One of the many benefits of dressmaking is that there are always new skills to learn and ways that you can challenge yourself. Working with fabrics that slip and float and drape certainly bring another dimension to your project and can be more work to handle, but totally worth it when you have a gorgeous garment to breeze about in!
For this part of my fabric focus series I’ve grouped a few different kinds of fabric together that all have the same characteristic of being lightweight with lots of drape.
To hear me chat about these fabrics and see how they move and float in real life, check out my latest Youtube video.
Check out the Tencel website for lots of more information about this fabric and its environmental credentials - it's super interesting!
Needles – a size 70 is probably best for these fabrics but I have to admit, sometimes if I don’t have one to hand I’ll use a size 80. You can always check what the stitching looks like on a small scrap and see if it looks like its leaving big holes in the fabric
Pins – I use my super fine pins when working with light weight fabric like this. They are much more gently on the fabric and don’t snag or leave a mark.
Thread – I still use regular gutermann sew all thread (which is made from polyester) when sewing with these types of fabric.
Cutting out – this can be tricky compared to a more stable cotton, for example, but as long as you are prepared to take your time you’ll be fine. The main this is making sure that the grainline of the fabric is square on the table.
Stabilising the fabric (with forming tape interfacing) - Often with garments the instructions will ask you to stay stitch certain parts of the fabric during construction, for example the neckline, to stop it from stretching out. Stay-stitching is just a single line of stitching close to the edge of the fabric can help to hold it in place. From my experience this can be hard to do on really lightweight fabrics so instead I use forming tape interfacing. It’s made from woven interfacing that is cut on the bias and it has a chain stitch running along its length. You just iron this onto the wrong side of the fabric, wherever you need to stay stitch and it’s a really nice quick and easy way stabilise the fabric.
Sewing seams – as this fabric is so flimsy sometimes when you come to start sewing a seam, if you don’t have enough fabric under the foot of the machine when you start it can seem like the machine is eating the fabric, like it’s getting pushed or sucked into the plate of the machine. If this happens start a little bit further down on the fabric so the machine has more fabric to grip onto. You can also hold the thread tails out to the back of the machine with your left hand and gently pull on them until you get going and the machine is easily feeding the fabric.
French seams work well with this type of fabric and look really professional!
So to recap the types of fabrics that fall into this category are silk, rayon, viscose, tencel, modal, peachskin and cupro.
All of these fabrics are suitable for a wide range of projects so I’ve sectioned out pattern recommendations by style and type of garment. Some are slightly lighter weight than others, if the fabrics are described as having a twill weave then they are usually thicker so good for bottom garments. If it has a 'dobby spot' or texture woven into it, it's likely that this will be lighter in weight so better for tops and blouses, or dresses that are lined.
Loose and breezy with little details like frills, gathers, tucks and pleats work really nicely.
Pattern suggestions True Bias Ogden Cami, Sointu Kimono, Grainline Hadley top, Saraste Blouse from Breaking the Pattern book, Lisel and Co Chai Tee, Cashmerette Webster top, Deer and Doe Datura Top, Grainline Scout tee, Tilly and the Buttons Stevie Top.
The light weight of these fabrics makes delicate work like collars, cuffs and button plackets look lovely and crisp and neat.
Skirts with a fuller style work well as they allow the fabric to swish and move around nicely. Gathers or panels are great, pleats are too - they are just a little more fiddly to get right.
Using nice light weight floaty fabric for a jumpsuit gives a really smart and elegant look, especially with styles that have wider legs.
Again, anything with fuller skirt section works best as it allows the fabric to really move around easily.
Pattern suggestions Sew Over It Eve Dress, Nina Lee Kew Dress, Megan Neilsen Sudley Dress, Deer and Doe Magnolia, Sew Over It Penny Dress, True Bias Southport Dress, Tilly and The Buttons Seren Dress, Tilly and The Buttons Stevie Dress, Deer and Doe Myositis, Closet Case Patterns Charlie Caftan, Tilly and the Buttons Bettine