Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Hollyburn Sew-along - Choosing and Buying Fabric

Sewaholic Hollyburn Skirt Sew-Along

Welcome to the next post in the Hollyburn Sew-Along!

Incase you've missed them, here are the posts so far:
Inspiration (Part 1)
Inspiration (Part 2)
- Choosing a view
- Sizing

Hopefully you've now got a vague idea of what you might want your skirt to look like, have any design ideas in mind and have picked your view. So today's post is about choosing (and buying) your fabric.

What Fabric to use?

The best place to start when thinking about which fabric to use for a pattern is with the recommended fabrics on the pattern envelope. The Sewaholic Hollyburn pattern says the following:
"Recommended Fabrics: Light or medium weight woven fabrics such as cotton poplin and lawn, linen, lightweight denim, suiting fabrics. Not recommended for plaids, stripes or one-way designs."
However, as a pattern designer can't list every possible fabric that could be used for a pattern on the envelope, it's always a good idea not to just take the list on the envelope as all you can use, but stopping and thinking about what they've suggested and why.

I think the key point to take away from the recommendations is 'light or medium weight woven fabrics'. Would you agree?

Also looking at the design of the skirt, you'll want a fabric with a nice amount of drape so that it falls well and doesn't stick out in the wrong directions.

Heavy fabrics wouldn't be advisable as they wouldn't drape properly when in skirt form, however that doesn't mean you (Northern Hemisphere) people can't make a nice warm version; my first version was made from wool suiting fabric. You can use thicker/warmer fabrics, but make sure that they have good drape. The key question is: if you hold it over your hand does it fall nicely towards the ground or does it stick out strangely? If it falls nicely you'll be all good, if it sticks out you probably want to find a different fabric.

How much fabric will you need?

Once you've decided on your fabric you'll need to decide how much to buy. Or if you're 'shopping your stash' you'll need to know whether a piece will be big enough. Obviously the pattern has the fabric requirements listed on the back of the pattern, but as they are put together for the general sizes and for generic fabric widths you may discover that you don't need as much as is listed.

You might not mind having some extra fabric left over, as it can sometimes be useful, but I know I prefer not to buy more fabric than I need to, particularly if the fabric is expensive. So it's always a good idea to check how much you will need yourself.

With more complicated patterns this can be a bit of effort, as there are lots of pieces to think about, but with the Hollyburn pattern there are only 4 main pattern pieces you need to worry about when working out how much fabric you want; skirt front, skirt back, waistband and pocket.

If your fabric is twice as wide as the width of the bottom of your skirt pieces then you can use the 'wider fabric cutting layout'; and you'll need twice the skirt piece length, plus the height of the pocket, plus some 'shrinkage insurance'.

If your fabric is not that wide you'll need to use the narrow width cutting layout, and you'll need just under 4 times the length of the skirt piece.

If you want to be really precise, particularly if your fabric is narrower, measure out the width or half width and try laying out the pattern pieces. I've done this at home with a sheet before buying fabric before.

If you're planning on changing the length of your skirt from your standard length, you'll need to do that alteration before working out how much fabric you'll need - but you won't have to wait long as I'll be back tomorrow with a post about changing the length of your pattern!

To line or not to line?

Once you've worked out how much fabric you need there's one more thing you'll need to consider; lining.

Tasia has left a lining off this pattern. I understand that this in part because it's a beginner pattern and she wanted to leave it as simple as possible. Which is fine, you can make a fabulous skirt without lining it, but in some circumstances you would want to line it.

One is if your fabric is see-through. I don't know about you, but the last thing I want to be worrying about when wearing my clothes is whether people can see my undies! To decide whether you need to line your skirt you'll need to take a close look at your fabric - basically, can you see through it easily?

Quick Tip: Check by holding it over something with some contrast - can you see what's underneath? If so, you might want to line it. I often use something I'm wearing that contrasts with my skin or itself:

Another circumstance you'd want to line is if the fabric is going to stick to your legs. This is particularly important if you're planning on wearing tights with your skirt, as fabrics that slide right over skin will sometimes stick to tights. Doesn't it suck when you're walking and your skirt sticks to your legs as you move rather than falling properly?

Quick Tip: Try letting the fabric slide over your skin or tights to see. If it slides easily you're fine, if not you might want to line it.

Another reason to add a lining might be to alter the look or drape of the skirt. For example adding more body to a skirt by using a different lining to outer fabric, or subtly altering the appearance of a sheer or semi-sheer fabric with different colour linings.

And of course, you don't actually need a reason to line a skirt, if you just prefer a lined skirt to an unlined one then there's nothing stopping you adding a lining just for that reason!

What to line with?

What you line with can depend on the fabric you're using for your skirt, and the purpose of the lining.

For example, if you were using a cotton poplin/voile and you're lining it to prevent it being see-through then I'd probably use some plain voile/batiste/lawn with a similar drape to the skirt fabric. Having the second layer of fabric will usually be enough to stop it being see-through, but won't make it too much heavier than without the lining.

If you're lining to stop the skirt sticking to your legs, then you'll need to make sure to buy something that doesn't stick to your legs/tights! Most fabric stores will have a 'linings' section; slippery linings that are often made from Acetate or Rayon. That's probably what you'll need to use if you don't want the skirt to stick to tights.

Beginners: Please bear in mind that lining fabrics can be quite tricky to cut out and to sew with. Not impossible though, and I will share some tips for working with slippery fabrics. However, if you're a beginner I'd recommend not going down this route until you've got at least a couple of garments under your belt and you've got the basic skills down with easy fabrics first.

Remember to select the colour of your lining fabric carefully! If you're lining because your fabric is see-through you'll need to select the lining colour carefully as it will affect the appearance of the fabric:

If your fabric isn't see-through then that's not a factor. Some people may recommend using a lining fabric that coordinates with your outer fabric, but not me! I'm a sucker for fun coloured linings! If the fabric isn't see through then I say pick a fun coloured lining. Although remember that it will sometimes be visible when your skirt moves, but that adds to the enjoy-ability of the finished garment!

Don't forget the notions!

Once you've got your fabric selection sorted, don't forget your notions. The pattern requires:
"Notions: Thread, 1 yard of fusibile interfacing, 9" regular zipper. View B: Two 3/4" buttons."
For sewing garments I use Gutteman sew-all polyester thread (except when sewing with silk, when I use silk thread). However there are lots of other brands around that I'm sure are also good - I use guttemann because it's easily available in stores here and I've never had any problem with it.

Quick Tip: Don't scrimp on the thread, buy good quality! The worst thing to happen after you've worked so hard on a garment would be for the seams to rip because your thread was poor quality!

You'll want to match your thread colour as closely to your fabric as possible, as you'll have visible lines of stitching around the hem and zip (and possibly waistband and pockets). If your fabric is multiple colours you'll need to decide which is the 'primary' colour, or which colour will stand out the least. You can unravel a little of the thread from the spool and lay it over the fabric to help you choose, as it can look different as a single strand to when it's on the spool!

Quick Tip: If you can't find exactly the right colour you're after, you're usually better off going with a slightly darker shade than a lighter one, as it'll be less obvious on the finished thing.

In the Hollyburn skirt, you'll be using interfacing in the waistband, and button tabs if you're doing them. You'll want to find one that adds enough stiffness to the waistband so it doesn't crease and crumple, but not so stiff that it feels and looks strange.

There are lots of different types of interfacing you can choose. The main differences are fusible vs non-fusible, woven vs non-woven vs knit, and the weight.

This pattern recommends fusible interfacing (which means it has a heat-sensitive glue on the back which sticks it to your fabric when your press it with the iron). You can tell if an interfacing is fusible as you'll be able to see and feel the thin coating of glue on one side of the fabric:

I tend to prefer woven interfacing over non-woven, as I think it lasts a bit better, but it's personal preference really.

If you're not sure which weight interfacing to use then I recommend asking the staff in your local fabric store, they can usually advise you, particularly if you have your skirt fabric there with you. Otherwise, you could buy the ones you're deciding between (or ask for swatches depending how easy it is to get back to the store), and try fusing the different interfacings to your fabric and see what effect this has on the fabric.

The pattern recommends using a 9" (22/23 cm) regular zip (also called a dress zip). I will be including step by step instructions for inserting a regular zip, both with and without a lining. I'll also include some links to inserting an invisible zip should you wish to use an invisible zip instead.

I tend to prefer using regular/dress zips these days, I've had a few problems with invisible zips breaking, so until I find a better invisible zip supplier I will preference regular zips over invisible. However, you may prefer to use an invisible zip, particularly if you're using a lighter weight fabric, such as lawn/voile. I would recommend against using an invisible zip if you have a thicker fabric however, as the extra bulk around the waistband seam with the thicker fabric may cause problems with the zip.

So, have you decided what fabric you're going to get? What are you going to use? Any questions please let me know!

Missed any of the sew-along posts, or just want to re-read them? You can find the full list here.


  1. Great post Rachel... and I'm thinking of going with a red and white or a black and white floral print I've already got in my stash and also adding a lining... I'll probably go with a white lining as the fabrics (if I go with them are a little see through). I'm loving the idea of a colourful lining and I might do that for the pencil skirt I'm planning on sewing :)

  2. Definitely lining mine. I recently purchased a orange/red cotton fabric and some orange lining.

  3. Fantastic post ~ I'm posting my fabric choice on my blog - it's errrr interesting haha. I brought it online and I think it may look a little wacky!

  4. I have my fabric - its a red/lite red patchwork - its interesting HA! I love it :)

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


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