Wednesday, April 6, 2011

All Organza Is Not Created Equal

Silk organza swatches from Zika Ascher's 1956 collection {source}
Welcome to your super-obvious newsflash of the day: fabric comes in varying qualities. Fancy that! I'm not sure why, but this was a revelation to me at Camp Couture. Well, when it comes to silk organza, that is. I'm perfectly accustomed to the idea that a wool crepe or silk shantung might be dramatically different in quality from source to source. But for some reason, I always thought silk organza was just silk organza.

I'd been buying all my silk organza at a certain store in the garment district. They have the best prices I could find: $7 a yard and available in just about every color under the sun. I thought I was quite clever.

But! On the last project that I used a silk organza underlining (my satin evening dress), I became frustrated. The stuff was so slippery and frustrating to work with. And, seeing as this was an underlining, I was using it as a pattern to cut out my fashion fabric. Yikes! The stuff was slipping and distorting all over the place, ruining the hard work I'd done fitting the pattern perfectly.

Readers, I started to think this whole organza underlining thing was a sham. I'd been bamboozled! It was a couture conspiracy! Why on earth, I thought, would anyone suggest using this horrible stuff as a foundation and pattern?

Fast forward to Camp Couture. I used some of the silk organza that Susan sells on her website and immediately noticed a difference between it and my usual stuff, even though the price was only $3 more a yard. This stuff was crisp and held its shape perfectly. It was an absolute dream to work with.

Anyway, this is all to say: if you're planning on using organza as an underlining, the hand of the fabric is the most important thing to consider. It shouldn't be flimsy or soft, as that will just lead to frustration. I've noticed that some places (Mood, for example) seem to sell a range of organzas from very soft to very firm, so check out all the options. If you have to purchase online, I would order a swatch or send an e-mail to the shop's owner asking for her opinion on the hand of the organza.

Organza is gorgeous as a fashion fabric too! {source}
And it's worth noting that sometimes you'll want an organza with a very soft hand, like for the fashion fabric of a floaty, frothy dress. So, you know, tailor the fabric to your project. (Hey, I warned you this was a super obvious post!)

Please share your own organza sources and experiences!


  1. This is great to know and very timely. I've also been exploring silk organza and only thinking about price (nothing new for me). I'm wondering: is the more expensive organza more tightly woven? Is the stiffer organza less likely to shift and lose its shape?

  2. I just got some organza from Susan's website, and I am hooked! While I am a big fan of bargain shopping, when it comes to making myself clothing, I want the best! That comes to finish work, as I have been spending hours pouring over texts and web sites learning the techniques the masters use and then practicing them on scraps, to the fabrics and threads I sew with.
    Your website has been such a help and inspiration to me in the short few months since I have returned to sewing. Thank you for that!
    xo, A.

  3. Hiya! I used organza from Susan's website for my wedding gown underlining and for the overdress. It worked great! I still don't understand the differences between organza qualities, myself. I bought some very expensive ($20+) silk organza for an embellishment on my dress, but it is so thick, stiff, and worse, so smooth, that I honestly wonder if it's actually silk.

    Susan's organza is lightweight, yet sturdy, if you scratch it with your fingernail or rub it between your thumb and forefinger, the threads don't get messed up.

  4. I have been thinking of stocking up on some organza in basic colors for my "stiffeners" supply box--good to know the stuff Susan Khalje sells is good stuff.

    Reading over your post and some of the comments makes me wonder if it might not be worth collecting up short lengths of varying silk organzas (different price points/weights) and making a little "swatch collection" for myself. I'm more inclined to understand things when I can see/feel them, that I think it might be worth the time/effort to have on hand!

    ♥ Casey

  5. Does anyone have any thoughts on silk organza vs. synthetic organza? It's hard to find the silk stuff in my neck of the woods for less than $20. I often wonder if the sythetic stuff at Joann Fabrics would work just as well, at least for a lining.

  6. I noticed the difference when I ran out of my "yard sale" vintage silk organza and bought new at the fabric store. The vintage had a very high thread count and the fibers were much smoother and silkier. There is a huge difference! Thanks for the link to better silk organza!

  7. $10 a yard?!!? oh man, color me jealous!! the place where i source my silk organza charges $18-$28 for a yard. i usually hold off until the biannual 40%-50% sales they have and buy it there. of course, the stuff i'm using is really really good quality (and comes in a rainbow of colors!), but i don't doubt that the khalje stuff is also ace. thanks for linking the website, you just saved me so much money haha

  8. Jill, poly organza is not good so don't waste your money. It's like sewinf on a window screen compared with the real thing. Find a good internet source and you'll be better off. Thai Silk is my go-to for silk organza.

  9. I'm so excited to find another source for silk - it's completely unavailable in my area, so I have to order everything online.
    Thai Silks is also a good source, I've been buying from them for 20 years.

  10. The overdress for my wedding gown was made of Italian silk organza. I got two swatches and brought them to the man who was making my dress. One was $12/yd. and one was $30/yd. Of course, I was initially thinking I would go with the less expensive one. He burned pieces of both swatches and told me the cheaper one was mixed with a synthetic. We chose the more expensive (and much nicer) one, and it made a gorgeous gown with beautiful sheen and swoosh (technical terms). I kept those swatches in my stash, and pulling them out later the difference of quality was so obvious- the cheaper had frayed apart! I am sure I would have had a totally different dress in the cheaper fabric.

  11. Living in the hinterlands like I do, I've been somewhat mystified how to figure this one out. I've bought organza from Denver/FFC a few times and it's amazing the vast difference in texture- the lighter stuff great for interfacing soft silk blousings I think, but usually looking for the sturdier stuff, and never sure how to find without being about to touch. Thanks for the mention of Susan's website, I'll try that next time!

  12. I feel much better now. I just thought I was doing something wrong with it. Also, thanks for the use of "hand" as a term here; good to know!

  13. This is something I'd never really thought about - like you I'd just assumed organza was organza was organza, and sourced the cheapest I could find.

    I'm going to have a look around, as the stuff I have is ok-ish, not toooo slippery, but it tends to stretch out along the seamline as I sew it - is this the fabric, the machine, or me?

    Also, I read recently (in Threads I think) that you shouldn't wash silk organza as it loses its crispness. Does this just apply to prewashing? Or does anything with organza underlining/interfacing need to be dry cleaned? What about ironing with steam, or if the dye isn't fast? (As the big black blob on my ironing board can testify to after a spillage) I'm confused.

  14. Very interesting topic. Has anyone ever bought from Dharma trading ?
    The customers feedback is quite good on this product and I've read that some of them used their silk organza for underlinig. The prices are attractive too.

  15. It's so true. I'll have to ask my local fabric store owner where he sources his because it's lovely stuff but so often I come across stuff that's a cross between window screening or cellophane. :( Blech. Ew. Phewy. Good craftsmanship can be so rewarding but only if your materials help you, not hinder you!


  16. Thank you for posting a link to Susan Khalje's website as a source for silk organza. I'll definitely try it out. I'll compare hers to the two yards that I bought from a local fabric store. You definitely can't skimp on underlining.


  17. Wow, that's neat. I never quite understood the point of organza - or silk for that matter - but I'm not a retro sewer. (The few times I've made myself a dress I only wore it a few times.) It seems to be a popular wedding gown fabric!

  18. I was surprise at how soft the material is. It came with a matching G-string, (which I'm not into) but for those of you who are, it's complete and worth the buy. In my opinion, it can do double duty, alone for intimate night or with a cami, tee shirt, etc. and jeans and you're set for an evening out.
    Yes, I would recommend barely there bikinis to friend.


Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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