Friday, September 5, 2014

sew it all series - fabric!!!

Just in case you missed any of the other planning posts in the Sew It All series, you can find them here:

There is no doubt at all that choosing the perfect fabric is my favorite part of planning my sewing project.  After all, who doesn't love an excuse to buy more fabric!  But before I visit the store (either brick & mortar or online) and buy every fabric I like with no regard to what I need, I sit down and look through the patterns I plan to use and determine which fabric will work best for each project.  I try to keep in mind the season that the clothing will be worn, the fabric that the pattern calls for and the intended use for the finished item i.e. children's everyday clothes should not be made from dry clean only fabrics unless you are a glutton for punishment or independently wealthy.  And I don't know about you, but I don't want to end up wearing lightweight linen pants combined with a floral rayon challis top in the middle of a sub-zero Michigan winter, so a little planning is called for :)

Here are a few of my favorite fabrics for various articles of clothing.  Keep in mind that this list is geared more towards kids than adults, but I would use many of these fabrics in projects for myself as well.
  • Linen - I know I said that it's not practical in Michigan winters, but linen comes in many weights, and even the lighter weights can be lined.  I tend to like natural fibers, and linen is currently my favorite for pants, dresses and lightweight tops.
  • Corduroy - Very practical for our Michigan winters, but the lighter weight varieties can even be used in warmer climates.  I prefer 100% cotton corduroy and tend to like the 21 wale best for skirts, dresses and pants.  I also like uncut cord, which has a suede-like feel, for outerwear.
  • Cotton/Spandex Knits - My personal favorite for leggings and fitted tops.  Look for a version with at least 50% cross grain stretch (and preferably vertical stretch as well) with good recovery for the best results.
  • Ponte Double Knit - A firmer knit with less stretch but more structure.  I love ponte knits for comfortable tops with a structured look (such as a fitted peplum) and for colored skinny jeans.
  • Stretch Denim - I love denim for almost any type of garment, but when I am sewing for a small child, I like the denim to have some stretch.  Generally I look for cotton (or sometimes cotton/polyester) denim that contains 1-3% spandex which has enough stretch to make fitted pants comfortable.  Interesting fact - Lycra is a brand name of spandex the same as Kleenex is a brand name of tissues :)
  • Rayon Challis - Lovely fabric for flowing tops, dresses and skirts.  It irons beautifully too.  It's probably not well suited to Michigan in winter, but I tend to use lots of layers so we make it work.
  • Cotton Voile - Makes the most beautiful lightweight summer tops.  I don't think I'll be using it much for the next few months :)
  • Cotton Velour - My favorite fabric for sweatshirts and sweatpants in Michigan.  It's cozy and comfortable, which I'm sure is why Old Navy sells so many pairs of velour yoga pants each and every year!
  • Upcycled fabric - I'm not as picky about the content of the fabric when it's upcycled.  I'm just drawn to the idea of reusing instead of buying new. Besides, you can often get some garments made from truly lovely fabrics that you might not be able to find at your local fabric store.
There are a few fabrics you won't see on my list that are very widely used in home sewing.  The most notable fabric missing is probably quilting cotton.  I know that it is easy to work with and comes in the widest variety of prints of pretty much any fabric in existence, but I don't use it very often.  I'm not a fan of the lack of natural drape associated with many quilting cottons, and the styles of clothing that I make (and wear) most often aren't well suited to the fabric at all.  For many years I used almost exclusively quilting cotton , but lately I find myself migrating towards knit and higher end wovens.  Since I sew clothes that are worn on a daily basis, mostly by a 2 year old who has no respect for clothing, I like to use high quality fabrics that can hold up to the daily grind.

Since I tend to spend a bit more money for my fabric than I used to, I'm learning to buy exactly what I need with a purpose for every piece.  For example, I will buy a few yards of stretch denim instead of one and then I will use it to make a pair of pants, a skirt and a jacket.  I use the fabric much more efficiently when I make multiple items from one piece, and I end up with significantly less scraps when I am finished.  Which is a really good thing because I am not a scrap buster kind of girl!  And then there is the added benefit of knowing that everything I make should mix and match fairly easily leaving me with less of those "I love it, but it goes with nothing and will never get worn" kind of projects :)

If you choose to follow along with my sewing projects over the next few months, you will see several fabric repeats and a definite theme to the colors and prints.  I know each project may not be really exciting on it's own, but I'm hoping to show how simple it is to create a complete wardrobe.  I would love to see more people sew for themselves and their kids, and I'm hoping that this series will inspire someone to at least give it a try!

If you really do want to follow this series, I encourage you to follow me on Bloglovin' or Facebook so you don't miss any posts :)


  1. Teri, where do you get rayon challis? One of my favorite fabrics but I haven't seen it for years. Likewise, cotton voile?

    1. I have found both fabrics at lately, and I know there is some available on Etsy as well. There are several designers (Joel Dewberry, Valori Wells, Anna Marie Horner) who seem to be printing on fabrics other than quilting cotton so I'm hoping we will see more rayon challis and cotton voile in the near future.