Jun 072012

This morning’s email from Fabric.com announced a “designer fabric sale at Fabric.com”, and as it often does, the name Amy Butler caught my eye. I don’t need any of her famous quilting cotton at the moment, but her rayon challis in the Soul Blossoms prints sounded interesting. But is it opaque enough for an unlined summer garment for a modest woman?

A recent thread on PatternReview.com about fabrics for unlined summer wear had piqued my interest in the challis to begin with. So I appended my query to that one. Then, at the risk of incurring annoyance for double-posting, I started a new, more specific thread. Surprisingly, there was no immediate response.

Then I hopped on the Chat feature at Fabric.com. The CSR there checked out a swatch, conferred with some colleagues, and decided it should be fine unlined. Of course, I’m not sure how many of these ladies sew, and am not terribly confident about what can learn from a swatch. And, of course, they are quite likely younger than I, with a correspondingly different fashion sense.

So I went to the source, and a bit later, got an emailed reply from Sheila Brex with Amy Butler Ltd. With her permission, I’m posting that reply here, along with some lovely photos:

I do not typically line challis as it can affect the fabric’s natural softness and drape, which is the appeal of this fabric, but I’ve touched on a couple points below which you can consider. I think, to answer your question about using a lining with the rayon challis in a skirt or a dress, it can depend on the style of skirt or dress you are making, the color of the challis and maybe your comfort level. The quality or the weight of the challis is also a factor, some challis is a thinner weight and that can lead to some translucency.

Reposted with permission of Amy Butler Ltd.

I do not typically line a gathered skirt or dress, like this one above, in order to keep with the natural drape of the fabric and to keep it from being bulky. I may wear a slip underneath if the fabric is lighter in color. However, if you choose to add another layer of fabric under the challis, you will want to choose something that is lighter weight than the challis and has the some type of drape to it. Good choices would be a rayon lining such as Ambiance lining, a light-weight batiste, voile or charmeuse, or sometimes a light-weight tricot knit. You may need to make the under-layer or lining less full like a slip. This will also keep it from being too bulky in the waist area. You could make a partial lining as well, which again will help eliminate too much fullness.

Reposted with permission of Amy Butler Ltd.

If you are making a skirt or dress that is straighter or closer to the body, like the one above, you may be more inclined to line or underline the challis to give it less translucency, reveal less in the way of undergarments and possibly give the fabric more structure if needed. I would use the same choices as above for a lining. Follow the same lines as the fabric to keep the fit smooth. You could also make a partial lining in the body area, like have it come to mid thigh, and not line the sleeves.

I have both of these garments in the Studio and neither of them is lined. The dress is self- lined at the top in the bodice area but is unlined the rest of the way down.

Thanks, Sheila, for that thoughtful reply! She also invited me to come back to her with any specific queries, which I just might do.

Of course, it’s not the answer I was hoping for, but more like the one I should have expected. Let’s face it: fabric that is light enough to feel comfy in the heat of summer without being at least a bit see-through is a pretty tall order, if not a fantasy.

For now, I am still wearing the summer skirts I bought a few years ago, which are essentially layers of very light cotton and/or linen. I really like them, even if they’re a bit poofy at times.

The Fabric.com designer sale goes through June 11.

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