Whoa, Whoa, WOVENS! A beginner’s guide!

When I first learned to sew, I was told that sewing with wovens was easier than sewing with knits. They were supposed to be better behaved, easier to manipulate and more durable, not to mention less expensive. I *think* the person who told me this must have been talking about quilting cotton, because as soon as I tried my hand at some lovely silk georgette (I tend to go straight for the gold! Why waste time on the boring stuff?) I became very, very disenchanted with wovens.

Knits, to me, are easy. There are a million patterns out there for knits. They have a very forgiving nature, both in fit and construction. Something doesn’t quite line up? Just stretch it! Something too loose? Just serge it with a bigger seam allowance! Most knit patterns don’t have any pesky darts, bias tape, or set in sleeves to contend with, and it’s easy to dive headfirst into sewing knits and forget all about their less flexible cousin, wovens.

BUUTTT….that would be a mistake, and I”ll give you 8 reasons why!

  1. Wovens are cool and comfortable. Some of your favorite ready to wear tops are probably wovens- materials like rayon challis, linen, or tencel. They tend to breathe a bit more than knits, and are easy to wash and wear.
  2. Wovens come in such lovely prints! Forget your grandma’s quilting store, gorgeous floral prints (or geometric ones) can be found here, here and here. How can you resist?
  3. You can only make so many yoga pants. Even I have to admit that there’s room for a nice structured pair of woven shorts among my Brassie collection.
  4. Wovens offer you the opportunity to learn new skills! Although they might seem intimidating at first, there’s no substitute for that feeling you get when you conquer your first fly zip, welt pocket or bias binding.
  5. Wovens press so well! Ever tried to get a crisp press on yoga knit? Not gonna happen. Wovens are so crisp!
  6. Wovens have a lovely drape. Well, some of them. Don’t try to turn quilting cotton into a drapey top, but many wovens have a lovely flow to them that most knits just can’t match.
  7. Stretch wovens! The best of both worlds. Nuf said.
  8. New Patterns! Patterns for Pirates just announced their “Summer of Wovens”, Greenstyle has several awesome patterns designed for wovens (see examples below), and I’m still in love with the Made for Mermaids Daphne tops I made during the blog tour. FYI, I had this post already written and ready to publish when I saw the Summer of Wovens- I’m delighted you’re reading my post and also recommend you check out what P4P has to say! Hopefully we both inspire you to give wovens a try!

Things to keep in mind when working with wovens:

  • They fray. Like a momma on her last nerve. Finish your seams with a serger, pinking shears, or a zig zag stitch. If you don’t, your item will literally unravel.
  • Turn down the differential feed! If you have a serger, you’re probably used to doing most of your construction on it. With wovens, you’ll sew your seam first, then finish it. Make sure your differential feed is turned down to 1.
  • Spray Starch is your new BFF. If you’re working with a shifty woven (like this chiffon top), treat it with a little spray starch to keep it from oozing around all over your cutting table.
  • Don’t worry about the grain line…much. You can snip and tear your fabric to find the grain. Try it, its SO SATISFYING! See video example below- I love this lady!

That said, some wovens are difficult to get on grain, and if yours is putting up a fight, don’t fret. Just do your best- it will probably turn out just fine, especially if its a smaller item like a top.

  • Use a needle made for your fabric. When I work on chiffon and challis, I like to use a microtex needle, but a smaller universal needle would work too. Don’t try to sew with your ballpoint/knits needle!
  • Use pattern weights and a rotary cutter. These just make everything easier.
  • Measure and cut carefully. Unlike knits, you won’t be able to stretch them to make pieces fit together, so make sure you’ve got a quality pattern and that you cut it correctly.

OK, so maybe you’re convinced? Try out some of my favorite woven patterns:

Designer Stitch Ella Cami (I modified it a bit. Free with the code in their Facebook Group). Blogged here. Designer Stitch also has many other great woven patterns (that Willow Kimono is on my short list!)

Made for Mermaids Daphne (blogged here)

Jalie Rova

Made for Mermaids Mama Quinn (blog post here)

Greenstyle Moxi Shorts (stretch woven) (blogged here)

Greenstyle Taylor Shorts (on my short list!)

Greenstyle Pace Skirt (on my short list)

Greenstyle Caroline Chevron Maxi Dress (on my short list!)

New Horizons Bali Blouse (blogged here)

Elegance and Elephants Mira Dress (for girls- Blogged here)

Gracious Threads Dax Trousers (blogged here)

Made by Rae Geranium Dress (made multiple times but never blogged!)

You can also hack a knit pattern to have a gathered back, like I did here with the Lago Tank:

Greenstyle Brassie Stretch Woven Hack:

Types of Wovens

Just like knits, there are a variety of woven types. They fall into a few main categories:

  • Cotton/quilting cotton: These are stiff and usually not suitable for clothing, except for perhaps a very young child. Great for applique or projects though!
  • Stretch woven! These are fun- they usually have about 20-40% stretch and make great bottonweights for shorts and pants.
  • Challis: a flowy material, usually with a rayon base. Very easy to wear, slightly more challenging to sew, but see tips above for taming this fabric!
  • Chiffon: a sheer or semi-sheer material, challenging to work with but beautiful to wear.
  • Georgette: Thin like chiffon, but less transparent. Shifty, but beautiful. Can be silk or polyester.
  • Gauze/double gauze: This is a great fabric to learn on. Perfect for summer- its slightly fragile but doesn’t shift around and is very nice to wear. Good for tops or lightweight pants.
  • Poplin: a thicker woven, sometimes with stretch (but not always). Good for pants, shorts and jackets.
  • Chambray: Looks almost like denim, but much lighter. Great for tops and lightweight bottoms, easy to work with.

My Favorite Sources for Wovens:

Pretty Posh Prints (keep an eye on the fast fingers sales!)

Sew Vagabond I just love their Anthropology inspired prints!

Knitpop

The Fab Clique (stretch denim! More wovens coming soon.)

Fabric Fairy (for lightweight athletic stretch wovens

I hope this has been helpful in encouraging you to take the leap into wovens! They are a lot of fun to sew and wear!

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13 Comments

  1. Emily on June 23, 2017 at 4:25 pm

    Thank you for this! I’ve only been sewing a few weeks and find knits so easy! No closures, so forgiving, so quick and easy with a serger! I’m kind of terrified of wovens. Determined to try a couple of woven projects soon!

    • Sarah on June 23, 2017 at 4:27 pm

      You should definitely try a few woven projects! Wovens are so fun once you get to know them- it will just expand your horizons even more! So glad the post was helpful- feel free to comment back with any questions as you get going!

  2. Dhee on June 23, 2017 at 5:10 pm

    Thank you Sarah gor the mention (The Fab Clique)! YesYes! more stretch denims (print) and woven pretty soon!!

    This is very informative. good job momma! i love all of your blog!

    • Sarah on June 26, 2017 at 8:34 am

      yes! Can’t wait!

  3. […] There are many ways of applying bias tape- in the video, I’m showing you the way that I am most comfortable with, that I believe is easiest for beginners. Side note: If you want to learn more about sewing with wovens, check out my blog tutorial on Wovens 101 HERE. […]

  4. Dreaming of Bali…. – Sewing with Sarah on June 26, 2017 at 9:56 am

    […] you love the look and feel of wovens, but have anxiety about sewing with them? Read my blog post HERE with some tips and tricks for taming the […]

  5. Jessica on July 6, 2017 at 3:47 am

    Just in time! I just bought the Chi-Town shorts (Alina Designs) pattern and have the Mama Quinn (Made for Mermaids) and was thinking it was about time to give wovens a try. I got some gorgeous wovens in a mystery scrap box that would make beautiful tops.

    Everyone tried to scare me with knits, but I didn’t find them difficult. Now I’m scared to try wovens. Lol. Your blog post brought up many things I would have just plowed into like a bull in a China shop (including using my best stuff).

    I’ve saved your blog so I can refer back to it! Thank you!

    • Sarah on July 6, 2017 at 7:26 am

      I’m so glad it came at the right time for you! The chinos are on my short list too, and the mama Quinn is awesome! I’ll Continue to update this post as I try new woven patterns and I would love to hear what works from you as well!

  6. […] Other changes included adding 9 inches, eliminating the ruffle, and cutting the top layer 3″ shorter than the bottom layer to add interest. With the full lining it’s opaque enough to obscure any undergarments, but still light and airy- perfect for my own “summer of wovens”. Of course, it’s nursing accessible as well- I wouldn’t sew anything that wasn’t! If you’re new to sewing with wovens, check out my tutorial HERE! […]

  7. Just a Small Town Girl! – Sewing with Sarah on July 20, 2017 at 3:25 pm

    […] The Little Loungers pattern and women’s Linen Loungers is designed for wovens, and comes with options galore: a variety of lengths, pockets, waistband finishes, and hem treatments. To accommodate her ample cloth diapered bum, I chose the yoga waistband and sized up one size. If you’re new to sewing with wovens, check out my blog post on Wovens 101 HERE! […]

  8. […] gone on  and on about sewing with wovens (see my Wovens 101 post HERE)….but I hadn’t made the most obvious woven garment: a collared shirt! Right up there […]

  9. […] resist! If you haven’t sewn much with wovens yet, you’re missing out- you can catch my Wovens 101 post here, for help getting […]

  10. […] I’ve fallen in love with wovens, and can’t imagine leaving them behind as summer fades….so I’ve come up with a some fall plans that showcase a few of my favorite (or soon to be favorite!) woven patterns and fabrics. (New to sewing with wovens? Check out my post here for everything you need to get started!) […]

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