Today’s Who We Are is about people living in and sewing for extreme weather conditions — in this case, heat / sunshine!
Joanne — Sewing in UAE
Almost a year ago, my family and I moved to the UAE. We arrived in mid April in the early build up to summer. Summer in the UAE is HOT and HUMID, +40°C and +90% humidity, and lasts for 3 to 4 months, at least, with another month or two either side of that being not much better. I learnt that my normal (for Perth, Australia) summer clothes of cotton/lycra tshirts and denim shorts weren’t suitable in the UAE. The t-shirts are too hot in the humidity, as are the shorts. Also, the shorts aren’t considered respectful attire here, as the general rule is that adults should have their shoulders and knees covered.
Moving country had the normal challenges: will I find any sewing buddies?Where will the fabric and haberdashery shops be? What sort of fabric will they sell? Will I be able to get my machine serviced? I’ve managed to find answers to the first three — yes; some local, mostly Dubai, and some on-line; and wovens of cotton, silk and man-made fibres — and I believe I’ll be able to sort out servicing when the time comes.
The extreme temperatures have presented other challenges. I need to sew with woven fabric, but I have little experience of this and only one pattern already adapted to fit. I want to sew sleeveless dresses and tops, lovely, floaty, strappy summer dresses, or some Ogden camis with some mid-thigh length shorts… but none of this fits the local cultural requirements. I am struggling to identify a style that is suitable for linen or cotton fabric, is loose-ish fitting to stay as cool as possible, but still fitted enough to give me some shape (I.e. not a sack) and covers my shoulders and knees. I have some beautiful lightweight linen in my stash and the Hey June Cheyenne Tunic pattern. I’m thinking a shirt dress is a good place to start. I also have my eye on the Megan Nielsen Flint trousers in a chambray, combined with a Seamwork Akita could work well. Time to break out My Body Model and get sketching!
Joanne is an an Australian, living in Ras Al Khaimah, UAE. She started sewing after my second child was born and she was in need of clothes that fit her, but couldn’t face the shops. That was six years ago now she loves it! She mostly sews clothes for herself, or occasionally a top or bag for her boys. She has expanded her hobbies since moving, and is learning to paint, so now sewing time has to be split into sewing and painting time. You can find her as @JoSewsAndPaints on Instagram.
Jami — Sewing for sun protection
I am a very fair skinned woman, and in my mid 30’s I started getting hives and a rash every time I went out in the sun. I talked to my physician about it and she was stumped. She told me I should wear more sunscreen and avoid the sun, and sent me on my way.
I live in Maine, so I am really only getting sun exposure from May until mid-September anyway. As Summer came to an end I sort of forgot about the hives. The following Spring I was driving a lot between house cleaning appointments, and I noticed I was getting an itchy rash on my left arm and the left side of my neck and chest. I remembered that I had dealt with this the previous summer, so I went to the store and bought the strongest sunscreen I could find. It worked for about an hour, and then the hives came back stronger than ever.
I did everything that I could to avoid sun exposure that summer. I avoided taking my kids outdoors during the most intense part of the day, we only went outside in the mornings and evenings, I stayed to the shade, I wore sunscreen, and I was miserable. I felt like I was missing the best part of the year. It’s so cold here 8 months out of the year, I just wanted to be in the sunshine.
This year I am taking matters into my own hands. I learned about sewing rash guards from Zede’s Sewing Studio. I learned that traditionally, linen and seersucker were considered “hot weather” fabrics because they have a cooling effect. I purchased several blouse patterns as well as many yards of linen and seersucker fabric in darker colors because I understand that white fabric does not offer much sun protection.
I am going to write about my experiences sewing these garments and how they offer me protection on my blog. I know I am not the only person that has ever had to experience a health issue like this. I understand it is not very common, but it does happen, and maybe chronicling my experiences will help others.
Jami can be found on Instagram @jamilynncreates and at her website is jamilynncreates.com.
Thanks to both of our contributors who are sewing for sun protection / to cope with the heat. Do you have to sew clothes for extreme weather?
I overheat very easily and get sunburn (even this time of year… In the UK) so found these posts really inspiring. Thank you 👍
That’s great that you liked them – I am a bit the same as you (and live in Australia!). I once famously got sunburned in the shade…
Interesting that Joanne doesn’t know where to find patterns for wovens. I am still adapting to hotter, more southern California than I was used to, myself. And my most reliable new friend is Style Arc, which has a fine array of patterns for light wovens in covered styles suitable for heat. Check it out 😉
Great tip 👍
I was going to suggest the same, heaps of stylish options that work in linen. Tessuti has some good options for linen too.
Joanne here. Thanks so much for the tip! I will have another look at StyleArc 😊
Hey Jami – I absolutely don’t mean to internet diagnose you BUT it sounds like you could have polymorphous light eruption (which I also have). It’s like a mild allergic reaction to the sun and unfortunately sunscreen, even in the highest SPF possible, often doesn’t help. What works for me is limiting sun exposure especially early in the season (I used to sprint out of the house in a tank top and shorts on the first 80 degree day) then slowly desensitizing myself to the sun by wearing long sleeves/pants in fabrics that have some (but not total) UV protection, like linen. Antihistamines help with the rashes if they pop up as well.
You are speaking my language! Summer in Phoenix starts now (104F/40C today) and continues for more than 6 months, with mid-summer temps sometimes 118/48. My summer uniform is maxi skirt + long-sleeved shirt + sandals. Occasionally a maxi dress. My challenge is that I love styles for cold weather – especially coats and jackets, which I may wear once a year on the coldest day. There are so many beautiful coat patterns, but I will probably never make one.
Joanne, caftans are popular now and perfectly suited to linen and cotton. Some of the nicest patterns to come out recently are caftans. There is the TLC Caftan and the Charlie Caftan, among many others.
Jami, I had the same experience, growing up in a cold climate and one year developing a terrible bumpy rash from the sun. Since then my skin has just gotten more sensitive to the point that I have skin reactions to plants, animals, foods, you name it. This is why I’m always covered when I’m outside – it looks like I’m being modest, but I’m just protecting myself! It takes a while to get used to wearing longer sleeves in the summer, but with the lightweight fabrics they can be quite comfortable. Rash guards are a great idea, and I wish I’d heard of them decades ago.
I look forward to following both of you and seeing what you come up with.
Rit dye has a wash-in spf that may be helpful.
I moved to Sydney, Australia from the UK a couple of years ago. I had always thought of summer clothing as being short skirts and strappy tops but the strength of the sun out here means that I need far more long sleeve shirts and loose trousers to cover up. Linen is a godsend!
Out of print patterns from the 80s are my go-to patterns for providing good summer coverage. The amount of design ease is huge, and so the result is stylish (at least, I think so!) and loose fitting clothing when made out of linen, cotton voile, gauze, etc.
My aunt has suffered with a sun allergy for many years – breaking out in nasty rashes if she gets any sun on her body. She buys SPF clothing which is quite expensive but you can buy powder to go in your wash (sold often by companies who make fabric dye) and it does stay in your clothing for several washes. I never go out without a hat. I started doing that in the early ’80’s when I noticed the sun heat and brightness changed and I received my first nasty burn. After that I wear sunscreen religiously, keep myself fully covered and wear a hat. The sun’s rays can feel so good like many poisons we humans love to ingest 🙂 The sun is also extremely aging to the skin – if you want to look old before your time sit in the sun 🙂 I loved this post! Since we do make our own clothing, we can use whatever fabric is the best to guard us against the sun in the best patterns for coverage and coolness.