and pulling very gently. Guide the fabric from the front with your right hand, feeding it under the foot and needle. However, if your machine has an ‘even feed’ feature or you own a walking foot, this will do it for you.
For hems, consider double folded, top stitched hems or faced hems on a full skirt or dress. A facing is a good choice where a hem is curved or shaped and gives a less bulky finish.
Always use a pressing cloth to protect your taffeta and select a heat appropriate for the fiber content.
Use the three point press technique when ironing taffeta. First iron the seam with the seam allowance together, then open up and from the wrong side use the nose of the iron to flatten the center of the seam. Finally turn over and lightly press from the right side using a pressing cloth to protect the taffeta surface.
If you have used plain seams with a serged finish, cut small strips of thin card to slide under the seam allowances while you press to avoid shiny ridges showing beside side your seam line.
Taffeta can crease easily so once ironed keep the garment flat or on a hanger.