Rachael Gander from imagine gnats was one of our first monthly trend spotters, and she has also contributed embroidery designs (Sewing Sayings, Ombre) and sewing patterns like the handy Sun + Sea Patchwork Messenger Bag.
Rachael’s imagine gnats shop has patterns, a wide selection of carefully curated knits and more. (We also noticed there’s a big summer sale through 7/21!) We asked Rachael to share her expertise with some tips for How to Choose Summer Fabric. What do you sew with to keep cool and comfortable in the hot summer months?
The temperatures are up, and you’re ready to sew something spectacular that celebrates everything about summer. For me, that means something airy, flowy and easy-going. If it’s not easy and comfortable, I know that it will stay on the hanger at least until fall. The perfect summer garment starts with the right fabric! Today, I’m breaking down summer substrates, the fabrics you need to have in your stash for when it’s hot, hot, hot.
All fabrics pictured are from the imagine gnats shop, where I stock a curated selection of garment sewing fabrics (i.e. my favorites!), notions and my original sewing patterns.
Of any of the fabrics listed here, chambray is perhaps the fabric that most screams “summer!” to me. It’s a classic, and can be used for pretty much any item in your wardrobe. Think of chambray as denim’s comfier cousin, with a little something special. The warp and weft of chambray are different colors (typically blue and white) so the fabric has a unique sheen. (You can read more about how chambray is made here.)
As with many fabrics, weight is going to be a big factor here in finding the right fabric for your project. An average chambray, like those used for the dress and shorts below, will weigh around 4 oz/sq yd (in comparison, quilting cotton is typically about 4.5 oz/sq yd) and is probably what you would want for dresses, shorts, shirts, etc. Lighter weight chambrays will most likely need to be lined.
Note: In person you’ll be able to tell by feeling the fabric if it’s the right weight, and when shopping online, fabric shops should tell you an approximate weight of the fabric so that you have an idea. Compare that weight to a fabric in your stash if you’re unsure.
This one is a no-brainer, but swimwear fabric can be tricky to choose. In a nutshell, you want it to have lots of stretch (in EVERY direction) and just as much recovery. In order to do this, most swimwear fabric is made up of a synthetic (poly or nylon) blended with some form of spandex.
Azur Reversible swimsuit / Anthro-inspired Suit by Free Notion
Personally, I take nylon over poly because I feel like it wears better, but I also tend to be a wee bit poly-phobic so take that advice for what it’s worth.
Erin of Seamstress Erin Designs shared a great video all about choosing swimsuit fabric right here, which includes tips on stretch and fiber content.
Stretch French Terry
At first glance, stretch french terry seems a little less like a summer fabric… But think about all of those comfy shorts you wore as a kid and suddenly “AHA!” you realize that you need this fabric in your life. Cool nights at the beach or around the fireplace? A comfy hoodie has got you covered.
Basically, this fabric blends the best of sweatshirt fabric with something extra– stretch. Most stretch french terry is medium-weight fabric and is very easy to work with, so this is perfect for beginner-friendly projects.
Rayon/Spandex Jersey Knits
While jersey knits are a year-round staple for me, summer calls for rayon/spandex jersey knits in particular. The rayon gives this fabric an amazing, fluid drape and the stretch makes it perfect for so many simple projects.
The fabric is also easy to care for and travels well… No need to spend your nights at the hotel ironing when you could be poolside.
You’ll find that many rayon knits weigh a few ounces more than their cotton counterparts, which typically means that they won’t require lining. They are also silky smooth, and the flowy nature of the fabric keeps it from feeling stuck to you on hot, humid days. This has been my go-to fabric this summer for sure.
More rayon, this time in a woven, and it is all about the drape. Rayon challis has such a fluid feel and there is something elegant, but not fussy, about it.
This fabric is also super versatile. Use it for dresses, skirts, shirts, shorts, pants… You name it, you’ll love it made with rayon challis. It has a soft, flat, matte finish, which makes it comfy and appropriate for daytime clothes but it can also be dressed up quite nicely.
This post from Indiesew is a great reference for anyone wanting more information about rayon challis.
Oh, double gauze, my truest of fabric loves. It’s almost cheating to list this as a summer fabric when really it is just the perfect fabric for anything all year long, but let’s focus on why you should wear double gauze in summer…
Why? Two layers! That’s right, one on the inside to wick up sweat and one on the outside to look pretty. Plus, they’re oh so delicately attached (read all about that here) so the fabric is still light and airy and won’t trap all of that heat in. And for anyone not sold yet, it’s also beautifully soft, wears well, and is easy to care for. If you don’t have a double gauze garment in your summer wardrobe, you are missing out.
For more information about how these (and many other) fabrics are made, check out my common garment substrates post here. Have a question? I’m happy to chat fabric anytime! Just leave a comment or drop me a line.