Thursday, March 14, 2013

Sewing with Saris

For those of you who follow me on, I've posted the following information within various reviews.  I thought it would be nice to include it in a blog entry though, so that it would be easier to find for those seeking the information.

A sari is the garment worn by Indian women that is wrapped and draped. Most are 42-45" wide and they vary in length so check item descriptions.

I buy a lot of vintage saris, mostly from Ebay, because the fabrics are just so unusual and colorful. I love using vintage too because it's like the fabric has already led one life, and I get to reclaim it and use for something completely new! Anyone who has read a few of my reviews can confirm my obsession. Below is information on the basics and how I treat them. DO NOT CONSIDER THIS EXPERT ADVICE; this is just how I proceed.

*Common fabrics are silk, "art" (artificial) silk, or cotton

*For most saris the fabric is very thin (silk chiffon to silk habotai texture) so plan on lining or underlining

*Most saris have a drape portion on one end that is 30-36" of contrasting/coordinating print. This gives you lots of interesting options for bodices, midriffs, hems, or contrast piping.

*Most saris have borders prints on the lengthwise grains. Sometimes both borders are the same, other times one is more elaborate than the other. This gives great options for hems, waistbands, necklines, etc.

*Saris vary in quality, so the cheaper ones often have off grain.  Silk is no guarantee of quality

*I machine wash and dry all mine before beginning. Vintage ones often arrive with an odor, but it comes out in the wash. I despise dry cleaning, both for the expense and inconvenience, so nearly all garments I sew are machine washable. Silk is much more durable than we often give it credit for, and I now wear silk more for daily garments and not just special occasions.

*If purchasing vintage saris, don't depend on using the entire yardage.  They often have undisclosed damage or stains that you'll need to work around.

*Be careful about using pre-treatments or color boosters.  I'm not sure what they use to dye the fabrics, but these chemicals can have interactions that change your fabric color

just a few of my many saris

*A gelatin soak can increase the fabric body and make it easier to handle during construction.  Use 3 tsp gelatin to 3 liters of water (one package of gelatin is about 2 tsp) and soak the fabric for 1 hour before air drying. I confess that I make a huge batch of the gelatin and spend a day prepping multiple pieces. I also confess that I don't fully air dry; when I get bored, I toss them into the dryer on "no heat" then change to delicate.  I haven't noticed any problems with ironing, even when using steam.  If you pre-wash your silk, the gelatin is easily removed when laundering, returning it to it's original soft texture.


  1. Does sari material bunch up when sewing or any other problems? Tips? Thanks you

    1. Sometimes. The fabric quality varies, so if it's very light weight, I'll use strips of tissue paper as stabilizer when sewing the seams. It tears away easily after and really helps with nice flat stitches that aren't puckered.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this. It is the most helpful information I have found about using vintage saris.