Saturday’s Stash: Taffeta

Taffeta is a luxury fabric that’s lightweight and crisp. It tends to have a slight sheen to it, and it makes a characteristic rustling sound when it moves. Many taffetas are shot, that is, cross-woven with different colors to produce an iridescent shimmering effect. High-end taffeta is made of silk, while the low-end variant is of acetate. A moderate compromise is polyester. Taffeta is well suited for formal blazers, straight or A-line skirts, and formal dresses. It’s also appropriate for some historic costumes.

Tricks for Working With Taffeta
This fabric is ideal for pleating, since its crisp hand allows the pleats to be well-defined. This same feature makes it ill-suited for gathering or fine detail work.

I’ve found taffeta to be easy to work with, once precautions are taken. It can be slippery, so you might want to baste your layers together—but stay within the seam allowance. Any holes poked in taffeta tend to remain permanently! For this reason, be certain of your seams before stitching. If you rip any stitches out, the holes will be obvious, so go slowly and carefully to prevent mistakes. Avoid pins, unless they’re fine silk pins, and even then, keep them within the seam allowance. Be sure your needles are fresh and sharp, so they’ll pierce the fabric without causing it to run.

Example of the Day
Here we have a polyester shot taffeta of gold and copper. It’s extremely lightweight, with a subtle crinkled texture. I’ve used this fabric for several different projects, as it’s a dream to work with. It can be hand washed, but only if you take care not to crumple or wring the fabric while damp. Much like silk, wet taffeta is fragile and the surface fibers can break, causing a permanent wrinkling effect. For this reason, it must be laid completely flat to dry. Most prefer to dry clean taffeta, as it’s less risky.

Shot Taffeta

Shot Taffeta

I used a heavier pearl-colored taffeta to create a pair of 18th century stays, a task for which I found the fabric well-suited. (For more information on the stays, please see the sewing diary, 18th Century Stays.)

Pearl Taffeta

18th Century Stays of Pearl Taffeta


Have you worked with taffeta recently? What tips do you have?

About Lisha Vidler

I am a sewing instructor living near Memphis, Tennessee.
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