Saturday, 31 January 2015

My experience of cosy winter fabrics.

As the temperature starts to lower and amber warnings of snow and other wintry conditions abound, I thought I would share my experiences of using warmer fabrics for winter clothing.  It always amazes me when I see photos on blogs of cotton dresses being worn in winter, they must have thermal vests underneath because I'm afraid I need a little more warmth than that.

Early morning view on Thursday

So I'll start with what I think is the warmest and work my way down.

1.  Wool

I suppose that's pretty obvious - it would have to be wool.  I am a big wool fan in every shape and size of strand and fibre.

It is, of course a natural fibre, it is breathable, comfortable (unless you are unfortunate enough to be sensitive to it) and warm.

I suppose it's general performance depends on both the weave (dense or more open) and also the weight.  You pay for what you get, the heavier ones will keep out the cold better, but will be more expensive.  Prices range from £8 - £50/metre, the latter being perhaps Harris Tweed.

In general, wool fabrics I have found easy to work with, both cutting and sewing.  It also stands the test of time, in that it is generally hard wearing.  The only slight down side is that you may need to dry clean or hand wash, but usually less cleaning is required overall.

Lately I also used a viscose/ wool mix in my Delphine skirt which is very cosy, more detail here.

Some of my 'wool projects'

Beige wool fabric from Guthrie & Ghani
Colette Albion

Black wool fabric from, Liesl & Co Woodland Stroll Cape

2.  Merino/Knit fabrics

To me, merino knit fabric is fantastic.  The only source I have purchased merino knit from is  I haven't found a source here in the UK or in Europe and the last lot I purchased the postage was quite a bit and you also are liable to pay VAT.  However, there are lots of offers and remnants so if you get the fabric at a good price, it works out fine.  There are lots of patterns and colours and excellent quality.  I generally receive my parcels in about 7 days.

Some fabrics have more stretch than others and there are different weights, so bear that in mind so that it matches whichever pattern you have chosen.

I have also bought some wool jersey in, they have a great selection and are reasonably priced.

But as most of my dresses are of the knit variety in winter these sort of fabrics would be the ones I use most.  Here are some examples:

Victory Lola, wool jersey from myfabrics.
Jennifer Lauren Enid sweater, fabric newzealandmerino
3.  Ponte knit jersey

I don't want to appear a fabric snob, although I love the merino jersey, I do use ponte jersey quite a bit too.  There are various qualities and weights, but overall they are cheaper than wool jerseys.  They are comprised mostly of polyester, some have rayon and, of course, elastane for stretch.  As they are predominately synthetic they are not really breathable, so probably will require more frequent washing. They are very easy to work with for cutting and sewing and can be washed in the washing machine easily and require minimal ironing.  Although slightly different double knit jersey is another similar alternative, although personally I am not so keen on it.  Like most jersey fabrics there will be considerable shrinkage so definitely pre-washing is required.

Ponte jersey dress (Onion pattern)

Heavy double knit from minerva fabrics

4.  Sweatshirting

Sweatshirting fabrics vary a lot both in weight and quality.  Again they can have different fibre content, I prefer cotton sweatshirting, but there are reasonable polyester based sweatshirting which are very good value for money.  I have tried some from and they have been super, ranging in price from £10/metre to £15/metre.  I also love the sweatshirt fabric from, it's really thick, soft and cosy and 1.8 metre wide so goes a long way.  Of course, there is also the option of the luxurious Liberty sweatshirt - I treated myself to some with some birthday money and it is really lovely, but pretty pricey.

Gray sweatshirt fabric from
Papercut sweatshirt pattern, Liberty sweatshirt.
5.  Flannel

This may seem a strange one, mostly associated with pyjama making, but I have found that flannel can be used pretty well for some garment sewing.  One source are these lovely cotton flannels which I have used a couple of times and on searching for the link I discovered there are lots of new additions.  Although these are cotton, because they are brushed, they can be cosy for shirts and tunic dresses.  Sometimes the Japanese fabrics have flannel in their collections.

Flannel fabrics are also excellent for cosy jacket/coat linings.

Merchant and Mills Camber top in flannel from raystitch

Merchant and Mills Dress Shirt in Kokka flannel, Dragonflyfabrics.
6.  Denim

Denim is an all year round fabric, but like most fabrics they come in varying qualities and weights, so for winter a heavier weight is better.  You can also get denim with wool content also, although I haven't tried any as yet.  I have mostly used denims from and

7.  Heavier weight cottons

Some of the Japanese double gauze fabrics are a little bit heavier which are good weights for blouses, tops and even dresses.  It must be the double layer, maybe it traps warm air making it more insulatory.

Japanese double gauze.
Like the denims, you can also get cotton fabric with a wool content (usually about 20%), I have some Lantana from Liberty in my stash that I haven't used yet, so can't report on it's warmth (or not?)  The only cotton/wool fabrics I have used is a check fabric which I used for a Camber dress.  It is warmer than a normal cotton, but unfortunately is quite itchy.  I'm not normally sensitive to wools so a bit strange.

Camber dress, cotton/wool fabric from myfabrics
8.  Corduroy

Again with cord fabrics there are different weights and qualities.  The wale count is the number of parallel ridges per inch, the less there are the thicker the cord, for example, a 4 wale cord is much thicker than 11 wale cord.  The thicker ones are more suitable to coats or jackets.  Although I like cord a lot and have included it here, to be honest, I don't think it's really that warm a fabric, the wind can blow straight through it.  I do love the Liberty cords though, they are very soft and smooth.

Corduroy Lisette Market top
I know there are lots more possibilities with winter-type fabrics like knit acrylic, velvet, fur, water repellent, the list could be endless, but these are the ones that I have come to use mostly because I have found they keep me warm and/or suit my lifestyle, my style and are practical for me.

I think I have mentioned most of the main companies that I prefer to purchase from, there are more but these are the ones I deal with mostly. (in particular for warmer weight fabrics)
Guthrie & Ghani
Craftswoman (local store)

Happy Winter Sewing!

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