Woven fabrics for fall and winter sewing

Woven fabrics for fall and winter sewing - Workroom Social Brooklyn-based sewing studio with sewing classes for adults

Woven fabrics for fall and winter sewing

Woven fabrics for fall and winter sewing - Workroom Social Brooklyn-based sewing studio with sewing classes for adults

A few weeks back I interviewed Penny Payne, the Fabric and Notions Editor for the McCall Pattern Company, about her favorite fashion fabrics to work with and wear this fall/winter season. Penny sources fabrics, notions, and trimmings for Butterick, McCall’s, Kwik Sew, and Vogue Patterns. With more than 40 years of experience in the fashion industry, Penny is a wealth of information and remains as excited as ever about fabrics.

Woven fabrics for fall and winter sewing - Workroom Social Brooklyn-based sewing studio with sewing classes for adults

Fabric is every sewer’s most important material, and I get a lot of questions about it. Nothing can substitute getting your hands on lots of different fabrics, working with them, and seeing how they perform, but hopefully today’s article will help you think through some good woven fabrics for your fall and winter fashion sewing.

My newest article for The Sewing Party is a complementary article all about knit fabrics for fall and winter fashion sewing.

Woven fabrics for fall and winter sewing - Workroom Social Brooklyn-based sewing studio with sewing classes for adults

WOVEN FABRICS

Penny’s favorite woven fabrics are fashion-forward and comfortable to wear. They are versatile, and will produce handmade clothes that look as good as any ready-to-wear piece. If you’ve never worked with one of the mentioned fabrics, pick one to experiment with! It may take time and practice to get comfortable with working with new materials, so why not start on your next project now? Like me, Penny encourages every sewist to try new things, and don’t forget to “Have fun because sewing is a lot of work, and if you’re not having fun doing it, there’s something wrong.”

Woven fabrics for fall and winter sewing - Workroom Social Brooklyn-based sewing studio with sewing classes for adults

Rayon challis

Color, print, and surface design: Rayon challises printed with different colorful designs are becoming more and more available to the home sewer.
Drape and hand: Challis is a lightweight, plain weave fabric. In 100% rayon it is very drapey. It breathes well, and is nice as a layering garment in the fall and winter.
Common fiber content: 100% rayon.
Penny’s fabric notes: Rayon challis wears well over time and develops nice soft hand as you wash it.
Garments that work best: Dresses, tops, and layering pieces.
Where can you get it: Some independent fabric stores and quilt shops that offer fashion weight fabrics, online fabric stores, fashion fabric stores.

Woven fabrics for fall and winter sewing - Workroom Social Brooklyn-based sewing studio with sewing classes for adults

Crepe de chine

Color, print, and surface design: Available in various solids and prints.
Drape and hand: A lightweight plain weave fabric with fluid drape and a smooth hand. While it is smooth, it still has a texture to it which makes it easier to work with than a very slippery fabric like charmeuse.
Common fiber content: Silk, polyester, or blends.
Penny’s fabric notes: If you wash silk crepe de chine it develops a really nice hand.
Garments that work best: Tops and dresses.
Where can you get it: Online fabric stores, fashion fabric stores. You can find polyester crepe de chine at box chain fabric stores as well.

Woven fabrics for fall and winter sewing - Workroom Social Brooklyn-based sewing studio with sewing classes for adults

Crepe

Color, print, and surface design: Available in various solids and prints.
Drape and hand: Crepes are soft with a fluid drape and come in various weights. Crepe yarns give crepe fabric a “pebbly”[1] texture.
Common fiber content: Silk, wool, or blends.
Penny’s fabric notes: Wool crepe is expensive and can be irritating against your skin. Penny prefers to use newer, technical versions of crepe fabric like crepe with triacetate, which gives fabric a bit of stretch.
Garments that work best: Tops, dresses. Use 4- or 6-ply crepes (heavy crepes) for pants and trousers.
Where can you get it: Online fabric stores, fashion fabric stores. Box chain stores usually carry a selection of crepes as well.

Woven fabrics for fall and winter sewing - Workroom Social Brooklyn-based sewing studio with sewing classes for adults

Lightweight plain weave cotton pima

Color, print, and surface design: Available in many solid colors and prints. Colors are often vibrant and rich as cotton takes well to both screen printing and dye.
Drape and hand: Lighter than broadcloth. A little stiffer drape. Not fluid looking like crepes and challises.
Common fiber content: 100% cotton.
Penny’s fabric notes: If you’ve only made clothes with quilting cottons, sewing with cotton pima is a great way to transition into using fashion weight fabrics. It’s easy to sew like quilting cottons, and wears nicely, becoming more soft after washing.
Garments that work best: Dresses, tops, and layering pieces.
Where can you get it: Independent fabric stores and quilt shops, online fabric stores, fashion fabric stores, box chain stores.

Woven fabrics for fall and winter sewing - Workroom Social Brooklyn-based sewing studio with sewing classes for adults

Flannel

Color, print, and surface design: Available in solids and prints. Plaids and heathered fabrics are also common and on-trend for fall.
Drape and hand: Soft with a brushed or napped surface. Available in different weights. Insulating and warm for fall and winter garments.
Common fiber content: Cotton or wool.
Penny’s fabric notes: Penny prefers cotton flannel over wool flannel. She loves any flannel heathered. If you use wool flannel, line your garment to make it more comfortable against your skin.
Garments that work best: Tops, pajamas, layering pieces. Use bottomweights (heavier weights) for pants and jackets.
Where can you get it: Some independent fabric stores and quilt shops that offer fashion weight fabrics, online fabric stores, fashion fabric stores, box chain stores.

Woven fabrics for fall and winter sewing - Workroom Social Brooklyn-based sewing studio with sewing classes for adults

Denim

Color, print, and surface design: Traditionally indigo, though you can now find denim in a variety of colors and also in prints. Companies are also making denims in woven designs like herringbone and dobby.
Drape and hand: Medium to heavyweight fabric. Durable and commonly thought of as stiff. Today you can find denims made of blends with tencel and spandex, giving the fabric drape and stretch.
Common fiber content: Cotton and blends.
Penny’s fabric notes: Denim is a versatile fabric that has come a long way since it’s origins in workwear.
Garments that work best: Pants, skirts, and jackets. Use mediumweight denims for dresses.
Where can you get it: Some independent fabric stores and quilt shops that offer fashion weight fabrics, online fabric stores, fashion fabric stores, box chain stores.

FOOTNOTES

1. Hallett, Clive and Amanda Johnston. Fabric for Fashion. London: Laurence King Publishing, 2014. Print

REFERENCES

Hallett, Clive and Amanda Johnston. Fabric for Fashion. London: Laurence King Publishing, 2014. Print
Cohen, Allen C. and Ingrid Johnson. J.J. Pizzuto’s Fabric Science. New York: Fairchild Books, 2012. Print.
Sposito, Stefanella. Fabrics in Fashion Design. Barcelona: Promopress, 2014. Print.


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  • Very helpful post this is great!

  • Great info! Thanks for sharing!

  • liser harrison

    This is helpful, but have a couple of questions. Are their “code” words in fabric descriptions we can look for? Can you offer any advice for a better way than the 1) order, then return (very frustrated) or 2) order, then keep awful fabric that will never make you happy and end up with a huge pile of crap fabric (and feeling ripped off and bummed) methods of fabric shopping online, for those of us with very limited retail sources?How do you know the weight of fabrics when buying online. For example, I ordered several flannels from the same company. All 100%cotton. 2 were a nice mid weight which made fine shirts. 1 was quite heavy, so I made the same shirt design, but use it as a jacket. The other 3 were very light weight, I made the same shirts but they are so light weight that they wrinkle and the fabric actually sticks to itself while wearing it. I order sweater knits, thinking SWEATER knit…and what I get more often than not is a knit that’s so light weight you can see your undergarments, and have to return it. And silk, which I LOVE, but don’t want the type that is like butterfly wings. I want the heavier, brushed finish type that you can find in RTW. I hope you read this and can help. Pleeeease! There are a lot of us with this problem.

    • Hi Liser!

      Q: Are their “code” words in fabric descriptions we can look for?
      A: Not sure what kind of code words you are thinking of. Online fabric shopping can be super difficult. You should def make sure that the fabric content listed is what you’re looking for. Other than that, it’s really hard to tell hand and drape by an online description. The best thing to do is order or request swatches. Online shops like Emma One Sock will send swatches so you can actually touch them before you order.

      Q: How do you know the weight of fabrics when buying online?
      A: If you’re not given an oz. weight or a description of weight, I would contact the company and ask. Online shops like Mood Fabrics will give a description of weight (light, mid, bottom/heavy) and what kinds of garments they recommend for the fabric. If you’re shopping online, I would def feel comfortable contacting customer service. That’s what they are there for.

      Q: And silk, which I LOVE. I don’t want the type that is like butterfly wings. I want the heavier, brushed finish type that you can find in RTW.
      A: If you want heavier silks, don’t get silk chiffons, get silk twills or 4-ply silks. When you’re shopping for silks remember that silk is the fiber. You want to pair the fiber with the construction. Keeping an eye out for the construction and knowing what the construction means will help you know what the fabric will be like when you get it delivered.

      OK!! I think I’ve got a code phrase for you to search for!! Try searching “4-ply silk crepe.” This will be a heavier, drapey silk that could be just what you’re looking for. Before you buy, though, get a swatch. 😉

      I hope this is helpful!!

      • liser harrison

        Jen,
        It’s was very helpful, and thanks and extra thanks for the extra info. Especially the silk part. When I think of crepe, I think of scratchy, stiffer feeling instead of the soft drape feeling. I’ve been ordering silk shirts online, and want to try making some. It’s so stinking expensive to make a mistake when it comes to silk fabric, I’ve been chicken. Maybe it’s the laundering that gets it soft? Crepe is the right weight and opaqueness so I’ll bite the bullet and give it a try! The only 100% silk I’ve found locally (very very rare anyway) is the type you’d use for lining. Yum, but not what I’m looking for.

        I’ve tried calling customer service at a couple of places and they just read to me what is already posted online….not a lot of help….so then it comes down to whether I can afford to buy it then have it sit if it’s not right. Maybe trying some smaller business’ where they have the time to go look will bring more success. Also, have the patience to order swatches. Patience is a goal.

        Knits are another story. 2-way and 4-way stretch for example. My experience has been that the terms are interchangeable. I’ll order 2-way, but it stretches in every direction, making it clingy (and droopy in the heavier weights). Which then makes me wonder what the 4- way is. Maybe it stretches into that 5th dimension? It feels soft and fabulous, so I’ll make it into shirt, but wearing it makes me feel like a drowned cat. The sleeves and hems grow through the day. Conversely, the lighter weights seem to shrink with wear.

        Tissue weight “sweater knit” seems self explanatory, so I never order that. I have ordered light and med weights that are recommended for sweaters, only to find that the weave is very open/loose with no body, or just super thin and again, clingy. I’ve ordered ponte knit, which a lot of experienced sewers like to work with, but then it had no stretch, and semi transparent. I knew that couldn’t be right, and did send it back, but the experience made me gun shy. It all makes me feel like I’m missing something in my translation.

        There is nothing like experience, for sure. I’m not to the point where I can take a wrong fabric type and imagine what to do with it. Knits especially! I have the pattern first, if that makes sense, and end up just trying it in three different fabrics hoping one will be close and wearable. This is an art form, and hope you know that I really REALLY appreciate the mentorship you provide.

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