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5/6/13

Summer fabrics

Hello everyone! Sorry if I went off the grid for a while... I have had the worst week ever! It started  last week-end with a huge cold that thankfully went away by mid-week, which also happened to be the last stretch of the semester. Blame Murphy's law, it was closely followed by another less glamorous ailment that landed me in the hospital yesterday morning. No worries: I am getting better by the hour and will be returning to work in a day or so. In between naps, shut-eye ans snoozes, I managed to research fabric choices that fit my summer capsule wardrobe challenge. Even though I have been sewing for more thant 5 years, I am still a little uneasy when it comes to picking fabrics. Sometimes I get it right, but other times I get it SO WRONG. With all the choices out there, it can get a bit confusing, especially when you consider drape, nap and weight, not to mention we sometimes get side-tracked by our never-ending love of a good print... I decided I would share the fruits of my research here for other sewing enthusiasts that, like me, are a bit clueless about it. 

In a way, summer oriented fabrics are no brainers: they should be lightweight, soft and breathable. Fabrics that stand away from the body are ideal while bulky or clingy knits aren't recommended because they keep the body's heat. I also personnaly like fabrics that have a bit of stretch for ease of wear and that don't wrinkle easily, but that's just me. For me, that means using linen blends instead of 100% linen. Most lightweight sliks are great choices for summer wear, as are linens, but not all cottons are created equal. Here are some of my favorites:

Chambray

As of late, this denim look-alike is getting lots of love from designers, retailers and fashion magazines. Chambray is a lightweight cotton fabric that is smooth sturdy and a bit stiff, but some versions have a slight drape. It has a white weft and a colored warp, traditionnaly in a light blue hue. It's a perfect choice for summer shirts and dresses because it breathes easily. Plus, it sews, presses and launders well : no dry-cleaning for this baby! What also makes it ideal is it's "neutral" quality : like denim, light blue chambray can be worn with almost any color. Do a little research on Google, Polyvore or Pinterest: you'll discover amazing wardrobes built around this staple.

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Seersucker 

This two-toned cotton fabric features a "waffle" or crinkly texture that is ideal for summer. The unique feel pulls the fabric away from the body, creating a nice medium stiffness that lets sweat and heat escape. It traditionnaly comes in stripes and checks, mostly with a white base and a coordinating color, but some prints do exist. Most seersucker fabrics are light-colored, but you can also find some darker colors like navy, purple and dark blues. Sarai from Colette Patterns did a post on seersucker a few years back: it offers usefull insight.

Romper / top 1 2 bottom 3 4

Gingham

Gingham is a medium weight plain woven cotton fabric that sports white and colored checks. Like seersucker, gingham is always light in color thanks to it's white "base". Like other cottons, it breathes easily and sews like a charm. It comes in very small to very large checks. This fabric is widely used in peasant-inspired garments and exudes a naive charm : think gingham tablecloths or Dorothy's blue and white dress in The Wizard of Oz. Brigitte Bardot famously wore a light pink gingham wedding dress in 1959. However, the mod designers of the 1960's like Ben Sherman and Fred Perry had a perticular affection for gingham shirts. Be wary of large red and white gingham that sometimes can look, well... like a tablecloth.

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Lawn 

Mostly made of cotton or linen, lawn is a fine plain weave fabric that has an amazingly soft and silky hand. It is very lightweight, almost sheer and slightly crisp. Its gauzy characteristcs creates a very etheral feel, but also makes it more fragile and dainty. This means you should hand-wash this fabric only to preserve its quality. Widely used as linings for summer dresses or skirts, it can also be used as a fashion fabric but with a lining or interfacing. Liberty of London makes an amazing cotton lawn in incredible patterns that are great for billowy skirts or blouses for hot summer days.

Dress / top 1 2 bottom 3 4

Eyelet 

Mostly made of cotton, this fabric features small "holes" in various shapes and sizes that are embroided for a classic finish. Easy to care for, eyelet washes, sews and presses well. Some are solid colored while other have contrasting embroidery. Like gingham and seersucker, this fabric has a innocent charm that is ideal for summer blouses and dresses. The "holes" and cotton content make it a perennial summer favorite.

 Dress / top 1 2 bottom 3 4

Don't forget linens and some man-made fabrics:

Linen blends

Easy to sew and easy to wear, linen is a natural fiber that gets softer the more you wash it. While it breathes beautifully it also creases like the devil! Linen blends add lycra or other types of fiber to add comfort and lessen the creasing. Available in different weights, this type of fabric should be washed in cold water and hung dry in order to avoid shrinkage. It is a favorite for summer suits and tunics.

Dress / top 1 2 bottom 3 4

Rayon or Lycra jersey

Easy to care for, this jersey has 4-way stretch and a fine gauge, which means it will stay cool during the hot days of summer. It is a great knit option for summer.

Skirt / top 1 2 bottom 3 4

There are loads more summer friendly fabrics, so go out an explore! Hope this was helpfull for all you fabric-phobic out there. What about you? What are your go-to summer fabrics?

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