Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Fabrics for dressmaking


Every Spring, the dressmaking bug is reawakened in me after a winter of hibernation (seemingly beneath whatever quilt I've been sewing in its place), and with that, an interest in what new fabrics are around for dressmaking is also reignited. I thought I'd share what I found on my most recent trawl of the internet incase you too are looking for some suitable dressmaking fabrics.


The photo above is Essex Linen - it comes in several colours and the ones I'm showing here are Grey and Steel. I've often thought when I've used Essex yarn dyed linen for bag making, how fantastic it would be for dressmaking - it's soft, but very suitable for bottom-weight clothing (that's clothes for the bottom half of your body…not clothes that weigh the same amount as a bottom…obviously).


This interweave chambray has similar qualities, despite having an entirely different feel and comes in some amazing colours - the one I'm showing here is Slate. It has a much smoother, flatter weave than the linen and feels slightly crisper. I'm considering using it when I try to recreate this skirt below, which I wore a lot last summer - does anyone know of a pattern for a skirt that looks similar? I love this one by Megan Nielson, but it's much more A-line than the one I'm wearing here (and yes, it's hideously creased - it was because I'd spent all day sitting on the grass in the blazing heat making terrariums with my children - such a good day). I guess that's the real difference between the linen and the chambray - I'd make the Megan Nielson skirt from the linen because it has enough volume to carry the inevitable creases that linen brings with it, whereas for a more fitted skirt like this, I'd go for the chambray, which seems more resistant to looking rumpled (I screwed it up in a ball to check that one!).


Next is a blue and white geometric cotton lawn, but far softer than a Tana lawn, for example - it's much more drapey than that. This is exactly the kind of fabric I love using if I'm making a blouse - it doesn't have that awkward stiffness that makes a fabric stand slightly proud of the body - it feels like it would hang really flatteringly, but without clinging at all, due to it being 100% cotton. It could be used for lightweight summer skirts too, but it would very definitely need lining. I love this fabric - I wish that more designs were printed on exactly this substrate.



I love the colours of this next print. It's a double gauze by Tomotake. It's a different beast to the super-drapey lawn above, but would still be suitable for tops where the shape requires a little more definition, but I would have thought ideal for dresses and skirts. The way that the print has been designed, with the darker, mottled mustard spot, makes this design look very three dimensional and as though it could have a raised print, but it's actually completely flat! If you haven't worked with double gauze, I share more about my first time sewing with it here.


The next fabric is actually a double knit!


A double knit is actually constructed in much the same way as a double gauze, only with the addition of being stretchy. Here's a close-up of it. I always worry that double anything, carries the risk that the two layers will separate, which is what this photo may lead you to believe is about to happen. But the fabrics are actually ingeniously bonded together at the regular points where the sweet needle-prick pattern is visible and there's no risk of them making a break from one another at all.


This knit is ridiculously soft, beautifully coloured and feels very stable (so would be less challenging to sew with than many knits) and makes me long for a top with a Peter Pan collar made from it. It also feels like it would feel cool during the summer months. Its only fault is that there's not much of it - it comes in a width of just 32", so you'd need to plan for that if you order any yourself as if it's a more voluminous top, the back and front pieces may not always fit side-by-side on the fabric when cutting it out. 


Finally, some delicious jersey. About 65% of my wardrobe is made up of stripy tops, so I love the look of the new stripes that Annie has got in recently, as well as the solids. Although I am a big fan of the amazing drape that a bamboo jersey offers, these knits are a little more stable than that and so would be easier to sew and also less likely to cling to every lump and bump in the way that a bamboo knit can! They'd be perfect for Colette's new Moneta pattern, which I'm really tempted to make - I love patterns with longer arms…even in extreme heat I often like to have my arms covered (for those that don't - it also comes with pattern pieces for short sleeves…or no sleeves at all!).


I'm actually planning a few more of these posts, as I love shopping for dressmaking fabrics - trying to obtain the combination of perfect drape, perfect feel, perfect weight and perfect print is a tricky business and I quite enjoy the challenge! 

Florence x

Ps. And I'd really love to hear if you know of a skirt pattern like the one mentioned in this post…or any amazing dressmaking fabrics you've spotted yourself. 

11 comments:

  1. Hi Florence! I'm sad enough to have a whole Pinterest board (Quince&Pippin) devoted to fabric for dressmaking :) I do include quilting weight cottons as well, though, as I use them for garments that need to hold their shape a little more. Love your choices. Jen

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    1. I follow you on Pinterest already, but it was nice to go and look at your dressmaking fabrics board in isolation just now - I tend to miss so much of what's pinned as I only go on Pinterest sporadically.

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  2. Apparently this is nice and drapey, I'm going to send for samples: http://www.organiccotton.biz/store/index.php?route=product/category&path=178 . They've got something like 15 colours of single jersey coming in soon too... But I should mainly be "shopping" from the stash!

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    1. Oooh, that looks interesting - thank you, Nina. x

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  3. Simplicity 2343 is probably just about perfect for your skirt-making desires :)

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    1. Crazy! You have literally found my skirt in pattern form for me! Thank you so much! Have you made it yourself?

      The only thing that could make it more perfect was if it was by an indie pattern company…I find the cutting and sizing tends to often be really odd with these patterns. I'd love to hear how you found the sizing if you've made it. x

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    2. Sadly it's still on my list of Things I Must Make. I'm currently still only making clothes for the kids and all my time at the moment is being taken up by my Liberty cathedral window project for my friend's wedding present! It's almost reduced me to tears having to actually take a pair of shears to my lovely Liberty - that has previously only ever been taken out to admire and stroke occasionally!

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  4. I love these recommendations...............your English sites are so much better, with a much bigger range, than here in Australia...........far too tempting!!!!

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  5. I've just started a bit if dressmaking, mostly cottons to start with. What I'm finding hard is how much wasted fabric there is and what I can do with it. If it were quilting cotton I'd have no problem but these are all much lighter. Any suggestions or do I just need to get a lot better with my cutting out process! It's making me think i should just use quilting so that I can use the leftovers.

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  6. Try the grainline moss skirt, I love it, I didn't quite like the hem band on the longer version so I just made the mini, but lengthened it! Oh and it's like you've been going through my dressmaking stash, I have that geometric lawn too, it's delicious!

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  7. That linen looks just lovely for a skirt! Sorry, I can't help you with a pattern suggestion :-(

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Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a message - it's always really lovely to hear from people.

I now tend to reply within the comments section, so please do check back if you've asked a question or wish to chat.

Florence x

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