Fall for Cotton – A Vintage Sewing Challenge


At the end of August I decided to participate in the Fall for Cotton – A Vintage Sewing Challenge launched by Lucky Lucille and By Gum By Golly. I bought several vintage patterns last month, so I figured, why not?

Purple fabric swatch (2)The important thing is that the fabric be 100 percent cotton. When I was visiting family on the East Coast a couple weeks ago, I did a little shopping in the Fabric Row area of Philadelphia. I wandered into a shop that was selling fabric for $5/yard. I nearly walked out when I found out it was all home dec/upholstery fabric but the owner said that many people bought his fabric to make clothes.

Then I spied a bolt of fabric with a nice shade of plum-purple and asked if it was cotton and he said yes. It felt like cotton so I decided to get 4 yards of it. I wasn’t really sure how much I would need because I didn’t have my vintage patterns with me and of course I forgot to take photos of them before I left California. I did a burn test when I got home but it kinda fizzled out – probably treated to be fire-resistant. It’s really hard to photograph this fabric. The color isn’t as red as this – it’s a little more on the violet side.

Vintage sewing patternWhen I got home, I flipped through my patterns to see if any of them used medium or heavyweight fabric. This one mentioned corduroy of one of its suggested fabrics so I think I’ll make this suit – or maybe just the jacket.

I feel like I’m a little behind because I haven’t cut anything out yet and I’m still wondering if this fabric will work because it is rather sturdy. I’ve put it through one wash and dry cycle but maybe it needs a few more, as Brooke of Custom Style suggested to me the other day. Also in the last Twitter #fabricchat (every Friday at 1 pm PT, 4 pm ET), folks told me that washing would help soften it. So I will definitely wash it some more. I did another burn test over the weekend and the fabric took flame rather quickly. So washing it also removed the fire retardant. 😉

Have you worked with upholstery fabric to make a garment? What did you make and how did it turn out? Did you wear it in public?


Author: Chuleenan

Chuleenan sews, collects hats and shoes, and is a fabric addict. She is also the organizer for the Bay Area Sewists Meetup group.

4 thoughts on “Fall for Cotton – A Vintage Sewing Challenge”

  1. Thanks for the encouragement! I picked up a *bolt* of upholstery weight silk at an antique store, and wondered if I might persuade it into apparel…

    1. I recommend doing a burn test (in a well-ventilated area!) with a small scrap. Upholstery fabric is likely treated with some flame retardant chemicals so you should check for that. If it doesn’t burn, I recommend washing it and trying another burn test. I was able to wash out the fire-resistance from the upholstery fabric I got.

  2. Thanks Brooke! I admit I’m a little nervous about using it because it is a rather sturdy fabric. But after two rounds through the washer and dryer it isn’t as stiff, plus the fabric isn’t very thick, another plus. I don’t want bulky seams! I guess it’ll be a jacket that will be able to take a lot of wear and tear. But it’s not longer fire resistant so I won’t be going near an open flame! 😉

  3. I’ve made many things using home decor fabric for tv/film & theatre. Costume designers love upholstery fabrics because they are more period looking.

    I like it best for coats & jackets when it comes to everyday clothes. I think it will be great with the pattern you chose! =)

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