Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Summer 2015: Fabrics for Dressmaking


Thank you for all your enthusiasm for a post about dressmaking fabrics in the comments to my last post. A few people asked me to go into as much detail as possible as, like me, you buy your fabrics online, where it's often difficult to get a proper sense of weight, drape and opacity, so with only the smallest encouragement needed, what follows is a quite ridiculously geeky analysis of the merits of each fabric! Enjoy.

I should preface this post by saying that I'm obsessive about drape because I believe that this is the key to making flattering clothes that make me feel happy when I wear them, rather than like a miserable dumpling, which is what a poorly chosen piece of cloth can do to me. So these are the things that will run through my mental checklist when I'm considering a fabric now: Will it hold the shape if the garment is more structured? Will it skim, rather than cling to, the more lumpy areas if it's a more flowing fabric? Will it stand proud like a pelmet lampshade between my widest points of bust and bottom, rather than following the curve into the small of my back?

I also consider opacity too, as there are varying levels of translucency, the acceptability of which depends upon the garment and also the wearer's willingness to be revealed! So here, my questions are: Will this show my tummy button (arg! Transparency is never a quality that I'm enamoured with in a fabric)? Will this show my bra? Will this show my silhouette even when there's no sun? Will this show my silhouette when there is sun? Will I feel well-covered on a day when I'm feeling like I'd rather not have even the merest hint of the contours of my stomach visible? Could I use this for a pattern that features pleats or gathering to make it less revealing? Could I interline this fabric with something of a similar weight and drape to make it more modest?

While it's not really possible for a fabric to have an intrinsic 'poor drape', it's possible for it to drape poorly for your intended style of clothing, so I'll try to share as much information as I can about what styles I think each fabric may suit.

Please remember that these are my own, very subjective, thoughts and that others may have different opinions as to suitability, so it may be worth reading around before purchasing anything. If you've used any of these fabrics yourself, please do leave comments with your own thoughts or even links to what you've made. I think we all like seeing as many sample garments as possible before committing to buy. Let's begin.


These two prints are both from Cotton & Steel's new range of rayon fabrics, going under the collection name of Frock. They are utterly dreamy and tick all the right boxes on so many levels: they have the most incredible, flowing drape; they feel like cotton sateen, but without the sometimes nasty sheen and slipperiness; they come in wearable prints that won't make you look like you're wearing a quilt; and they are opaque enough to avoid a sunlit body silhouette and will gracefully skim over any lumps and bumps.

When you hold it up and move it, Frock rayon undulates and billows in the most wonderful way: there is life in this fabric.


Bearing in mind that most fabrics will show some light when held up, this is the barely perceptible outline of my hand when held up behind the fabric, below - this seems like a nicely opaque fabric to me. However, what feels almost completely opaque in top half of the body terms, may not feel quite so modest in dress terms and, as I'm yet to make a dress from this, I don't feel entirely confident saying that you could definitely make an unlined dress from it. But if I was to, I'd make a Miz Mozelle dress from it as the drape would suit this style so well. In the UK you can find these prints at M is for Make or the The Village Haberdashery. In the US, you can find them at Hawthorne Threads.


I have always been a big fan of Heather Bailey's designs and she's recently produced a line of rayon fabrics (and a few voiles too) for FreeSpririt, entitled Momentum. This is a shirt that I made in one of the rayon prints, below (I'll do a full post on the actual shirt at a later date). It's a really glorious fabric - I have craved a material that will produce a button placket that flops casually, rather than standing to attention like a regimental soldier and this shirt demonstrates that rayon has this ability. It shares all the qualities of the Cotton & Steel rayon, although the Freespirit designs look to have been printed on a white rayon base cloth, which means that if the neckline drapes open, or if a sleeve is rolled up (as you can just on the edge of this photo), then it can mean that you get a bit of this white reverse side showing. I personally don't have a massive problem with this and I'd happily buy more prints from the range, but it's something to be aware of when thinking about what pattern you'd use it with. I bought the last 95cm that Clothkits had, thinking they were the only UK stockist, but I've since seen that Fancy Moon also stock many of the prints from the collection. In the US, you can find them at Hawthorne Threads.


Next, this glorious swiss dot (although I've always thought of something with raised tufts as a 'dobby'), which comes in this blue and also a greyish black. This is really perfect for a light summer top and has a lovely softness to it. The drape is good (although obviously not as flowing as a rayon), in part because it's so thin.


In terms of opacity, again, I've photographed it with an artificial light source a few metres away, out on the landing (exactly the same set up as with the rayons) and with my hand behind it. You can see that this is an incredibly sheer fabric. I think it would suit something with some pleats or gathers if you want to avoid feeling entirely naked.


For reference, I recently made a top (similar to this top which I made years ago) in some white dobby that I had in my stash, which I don't feel entirely comfortable in - you'll note from the picture, that not only can you see the pattern on my bra, but you can also see the outline of my body and even the belt loops on my jeans! I can't tell if I'm being prudish here - I wouldn't have thought twice about this a few years ago, so I'm not entirely sure why I mind about it now - but whatever, it feels like it doesn't offer quite enough coverage. I bought this white dobby locally several years ago, but I notice that Annie has something similar in stock that may or may not be slightly thicker.


I imagine that this blue Swiss Dot may well be easier to wear because it's a darker fabric, however, I'd still consider interlining it (given my sudden desire for my clothing to double as a nun's habit), which worked well on this top, pictured below - you can see from the sleeve, which I didn't line, how thin the fabric was when used alone. However, it's really important to find a lining fabric that has a very similar composition and weight if you don't want to completely alter the drape of your main fabric. I used the thinnest, softest cotton I could find to interline this top - I bought it from The Cloth House, although I have no idea if they still stock it now.


On to Atelier Brunette. Atelier Brunette have the most incredible range of dressmaking prints. These French prints are small-scaled, subtle, chic and I want to wear practically every single one of them. When it comes to designs, in my eyes, they blow everything else out of the water. Alice stocks a fine selection of them, here. The compromise comes in the drape. I've made a couple of tops in Atelier Brunette's Cotton Cambric over the last few years and unfortunately I've always mismatched my pattern to the fabric and ended up with something fundamentally unflattering (one of which was a version of the white dobby top, above, in the cotton cambric pictured below). These fabrics, in my nit-picky opinion, aren't quite right for patterns that require any drapiness. I could share photos with you of them doing that aforementioned thing where, in profile, they stand proud like a pelmet lampshade between my widest points of bust and bottom, rather than following the curve into the small of my back, but I'm too appalled by them to put them on the internet for fear of them ending up on Pinterest outside of the context of 'I know this is hideous'. I really believe the cotton cambric fabrics need a pattern that is quite structured. Colette's Laurel blouse (this is the pattern used for the navy blouse above) would be perfect, as it has darts at the front and back and a really neat, fitted shape.


However, Guthrie & Ghani recently sent me a sample of Atelier Brunette's viscose and it couldn't be more different in terms of drape. This is the finest, silkiest, deliciously drapey little sample of perfection that you see below. I would love a top made from this. It is very, very thin though. So I'm imagining it may be best worn either with a fine black camisole beneath it or lined with something incredibly thin, as I've done with the navy spotty top earlier in the post. Photos don't really do justice to how lovely the viscose fabrics are. Be careful when shopping for them - some AB prints appear in a few different substrates, so double-check that you're buying the one you're intending to. Both Guthrie and Ghani and Backstitch have several viscose prints in stock.


Next, this rather unassuming-looking indigo denim chambray from Robert Kaufman's Chambray Union Collection (for those who aren't familiar with it, this collection is based mostly around blue chambray fabrics in a wide variety of weights, so each fabric is slightly different, but they seem to share a general awesomeness). I don't know how to photograph this adequately to convey quite how wonderful it is, but when I first felt it, I thought it may be the loveliest fabric that I'd ever touched. It's ridiculously soft and silky in a way that belies its utilitarian appearance and is the most perfect denim colour. Hold it up to the light and it doesn't have the dense opacity you'd expect it to though - perfect for completely non-revealing unlined tops, but I'm yet to decide whether I'd go for an unlined skirt. If you think that I'm paranoid about the skirt issue, you may like to revisit this post.


Next, Robert Kaufman's Cotton Chambray Dots in Royal. This fabric is much less drapey than many in the Chambray Union collection and although it's very soft, it has a structure that makes it totally unsuitable for drapey tops. It would be far better for light, bottom-weight items. I'm imagining that it would be perfect for something like an Emery dress where the bodice is more structured and the skirt can take a bit of body, or equally, a Laurel dress, which has a fitted shape without any flounce.  I am bitterly regretting my choice of colour here, as while I would have worn the Indigo, when it arrived I realised that the Royal colour that I'd chosen is totally out of my colour comfort zone as it's very bright! The top part of the photo shows the right side of the fabric, the more subtle side is the reverse side (I guess I could use the reverse, but I'm less keen on the sheen on this side). If anyone who has a more diverse range of colours that they like to wear would like two metres of this, it cost £33 new and I'll happily part with it for £25 in the UK including postage. It's been pre-washed and smells deliciously of fabric softener! 


I know I talked about this in my last post, but I don't want to leave it out of this round-up as it's incredibly lovely: Indigo Dot, another fine part of the Robert Kaufman Chambray Union collection. 


Indigo Dot is wonderfully soft. It's perfect for shirts, blouses or tank tops and I'd consider making a really gathered skirt from it, or a lined straight skirt. It's a floppy fabric, so if you're looking for something with a stiffness that will hold its shape, this isn't it. 

Finally, I know that some of my readers, for ethical and/or health reasons prefer to shop organic for their fabrics, so I thought I'd also tell you about some fantastic fabric that I bought a few years ago. It's an organic navy cotton sateen fabric that is just pure loveliness without any of the high-sheen slipperiness that cheap sateen can have. It's almost completely matte, in fact.


Because it's such a dark fabric, I'm afraid it's really hard to give you a sense of weight or drape through photos, so I'll try and describe it. It's definitely opaque enough for unlined dresses. It's incredibly soft, but it has a mid-weight to it that means it also has some substance. I'd happily make a Brumby skirt from it, but I think it may feel a bit too thin for a Moss skirt (I'm working on the basis that a straight, short skirt made in a fabric that's not substantial enough may look akin to a creased rag by the end of the day, whereas a more flared skirt would carry this fabric off perfectly). Again, I'd avoid a Laurel dress for the same reasons (although a Laurel top would be fine), but imagine that a Crepe dress or Violet blouse would work nicely. Organic Cotton Plus have impressive credentials as organic trailblazers within the US fabric and cotton farming industry, so are definitely worth looking into.


Finally, just as I was about to post this, I received a serendipitous subscriber's email from Hawthorne Threads sharing news of a rayon chambray addition to Robert Kaufman's House of Denim collection.


It really does feel like the world is suddenly just exploding with amazing dressmaking fabrics. After sharing all this glorious fabric temptation, I feel compelled to also share with you the thought that I try to keep in my own head in the face of all this. It will not run out. And if this is what's appeared in just the last few months, that must mean that even more good things are bound to be on their way! Sometimes though, after so many years of struggling to find beautiful dressmaking fabrics, it's hard to keep this at the forefront of my thoughts!

Florence x

23 comments:

  1. This is SO helpful - thank you for taking the time to describe these fabrics in a way that is *almost* touching them! I'm planning my first dressmaking venture in many years, and shopping for fabrics online is quite daunting. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So pleased you've found it helpful! I hope your first garment goes well! x

      Delete
  2. Florence, thank you SO much for this post. As a new sewist of garments I find the whole fabric choice thing rather confusing. I know that quilting cotton is not what I want, but I don't know what I DO want. I have some voiles that I am ready to sew up just to see how they go, and a few rayons as well. And then there's the knits, argh! I hope you do sew up a Miz Moselle, I've been eyeing that one off for over a year. Thanks again, oh, and I bought a quite cheap knit camisole/singlet/whatever you'd call it in a skin tone colour that works wonderfully under shear tops. It's very fitted (like a sports top) with adjustable spaghetti straps and makes me feel much more comfy wearing anything a little see-through or with too low a vee at the front (bad given I'm always bending over with my littlies and giving everyone an eyeful of my chesty nothingness in Woolworths. Classy.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Kirsty, I have sewn up a few Miz Mozelles, just not in those fabrics. You can find one in silk here: http://flossieteacakes.blogspot.co.uk/2011/07/making-miz-mozelle-dress.html and then one in a much plainer fabric, which was just a toile (but I quite like the way it looks) here: http://flossieteacakes.blogspot.co.uk/2011/07/miz-mozelle-toile.html. It's a lovely pattern and I'd definitely recommend it. Your camisole sounds like a brilliant idea! Good luck with all your sewing! x

      Delete
  3. Hi Florence, thanks for the great post! If you haven't promised the chambray to anyone else I would love to give it a home. I've been thinking about buying some for a while but haven't committed yet!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Tizz, thank you so much for your comment. I've actually gifted it to Jane, below, as she's sent me several lovely surprises in the past and so I really wanted to take the opportunity to return the favour. I hope you don't mind, Florence x

      Delete
  4. Doh, pipped to the post! I'm actually about to buy some of the dotted chambray in royal blue for a shirt dress anyway. I think the weight would work really well with a structured dress. I used the same fabric in indigo for a bow blouse with darts and it was a good choice - crisp enough to hold the darts, but with enough drape to prevent the bow looking too clown like! (I didn't interface the bow as instructed). http://www.handmadejane.co.uk/2014/10/dotted-chambray-bow-blouse.html. I'm also about to make a summer top from some white Swiss dot from Fabric Godmother. It must be identical to the fabric you used for your blouse as it's completely transparent! I'm planning to underline it with white silk cotton.
    This is a fabulous post Florence, interesting to read but most of all, incredibly helpful, thank you! x

    ReplyDelete
  5. This is such a great post - thank you Florence! I always love your posts x

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks so much, Florence. This is really useful information for those of us who need to shop on-line for fabric. Susan

    ReplyDelete
  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi Florence - thank you so much for this really useful post. I wondered if you had ever come across fabrics by the following french company - France Duval Stalla - I just discovered them on the following website and they have most amazing range of blues and greys I though might appeal http://www.littlefabrics.com/8-france-duval-stalla

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your comment made me laugh a lot - you've clearly spotted that I'm in a blue and grey phase! Wow - those fabrics look amazing - have you ordered any yourself? Thank you so much for the link. x

      Delete
  9. Ah yes, I have a piece of sateen from Organic Cotton Plus (different shade of blue) and have been thinking of a Brumby-ish skirt. They do have a great range of certified organic fabrics, but how did you find their service? I've had bits of fabric that were seemingly cut with garden shears, wrong fabrics sent, and various other fiascos too complex to describe here! And they won't cut partial yards (eg. 1.5 yards). It's a shame, because most of their fabrics are so nice. UK company organiccotton.biz have a terrible website but some lovely fabrics. x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Is it the more 'airforce blue' colour? I have that too ;) I haven't had the garden shears experience or any of the other awfulness, but Nina, you poor thing - that sounds dreadful. Did you end up making anything from it, or it did it feel too badly lacerated to want to go near it? x

      Delete
    2. Like everything else, it all joined the stash! The crooked edges do rather put me off, though. And yes, that airforce-ish shade, so nice. What's your plan for it? x

      Delete
  10. Thank you for making another one of these lists, I am always on the lookout for this type of fabric (being very familiar with the inadvertent 'dumpling' effect from stiff cottons...)

    Apart from those you mention ClothSpot and Fabric Godmother are my favourite online shops for clothing fabrics - both seem to have an eye for 'dressmaking' as opposed to quilting prints. ClothSpot's descriptions and large photos (I think the proprietor used to be a museum curator?) are so helpful in judging drape, weight, etc.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hadn't heard of ClothSpot before, so thank you so much for mentioning it! That sounds fantastic. x

      Delete
  11. Fabulous post! I always shy away from plainer fabrics like chambrays and Swiss dots for my dressmaking in favour of all the fun quirky prints then wonder why my wardrobe looks like a clowns bring and buy sale! Thanks for enlightening me to all the beautiful subtle possibilities! I am just about to comemce my second pair of Closet case files Ginger jeans- any tips for denim sources?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not entirely sure as I haven't fully researched it. Annie at the Village Haberdashery has some denim, but it's quite stiff with no stretch, I think. That's one option. Maybe try Ray-Stitch in London? Sorry not to be more help. x

      Delete
  12. Thank you so much for this post which I just loved reading. I'm very excited about the Robert Kaufman indigo denim chambray as I think this is EXACTLY what I've been looking for!

    ReplyDelete
  13. I too want to thank you for the post, and what I know was a lot of time both photographing all of the fabrics and writing all the descriptions. It's truly appreciated and will help me so much as I continue to (finally!) make up some of the lovely garment patterns I've been hoarding.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Oh Florence where to begin. This couldn't have been written at a better time. I suddenly thought to copy an old comfortable summer skirt I love to wear. It actually turned out pretty good. Now I am obsessed. I have scoured the net finding out about knits and such and its so overwhelming. You are my kind of crazy and so funny too! I loved this read. Now I can go investigate the possibilities with great information. Thank you!!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Great post. Thank you for sharing. I agree with you - the cotton + steel rayons are just divine. I also, LOVE all of the Atelier Brunette/ Anna Ka Bazaar fabrics. They are indeed truly perfect for dressmaking although you do need to be aware of their weights, drapes etc. I'm even prepared to occasionally pay the postage to Australia (because they are so unique)! I also had the pleasure of visiting the store in Paris and the owners are so lovely....

    ReplyDelete

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

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...