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Sullivan’s Spray Stabilizer

I was doing a fitting with one of my lovely models last week, and as I pinned her into the gingham muslin, I told her that the dress she would be eventually wearing would be a beautiful blue silk. She had done a bit of sewing and said, “oh, I tried sewing silk once when I didn’t know anything about it. It was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” I imagined that the silk she’d been using was probably something very light (like chiffon) or very slippery (like charmeuse).

I immediately wanted to recommend my favorite product for dealing with these tricky fabrics: Sullivan’s Spray Stabilizer.

Sullivan’s is a spray-on product that makes fabrics stiff and papery. It makes sewing with delicate and slippery fabrics much, much easier. It’s similar to a spray starch, but it tends to be easier on your fabric and doesn’t scorch or build up on your iron. To use it, just spray it liberally onto your (prewashed!) fabric before cutting. When your garment is done, it simply washes away. Voila!

I am a great lover of silk, and it’s probably the fiber I use the most often in my own sewing, so I am pretty familiar with its temperamental forms. Sullivan’s is truly a lifesaver in my studio.

Caveat: Some sewers do not believe in using spray stabilizer on expensive silk, so take that for what it’s worth. I’ve used it many times and have never had a single problem, so I’d invite you to give it a try.

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On , Gabrielle said:

You just resolved my current problem. Light and slippery curtain fabric I have a hard time cutting straight.

I shall look into the purchase of this new friend of mine.

Thanks!!!!

On , Sade said: | sade.sadevil.org

How would you use this if you were sewing say, a silk lining? Would you sew the lining, then wash it, then attach it to the garment?

I need to see if I can get anything like this locally tho. I don’t even know if I can get spray on starch.

On , Sarai said: | colettepatterns.com

You could wash the lining before sewing it in, or I suppose you could wash the entire garment when you’re done (if it’s washable).

On , Donna said:

You can get spray starch at any chain grocery or big box stores in their cleaning/laundry sections.

On , Mary Beth at ✄ Fabric U ✄ said: | tinyurl.com

Sullivan’s is so amazing. I’d recommend keeping a big of can nearby whenever you’re sewing. It’s truly one of the great tools of the modern age. Don’t buy the little cans…they end up just fizzing and spitting halfway through for some reason.

Use Sullivans on: lighweight jersey mesh, batiste, voile….man, just about anything lightweight that you want to temporarily stiffen. I’ve even used it on lace trim. Totally worth stocking up next time it’s on sale at Hancocks’ or Jo-Ann Fabrics. Sade, if you can’t get it locally buy it online, Vogue Fabrics’ online store has it.

On , Jessica said:

I tried looking for this at JoAnn yesterday but couldn’t find it. Do you know what section they keep it in?

On , liz said:

As a side note, how does everyone wash their silk after this spray is used?

On , Reader said:

Good to know, but what if you’re sewing a garment that is not suitable for washing?

I might try pinning or even basting the fabric to a piece of pattern paper. That worked once when I was doing a small sample.

On , Angela said: | miheesodesigns.blogspot.com

This is good to know… I’ll have to look for this next time! Thanks!

On , Holly said: | hollyklein.blogspot.com

Wow, I’ve never heard of this, but it looks great. Do you know if you can get it locally at Fabric Depot?

On , Sarai said: | colettepatterns.com

I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing you can. They definitely have it at Mill End.

On , Jennifer M said: | undertheroot.com

I adore these tips and tricks.
Question for you.. recently I had to work with activewear, similar to lycra, and found it nearly impossible to have no skipped stitches. I had the special needles too. Besides practice, do you have any recommendations?

On , Sarai said: | colettepatterns.com

You could try a short overlock stitch, or doing a small size zigzag? I would probably use a serger, though.

On , Sz said: | szmusil.wordpress.com

So, how do you wash your silks? Is it once through the washer / dryer prior to cutting? by hand? I usually wash silk garments by hand, but it’s been so long since I’ve made anything with silk…

On , Sarai said: | colettepatterns.com

I just wash silks by hand, and drip dry (outside if the weather’s nice, which is rare, or over the tub)

On , Ashley said:

Wow, thanks for the post Sarai, I can’t wait to try this!

On , ali said: | madebyali.blogspot.com

I love you deeply for telling me about this– I just *knew* there was a way to sew silks without puckering!

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[...] the contrasting sash. This fabric is even silkier than the navy fabric! I’m tempted to follow Collette Pattern’s advice and use a  spray stabilizer.  Has anyone used this before? Did it work well? What are your tips [...]

On , Liz said:

I finally found and used this product, and it’s GREAT! I needed to sew a thin amount of silk (1/4″) to the bottom edge of my wool skirt. I used this spray and it was magical.

Thanks so much. :)

On , Sandy said:

I have chemical sensitivities and have problems with the majority of products out there. Do you know if there is a fragrance free stabilizer?

On , Astrid said: | deunanena.blogspot.com

Chiffon is my favorite fabric, but it always slips away… this sounds like a good idea when cutting the fabric – and in some cases when sewing.

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On , Amanda said: | symondezyn.wordpress.com

Does anyone know where one could get this product, or something similar, in Canada? I’m on the West Coast, and my local Fabricland does not have any stabilizers at all. Thanks :)

On , Karen said:

Thanks for all the info. I am going to purchase this right away!

On , carolyn said:

Thanks so much for this tip–can’t wait to try it!

On , Shannon said:

Anyone know where to get this in New York? Surely somewhere in the garment district carries it, or maybe that Michael’s in Queens?

On , SewSum said:

dont know if you found it yet but FYI, any water soluble stabilizer (for light faric like chiffon etc) can be turned into sprayable stabilizer. I purchased “solvy” original lightweight stabilizer made by “sulky” and it had an instruction tip for turning it into liquid stabilizer. the ratio of water to that of stabilizer depends on mount of support you need/want. I like Sullivan bottle but this method seem to be more economical and also environmental friendly(vs. sullivan’s bottle- it’s aerosol can spray ). besides, it’s much easy to find. and i can limit precisely to the area i want support(if the entire garment is not washable- you can apply to just within the stitching area(seam allowance). i used a make up brush to apply it instead of using a spray bottle- for precise control.

On , AmyInNH said:

Weeks of fury trying to find a way to solve sewing moleskin, kept sticking to the needle (squeezy when punched by the needle), causing horrendous amounts of skipped stitches. Strips of Solvy along front and back of the seamline fixed it, stiffly held the fabric, underneath on needle down, and on top on needle up.

On , Lilly said: | rakeandmake.com

I’m about to make a Truffle dress out of rayon challis. Would this be good for that?

On , Sarai said: | colettepatterns.com

Sure, if you’re finding it too slippery. I think most challis isn’t *too* difficult to work with unless perhaps it’s a very light weight.

Planning projects — :: verypurpleperson ::

[...] browsing first for tips and tricks. Here’s some helpful posts on Craftstylish, Sewaholic and Colette on sewing with silk. Will I be able to conquer silk? I’m so excited! Tagged as: croquis, [...]

On , Jenny Wren said:

I don’t think this is available in the UK. Even the site you linked to does not ship it outside the US. After digging around a little, the only products I could find were basically water-soluble interfacings, sold in sizes suitable only for embroidery. Should I use spray starch instead, and how do you recommend using that stuff?

On , skilful_sewer said:

UK sewers be careful as spray starch (sold in cans eg Dylon spray starch, in the UK) can scorch when you’re ironing it and go brown! It can leave residue on the iron sole plate as well. Maybe try it out on a test swatch of your silk fabric first to see what happens. If it does “scorch” then you may be better off using a rotary cutter or micro-serrated dressmaking shears (eg. the brand with the lilac handle, they don’t cost more than “normal” dressmaking shears). I am going to be cutting some manmade chiffon soon myself, am thinking of using a cheap large fleece “throw” (blanket) on the dining room table, putting the chiffon fabric on top, using very fine (bridal/lace) pins in seam allowance then cutting with micro-serrated shears very carefully. I won’t cut through the blanket just cut the chiffon. Am hoping this will work ok.

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On , Jana said:

This product does not appear to be available anywhere any more! Joann’s, Amazon, online fabric stores (at least the one’s I’ve looked through). Any suggestions for a safe alternative for use with expensive silk?

Also, any experience using this with knit fabric? I have some really gorgeous knit stuff that is a total pain to cut accurately – any hints would be much appreciated.

On , skilful_sewer said:

I tried pinning a single layer of silk to a piece of polar fleece for cutting out (as described in my post above) and using micro-serrated dressmaking shears — and it worked brilliantly.

The fleece stops the silk from shifting.

Pin INSIDE the seam allowances parallel to the cutting lines so that you don’t leave pin marks in your silk anywhere that will show.

I can recommend that technique for silk and knits.

Don’t use a piece of polar fleece that you want to keep 100% intact afterwards — as I did make a few holes accidentally in the piece I used, while cutting out.

On , LynnDeG said:

Thank you all for your helpful comments on sewing with silk! I have a long silk dress with the skirt cut on the bias I am shortening, and have been wondering how I am going to cut it straight. The polar fleece idea sounds like it might work, as well as the fabric stabilizer if I can find it.

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[…] from your lining fabric. A tip I learned from Liz and have since seen Sarai from Colette Patterns recommend when using silk: if you choose a slippery lining fabric like I did, use a fabric stabilizing spray to tame that bad […]

On , Marilee said:

I am living in China for a year. I relieved a Shanghai tailor of a bag of her remnants left from cutting out dresses. I would like to make quilt blocks. I have my rotary cutter with me and mat with me. When I attempt to cut the pieces of the block the fabric will not stay still and the sewing process was even more agonizing. They have no such thing as spray starch or sizing that I’ve found. Is there a possible way to stabilize these pieces so I can cut and sew quilt blocks accurately?

On , AmyInNH said:

Anything rubberized stuck to the back of your transparent ruler will hold the fabric still when you press down on the ruler. Anti-skid rubber to open jars, thin pliable rubberized dish pan liner, etc.

On , cathy said: | cathywu.com

I read this post a few months ago. It’s been in the back of my mind for a while. Today I saw a bottle at the store and decided to buy a can. I just tried it and WOW. I don’t recognize my rayon bemberg anymore, this stuff is magic! Thank you for writing about this product!

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[…] think the key to my success in making this in chiffon was due to: 1. spray stabilizer – if you ever plan a project with a lightweight fabric like habotai silk or chiffon, use it, […]

On , Lady Mellilah said: | athenasgrove.com

I can’t wait to try this stuff on my next silk project! Definitely going to try on a scrap first just to be sure…

Thanks for the great tip.

On , Darcy said: | BestCreativeOutlet.com

Will this Sullivan’s Spray Stabilizer work with Brocade? I’ve had success with very
CAREFULLY melting the frayed edges of Brocade with an open flame; but when I find the need to cut-into the edges so sewn curves will lay flat… melting these clipped pieces is VERY difficult.
Does anyone have a better solution?

On , AmyInNH said:

Soldering iron, much better control over the heat than an open flame.

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On , Barbara said:

I have a pillow hooked used silk. I would like a product to spray overall to prevent fraying from use would Sullivan’s be the answer. I would not be able to wash. I would like it to be left on permanently. Is the product sticky. Thank you for your help

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