Only A Sunny Smile - The Fabrics

Monday, 25 March 2013

I am working on a post about the 'ethical' and 'sustainable' side of my work, in which choosing fabrics plays a fundamental part. For now though I am going to talk you through my fabric choices for the spring summer collection 'Only A Sunny Smile'.

Having a very particular idea in my head of how I wanted this collection to look (rather than starting with the fabrics and working from there) meant that this collection involved a hell of a lot of research into what would be the best fabrics. I have already learnt so much over the past few years about the making of fabric and done a lot of reading into ethical fabrics and ones that don't damage the environment or people making them, but often things can get confusing and everyone seems to be saying different things! I ended up using only a few different fabrics for the whole collection.

Organic Cotton Sateen:
This fabric is great! Made from GOTS certified organic cotton it is soft and lovely to work with. I bought it in plain white and then hand dyed it myself in small quantities. This means I can know that no harmful chemicals have been used. It does mean that one batch may slightly vary from the next, but I think that's part of the charm in having a hand made garment. I used this material for my Madeline dress and used the same technique but dying organic cotton jersey for my Emerald top.

Now, for this fabric I broke my rule of only using natural fibres, and unfortunately it is synthetic. I knew in my mind exactly what fabric I wanted to use for my Dahlia dress, in fact this was the first dress I designed for this collection, and based everything else around, and I had so much difficultly finding the perfect fabric. I first looked into using old cotton velvet, reusing vintage pieces I found on eBay or even curtains, but this couldn't work, I needed something soft and drapey and plain cotton velvet is too stiff and wouldn't look good. Then I found beautiful velvet made from a viscous/silk mix, the actual fabric is stunning, however, viscous, although originating from wood, is created using a method that is polluting, dangerous and uses a lot of water. Silk also, it pretty intense, it is made from the cocoons of silk worms, and they farm and kill them, not particularly nice. Another reason I didn't want to use this fabric is that it is not able to touch water and has to be dry cleaned. I want my clothing to be wearable and nobody likes paying big dry cleaning bills. When I was in Paris in January I stumbled across the exact fabric I imagined. It was a difficult decision for me to make to use this fabric, I love the look and feel of it, but I'd really like to know if anyone has any solutions for buying velvet type fabrics that can match these man-made ones in feel but not production?

Liberty Print Tana Lawn: 
I knew I wanted to use Liberty fabrics for this collection. The quality of them is amazing, they feel soft and light for wearing in the summer months, and the floral prints just scream English summer time. Although not organic, I emailed Liberty and it is printed within the UK. Being 100% cotton means it is lovely to wear, also, it is not too stiff like other cottons so is very easy to take care of. I have used Liberty print bias binding throughout the whole collection to neaten edges and finish things off, I made this all in my studio and it adds a lovely touch to the garments, even if you can't see it from the outside! I used Liberty tana lawn for the Trixie top, Florance and Daphne dresses and the Rosie playsuit.

I am sorry for this rather wordy post, look at the pretty pictures I took of all the Liberty print fabrics when I was buying mine though! I hope you find this post interesting and a little insight into the process of choosing the right materials. I'm already stocking up on organic cotton and British wool for my autumn winter collection. If anyone has any advice on buying more ethical/environmental fabrics I'd really love to hear it! I think it's pretty important we look after this amazing planet we call home.


  1. I agree, it's so important we think about where things come from and exploit neither our planet nor the people on it.

    Where do you buy the organic cotton sateen from? I've been looking for some for a long time.

    And, are the photos fom a shop? Where is it? It looks gorgeous!

    Love, Sarah

  2. Hi Sarah, I buy the sateen online, it is nice because it's soft and drapey but not shiny. These photos are from the shop I bought the Liberty fabrics from it's in West London, so many amazing fabrics! I could have browsed in there for days :)


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