Kaylee Tunic Sew Along, week 1: Selecting Garment Fabrics

Screen Shot 2017 09 11 at 1.01.50 PM 256x300 Kaylee Tunic Sew Along, week 1: Selecting Garment Fabrics

Thanks for joining us for week one of the Kaylee Tunic Sew Along! Today, we’re joined by Kay Whitt, who will be walking us through everything fabric-oriented. There’s still time to join us – grab the pattern and join us for fabric talk!

Hey Everyone! It’s Kay Whitt here from Serendipity Studio! Today I’ll be talking about fabric choices for making the Kaylee Tunic. There are so many lovely choices, especially now that a large number of the manufacturers that we know and love for their high quality cotton quilting fabrics are venturing out into new substrates such as linen, rayon, gauze and lawn (also known as voile). The Kaylee Tunic is a versatile pattern – throw in some excellent fabric options, and you could sew a whole wardrobe of them!

Screen Shot 2017 09 11 at 1.02.12 PM 1024x512 Kaylee Tunic Sew Along, week 1: Selecting Garment Fabrics

For most of the years that I have been designing garment patterns, I have almost exclusively used quilting cotton. While it was unusual at the time when I started this practice, it has become quite normal for a lot of people to see the potential of a great cotton print as a dress, tunic or skirt, to name a few. With the high thread count, drape and ease of handling, cotton has made for many beautiful garments over the years. In recent years, I have ventured out of my “cotton only” box and included many new substrates. You should too, and here’s why!

Cotton Lawn or VoileScreen Shot 2017 09 11 at 1.00.53 PM Kaylee Tunic Sew Along, week 1: Selecting Garment Fabrics

What is it?
Whether you call it lawn or voile, this particular fabric is a wonderful choice for a blouse, flowy dress, or tunic. It is light and flowy and so easy to wear. It lends itself best to garments that need a flowy soft look. If you want more structure, use a different fabric! You will usually find it either as a 45” or 54” wide fabric. It is woven like cotton, but a much finer cotton thread is used in the making of this fabric. As a result, the hand is quite soft and the overall feel of the fabric is lighter weight than its quilting counterpart.

How to work with it:
Because it is lighter, you may find that some lawns are almost sheer. If you are working with one like this, it may be necessary to line the print with a polyester lining or a solid color of lawn that is complimentary to the print you are working with. Depending on the design, I sometimes handle the lining as a completely separate component. In other cases, I may layer the two fabrics together and treat them as one when sewing.

What to watch for:
Always test a scrap piece with the thread of your choice. I typically change my needle to a size 11 and adjust my presser foot pressure so that my stitch is nice and smooth with no puckering of the fabric. This also means that you will most likely need to adjust the differential feed on the serger to accommodate for the lighter weight fabric.


What is it?
Rayon is made from cellulose, which is plant fiber. It is silky smooth and soft to the touch. It has a wonderful drape and makes beautiful clothing! I like it best for clothing designs that have a bit of swing to them. It is normally sold in widths of 54” or wider, but you may find some that is only 45” wide, so watch carefully to get enough yardage when purchasing for your project.

How to work with it:
Rayon can be a bit slippery, depending on the company that manufactured it. Be sure to pin pattern pieces down well and watch your curves when cutting. I always staystitch any necklines or curves I may be concerned with before beginning construction to be sure there is no distortion or warping once the garment is finished. This will also prevent anything like that from happening during washing or wearing.

What to watch for:
Rayon can stretch on its own weight. If you are making a skirt or dress with a curved hemline, it is best to let it hang for 24 hours to allow for any stretch to occur before hemming. The hemline can be trimmed up easily the next day and then you can finish the garment with confidence. Be watchful of the care instructions for rayon. Some are dry clean only as they will shrink when they get wet. Others are cold wash only and lie flat to dry. Don’t be alarmed with the weird stiff quality this fabric can have when it is wet. It dries right back to its silky self!

Double GauzeScreen Shot 2017 09 11 at 1.01.23 PM Kaylee Tunic Sew Along, week 1: Selecting Garment Fabrics

What is it?
Double gauze is a cotton fabric that is usually two loosely woven layers of fabric attached to each other in some way, typically in a grid pattern. It is delightfully soft and has a slightly crinkly appearance. It is usually 54” wide or so. It is best for garment designs that are simple by nature with few pattern pieces.

How to work with it:
WASH it first! It is best to get all the shrinking out of the way to begin with. This will also give the fabric the opportunity to get its optimum crinkly quality and softness. It is best to only minimally iron it as the more it is ironed, the less crinkly it will be, which is its hallmark characteristic. Again, be sure to pin pattern pieces securely and cut carefully. It is best to staystitch necklines and other curves to stabilize the fabric edges.

What to watch for:
This particular fabric can “grow” because of its crinkles. Watch pattern pieces for any distortion or expansion. Staystitching really helps with this. Test a scrap piece first to be sure that the presser foot pressure is correct and serger differential feed as well. Seams in gauze can sometimes try to pucker or waffle in the absence of proper machine settings.


What is it?
Linen is a product of the flax plant. The individual fibers are usually larger and can be slubby, depending on the manufacturer. It is delightfully wrinkly! Because there is such a variety of linen on the market, it can easily be used for any sort of garment, from jackets to skirts and everything in between. Watch to buy the appropriate weight for what you are making. While a heavy linen may be great for a very structured jacket or skirt, it would be a bad choice for a skirt that needs a lot of movement from the fabric. Most linen fabrics are sold at 54” wide or wider.

How to work with it:
Linen behaves a lot like quilting cotton. It is quite stable and easy to work with, and it presses beautifully. It showcases topstitching well and is comfortable to wear. It is classic, so anything you make from linen will stand the test of time and most likely become a staple in your wardrobe. Linen can fray quite a lot at the cut edges, so be sure to secure the seam edges with a serger or an overlock style stitch.

What to watch for:
Read the care instructions for the linen you are working with. Most can be carefully laundered at home and freshened up with pressing. Depending on the weave of the linen, some of the looser woven varieties can distort, so be sure to staystitch curves. It can also stretch when cut on the bias, so let curvy hemlines hang like for rayon before hemming so any droopy areas can be trimmed up and corrected.

Summing up, there are a lot of choices for fabric when you are gearing up for a new project. Be sure to consider the possibilities and don’t be afraid to try something new. You may just find that you have found your new favorite substrate and even learn something new in the process!

Happy Sewing!

Screen Shot 2017 09 11 at 1.02.53 PM 197x300 Kaylee Tunic Sew Along, week 1: Selecting Garment Fabrics

Join us next week as we dive into lace and trim options to give our Kaylee Tunic a custom look!

 Kaylee Tunic Sew Along, week 1: Selecting Garment Fabrics
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4 Responses to Kaylee Tunic Sew Along, week 1: Selecting Garment Fabrics

  1. Pingback: Kaylee Tunic Sew Along, Week 3: Adding Decorative Details | Sew News

  2. Pingback: Kaylee Tunic Sew Along, week 2: Adding Lace Trim | Sew News

  3. Babo Art says:

    GREAT write up on fabrics! Best I’ve read ever. Thanks for the detail – I learned something new today!

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