Sew Brave: Brave with Fabrics

When I was a little girl, I was surrounded by fabrics. My mother was a seamstress and made aprons for schoolgirls. She taught me the basics of sewing, but also taught me her fear of linen, silk, and jersey! Let me tell you how I overcame this fear.

The author wears a sparkly silver-grey linen camisole and skirt, and stands in the sun with a large glass of wine

LINEN

Needle: Universal, size 80

Last summer I made a self drafted skirt and the Ogden Cami by True Bias in a metallic blue Robert Kaufman linen fabric from my stash. Linen varies widely in price and quality. Good quality linen costs more, but I sew the first version of a pattern in a cheaper linen because it’s less intimidating. I pre-wash linen several times, to avoid surprise shrinking after a garment is finished. It also softens the more you wash and wear it, and the creases become softer. I don’t worry about the wrinkles, they’re part of the beauty of linen. On Instagram I created the hashtag #weloveawrinkleortwo which means it’s ok to love the wrinkles in linen.

Linen is a dream to wear in summer because it breathes well, keeping you cool in high temperatures. When fabric is a cotton-linen blend there’s less shine, and less of that luxurious feel. In linen with a lower-quality weave, seams under a lot of tension can split. Because of this I make my linen clothes with more ease, and use French seams. French seams give the seams more strength, and more ease helps prevent seams from getting overly strained.

I love linen so much I’m doing a challenge. I have 100 of my own labels, and have promised myself that I will sew 100 linen garments. I’m now at number 10 ๐Ÿ™‚

A blue silk sleeveless top, with white roses printed on it, hangs on a padded hanger.

SILK

Needle: Universal, size 60

So far I’ve made just one top in silk. Because I am not so familiar with this fabric I used a simple pattern, the Silk Cami by Sew Over It, because I’ve sewn it a thousand times and know the pattern very well. Silk is a flowy and drapey fabric which was intimidating to cut.  I used my normal scissors and a lot of pins to hold the fabric in place. The pins were very thin, in order to not make holes in this fine fabric. I finished my hems by folding them under twice, because the silk was so thin.

JERSEY

Needle: Ballpoint, size 70 (Viscose/Rayon jersey) – 80 (Ponte di Roma)

Jersey is a knit fabric. In Europe we call it tricot, which comes from the French word for knitting: tricoter. It is very important to use a ballpoint needle in order not avoid creating runs in the fabric. When you are new to jersey, I recommend starting with stable knits like Ponte di Roma or Ponte di Milano. Stay away from viscose/rayon jersey because it is drapey, and therefore difficult to cut. The two pontes are similar, but Roma has more polyester and Milano has more viscose/rayon. Milano also has a more matte finish, while Roma shines more, probably because of the polyester content. These two don’t breathe much. If this is important to you, I recommend cotton jersey as a stable, beginner-friendly knit.

A white sleeveless top with red rose outlines hangs on a padded hanger.

When you choose your first pattern for knits, try something simple like a top with cut-on sleeves. My first garment in jersey fabric was the Super Basic Tank Top by Halfmoon Atelier. It was a pattern test and I used a cotton jersey from my stash. It was a dream to sew, even with the neck and armhole bindings. I was really surprised I could tackle this one.

A cropped photo of the author's daughter wearing a black print tee.

A simple top, like the Harley Top by La Maison Victor I made for my daughter, is very quick to make. I shortened it to be top length, and neck and armholes are finished with stretch bias binding.

A flat-lay of a baby outfit, with blue and white spotted trousers and a white vee-neck top

Recently I also made baby clothes out of knit fabrics. So satisfying! I used the Roo Kimono Tee by Dhurata Davis Patterns and Dalton Trousers by La Maison Victor.

Wildly colourful retro print knit fabrics, waiting to be cut!

As I have sewn several knit garments, I feel Sew Brave about sewing knits! On my cutting table right now are these two vintage fabrics. They are flowy, polyester knits from the 70s, and I think they are beautiful enough for a queen ๐Ÿ™‚ The pattern will be the Adrienne Blouse by Friday Pattern Company.

All of this info is based on my own experience. I try a lot to become brave with fabrics. When I fail, I donate my projects to charity. I’m not a professional, but hopefully this post is helpful to you if you want to be brave with tricky fabrics.

Gerda is @Three_Eight_Cake on Instagram. She lives in a teeny tiny village in Belgium. When she says that sewing is her therapy ,it is the truth. It used to be hard to find the time to sew until she had to stay home with due to major burnout. She’s much better now and working on a new wardrobe for work. She’s hoping to return to work in July.

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