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Selection of lining fabric is probably one of the most neglected steps in sewing. While we carefully choose the quality, type, drape and color of fashion fabric, time and money is often saved on linings. I used to be ignorant about linings myself, using polyester for almost every project. Only once I became interested in couture sewing, I learned that silk linings – characteristic for couture – could considerably improve the look and the feel of a garment.

However, silk is available in a different weight, weave and quality. Which one to choose? The following sampling represents some of the most common choices in couture. Use these luxurious textiles for your special projects, or –if budget is not an issue – for everyday clothing as well.

Silk for Comfort

You will hardly find silk lining in a ready-to-wear garments, which use less expensive options, such as polyester and acetate, for example. While budget is an important consideration in home sewing as well, silk is well worth the investment, as it breathes wonderfully and is mostly stain and wrinkle resistant.

What makes silk even more desirable in lining is that it can adjust to body temperature: it feels cool in summer, and warm in winter (to me, this is the main advantage over rayon, with a medium-weight Bamberg Ambiance being more affordable and durable alternative to silk).

Finally, silk is so much easier to sew than synthetics or rayon!

The following five silk fabrics are my personal favorites for linings. Read on to find out why.

China Silk (or Habotai)

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This plain-weave fabric is the lightest lining option, except for rarely used chiffon. Because of the weight, china silk is an excellent choice for ‘cooler’ and more delicate blouses, jackets, skirts or pants. However, china silk is also less durable, so avoid using it for very fitted garments, or garments that you will wear frequently.

Available in 45” width and rather limited color choice, this fabric can be hand-washed, but will loose some of its characteristic crispness.

Silk Twill

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The fabric on the image is a heavier weight silk twill. Use lighter weight for lining!

Silk twill is heavier than china silk, but is lightweight enough to use for summer clothing or delicate wear. What makes silk twill a great choice is its characteristic weave, which provides more durability and opacity than china silk. If you need to line white summer pants, try silk twill. However, be aware of the fabric quality – it can vary greatly!

Silk Crepe de Chine

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Silk crepe de chine is another great lining, with a weight that places it between light- and medium weight fabrics. Being more substantial, more durable and drapier than china silk, it is my preferred choice for summer dresses or jackets. It has less shine than silk charmeuse and is offered in 45” width, so calculate your yardage accordingly.

Silk Charmeuse

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Welcome to medium-weight silks, with silk charmeuse providing more structure and drape than lightweight silks! However, the weight of silk charmeuse can vary greatly, with lighter options placing this fabric right after crepe de chine. Most fabric stores will carry lighter to medium varieties of charmeuse, but look out for heavier weights as well. Selecting the right weight is easy, heavier lining goes with heavier fashion fabric.

Another great advantage of charmeuse is that you will find it in wide variety of colors and prints. And do consider prints for a statement jacket lining, for example.

By the way, you can pre-wash charmeuse (by hand!), but some luster will be lost. Experiment with a swatch first!

Silk Crepe Back Satin

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Quite an expensive choice, readers! This high-end silk is on the heavier side and is, therefore, a great lining for winter, adding warmth, elegance and breathability to a beautiful wool or fur coat!

~Marina


Marina von Koenig is a couture enthusiast documenting her couture learning experience on her blog Frabjous Couture. Check out her blog for more couture tips, techniques and tutorials and reviews of couture classes and books.

36 Comments

  • Img_1598_large

    May 22, 2014, 01.35 AMby Cynsin

    It doesn’t appear that the silkworm is “boiled” with the cocoon, but, rather, removed before processing:

    Silkworm Cultivation Silkworm farms nurture millions of the tiny creatures, who subsist on a diet of mulberry leaves. Once fed, the silkworms spin cocoons made of silk thread around themselves.

    Cocoon Processing Workers select the cocoons best suited for silk production and separate the silkworms from their temporary homes. Steam then loosens the cocoon back into the form of thread.

    Spinning

    Read more: How is silk manufactured in China today? | Answerbag http://www.answerbag.com/q_view/2010557#ixzz32P73HmcS

  • Picture1_large

    Nov 14, 2012, 08.46 PMby KristinaBerisha

    I made a jacket with rocco barroco violet silk lining. Great choice

  • Missing

    Sep 12, 2011, 10.28 PMby rochelle49

    I, too have a fascination with silk! I have used china silk to line summer clothes. I love to get my silk from a local fabric store in metro Denver, Colorado. At, night when I’m thinking of projects to do, I go online to www.voguefabrics.com. they are located in Chicago, Ill. and have a good section and most is reasonably priced. they ship fabric and offer a swatch service. I stay away from the “big box national stores” as I feel their quality is less and they don’t have good prices.

  • Missing

    Aug 25, 2011, 11.34 AMby snow-day

    I bought silk to use as lining… and then remembered that the silk pupas in their cocoons are boiled alive for us to get the silk. So I don’t use silk at all. It’s too sad!!

  • Pto_large

    Aug 24, 2011, 06.13 AMby patty72

    For some years ago I made two sommerdresses from a great 80` vintage silk. Bougth dresses needed a linning and I choose verry light silk. Since that time I always try to use silk linning becouse of the feeling against the skin. While the ironing is easier when both fabrics can tolerate same temperatur.

    I love the ídea of silk scarf used as linning – I´m gonna try that!

  • 597d73429ca0e90a2260ca4b792ad68d92ca4fd5_large

    Aug 24, 2011, 02.58 AMby katherinedaida

    I like this source for silks. They have the very best selection, and the prices are good. (Plus, they have been in business a long time!) http://www.thaisilks.com/

  • Dsc02277_large

    Aug 20, 2011, 01.51 AMby redrose12

    It can be very expensive, but I also adore sueded silk. It’s remarkably warm and feels slinky and luxurious. It also has a cool not-sheen that’s great if you want a garment lining to look understated but feel fantastic.

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    Aug 20, 2011, 12.15 AMby milkyway

    I love it.

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    Aug 19, 2011, 09.13 AMby loulourosa

    Mmmmm good post, now I know which lining to use for my winter coat. Unfortunatly I live in a town with almost no fabric stores, I don’t know where to buy silk lining for a reasonable price. Normaly I use acetate lining of the brand “venezia” , this is a good quality, and feels fresh an nice even in summer.

  • Vatten_large

    Aug 18, 2011, 08.12 PMby ichigogirl

    I LOVE silk! Love it, love it, love it. The touch to the hand, the smell of it, the sensation of silk on my skin. The lightness, coolness and warmth that it gives you. I’m also very glad that silk is a great option when opting for more ecological clothing. Not only because considerably less pesticides are used during the production of silk, but also because at least I tend to use my silk clothes more, and for longer than any synthetics and cotton. The more cherished, the better cared for, I guess… :-)

  • Missing

    Aug 18, 2011, 04.35 PMby Trudirings

    Silk is amazing to use as a lining fabric. I used silk crepe back satin in a collection of jackets I made whilst at college years ago and it really adds to the element of luxury. Use it in garments that you will not wear very often to avoid the deterioration through sweat. Also it needs careful cutting due to the slippery nature and it can stretch.

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    Aug 18, 2011, 03.37 PMby mirela

    I used silk for the jacket lining that will be published in the BurdaStyle book. I love silk, and the way it feels next to the skin, so lining with silk totally makes sense.

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    Aug 18, 2011, 03.18 PMby daughterfish

    This is such a great post. Thank you! I’m in the middle of making a seersucker jacket for my husband, and went with china silk (I think) for the lining, because I figured it would be breathable. I haven’t sewn it in yet, but so far it’s been pretty easy to work with. Thankfully, since I live in NYC, I can buy silk linings at discount shops for the same price synthetic ones go for at regular retail price. Look forward to your upcoming posts:)

    1 Reply
    • Vatten_large

      Aug 18, 2011, 09.03 PMby ichigogirl

      Aaaah… lucky you!

  • Dscn5250_large

    Aug 18, 2011, 05.42 AMby mixtlii

    A question: a garment made with silk lining can’t be machine washed, can it? This is an important point for me…

    2 Replies
    • Vatten_large

      Aug 18, 2011, 09.05 PMby ichigogirl

      I wash my silks in the washing machine, on the wool cycle with liquid Savon de Marseille (sold as a shower cream/soap), it works beautifully! Some types shouldn’t be washed in water, so I avoid them.
      I love silk and I’m too lazy/have too little spare time to hand wash…

    • Marina_large

      Aug 19, 2011, 05.04 PMby Marina von Koenig

      agree with ichigogirl, machine wash delicate is sometimes ok, howeer, the fabric may loose its pristine look and feel. experiment with a swatch first.

  • Psheadshot_large

    Aug 18, 2011, 03.05 AMby oonaballoona

    marina, your posts are wonderful! i’m about to embark into the world of mohair and wool , and i’m getting into lining. it sounds like i need the 5th choice… um, hooray…. :))

    1 Reply
    • Marina_large

      Aug 19, 2011, 05.03 PMby Marina von Koenig

      Thanks :-) I am your big fan too! By the way, I am still saving for the 5th choice – it costs more than the fashion fabric, phew :-o

  • 7fee0d98280ead02f6946d0e1b96b332455de7ef_large

    Aug 18, 2011, 02.33 AMby josephina

    I fell in love with silk when I moved to North Qld. While you can’t wear it all the time, it’s a fantastic substitute for cotton when you want to look nice, and it breathes nearly as well (a huge priority here).

    You can feel the difference when you put on a silk lined garment; nothing else has that delightful feeling against your skin. It also looks good and drapes beautifully, particularly when the outer garment is also made of silk.

  • User_9697999_1238456472431_box_large

    Aug 18, 2011, 01.39 AMby Timea Schmidt

    Usually I use china silk. In my opinion nothing can beat that for regular light or medium weight pieces. Unfortunately, since I moved from New York I don’t have access to all that fabulous stores. ( Well until tomorrow, I’m visiting my dentist. Hello fabric stores!!) But I discovered the poly china silk. I don’t know why they call it silk?!, but it is really close to the real deal. If I make very light summery things I use self fabric to line the garment. Sometimes it’s a lot cheaper than buying lining.

    1 Reply
    • Marina_large

      Aug 19, 2011, 05.01 PMby Marina von Koenig

      self-fabric is a good option, or lining just a part of the garment.

      By the way, have you tried online stores? They often send swatches, and notify their customers if there is a sale.

    • This is a question
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