Monday, 26 May 2014

May at the Village Haberdashery: What Makes Good Dressmaking Fabric

I'm still on a dressmaking kick so for May with Me-Made-May in mind and Sewing Indie Month, 'What Makes Good Dressmaking Fabric?' is my theme for my monthly visit to The Village Haberdashery.  This is purely personal IMO thoughts on why I buy particular fabrics for making clothes.

1. Pattern Direction.
 If I am looking at a patterned fabric, I consider pattern direction first.  Is it one-way like Lotus Pond by Rae for Cloud 9 ?  This means the pattern orientates in one direction with the snails crawling along and not upside down.  For dressmaking, this can limit your placement of pattern pieces so you may end up needing more fabric.

This Feather print in teal is one way but a feature could be made of is going the other way as the design is more geometric and abstract.  It is quilting cotton so it would need a pattern that would suit a heavier cotton.  A Washi perhaps?

Two-way designs are more efficient as pattern pieces can go upwards or downwards.   This is a pre-order fabric by Kim Knight for Cotton and Steel:  Tacks Lawn in coral.  Lovely and lightweight.  You can utilise the direction for contrast details so for a waistband, the tacks could lie horizontally.

Jeni Baker comes up with some wonderful geometric designs and Art Gallery cotton is a silky base cloth great for clothing as well as quilting.  This is a four way pattern- imagine arrows vertically and horizontally- the pattern works in all these directions.  This is good if you are trying to squeeze pattern pieces into a limited quantity of fabric- I have cut pockets/waistband and other not so vital pattern pieces so the grain arrow lies horizontally rather than vertically on patterns like these.  This is from Dreamin' Vintage, Quite Lovely in Sugar.

And a tossed design is multi directional so which ever way you cut the pieces, including on the bias, the pattern will work. Palos Verde voile, Abalone Cove has this sort of pattern- its abstract and works anyway up.

And if in doubt, a solid suits everything.  Cambridge lawn is a Raobert Kaufman lightweight fabric in beautiful colours from pastels to darks.  This colour is called, 'Rain'.

2.  Width
Fabric is sold in standard width 115cm/44" and wide (somewhere between 54"/135cm and 60/150cm). Wider fabric can be better value for money.  Some patterns have such large pattern pieces that you need much less of the wider fabric than the standard width fabric- for example the Gabriola skirt or the Flora dress could be more economically made with wider fabric .   Annie has a selection of voiles that are wide and great value for money.  This is Garden Party floral

These interlock jerseys in solid colours and stripes are wide too, many jersey and knit sewing patterns assume wide fabric too- I think this may change with the introduction of more knit fabrics that are 44" wide.

3. Drape
This is a word often used of dressmaking fabrics.  There is a great technical explanation here.  Basically its how the fabric hangs on the body.  The often criticised quilting cotton can be a little stiff- e.g for a shirt or or something that needs fluidity and movement- like the Riding Peplum and Party Dress.  With Indie patterns, there are often clues in the fabric the designer uses for the pattern cover.  I can recognise a double gauze for the top and voile for the dress on April Rhode's pattern photos.  Although on her website you can see it in Art Gallery cotton and compare the drape.  

Double gauze is a favourite of mine, especially Nani Iro. Colourful Pocho in Berry Field.  Please leave me some of this,  I am thinking of another Belcarra in it!

4. Substrate/Fibre
I tend to stick to cottons.  I sometimes break out into a linen blend although I can find linen a little stiff at times and sometimes rough to wear.  A blend helps with this and makes it softer and less likely to crease.   I am looking forward to seeing the Cotton and Steel linen blend fabrics as Melody Miller has produced some great floaty blends in the past.  Spandex knits include some lycra/elastane in with the main fibre (in this case cotton) so the jersey has good shape retention and will spring back easily when worn- no baggy bottoms!  Most of these are 'coming soon' so patience, patience.  I am looking forward to the Art Gallery spandex/jersey.  Gleeful knits:  springs in sun

You can sign up to be notified when these fabrics come into stock- the fabric links will take you to this page.
There are other factors I think about when choosing fabric- how will it fit in and co-ordinate with the rest of my wardrobe being a big factor (its an eclectic mix in there, that's all I'm saying) and that is worth bearing in mind, but for now, Th Th Th Th Thaat's all folks! 

sib blog


  1. Great post Kerry, the few dressmaking fabric purchases I've made have been very lucky, as I have no idea what I'm buying or should be buying. I've just ordered some Anna Maria Horner fabric for my first Washi Dress. I hope it is suitable!!
    Although I do love Annie's Garden Party voile, so I can see more dressmaking fabric purchases in the future!!!!

  2. Lovely fabrics and good advice too. Love the garden party fabric too.

  3. I love all the advises! Yes, Nani Iro! So soft and so elegant! Hanmade garment is so tricky! I have a larger bone structure and cannot wear anything "tied" or I'll look really huge! I love how some of the print/ fabric makes me look thiner. My linen Tova got ripped in the washer the other day! I will need your help to " how to" fix up! Will need to take a photo later today and show it to you!

  4. Thanks for this post Kerry, it's very timely as I'm planning to buy some fabric for a few projects soon. I find I gravitate towards quilting cotton because they are the prints I know and love. It's tricky as a beginner to know where to start and without being able to see or feel the different fabrics it's hard to know what will work let alone be something I'd want to wear!

  5. Very interesting post Kerry. It's not always easy ordering fabric online. I have some of that Blue Tulip fabric (although mine didn't come from VH) and the flowers are enormous! The scale of the print took me by surprise. Are voile and lawn the same thing? That's what mine was described as.

  6. Sigh! So many gorgeous fabrics for garment making! I must get the homebody print. It's way too cute!

  7. Just catching up and loving all the new garments you've been making while I've been off gallivanting!


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