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Repair tips for splits in sheer fabric?

Discussion in 'PUBLIC Vintage Fashion - Ask Questions Get Answers' started by crowyhead, Feb 21, 2009.

  1. crowyhead

    crowyhead Registered Guest

    I'm going to preface this by saying that I know almost nothing about vintage clothing or fabrics, so I'm really sorry if I sound like an idiot.

    I was recently gifted with a pink tea length party/prom dress, with a beaded bodice and matching short (bust-length) short-sleeved jacket. It belonged to a friend's grandmother, who was a dancer and apparently quite the fashion plate! I believe it is from the 50's, due to the bust shelf and general style, but I could be wrong. The label says "Junior Theme New York" but there is no information about the fabric content, and I don't know enough about fabric to be able to accurately ID it. The lining is a silky, sturdy fabric with a visible weave, and the outer layer is a slightly stiff, sheer fabric. I want to call it tulle, but it doesn't have the open weave I associate with tulle.

    Anyway, it's the outer layer that has a few problem areas. There's some yellowing, which I don't think is fixable and which is overall not a huge problem -- it mostly just gives the dress a more peach cast, rather than the brighter pink it probably was originally. The real problem is that there is some splitting/shredding of the outer fabric at the armpits (not very visible when it's being worn) and one small split in the skirt.

    None of these problem areas are very visible (I didn't notice the hole in the skirt until I looked closely), so my main concern is how to prevent them from getting worse. I'm reasonably handy at normal mending, but I don't think sewing the split would help, since the stitches would be highly visible, and it's possible the fabric would tear around them.

    I have a feeling it's probably sacriligious, but would using something like Fray Check on the hole in the skirt have any benefit? I'm not a collector; I want to be able to wear this dress, possibly for my wedding. At the same time, I don't want to ruin it! Basically I'm looking for a solution that will allow for light wear and hopefully slow the deterioration of the fabric.

    Can you help a girl out?

    If it helps any with the fabric ID and care, I did handwash the jacket (which has the same sheer fabric) in cool water with no discernable ill effects.
  2. I would take it somewhere professional to be assessed. In London we have a really good place called Invisible Mending http://www.invisible-mending.co.uk/ and there is also another place called SEW near where I live who have performed miracles on a couple of my dresses.

    One in particular was a very sheer chiffon silk from the 30's which was hand tailored and very delicate. A previous owner had repaired a tear with tiny stitches but the material again tore around the stitches.

    Invisible Mending repaired it by bonding the tear from the inside - it is indeed invisible at first glance.
  3. vintagebaubles

    vintagebaubles Administrator Staff Member

    If you can live with the holes/tears as they are, I would use Fray Check around all the edges, applying maybe 1/32 to 1/16" in from the edge all the way around. I use FC all the time, and it's a great tool. I also use it to stabilize edges of holes and rips before repairing if I'm working with a delicate fabric that would otherwise shred again when the needle is pulled through.

    I have mended sheer fabrics by treating the edges first, then splitting sewing thread into finer filaments. then stitching. It sounds like these splits aren't in very visible places--I might try stitching them if you have a needle thin enough and matching thread you can split so as to be very fine.

    Or, if you can find extra of the sheer fabric in a seam allowance you might try patching, fusing with Stitch Witchery, but the patch would probably show--depending on how sheer the fabric. I would worry about using that at the underarms, though, as it might cause the fabric to pull more and split away from the bonded area.
  4. As it's for an important event, I agree with Suzanne and would get an expert to fix it.

    Otherwise, I would do as Anne recommended and finely darn the skirt. As for the underarms, I would be loathe to fix those myself as they're likely to get more damaged - if I couldn't get an expert to do it, I would either recut the underarms if possible to remove the damage or sew them so that the rips are still there but won't get any worse. Trying to sew them together in any way will only put more stress on it, as you need more room, not less (hope that makes sense).

    PS, it sounds like your gown might be silk organza, it's a great fabric but I'd check for more rips because once it starts to go, you can get more problems. I love silk organza.

  5. hatfeathers

    hatfeathers VFG Member

    I use Fray Check frequently, and the current version of it is even dry clean-able. I would have the dress cleaned by a very skilled cleaner first, as you would want to wait to repair until after you see what fabric is strong and what is shattered beyond hope. Your seamstress can remove the underarm panel and stitch in a replacement, if necessary.

    One trick with chiffon fabrics is that after a quality professional dry cleaning, if there is an oxidized stain remaining, sometimes you can finish the cleaning with water. Isolate the chiffon away from the taffeta if possible, lay the stained area over a thick towel, and blot the stain with a wet rag (light colored or really old washed-to-bit towels are best, as they won't have a chance of dye transfer to the dress). Continue blotting, rotating both the under towel and the blotting towel, until you see some results. Don't scrub! If it's going to work, it will in a few minutes.
    If you do this before you have it cleaned, you might make a water ring or dust mud.
  6. TangerineBoutique

    TangerineBoutique VFG Member

    I can't be certain without pictures but Nicole is right, it sounds like you are dealing with a silk organza and it is probably shattering under the arms because of perspiration that was not washed out. The salt does that. This is common with organza from the 50s.

    Anyway mending this type of issue is problematic. When fabric shatters is is weak and deteriorating. If you try to stitch the splits closed it will probably just get worse. You can try fray check, it might prevent further tearing but chances are the dress is beyond repair. I hate saying that and hope I'm wrong but it sounds that way.

  7. crowyhead

    crowyhead Registered Guest

    Thanks, folks, for your comments, you've been very helpful! I think unfortunately that you are probably right; I think it is shattering due to perspiration, judging by the fact that the worst areas of shredding/shattering are the armpits of the dress and the collar and armpits of the jacket. :( The problems in the armpit area are not very visible, so I think at this point I'm going to just try to do what I can to slow down the damage.
  8. claireshaeffer

    claireshaeffer VFG Member

    I would agree with the recommendations for Fray Check. I don't think a reweave job will help and may make matters worse. There are two causes of splitting--perspiration and folds. When silk organza remains folded in the same place for any length of time, it will split on the fold. If you can stuff it before storing in the future, that will reduce additional damage.

    Silk shatters also because it is weighted; but I don't think your dress is that old.

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