Perhaps it’s the sting of sunscreen melting into my eyes inspiring me, but today my mind wanders to the best summer fabrics to sew. Maybe it’s just me, but I could totally do without the scorching sun aspects of summer.
Thankfully for me and for you, dear reader, there’s lots of of summer fabrics that’ll keep you cool!
I’ll talk about my favorite summer fabrics, some ideas of how to use them, plus some summer sewing pattern ideas.
How to sew cool for summer
Natural fibers: Basics first, the best summer fabrics are natural fibers, period. Natural fibers are breathable so you’ll be able to take advantage of that natural air-conditioned effect. Pass on polyesters, acrylic, and nylon unless it’s for swimming.
Keep it loose: The other thing to keep in mind is that fabric that clings is fabric that’ll be hot. Think about it: how many wide legged, looser fitting things do you start seeing in stores in the summer? A lot, right?! Go for wider silhouette skirts and boxier tops, and you’ll bring in the breeze.
On to the summer fabrics!
Linen is the queen of summer fabrics
I will die on this hill, but linen is hands down the best fabric for summer. It’s incredibly breathable nature will have you feeling smug on a 100 degree day. It has a dry hand that also feels indescribably lovely, and it’s easy to sew.
Use it to sew up sundresses, shorts, skirts, button down cover ups, and wide legged pants of dreams.
Do note that linen does wrinkle. Honestly, it doesn’t bother me. Summer has a casual vibe to it that makes a few wrinkles okay. If you don’t love the wrinkles, try washing your linen on hot and drying it on your hottest setting before you sew it. After that, it should wrinkle a little less.
Also linen blends tend to wrinkle less. Look for linen/rayon or linen/cotton blends.
Linen knits have also become more available in the past several years.
Watch out though: a lot of linen knits tend to be blended with polyester, cutting down on the breathability. Look for 100% linen knits. Use a boxier shape and be gentle as you sew them as these special knits can easily stretch out of shape.
Cotton will always keep you happy in summer
No best summer fabrics list is complete without cotton. It’s close to linen in its breathable nature, and there’s so many types of cotton that are perfect for summer.
You say cotton lawn, Liberty of London’s luxury Tana Lawn fabrics should spring to mind. Lawn is crisp with a smooth hand while still being lightweight. Here I sew up some Lady McElroy lawn in this Sew Over It shirtdress.
Cotton lawn is great for sewing up into breezy button down shirts, shirtdresses, and sundresses. It would make for a really nice set of short pajamas too.
Be sure to look out for embroidered cotton lawn as well. Nothing says summer more than embroidered eyelet!
Voile is a little bit lighter with a smoother hand than cotton lawn. It’s often sheer or semi-sheer. Cotton/silk voile is extra luxurious and definitely worth seeking out. Use cotton voile for summer tops and dresses.
Batiste is sheer and absolutely lovely to wear. It makes for wonderful woven camisoles and sleeping shorts and dresses. It’s also worth looking for cotton batiste for lining and underlining sheer summer fabrics.
Be sure to look for 100% cotton batiste. Often batiste that you’ll come across is polyester which is not what you want for a cool lining!
Gauze with it’s wrinkly appearance and loose weave make it a great choice for summer.
Double gauze is extra special with 2 layers of gossamer gauze being tacked together all over the surface with tiny stitches. It’s essentially self-lined because of this. I have some Nani Iro double cotton gauze in my stash waiting for the perfect project!
Use gauze for tops, summer nightgowns and cool summer baby blankets.
Chambray is also another one of the best fabrics for summer. It’s usually cotton, but you’ll know it by the white cross threads. The cross threads give the fabric a heathered look. I love it in this Deer and Doe shirtdress.
Chambray is great for boyfriend style shirts and casual shirtdresses.
Once in a while, you’ll find other fibers besides cotton labeled chambrays. Fabric Mart right now is carrying a linen chambray and it is lovely stuff!
Ooh rayon challis you are so lovely to sew for summer! Rayon has a cool hand by nature and challis is a beautiful type of rayon. It has a smooth hand and positively luxe drape!
Sew up a maxi dress or fabulous wrap pants in rayon challis and you won’t be disappointed!
Pattern ideas for the best summer fabrics
- Blank Slate Oceanside Pants: great for linen, cottons. Here’s my review of this pattern
- Peppermint Magazine jumpsuit: this would be great in chambray!
- Winslow Culottes by Helen’s Closet: another great choice for rayon challis.
- McCalls 8103: great for cottons
- McCalls 8104: challis or cottons would be great here.
- Vogue 1696: this vintage style would be gorgeous in linen!
- Vogue 9253: this pattern has been so popular. It offers big drama that’s great for a lovely challis
- Closet Core Patterns Kalle Shirtdress: great choice for any of these summer fabrics, can be a dress or a shirt.
- Glasshouse Patterns Lavender dress: It’s so pretty!!! It would be great in rayon challis or cotton lawn. Here made by my lovely friend Renata.
Top patterns for summer
- DG Patterns Olvie Top: love the sleeve ties on this one. It’s great in cottons.
- Grainline Scout Tee: a favorite woven t-shirt pattern in the online sewing community.
- Sewaholic Belcarra: a woven raglan sleeve tee. I think my Nani Iro gauze has found a pattern buddy!
- Simplicity 9163: a mandarin collar button down with optional draped front. This would be beautiful in a silky voile.
Summer skirt patterns to sew
- New Look 6676: Skirt with waist yoke and a fun asymmetric drape. This would be great in any lightweight cotton or challis.
- Simplicity 9109: wrap skirt with a pretty tie that would be great in any summer fabric.
- Megan Nielsen Brumby: gathered skirt with fun pockets. Try a silky cotton voile for this!
Are you getting some ideas of what you can sew now to keep yourself cool for summer? I hope you’ll try out some of these best summer fabrics. If you do nothing else, pick up some linen and sew that up pronto! You will thank yourself!
Elizabeth Farr is the writer behind the Elizabeth Made This blog where she shares helpful sewing tips, step by step sewing tutorials and videos to help you explore your creativity through sewing. She has written sewing Eguides and patterns, been a featured teacher at Rebecca Page’s Sewing Summit and Jennifer Maker’s Holiday Maker Fest and her work has appeared in Seamwork and Altered Couture magazines. She also created a line of refashioned garments for SEWN Denver. When her sewing machine isn’t humming, she’s playing and teaching violin, and hanging around a good strategic board game with her husband and 4 kids.