Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Fabric choice and 2+2

I've been trying to sew down the old stash (since I've recently added, um, four packages of new stash and have two more on the way), and it's going fairly well.  The only sticking point is that top shelf of my fabric bookcase - the one full of quilting cottons.  You have a shelf like that too, don't you?  They are just so tempting - the adorable owls, the trendy chevrons, the polka dots - oh, the polka dots, in every color combination imaginable.  Yeah, I fell, and I fell hard.


Ah, memories.  This photo was taken about two and a half years ago, though somehow it feels like it's been much longer!  But yikes, talk about Becky Home-Ecky!  I don't remember what I was thinking pairing those prints, or using either one of them in these peasant tops at all - look at how stiff that fabric is.  It makes the peasant tops look even more boxy than they are.  A lighter, drapier cotton would have made a big difference.

I made countless other outfits like this, and my girls wore them happily, before I realized that there was more out there.  Fabric actually suited to apparel, that drapes nicely and doesn't stick out like a tent.

Before you quilting-cotton fans out there storm my blog with pitchforks, let me just say that there are lots of beautiful prints on quilting cotton, and that they are lovely for many projects.  Like quilts.  And cloth napkins and table runners and nursery decor, etc.  I think they can also make adorable summer skirts or fuller dresses for little girls.  I mean, where would I find a print like this one except in the quilting cotton section (pattern: O+S Bubble Dress, fabric: Joann, project: last summer)?  It's perfect for a three-year-old.


And among the quilting cottons, there are some with a hand better suited to apparel sewing - some that are very shirting-like, like the orange batik I used for N's Class Picnic top (Legacy Studios from Joann).

But when it comes to apparel, I think there is usually a better choice than quilting cotton.  And since I order most of my fabric online and thus can't feel before buying, I have moved on to apparel fabrics: Glowing sateens and silky voiles, soft gauzes and crisp poplins.  It's like a whole new sewing world.

Recently, I let each girl choose fabric from the stash for an Oliver+S 2+2 Top (sleeveless, my favorite way to make them; actually, the only way I've ever made them).  N chose a Lisette printed sateen and Z chose a yard of Michael Miller Meadowsweet (quilting cotton), which I fell in love with a couple years back.


Do you see? The top made from quilting cotton quite literally stands up by itself.


There is nothing on the inside supporting that top, other than perhaps some sewing spirit that haunts those who choose the wrong fabric for the garment - it is just the stiffness of the fabric, which, yes, I prewashed and dried.  The spirit wasn't interested in the sateen top, apparently.


























These pictures were taken on a windy day, but I think you can see how nicely the sateen falls compared to the quilting cotton.


The material in this top reminds me of one of those paper cone cups they used to have by the water coolers in offices (do they still use those things?).  I think the sateen is probably more comfortable to wear, too.


Both girls are thrilled with their tops, though, and my stash is down one cut of quilting cotton, so I'm happy.

What about you - do you like the quilting cottons for clothing?  If you have suggestions for ranges that use a less stiff substrate, I'd love some suggestions for those occasions when I just have to buy a trendy print.

16 comments:

  1. I think quilting cottons are good when you want the big full look of a pretty skirt or twirly dress, but I too am understanding the perks of using different kinds of fabric. I laughed pretty hard when I saw the top standing on it's own. Oh, quilting cotton.

    mae

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  2. Oh man I hear you on this one! I have scads of quilting cottons from when I began sewing, and I don't know that I'll ever want to use them. I have less than zero desire to ever actually quilt, and once I began sewing with apparel fabric, that was it for me as far as using them for clothes. I bet if I set out to think about it, though, I could find enough "accessory" projects to use it up (aprons, stuffed toys, nap mats, etc.).

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    1. Let me know if you find any great projects to use that stuff up! It's too bad the baby is a boy - because I could totally use up my prints on bibs and such for him ... but they are overwhelmingly girly :(

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  3. Um, yes, when we connected to the internet 4 years ago I bought a lot of pretty quilting cottons. Not really being used.... but oh so pretty!
    If you can find some City Weekend by Liesl it is dreamy and soft.

    So clever making sleeveless 2+2 blouses, I have only made long sleeved.

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    1. I will have to keep my eye out for that elusive stuff!

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  4. Yes, I have WAY too many (often large!) pieces of quilting cottons, most of them in loud-ish prints, and it's hard to find projects for them. I actually do enjoy quilting, but at my current rate of 1-2 quilts per year, and wanting to actually coordinate fabrics, and only needing small amounts for all but the backings, I can't even quilt through them!

    Like you say, some "quilting" cottons are much softer and nicer for apparel, and I do keep my eye out for them. But I'm also learning that I just need more SOLIDS in my stash, and less prints! I have way. too. many. prints. There's a phenomenon at the fabric store where I am drawn to much brighter, louder prints than I would ever pick out in clothing at a clothing store. I don't know what it is!

    Anyhoo. I am learning, over the years, to be more judicious in my fabric selections. For example, less prints, less quilting cottons, and less loud colors. But, for my kid sewing, it turns I can never have enough pinwale corduroy, chambray, stretch denim, or lycra knits in solid colors! Who knew? I am learning, I am learning.

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    1. I hear ya on the prints. In the last year I've made a concerted effort to buy more solids, especially when I'm shopping for fabric for me. I find that textured solids (like a Swiss dot or textured stripes) work really nicely for me - not too loud, not too boring. I use a lot of pinwale corduroy for the kiddos too!

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  5. It's amazing how much fabrics can vary! i reckon quilting cottons can vary quite a bit, some are super stiff and terrible for clothes, but there are some that are nicer to sew clothes with... the sherbet pips range was really soft and lovely for clothes, heather ross' stuff is nice, the cotton couture is nicer as well... apparel fabrics are usually a safer bet though, especially if you are ordering online and haven't seen the fabric before! i find if i've ordered fabric that's a bit stiff, i set it aside for skirts, shorts or quilts... your tops look really pretty though!

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    1. Thanks for the suggestions. You bought a bunch of the new Sarah Jane recently, right? How does that compare? The prints are darling but I haven't bought yet because I was worried they would just marinate in the stash.

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  6. What a great post!!! I was a quilter before I started sewing clothes so my comfort has been with quilting cotton and I have so much in my stash. I am an often unhappy with how an outfit looks after I wash it. Maybe that is because I use so much quilting cotton? I have used some corduroy and started sewing with knit (just twice so far). I would like to explore more different kinds of fabrics. Since we are moving towards warmer weather where we live, could you recommend some light weight sewing fabrics to someone scared of sewing with new fabrics?

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    1. Oh Christine - your world is about to change :) For summer, cotton lawn and cotton voile are wonderful choices. They aren't much more difficult to sew than quilting cotton and they are so light and airy. Lisette makes some lovely lightweight sateens and poplins - they are available at Joann's. Hope that helps!

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    2. Thank you! I will check it out. I do have 2 yards of a Liberty lawn but it will probably take me a while to have the courage to cut into it. I will check out Joann's.

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  7. and I forgot to say that I love the tops!

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  8. I have real trouble finding solid colours that aren't cheap and nasty polycotton. I mean, there's usually black and white, but I never wear white and I don't really want to sew an all black wardrobe.
    As for the quilting cotton, I'm a sucker for making bags. Erin's Presido Purse (http://seamstresserin.com/presidio-purse/) is my current obsession.

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  9. Ha, what remains of my quilting fabrics (a lot, unfortunately) is on my top shelf, too. I think it is a rite of passage on the journey to really truly doing apparel sewing. I've started making a lot of kids' pajama pants out of those fabrics - I get to enjoy those cute prints every night. But only my 2 youngest still fit in 1yd pj pants.

    The two tops are so pretty. And although you're right about the difference in drape, the yellow one still works really well, I think.

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