Who We Are: Sewing for Extreme Heat / Sun

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

A picture of the author Joanne, wearing a colourful top she made, white linen pants and a hat.  She is posing at the top of a mountain.
A Seamwork Akita in Nani Iro double gauze and RTW linen pants.
Taken at the top of Jebel Jais, the tallest mountain in the 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?