A Daunting Experience
When I think about sewing with expensive fabric, I remember the time I accidentally purchased Liberty of London Lawn. I was 22 years old and had just finished college. My mom and I went to the fabric section of the small department store in my equally small town to select patterns and fabric for a top and a skirt. We had shopped there my entire life and never run across an expensive fabric. I had never even heard of Liberty of London!
When the total came to five times as much as I thought it would be, I almost fainted! I’m not sure if I had that much money in my checking account. Luckily, my mom was with me and she helped me pay. I waited longer than usual to make the skirt and the top, and – 36 years later – I can still remember every mistake I made.
Older and Wiser
As you might imagine, after that experience I avoided fancy fabrics for a little while. Liberty of London is expensive for a reason. Made from very high-quality textiles like Egyptian cotton and silk, I didn’t feel like I was experienced or worthy enough to indulge in fabrics like that.
But the more I sewed, the more confidence I gained. And what I realized is that sewing with expensive fabric doesn’t have to be stressful – you just need a plan!
So here are 5 tips from my older and wiser self:
Tip 1: Tissue Fit the pattern
Select your size based on your high bust measurement for tops, or your hip measurement for bottoms. Cut out the pattern in the size indicated, and pin it along the seam allowance. Get help reading the back. I ask people to take a photo of my back so I can see without twisting.
Tip 2: Alter the tissue
Based on what you find when you tissue-fit, make changes to the tissue. Then, tissue-fit again to make sure your changes improved the fit. The books mentioned above are both excellent resources for how to make alterations.
Tip 3: Make a muslin
Fabric is different than tissue, so purchase some inexpensive fabric of a similar weight to your fashion fabric, or cut up an old sheet, and sew a mock garment to quadruple check the fit.
As you can see below, I made three muslins when preparing to make by quilted Tamarack Jacket! Although the fabric itself wasn’t too expensive, the time it took to make my jacket was! So I wanted to make sure the fit was going to be perfect.
When you’re making a muslin (or three!), there’s no need to add details, like the facings or a collar, but…
Tip 4: Practice the tricky bits
If your project has a front fly, a welt pocket, or anything you haven’t sewn before, practice those techniques on scraps until you feel confident enough to do it with your more expensive fabric!
Tip 5: Use the correct tools & notions
Don’t underestimate the importance of this step! All your hard work preparing won’t matter if your interfacing, thread or sewing machine needle is incompatible with your fabric.
Fuse different weights of interfacing to scraps of your fabric to see which one works best. Try different thread weights. Practice stitching with different needles and stitch lengths to see which one creates the smoothest seam.
You Can Do It!
If you follow these five tips, you’ll be prepared to sew with expensive fabric. And – if you’re not ready to make a full-on outfit – just dip your toe in! Buy a half-yard and use it to line a yoke, cuffs or pockets. Make a fun handkerchief! Remember, you’re worth it. You love sewing and you deserve beautiful things.
Like 22 year old me, we’ve all been caught off guard by the price of a fabric. And the first thought that probably runs through your head is ‘Why is it that much??’ Understandably, you want to make sure that the fabric you’re choosing to invest in is expensive because of the outstanding quality.
So let me just say – every fabric we stock is based on quality, and there are many good quality fabrics we carry that don’t break the bank. So, if a fabric is expensive, you can count on the fact that it has to do with the excellent fiber content, the sustainable manufacturing practices, and/or the widespread availability (i.e. It’s designer!).
Here are a few of my faves:
- Liberty of London Lawns
- Superfine Merino Wool
- Quilted Cotton Jacquard
- Oilskin & Waxed Cotton
- Japanese Linen