Visions of Summer with cool dresses, short shorts and one of the easiest fabric to sew. Sewing cotton is so perfect for beginners.
Summertime and the living is easy, fish are jumping, and the cotton is high……
Although cotton may seem like the poor relative compared with silk and satin, it is known in America as King Cotton. It is America’s leading cash crop. That little cotton ball made up into a bale can produce 215 pairs of jeans or 249-bed sheets or 313,600 $1 bills. And that is just one bale!
King Cotton, a simple sewing pattern, and some basic sewing steps will give you a royal sewing experience!
Step one: Preparation for sewing cotton
- Scissors, cotton thread, tape measure, pins and basic pattern. Look for a simple pattern to start if you are a beginner.
- Choose a fabric to fit your pattern. Start with plain colors or all over print if you are a beginner. Choose more difficult designs and stripes as you become more experienced.
- Always pre-wash your fabric. Wash and dry as you plan to launder the fabric in the future. Make a note of any color running or bleeding. Iron with a steam iron to get all wrinkles out. Some kinds of cotton have ‘sizing’, a form of starch that will come out in the first couple of washes.
- Further reading – test for color fastness, how to press for sewing, how to test for shrinkage.
Step two: Know your cotton
- Cotton is a woven fabric with a warp and a weft. The direction of the fabric and the pattern go with the direction of the threads.
- Try the scrape test on the fabric with your fingernail. If the threads separate then the fabric thread count is low and the fabric will not be very strong. The higher the thread count the softer and more durable.
- There are different weights of cotton from light weight to medium and heavy weight and each weight is suitable for different articles.
- Always check each label for the 100% cotton mark and look at the pattern you have chosen as most patterns recommend a fabric type.
- There are different names of cotton fabrics too and they refer to different textures, prints, or even color.
- Damask, gingham and ticking have specific prints
- Flannelette, shirting, seersucker and corduroy have different textures
- Khaki is a specific color and strong cotton.
Step Three: Cutting your cotton fabric
- Always lay out your pieces to check the grain of the fabric, pattern lines, fold lines and so on to be sure that every piece you need is cut correctly. Cotton can be cut folded so each piece unless otherwise stated, is double or on the fold line.
- Pin, cut and mark according to the pattern and baste if necessary.
- Further reading – how to pin fabric, how to cut fabric, how to mark fabric.
Step Four: Sewing cotton
- Seam types: cotton lends itself to most seam types depending again on the weight of the cotton and the style of the garment. Use the French seam for the light weight cottons and avoid bulky seams.
- Needle sizes and stitches will vary according to the weight of your cotton so adjust your machine accordingly and always test settings on a scrap of fabric before you start.
- For extra heavy weight cotton, try stitch width 3-4 and needle size 100/16 or 120/20
- For heavy weight cotton, use needle size 90/14 -100/16 or you denim type needles with a stitch width of 2-2.5
- Medium weight fits into the average category needle size 70/10 – 80/12 and a stitch width of 2 – 2.5
- Lightweight needs a finer needle 60/80 – 70/10 and stitch width 1.5 – 2.
Step Five: Finishing off your cotton project
Cotton can be finished off with a simple hem. Machine stitched or hand stitched, it will depend on your preference and attachments on your machine. A blind hem is a great professional finish to the garment.
King Cotton, from dollar bills to fancy frills, an inspiration.
Definitely not the poor relation!