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  • Writer's pictureCraft Cotton Co

“Simplicity”: Dressmaking with Craft Cotton

Project by Mary-Ellen

In this blog, I want to share with you some tips for dressmaking with craft cotton and show you what I have been making with the recent Simplicity ‘All Dressed Up’ range of fabrics.

There is a common misconception that quilting (or craft) cottons are not intended for dressmaking but that could not be further from the truth. I’ve seen friends in sewing shops bypassing the quilting cottons and going directly to the ‘dressmaking’ section of the fabric store; they are unaware that they are missing out on so much.

Quilting cotton is an amazing quality of cotton that really ought to be considered for dressmaking projects; medium weight (being a little heavier than a poplin), it is stable and does not fray easily which makes it a brilliant fabric for less experienced sewists to work with. What I love most about quilting cottons is that they are consistent in quality; no matter which quilting cotton company you buy from the quality will be consistent. The fabric holds up to repeated washing and ironing, making it a sustainable fabric choice as it will last well. There is also a seemingly limitless selection of prints available; you can find a quilting cotton with pretty much anything on it. Quilting cottons are a sure-fire way to bring your personality into your wardrobe.

Top Tips for Sewing with Craft Cottons

1. Prewashing:

You want to make sure all shrinkage is done before you start sewing your garment up or you’ll end up with a garment that no longer fits well after washing.

2. Pressing:

Iron out your creases before cutting as this ensures your pattern pieces are cut accurately and make good use of iron to press your seams while sewing to get a professional finish to your garment; craft cotton is really resilient and handles steam and a hot iron really well. I recommend you press with the printed side down for the best results.

3. Marking:

When marking your quilting cottons, they can handle most things; carbon paper, chalk, marking pens – but I would remind you to always mark on the wrong side of the fabric so that you don’t affect the print. Even an iron off or disappearing ink can leave residue sometimes; if in doubt, and you need to mark the right side of the fabric, always test it on a scrap piece of the fabric first.

4. Cutting:

Quilters will generally use a rotary cutter to get clean cutting lines – they’re probably the best example to follow when sewing with quilting cotton (saying that; I am team scissors for everything and believe that this is a matter of personal preference).

5. Interfacing:

fusible lightweight interfacing is the best choice for craft cottons – in my project I’ve used it on my facing pieces.

6. Sewing:

Thread - Polyester is perfect for sewing craft cotton as it is strong.

Needle - quilting cotton is best sewn with a Universal needle (size 80/12).

Construction Tips:

1. Stay stitch:

Quilting cotton might look and feel stable, but it will stretch when cut on the bias. Always stay stitch your necklines to ensure they don’t stretch. This is just good practice: I stay stitch even when the pattern doesn’t instruct me to.

2. Under stitch:

This is also an invaluable technique to bring to sewing garments in general, particularly on necklines. If you find that your facing is ever popping out, it may well be because you have not under-stitched.

3. Watch your grainline:

Quilting cotton prints are literally printed on to the fabric so the patterns may not necessarily line up with the grainline of your fabric.

Craft Cotton and Self Expression

For me, one of the most amazing things about sewing is that there is two-pronged act of creativity at play when we make our own clothes. When we sew, we express our creativity in our choices of colours, prints and patterns. It’s a form of art to make wearable garments. What’s more, when we wear those creations, we express who we are to everyone who sees them. Our choice of clothes says a lot about who we are as individuals. As Marc Jacobs rightly said: “Clothing is a form of self-expression – there are hints about who you are in what you wear”.

The Craft Cotton Co x Simplicity ‘All Dressed Up’ fabrics are a playful way for me to show my love of sewing and vintage inspired style. Prints like this become real conversation pieces. Even at work, when wearing this dress, I’ve had many people from older generations come up and talk to me about how they used to have (and used to sew!) dresses just like the ones worn by the Simplicity cover models on this fabric design. I think these are the kinds of conversations that are even more potent from behind a mask where conversation in public places rarely becomes as personal as they used to be pre-pandemic.

Each of the 5 designs are beautiful (and I do have a little of each of them for smaller home and sewing room projects) but the Simplicity ladies seemed perfect for dressmaking as they run in a single direction. When a print is multi-directional, it is not ideal for dressmaking but, with the right pattern you can find that single directional prints make beautiful garments.

I decided to make one of my tried-and-true patterns to make a dress from this fabric. The Sew Over It Marguerite is a beautiful dress, a ringer for the dresses worn by Charlotte Le Bon in the film The Hundred Foot journey from which the pattern gets its name.

I love this pattern because it just works for my figure. It cinches me in at the waist, (where I need it!), and fits the bust area really well. The dolman sleeves and the skirt are really well balanced, so it creates a good silhouette. As a curvy woman, I love a pattern that works with my curves, not against them.

For the Marguerite dress, the shape is in the details. Most of the shaping work is done by gathering, except for bust darts, making it a good pattern for sewing up busier prints. The only real interruption in the dress is the waistband. The style of the dress – the semi fitted bodice and dolman cuffed sleeves – makes this a really easy pattern to fit, too. I would recommend this even to people staring out on their dressmaking journey; prepare yourself for a Netflix binge and some hand stitching on the cuffs and waistband.

Admittedly, Marguerite is intended to be made in lighter weight fabrics such as rayon or cotton lawn, but I personally prefer to break the rules of fabric recommendations and make this pattern in quilting weight cottons. It gives a little more structure to the dress than a lawn or rayon would do. I also like to make dresses that are transitional throughout the seasons and, for that, cotton is an excellent choice.

Marguerite was a good choice of pattern for quilting cotton because it can be cut for 44” fabrics; as an aside, this pattern requires 3.4m of fabric this width but I got this dress cut out in just 2.5 metres with a little placement care. Most vintage (and vintage inspired) patterns need wider fabrics to get full skirts, but a gathered skirt is a good option for craft cottons.

This fabric – and this dress – is very ‘me’.

Quilting cottons are a frequent fabric choice for me as I love to project who I am and wear something a little bit different from everyone else – isn’t that why a lot of us came to sewing, after all? Because fashion trends in the stores didn’t really speak to us? I think I might also need a dress in the ‘Underestimate me, that’ll be fun…’ print. Wouldn’t that be the ultimate statement dress?

Happy stitching and thanks for reading.

Mary-Ellen x

To see more from Mary-Ellen follow her on Instagram @shesewshappiness.

Made by Mary-Ellen for The Craft Cotton Co 2022.

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