For Beginners: Fabric Suggestions for the Pendrell Blouse

A couple of you have asked me for fabric suggestions for the Pendrell Blouse for beginners. Also, some of you asked for tips on sewing tricky, slippery fabrics. I thought I’d answer both of these questions in a post, as many of you might be thinking the same thing!

The best fabrics for the Pendrell Blouse are the tricky ones: slippery, shifty fabrics like silk or polyester charmeuse, chiffon, rayon challis, crepe de chine. However, here are two thoughts that might help you feel confident using slippery fabrics!

1. I designed this blouse specifically for tricky fabrics! I love silk charmeuse, but hate hemming and sewing fiddly details with such a smooth, sleek fabric. That’s why the ruffles are on the fold, as are the draped, pleated sleeves. No hemming necessary! Even the neckline binding is done using a folded piece, so you don’t have to turn and press a tiny edge in a tricky fabric. I wanted to be able to sew up luxurious, elegant blouses with ease and confidence, that was one of the main goals of this pattern.

2. I’m planning to write up some tips on sewing with slippery fabrics. Near the beginning of the Sew-Along I’ll put up a post with tips, so we can tackle these lovely smooth fabrics with as much information as possible. (On that note, if you have any tips on sewing slippery fabrics leave me a comment here! I’ll compile all of the tips as well as my own suggestions for that post. The more info, the better!)

Still nervous to sew with silky, smooth fabrics? Here are some easier-to-sew fabric suggestions.

Cotton voile and lawn. Voile is slightly lighter weight than lawn. Both are very soft, very lightweight cotton woven fabrics. Look for ones that drape nicely and have a soft hand. Pre-washing cotton voile and lawn will soften the fabric as well.

Here are some lovely examples of 100% cotton voile:

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I love cotton voile! I’m a big fan of natural fibres, and cotton is the easiest to sew. You can iron the heck out of it, throw it in the washer and dryer, and it’s always cool and comfortable to wear.

Rayon challis. This fabric is a happy medium between tricky silk charmeuse and easy cotton voile. It’s soft and drapey, but doesn’t slip as much when sewing. My blue ruffled version of the Pendrell Blouse is made of rayon challis and it’s very comfortable to wear.

(click image for source)

(click image for source)

(click image for source)

I know what this fabric feels like, as Fabricana had some of the pink-print last summer. It’s hard to judge what fabrics will be like just from seeing them online. It’s very drapey, has a cottony hand and soft surface. Very nice!

Stable jersey knits. Stable is the key word here! No slippy, thin polyester knits – those are the hardest to sew! Viscose or rayon knits, or soft cotton knits, are easier to sew than silk charmeuse, but not as easy as cotton voile or lawn.

The key factor is drape. Although, if you’re leaning towards the sleeveless version, drape is less important. The ruffled version will work in a less drapey fabric as well. It’s the draped sleeve version that really needs a soft fabric to form the pleats so they look elegant, not poofy.

Also, don’t be tempted to over-fit the blouse in a cotton or knit fabric. Keep the silhouette loose and roomy, the princess lines will give the illusion of a form-fitting blouse. The extra room is key to getting it on and off! You could consider adding an invisible zipper, but I like to tuck my blouses in and the invisible zipper gets in the way.

I hope this helps! Have you picked your fabric already? Any other suggestions for easy fabrics to sew, or tips on sewing slippery fabrics? Leave us a comment!

Happy fabric-shopping, everyone!

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11 Responses to For Beginners: Fabric Suggestions for the Pendrell Blouse

  1. Alana December 19, 2010 at 9:00 am #

    Ooo – thanks for the tip of not over fitting the blouse. I’m going to need to do a FBA so I’ll keep that in mind :)

  2. Venus de Hilo December 19, 2010 at 12:01 pm #

    Thanks for the fabric tips, and for the upcoming slippery-fabric advice. I’ve been avoiding “nicer” fabrics out of concern I’d mess up something pricey.

    BTW: I’ll be sitting out the sew-along (this time), due to a towering pile of UFOs and “next-ups” that must be tamed before taking on new projects, but will be reading along with interest for a future time.

  3. Ali December 19, 2010 at 12:52 pm #

    Thank you, Tasia, this is so helpful! I tend to buy my fabric second-hand or at shops where things are not clearly marked (wholesale-ish places) so this sort of guidance is a huge help!

  4. Christy December 19, 2010 at 2:19 pm #

    Oh I wish you’d have mentioned earlier that the Pendrell would suit voile or lawn. I didn’t purchase the pattern in your pre-release as I wasn’t sure these fabrics would drape enough for the design. Being a stay at home mum, charmeuse and other fabrics are a little too dressy for around the house with the kids. Also natural fibres are a little more conforable in the Australian summer heat.

  5. Barbie December 20, 2010 at 6:41 am #

    Thanks Tasia! I’m hoping to join the sewalong in January. However, I’m also working on Gertie’s Crepe sewalong, and am a total beginner. Since the two will overlap, we’ll see if I’m up to finishing one while starting the other. :) I think I would want to make the shell version of the top, as it would fit best into my current wardrobe holes, I think. I think that means something shiny and slippery… Hm… that could get interesting for me. :)

  6. Joy December 20, 2010 at 7:39 am #

    Thank you so much for this post! I’ve worried about which fabric to choose. I absolutely love natural fabrics, so I’m excited to maybe try it in the cotton.

  7. Pam December 20, 2010 at 7:47 am #

    This is sooooo helpful – I was wavering on whether to join the sew along due to the difficult fabric (I’m a beginner). I’m going to do a sleeveless version in lawn and maybe then try a version with sleeves for a second blouse. Also would love to see a tutorial on how to do a blouse.

    I’m off to Spool of Thread on my lunchbreak today!

  8. Pam December 20, 2010 at 7:48 am #

    Sorry – meant to say a tututorial on how to do a DRESS.

  9. Jennifer December 20, 2010 at 9:39 am #

    I’m looking forward to the tutorial on working with slippery fabrics. I just ordered the most gorgeous silk charmeuse from Gorgeous Fabrics. It is the most expensive cut of fabric I have ever purchased, so I am thinking I will try out the Pendrell in a polyester cut I have before I commit to making it from the silk as I haven’t ever sewn with charmeuse before. I am very excited for the sew-along to start!

  10. sallyann December 20, 2010 at 12:37 pm #

    Great post today. Loved the background on the development of the blouse. Looking forward to sewing with slippery slinky fabric.

  11. Jenna December 26, 2010 at 3:33 pm #

    Hey Tasia! I just ordered my Pendrell pattern & I would love to see some more suggestions for on-line fabric sources. :)

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